He might have spent the past four years living overseas on the taxpayer dollar, having been appointed as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom during Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, but that hasn’t stopped former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer from weighing in on the current state of politics back home.
And it might come as a surprise to many to find that it’s not the likes of Peter Dutton, current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, or even Labor leader Bill Shorten, that Downer holds responsible for the recent coup that saw Malcolm Turnbull ousted from The Lodge, placing the blame instead with the Australian public.
“There’s an old political slogan you might remember … the public get the politicians they deserve,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review.
“Through all the political turmoil over the past decade I can’t help but draw your attention to your own culpability. It’s at least partly your fault. And there’s every danger you are about to make the whole situation worse.”
Downer, who was foreign minister for more than a decade, said the electorate “can be wrong” and slammed voters, saying they “can make decisions that make governance harder, not easier” listing issues surround climate change policy as an example.
He added: “Let’s take our old friend climate change. The public overwhelmingly want Australia to contribute to lowering greenhouse emissions. At the very least they want us to make a proportional contribution to the global task of CO2 mitigation.
“But here’s the rub. They don’t want to pay more for electricity. Yet the reason we have the Renewable Energy Target and other subsidies is to force power producers to use more expensive and less reliable – but cleaner – sources of power. And the people who suffer the most from higher power prices are the poor. Carbon taxes are regressive.”
He then said that Aussies are looking for a “magic pudding” when it comes to their elected representatives and said people are never happy with the leader they’ve got, blaming the “contradictions in the public mind” for the revolving door of prime ministers Australia has endured over the past 10 years.
“Think about how you’ve felt personally about our prime ministers,” Downer added. “You became tired of Howard and thought Rudd would be a refreshing change. Then you weren’t sure about him; Rudd seemed a bit erratic and dangerous and lacked deep convictions and principles.
“Over to Gillard. You loved her for a few weeks; the first female prime minister and by all accounts a thoroughly decent person. Nope. A few months passed and you grew to despise her – even hate her. After a bit more Rudd you elected Abbott. No, didn’t like him. He was too aggressive and a bit strange really. You didn’t like the way he walked and wasn’t he too right-wing?
“So over to Malcolm Turnbull. You were sure he would be brilliant but when he started to wrestle with the inevitable contradictions of public aspirations he was “disappointing”. I heard it everywhere. Let’s see how long you’ll like ScoMo … you already dislike Bill Shorten who you judge to be nothing more than a cynical opportunist.”