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A remarkable thing has happened to Australian politics in the past three and a half weeks. It's gone quiet. The angry barking has slowed. The sledges, the zingers - they've almost disappeared too. Almost, but not completely. In the early days of the energy crunch, Chris Bowen couldn't resist zinging against opposition accusations he was moving too slowly: "That's like a rock band trashing their hotel room and complaining that it's not cleaned up before breakfast," he said. Let's hope that was his last zinger for a good while.
It's not like there's nothing to be cranky about. We're now checking the weather forecast as well as the daily energy outlook, to know if we should rush out and buy candles in the event of outages. Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe is warning us to brace for more inflation and more interest rate rises. Fresh fruit and vegetables are in short supply. Fuel is north of $2 a litre. Rents are through the roof. Our hospital emergency departments are stretched to breaking point. Every second person seems to be down with Covid or the flu. And it's damn cold.
Maybe it's the honeymoon glow which comes with a new government but the place seems calmer - despite the onrush of crises and the feeling we've woken up in some kind of dystopia. Even the announcement politicians, along with judges and senior public servants, would get a 2.75 per cent pay rise barely raised a ripple. (Of course, that pay rise was overshadowed by the 5.2 per cent increase to the minimum wage handed down by the Fair Work Commission.)
Maybe we're exhausted. Fires, floods, the pandemic and grumpy politics has been wearing. Anthony Albanese calls it "conflict fatigue" and he might be right. Even the opposition, tired and still licking its wounds, seems a little more civil.
Whatever the cause, there's been a sense of calm, even lightness, since the election. And that's in spite of the gravity of the circumstances we face. It's a pleasant and positive change - a bit like having a troublesome toothache attended to and realising a week later the pain has gone. How long it will last is up to our politicians. If they resist resorting to spin, slogans and high-vis photo opps - most of which insult our intelligence - they'll keep our respect for a little while longer.
Winston Churchill is credited with saying "Never let a good crisis go to waste." The British PM was referring to the wartime alliance forged between the US, USSR and the UK, which led in turn to the formation of the United Nations, a positive outcome from grim circumstances.
A positive outcome from the crises we face in Australia would be to keep the political conversation civil and calm. The big test will come in late July when parliament returns and the Canberra bubble is re-inflated.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Has the tone of Australian politics changed for the better? How can we keep the discourse civil if the face of all these crises? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- The energy market has been suspended after the Australian Energy Market Operator declared it was impossible to operate within the rules. It is the first time since its creation in 1998 the market has been suspended. AEMO will now direct supply from energy generators to the east coast grid.
- Regional airline Rex has announced it will expand services across three states on the same day its pilots vote on taking strike action amid heated wage negotiations. In an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning, Rex said it will increase its weekday services in 11 regional centres across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
- The federal government needs to take action against encrypted messaging apps like Telegram to curb the rise of far-right extremism, a Victorian inquiry has been told. Far-right extremists initially shared hateful content on mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter but are increasingly being deplatformed, Swinburne University's Dr Belinda Barnet told Wednesday's hearing.
THEY SAID IT: "We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle, a good candle, provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100 watt light bulb.." - Bill Bryson
YOU SAID IT: "How can you say this is a small step? That's a huge shift from China refusing to pick up the phone from DFAT for the past two years. And Dutton big noting himself at all of our peril, saying 'we should prepare for war'." - Genevieve
"Discussion is essential and works well if both parties are skilled in the art. There are sticking points when a Chinese mining company (half Chinese Government owned!) can put a toxic tailings dam in Tassie's Tarkine native forest. The Chinese can buy bits of Australia but we cannot buy bits of China." - Maureen
"Bonds once had a factory in Cessnock, but they closed it and went OS just to increase profits, not because OS workers make better products. It was capitalism which has made Australia dependent on China and elsewhere." - Tony
"Yes, China needs our raw materials. China along with many other countries are building 345 new clean burning coal fired power stations and they are burning our coal in them, we are a laughing stock." - Wayne
"Unfortunately Australian governments have not heeded that old idiom 'don't put all your eggs in one basket'. A single source of supply is always a bad move. Diversification is the only way to ensure continued supply at competitive prices. Our reliance on China will be difficult to reverse, and it will only happen by investing in local manufacturing (which was lost as a result of the disastrous Lima Agreement of 1975) and sourcing from other countries. China will still be classified as a 'developing country' until 2030." - Bob
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