However one of the main themes throughout the year has once again been war and terrorism and the flood of asylum seekers be they refugees, or economic migrants into Europe. Multiple terror attacks in France and Belgium, a storm of sexual assaults in Germany, the closing of borders in Hungary, Greece, Italy in response to the mass migration have exposed the failure of the world to address the unraveling of law and order in the Middle Esat and North Africa.
It is a challenging time.
The Europe of old is being transformed and may never be the same again. Merkel, by her open-door policy has perhaps sealed its fate. Anit-immigrant sentiment is fertilizing the rise of nationalism and right of centre parties are back in favour. We know what that led to in the past. Perhaps not this time. But it highlights a moral dilemma for all leaders of Western democracies; "who is to receive priority, the citizens of the country they lead or the immigrants at the door?" What value do you give to preserving the culture and customs of the country you lead? Does its preservation deserve priority over suffering humanity? Opening the doors to large numbers of culturally different migrants will inevitably change the country and may well disadvantage its current citizens, but can you morally close your doors to those in need? In facing this dilemma Europe's leaders do not speak with one voice. It is straining the union and may well tear it apart.
Certainly it had a major impact on the Brexit decision, the first of the two major political cataclysms of the year. Despite all the predictions, despite the one-sided advocacy for the Bremain vote by the commentariat, despite most polls, the British voters did the unthinkable, they voted to leave the EU. It was and remains a surprise. The post-fact rationalizations are many and varied, but irrelevant. The picture is clear. A majority of voters decided that their future was better served without the EU. This clear rejection of the EU cannot be blamed on just a single issue, like immigration, although it no doubt had a part, but it is a judgement on the value and consequences of EU membership over decades. Having experienced the intrusion of EU into their daily lives Britons have decided they prefer to go it alone. The consequences are yet to be seen.
That brings me to the second political cataclysm of the year, the election of Trump. An arduous 18 month election carnival has resulted in one of the greatest upsets of all time, the election of a millionaire businessman with no political experience, and serious personality shortcomings to the most powerful position in the world. He has not yet taken his seat, yet his election has already changed everything. The air is filled with right wing elation and those who had been silent in the face of Obama's socialist agenda are out peddling their wares. The share-market too has shrugged off all negatives to ascend to heights never expected, especially after a Trump victory.
The appointment of the various cogs-of-state by the president-elect have received scrutiny and the predicable acclaim and critique from the supporting and opposing parties. Yet, the critiques by the democrats have not been as fervent as expected. Little surprise since the defeat in both houses means there is little they can really do about it. But also they are still busy trying to overturn the election of this 'unacceptable' president-elect. Mm do I recall the democrats complaining pre-emptively that democracy would be thwarted by a losing Trump? Clearly a case of pots calling the kettles black.
The ripples from the Brexti/Trump anti-establishment, anti-media, anti-norm are still spreading throughout the world and no doubt more counter-establishment upheavals will follow. In Aus too the Right is in the ascendant with a new bounce in their outspoken voices. I feel it too. While I have reservations, a lot of reservations about the unsavory and egotistical Trump, I have welcomed the home truths his election has confirmed; -
- The media is advocating rather than reporting, dictating rather than reflecting,
- the commentariat is one sided and fallible,
- ALL people want to be represented in public discourse, ignore their needs nd they will turn on you.
In Aus the political year started with such optimism and yet closes with such pessimism. The Turnbull government was riding high in the polls at the start of the year with plenty going for it, newly found poll success, a popular prime minister engaged in tax reform and an expansive economic agenda based on innovation.
Barely 12 months later, after an election that saw it lose its large majority, it faces a hostile senate with a larger number of unpredictable, populist senators and with no chance of passing its more important budgetary measures without debilitating amendments.
It highlights the serious problem with a multi-cameral system. How can the elected party govern when the senate can thwart all legislation. Yes I know this is a well worn argument and that despite this governments have managed in the past. Yes, but it is worse today, not only because of the number of cross-benchers, but due to the news cycle that elevates this motley crew into heroes, and especially so if they manage to exact some concession in an piece of high profile legislation, irrespective whether the concession is beneficial or not. Mr Hinch's intervention in the ABCC legislation is a prime and most disappointing example.
It is doubtful that such a senate will allow the deep cost cuts required for any reasonable balancing of our books. Yet Trumps' injection of confidence has raised the markets and this will help Aus's growth. Against all odds it may be Trump who saves us.
It has been a very full year with sufficient drama to fill many a reality show. Despite all our challenges, the sun is shining, and the Xmas slowdown beckons. I look forward to a break.
Thank you readers for the positive feedback and indeed all the feedback over the year. I hope I have kindled some debate out there.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy and peaceful 2017.