Meanwhile in Australia

If the Australian and the US were TV series, the US would be the one with big funding and stars and special effects and Australia would be the cheap spin-off that people like because it’s less taxing and is comfortingly (or uncomfortingly) familiar. We’ve had a lot of COVID stuff haunting us, including a virus spike. We also have a critical by-election next weekend and the politics surrounding it are vile. Normally I’d talk about these things, but, as I said a fortnight ago, this is not a good moment to share only bad news. Also, when our bad news is still better than the news of our friends it is rather cruel.

I want to give you something happier. Not happier. In fact, not at all happier. The truth this, this fortnight there isn’t a lot. The biggest piece of news today is a tennis player (who apparently lives in the same city as me) shouting about another tennis player. This is tennis as usual, but with a COVID twist and I rather suspect it made it to international news.

Every day I feel that the world is smaller because of the virus, but it’s also bigger. Now I stop to think about it, it’s really odd that the world is so much bigger to Australians because of the virus. So many examples – let me give a big one and a small one, as contrast.

We can’t travel internationally without extraordinarily strong reason and much quarantine, and, locally, I had a lot of trouble buying something simple like soy sauce because it comes from China. Australia is more apart from the world than most other places are, for better or for worse. Shipping is slow and long to get here.

When we run out of things that are not locally produced, they’re not easily replaced. Our federal government has been propping up coal and other primary resources and not helping industry at all (in fact, in some cases, doing the opposite) so we don’t do a lot of manufacturing locally. We have more fresh food than we can eat, but when imports are slow it takes clever management of distribution to keep everyone one in all the things we know and love. It feels like the seventies again, with the gaps on supermarkets shelves (we have the toilet paper issue again) and the need for advance planning for anything not local.

What else are we expected to not do in Australia? Besides expect all the things we’re used to buying and doing? Well, our current government has said that – evidence notwithstanding – that the Humanities need to receive less funding because they don’t lead to jobs. The evidence is evidence of Humanities graduates being the most likely to get jobs from a university degree. A third of our Cabinet has Arts degrees and yet they are being actively undermined. Someone wants to impose a class system where none existed.

That’s one theory. But we already had a class system. Now we’re looking at an oligarchy, with a distinct religious bent. Most Australians don’t like it, but those who want to be oligarchs don’t listen, you see…

In the same week our government declared they were not cutting back the national broadcaster, ie that it was not their fault that funding had been mysteriously been reduced by over 50% in the time since the other big party was in power.

Add this to earlier equally mysterious disappearance of funding for writers, artists and other creatives, and the announcement of help for the arts made a bunch of people read the fine print. The help is only for organisations and will not be given until the crisis is over. There is no additional Federal funding for the Arts in Australia and much reduced funding. A local musician talked about it when he delivered my groceries last week. We do what we can and I’m one of the lucky ones. It give me the capacity to note that class systems require undermining of criticism and the Arts here is wildly political.

Some people have begin to call Morrison ‘Mini-Trump.’

I could continue complaining, but I suspect I’ve made my point. I’d rather spend my time writing and getting published and making my books visible and I want readers who will enjoy my work.

That’s my biggest personal complaint. If we have to do politics to survive, then that’s time taken away from what counts.

How do I express anger at our Federal government? Let me count the ways. No, let me not. Let me have a cup of tea and get back to writing. I’m one of the lucky ones, and that means I have deadlines.



Meanwhile in Australia — 1 Comment

  1. Thanks again, Gillian. It’s eye-opening to have your perspective from the other side of the world. My sympathies for the difficulties. And, yes, about the worst insult your Morrison could get is to be called a “mini Trump.” Our nightmares here in the U.S. continue under our Malignant Idiot Dictator.