Maintain the rage

27 May

I don’t remember where I was the day the Governor General was lambasted from the steps of Parliament House. In a tyre swing in the front of our house at Essington Avenue, Clare, I’m guessing. But certainly, the incident shaped my early childhood – I was simultaneously mortified and proud to be driven around a small conservative town in a car covered with stickers proclaiming in red, ‘Don’t blame me, I voted ALP’ and the pretty bloody dreadful ‘Tammy’s got one, Mal is one’.

My attachment to the ALP has been as much emotional as it is political, but like a lot of people, I lost any real sense of belonging at the time of Tampa. I was deeply disappointed in my father then. I could not understand how he continued to support a party which was so clearly disconnected from the values that he had taught me were non-negotiable. My mother would have left, I’m certain of that. We fought about it, my father and I, in a way we had never fought about politics and values before. It was a confusing time, because we had never been separated in such a way before. You fight for change from within the party, my father said. Or you fight it from outside.

I had heard the argument all my life, but this time, I wasn’t convinced.

That was about the time his own, personal fight began, so I guess I’ve forgiven him for letting the ALP battle go.

Maybe all of this has coloured my reaction to Malcolm Fraser’s resignation from the Liberal Party, because do you know what?

I am maintaining the rage.

I thank Malcolm Fraser for his stand against the Howard government and I thank him even more for his stand against the possibility of one led by Abbott. But equally, I hold him responsible for creating a political environment in which a Howard government could exist.

Fraser’s government came to power driven by an unwavering belief in it’s own privileged entitlement to power. Whatever else they did or did not do, this was the foundation on which their power rested. How could the people of such a government escape a ‘born to rule’ mentality, how could they not learn to view the electorate with contempt?

It wasn’t an inevitablity. I’m not saying the Howard government is a natural outcome of the Fraser government. But I don’t think it’s any surprise that the one led to the other.

I have no scientific evidence for my belief, no psychological, sociological or even political insight. It’s just a personal observation. And perhaps it’s not even a very sophisticated way of thinking. Maybe I’m just clinging to my rage, because if I don’t, then that’s just one more piece of Dad that doesn’t exist anymore. An essential piece. Perhaps I’m directing my rage towards a man I don’t even know because it’s easier than asking yet another question of my father and my relationship with him.

Whatever the reason, I thank Malcolm Fraser for his continued commitment to human rights, but I harbour no fondness for the man.

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13 Responses to “Maintain the rage”

  1. Mindy May 27, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    I was two, so I can’t say that it had much of an effect on me at the time. I never discussed politics with my Dad. I kinda wish I had now.

  2. Pavlov's Cat May 27, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I was discussing politics with my dad just this afternoon on the phone, which is to say that he was monologuing and I was half-listening, and for those of us who are fundamentally politically different from the rest of the family, it’s not all beer and skittles. My dad is a sort of eccentric independent conservative who hates the unions but is enraged with Rann for spending extra money on the Adelaide Oval that he thinks would have been better spent on single mothers. You never know where he’s going to break out next, or in which direction. But what I actually came here to say is that I’ve spent the other half of the afternoon in internal conversation with my mother, who died in 1999. I don’t know what your experience has been, but mine has been that as long as you keep having the conversations with them, they are never lost to you.

  3. Pavlov's Cat May 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Also, moving on to your main point, I remember Judith Brett arguing very persuasively that Howard had created the conditions that made the rise of Pauline Hanson possible, so if she’s right and you’re right then that’s a very sinister chain of responsibility.

    • ThirdCat May 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

      Was that in her Quarterly Essay? I should read that.

      For myself, I do think there’s a chain of connection, although Judith Brett based her writing on a shitload of research and a substantive argument, compared to my work, based on not much more than a deeply held distrust of the man borne out of parental programming.

  4. Pen May 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    Heh, I just remember narky comments about Malcolm Fraser being good for a laugh when I was about five.

    I’m sure you are correct, Third Cat, and I also remember the suspicion that Howard was held in during the Fraser years and the derision heaped on him, but somehow he never was quite got rid of at the time.

    But I just keep thinking how much everyone hated Fraser back then, and how much less hateworthy he seems compared to the current mob and it makes me even more horrified at the bloody ridiciculousness of the present Liberal Party. Scary knickers.

    • ThirdCat May 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

      Ah, yes, that time of making jokes just by saying Malcolm Fraser or something and having no idea what you meant, but knowing it was rather sophisticated all the same. Were they not the days?

      Also, Scary knickers. Brilliant – is that borne of the rather nice wine you have just been describing on your blog? Or can you think of stuff like stone cold? (if yes, do you wanna work on a show with me?)

  5. Pen May 28, 2010 at 1:42 am #

    Scary knickers is the invention of a clever friend who lives in Leeds. So you can get her to work on your show, if you like. I can write you some turgid, public service prose, which is funny in its own way.

  6. Kath Lockett May 28, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    Beautifully said. I’m not a Twit-wit, but you could twitter that final paragraph.

    And as crikey pointed out yesterday, ‘ol Mal was quite happy to plus his memoirs on the Liberal party website a few months ago, even though he’d left the party but not told them then…..

  7. Stomper Girl May 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Well, I have to say that although that whole Whitlam Fraser time was a major shaping force in my childhood too (we lived in Canberra and our parents took us to the rallies afterwards, some of my brother’s first words were “We want Gough”) I don’t hate Malcolm Fraser like I used to. I mean, I get your point, but I *think* it was his stance on Sorry Day or the refugees (can’t remember now) but I really do think he mellowed and matured into a better person and I applaud that. I don’t think Howard will improve with age somehow.

  8. Stomper Girl May 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    PS I was trying to talk my family into letting me call the new kitten Gough but they weren’t having it.

  9. Frances May 30, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    I’m not into partisan politics, but I would think that Stephen Conroy’s arrogant and unstoppable censoring of the internet would make John Howard weep with fury that he hadn’t thought of it first.
    And, with Conroy’s precedent, Abbott will gleefully take it further.

  10. persiflage June 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Yes, I think you are right, and that one of the legacies of the blocking of supply and the Dismissal was the destruction of inhibitions on the sort of dubious and improper political tactics that were used by Fraser etc. Anything goes in politics now, and I still think that the Senate and other upper houses, unless constrained by constitutional amendments enacted after 1975, have usurped powers way beyond any reasonable theories of mandate. People are far more cynical and detached from the political process now, which I think is a bad thing. Good post!

  11. persiflage June 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I forgot to add that I was working in Parliament House at the time, and for many years after, so had followed the whole Supply crisis very closely. Political disillusionment is very difficult to repair, and trust, once destroyed, might never be restored.

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