Dearest subjects of Her Majesty’s Crumbling English empire: be warned! One of your brethren realms – namely, the Federation of Australia – is sliding away from the beloved civilising influence of Westminster, and is headed for utter chaos! On saturday 20th October, a by-election in the Sydney electoral division of Wentworth, the seat of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, will decide the fate of current caretaker prime minister Scott Morrison (affectionately, and not-so-affectionately, known as ‘ScoMo’), whose Liberal-National Party coalition government is barely hanging on. With a single-seat majority in the House of Representatives, a failure to retain this critical piece of furniture will see the current parliament well and truly hung, thus opening the door to a (gasp!) Labour government.
But never fear; loyalists have mobilised all available reinforcements to prevent such a disastrous outcome! The by-election conveniently falls on the same day that English-American royal couple Harry and Meghan begin their promotional week-long tour of Australia for the Invictus Games (one of innumerable minor sporting events, launched by Harry himself, that has gained disproportionate media attention in recent years as part of a push to provide constant distractions from political corruption and social malaise, lest people start considering anything of actual importance).
With the royal celebrity sports circus in full swing, on Tuesday morning Morrison announced that his government is considering moving the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, overturning decades of previously-held Australian foreign policy, and potentially making Australia the second country behind Guatemala to follow the Trump administration’s lead in giving Israel ‘carte blanche’.
“Why?”, you may be asking – and rightly so. No, not “Why does Australia have an embassy in Israel?” – although you get bonus points if that was your question – but rather, “Why would such a ‘liberally democratic’ country make such a controversial ‘Trumpian’ move at the expense of alienating itself from the Neoliberal World Order?”
Well, the short answer is disappointingly crude and simple. Approximately 12.5% of the electorate in Wentworth is Jewish (for comparison, the national average is 0.5%), and the government’s candidate is former Australian ambassador to Israel David Sharma. Although the seat of Wentworth has consistently elected conservative representatives since Australia became a Federation in 1901 (Malcolm Turnbull previously held the seat with a 17% advantage in the two-party-preferred voting calculus), public anger with the way Turnbull was dispatched from office has political journos predicting a down-to-the-wire race, with recent polling results indicating a 51%-49% split.
Concurrent with this are reports of a rape threat and abusive phone calls made to the highest-profile candidate, Professor Kerryn Phelps. She is running as an independent, is the primary government challenger, is a former president of the Australian Medical Association and Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, and is also a renowned health and civil rights advocate and media personality.
After a phone call with an understandably enthusiastic Netanyahu, prime minister Morrison faced a less-enthusiastic response from neighbouring Indonesia, with that country warning it could place a pending trade deal with Australia on ice over the possible embassy move.
Critical commentary in the media has already begun:
[Gareth] Evans, who was foreign minister from 1988 to 1996, called Morrison’s move a “shocking mistake”.
“This is unprincipled opportunism of the first order, and shifting the embassy at this stage would be a shocking mistake, and catastrophic for what is left of our international reputation outside Washington.
“Of course in any final two-state negotiation, Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, Israel in West and Palestine in East, and if serious negotiations were ever to start, accepting that shift could be a useful interim reward for significant Israeli movement on settlements or whatever. But you never, ever give something this big for nothing, and Netanyahu has given less than nothing to any peace process.” [..]
Bishop George Browning, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, was horrified. “I find the announcement extraordinary because it must be the first time in Australian political life that a government has tried to shore up its chances in a byelection by using foreign policy.
“The previous prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and the previous foreign minister Julie Bishop resisted this for the very good reason that to move the embassy to Jerusalem is [the same] as agreeing with the Israeli prime minister that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel.
“They’re immediately throwing out the policy of a two-state solution, which Australia has held for a very long time, decades, in order to shore up their chances in a local byelection. It’s disgraceful.”
And with Israel regularly producing incidents such as this (and worse) ever since its founding, Australia can most certainly be assured that the concerns of its critics are well-founded.
About the author
An information tech professional, Ryan Jones is a former DJ and presently an avid explorer and evolving writer, honing his storytelling kung-fu via years of blogging. His constellation of interests includes technology, geopolitics, ponerology, psychology, philosophy, history and astronomy. You can follow him via his personal blog knpr.net, on Twitter, and at Steemit.