Australia (almost) has a new Prime Minister: Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott

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Last week I wrote about my personal perspective on Australian politics and the upcoming election.  As I write, it’s Saturday evening in The Netherlands and I’m watching and listening to Australia’s soon-to-be new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, give his victory speech on ABC News online.

As someone who isn’t enrolled to vote in this particular election and didn’t, I’m not sure I am even entitled to an opinion.  I’m living in The Netherlands at the moment and didn’t feel strongly enough about any of the candidates to vote.  However as I mentioned in my previous post, I am challenging myself – and others like me who have “sat back” for a long time – to take a more active role and interest.  I was born in Australia, spent the majority of my life there, am an Australian citizen (if not current resident).  I have a dual national (Dutch Australian) husband and two dual national children.  So here’s just a few of my thoughts as I try to work out how I feel about this, and how it will affect me, my friends and family.

One emotion is concern.  I’ve had enough “anti-Abbott” posts flooding my Facebook feed  in the last few days to make me aware of the fact that there will be several people I know – and probably a lot of others – who are not at all happy with this outcome. I’m concerned about why some people were so strongly against him to begin with and if their fears are truly founded.  Another concern is that there may be some “bad loser” type attitudes, with people ready to attempt to tear down a new leader before he’s even properly begun.

Another is curiosity.  I’m wondering what this change will mean for my family and friends in Australia.  How it will affect their day to day life.  How it might affect mine – a dual national Australian living overseas.  Also curiosity about this man I know quite little about who will now become the “face of Australia”.  To “get to know” someone in the public eye objectively, I think the Tony Abbott entry on Wikipedia is a good place to start.  I’ve only just scanned it but see he was born in London!  That kind of surprised me actually.  I would be no means object to someone not Australian-born rising to this level of leadership, so long as they fulfilled other requirements, but it was just not something I was expecting.  Actually as I read a little further, it’s an interesting life he’s led!  It’s late now and I’m tired so I’ll discontinue the “getting to know Tony Abbott via Wikipedia” session, however I am keen to keep an open mind.  He has now been elected and I respect that and will continue to aim to observe objectively.

My third emotion at the moment is resignation.  I have to say, the 9 minute speech I’ve just watched on the ABC news report doesn’t particularly move me or warm me to him personally and I’ve felt this way the few other times I’ve seen Tony Abbott in the news.  In fact, I was more emotionally involved by the Obama Victory Speech in 2008 – even though I have no real connections to America!  As I commented in my previous blog post on Australian politics though – whether we like someone or not, or even whether we voted for them or not, once they are put into power by a democratic election, he has an important job to do and I strongly believe deserves our support.

Interesting, actually, that I find myself writing “our” support.  Though I am writing this in The Hague, The Netherlands and have no idea when I will actually be an Australian resident again, I (obviously!) still consider myself an Australian.  I certainly hope there will be no new legislations that will threaten my dual nationality, or that of my husband and children. Certain circumstances have led me to live away from Australia right now but Peter Allen sure hit the nail on the head all those years ago with “I Still Call Australia Home”!  I have lived between Australia & The Netherlands for the last decade and am sure I will continue to have strong ties to both countries for the rest of my life (hence founding this website & community!)

So to close this blog post, here are the closing sentences of Tony Abbott’s speech.

“I thank you the people of Australia, who have just given me the greatest honour and the heaviest responsibility any member of parliament can have.  I am both proud and humble as I shoulder the duties of government.  The time for campaigning has passed and the time for governing has arrived.  I pledge myself to the service of our country.”

Regardless of who is the current Prime Minister, Australia is a wonderful country and will remain so.  There will always be major issues on which people disagree, but I am glad that the democratic system of government allows a chance for regular new leadership. The previous 27 Australian Prime Ministers have all brought both strengths and weaknesses to this position of power, and I know Tony Abbott will do the same.  I wish him every success.

Australian Federal Elections 07 September 2013

Image: Wikipedia

If you’re an Australian citizen, or a Dutch person living in Australia who has the right to vote then this coming Saturday is an important date.  Need to get up to date?  Wikipedia has a great summary about the 2013 Australian Federal Election.

For Australians living in The Netherlands, you can visit the Australian Embassy Website – this week you can vote in person in The Hague.  Another website to visit is the Australian Electoral Commission which includes full information about for those in Australia and living overseas.

Here’s my own personal perspective on voting and Australian politics.  I’m always hesitant to begin political discussions in person or online as it often involves quite strong emotional response as well as conflict – which I’m not good at – but also feel that more people need to (politely!) join the political discussion for it to be truly representative of all citizens, so here’s my contribution.

I still remember seeing a TV programme at high school where we watched the Australian Parliment in session.  I was stunned – these adults bickering and throwing insults at each other were governing our country?

My next experience was turning 18 and knowing voting was compulsory so I registered and then headed down to my local school grounds to vote on the first election day.  Even after “citizenship education” at high school, and extensive (expensive) campaigns by political parties, none really stood out to me to be any better than the other.  Rather shocked by the almost-aggressive nature of rows of people thrusting flyers at me on “how to vote”.  They were particularly keen to encourage a “new voter”.  After a few years of this, I actually postal-voted several times to avoid that atmosphere on voting day.

Over the years as an Australian resident and citizen, I HATED election time.  People with boards on the side of the road with big faces – I don’t care what you look like, I want to know what it is you stand for.  Even when I did learn more about what particular candidates were keen to support policy wise – I had little faith that once in power, they would actually be able to fulfil these promises.  Even if they did, I had the impression that opposing political parties would tear it to pieces anyway – vocally and literally.  To this day, political advertising makes me cringe – the “shouty” voices and the usual focus on “what the others are doing wrong”.  Typing this in The Netherlands, I am actually really pleased I haven’t heard one single political campaign this year.  Particularly as someone with a marketing degree, I am shocked by the massive amounts of money spent on these tv/radio/press campaigns – and with what I feel is extremely limited effectiveness in reaching and communicating clearly with their target market.

Twice I’ve visited Canberra and been to Parliament House.  For one reason or another, all that really stuck in my mind was the “million dollar flagpole” (which I don’t even know the real story about!).  Either way, it was a nice building and city but I didn’t feel personally moved or connected to it as my country’s capital.

Back to voting – though I guess I shouldn’t admit this publicly, several times at elections, especially as a young adult, I found it too overwhelming and simply “donkey voted” – I ticked all the boxes.  So I was forced to vote, yet deliberately made my vote invalid.  I wonder how many do this?  I strongly believe that voting should be a right – but a choice.  How CAN you vote for one party or the other if you really don’t understand what it is you are voting for and the consequences of this?

Beyond all that, with all the antics going on in previous years with the Prime Ministers – Rudd then Gillard then Rudd…I’m not stupid – but I don’t understand, and trying to understand confuses and frustrates me.  Regularly, I felt like I should become more involved as a citizen…I’d start researching or talking to people but again it wouldn’t be long before I’d face a mental block – agggghhhhh, too much!!  It seems most are either in politics to fix the mistakes other parties have made and block them from future terms, or in a crusade based on some particular platform such as “stop abortion” or “improve education”.  Though I respect people’s personal political choices and goals, and do feel there need to be strong leaders and good standards of health, education and personal – overall, I feel there is enough complexity in the local, state and federal governments to thwart even the best intentions – and to this day, I really don’t feel that voting for a person or party who makes specific promises will ensure that these things happen.

That said, I have a huge amount of respect for people who choose a path in politics – if it’s for the right reasons.  As an outsider, it does seem to me that the entire Australian political environment is brutal and not something I would wish on my worst enemy.  I worry that anyone with true good qualities and intentions will meet such intense resistance in the media and from their own colleagues (not to mention the opposition) that I don’t believe any human has the personal strength to withstand.

Regardless of the nature of how it happened, I liked that a woman had the chance to be Prime Minister for a time – though this didn’t last long and I wonder when this will happen again.  No, it’s not about voting for the gender, but more giving some true chance for BOTH women and men to be represented at the highest level.

So that’s my morning rant from The Hague, The Netherlands.  This city is the seat of the Dutch parliament, though I don’t yet vote here and finding out more about politics is on my “to do list”.  My command of the Dutch language is rising to a level that I am starting to be able to follow a little of the proceedings here and my general attitude is that I like it a lot better than Australia.  Of course this could be a completely misguided and unfounded perception but I get the impression politicians here are a lot more trustworthy – but are able to be so as they are better supported by a more practical and much older system.  Parties seem to work together much more often towards common goals.  Because of course, regardless of who is in power, we all want a high standard of health, education, security and safety for ourselves and our families.  In the end, both The Netherlands and Australia do offer that and I am grateful.  You can disagree on some points and it’s healthy to do so.

So the solution?  Of course, it’s not easy, but in my humble opinion four things I think can help change the Australian political situation for the better is:

1.  Not force compulsory voting on citizens

2.  Politicians, people – and perhaps more importantly the media – need to realise politics should be much LESS about the person in power and more about their job.

3.  Once elected, those in power should be supported by the country to do their job well.  This would hopefully encourage more genuinely “good” leaders into positions.

4.  Individuals – myself included – need to take a more active interest in politics.

As mentioned above, I’m always rather nervous to invite political discussion as it stirs strong emotions and can get out of hand but I would be interested in your perspective in a comment below.



Koala Renee Rescue

What began as a routine shopping trip became a little more adventurous yesterday.  On Dohles Rocks Road, Murrumba Downs (near the Tavern), just north of Brisbane, Australia, traffic was at a standstill and it wasn’t just the ongoing roadworks – a small koala was running across the road, dodging cars.

Just recently I had seen a brochure for the Moreton Bay Koala Rescue, which Sophia (my 3 year old) had picked up as she is crazy about koalas (it was one of her first words!).  Funnily enough I’d had that brochure sitting in my car for weeks and had just taken it out days before.  I pulled over, googled the Rescue service on my iPhone and called.

I was diverted to the Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo and a lovely lady, Michelle, talked me through what to do.  Two other people had stopped and helped usher the koala out of the way of the traffic, and he was now trying to climb up a small bougainvillea bush outside someone’s driveway.  One of the other rescuers who stopped, Richard, had a flexible bucket, rope and horse saddle blanket in his car.  Under Michelle’s direction, we used these to carefully capture the frightened koala.  One of his eyes was milky and looked like he had trouble seeing, and generally looked quite unhealthy and traumatised.

Michelle asked if it was possible to take the koala to my place and keep him in my laundry while they came to collect him.  Living only a few minutes away and not seeing any better alternative, I was happy to help.  I also thought it was going to be an amazing surprise for my Dutch parents-in-law who are staying with us!  However there was the dilemma of whether he would stay in the bucket while I was driving, so Richard suggested putting him in the boot for the few minute’s drive.  I opened the part in between the back seats so he could get enough air and drove off.

Just seconds up the road, I spotted a police car on the side of the road so pulled over as I was worried the koala wasn’t getting enough air.  I was also concerned he may try to escape through the gap into the car, which would have been rather dramatic, especially as I was driving on my own.  It was rather funny watching the two tall strong police men very cautiously open my boot.  “Koalas have very sharp claws,” one of them said, sounding like he may have known this from personal experience!  The police said they would take the koala back to North Lakes police station and contact Koala Rescue. Meanwhile, Ann from Moreton Bay Koala Rescue rang me (the Wildlife Hospital had passed on my number).  I let her know the koala just went for a ride in the police car – probably much more comfortable than my boot.

Not long afterwards, I received a call from the police station that the koala had been collected and that “he” was actually a “she”.  She was doing ok and they had named her Renee!

Koala Renee at police station

Today, I received another call from Koala Rescue with an update on Koala Renee, followed by the email below with exciting news…

I’ve just made a small donation to the fantastic work this not-for-profit volunteer organisation do and would encourage everyone to take a look at their website

Koala Renee

Hi Renee,

 Thank you for rescuing the koala yesterday.  I have attached a few photos for you.  We will put a story on the website later today.

 She was 4yrs old, bodyscore 5/10 and weighed only 3.7kg.  She wasn’t in very good condition and had previous mild trauma.  Otherwise looks like thanks to you she escaped being hit by a car, she was very lucky.

 A little surprise as well – a 3-4 week old baby in her pouch.

 Thanks again


A Dual National Dutch Australian

I was born in Australia in 1975 to Australian parents (who have an Italian/English heritage).   Right through my childhood, primary school and high school, I had a yearning to see other places, but had never left Australian soil.  From a young age, I had numerous overseas penfriends.  Back then – before the concept of the internet was even considered in the public sphere – I waited eagerly each day for the postman to bring envelopes from far off exotic places.  I carefully peeled off the stamps for my album, and read letters from other children living lives in places very different to mine, yet revolving around most of the same daily issues as mine – school, family, friends, food.

Australia is perhaps the most multicultural country on earth and has been referred to as a “cultural melting pot” where, at least for the majority of my life and in my own experience, those from different backgrounds live relatively harmoniously together.  I must check on the actual statistics, though a large part of the current population, if not born overseas themselves, have at least one parent, or most certainly a grandpart who has immigrated from foreign land.  I grew up in a rural area where we were predominately white children with a european heritage, though I do remember always having a keen genuine interest in other cultures rather than any fear or predjudice.  I am ashamed to say that there was little that I remember being taught in school of the traditional aboriginal ownership of my country, and history of what really happened when the English settled was glossed over.  I’m pleased to see that this is changing but that’s another story.

In 1991, at the end of grade 11 (my 2nd last year of high school), my mother and I went for a short holiday to Singapore to visit an uncle who was living there at the time.  Funnily enough, that was the first overseas trip for both of us.  One of my first real encounters of another culture was to see armed guards at the airport on arrival – in neatly pressed uniforms and carrying massive machine guns.  Leaving the airport, I was overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of another land for the first time.  Being almost 20 years ago now, most of my memories have merged into a few mental images, such as huge shopping centres, men recognising us as tourists from a mile off and offering “copy watch, copy watch”, a crazy bus ride on a Malaysian day trip, finding a tiny turtle in the swimming pool of my uncle’s apartment building!

Becoming a travel agent after I left school meant that my thirst for other cultures was fulfilled with a number of countries being ticked of my wish list!  I remained living in Australia until 2001, though began working in the backpacker industry where meeting those from other countries became a part of my everyday life and I loved it.  Though it baffled most Australians, I got very good at spotting the difference between a Scottish and Irish accent, an American and Canadian one (and knew that almost every Canadian traveller had a flag displayed proudly on their backpack or clothing somewhere to assist people in doing just that!).  I had lots of adventures travelling not only overseas but also within my own country, and was surprised (but secretly thrilled) to discover that being a “real Aussie” travelling the Queensland backpacker route , I was quite a novelty to the tourists!  I’d love to write more about my travels someday, and certainly have a lot of photos, as photography is a passion of mine, which compliments travel quite well.

In 2001, I gained an English heritage visa, as my grandfather (who I didn’t know) was born in England.  I relocated to try life based in London.  Due to my travels and passion for this, along with being offered a job right after I left school, I had never really persued a university education and was joking at the time that some people spent 3-4 years to get a degree…and I was going to spend 4 years in the UK to get a European passport.  At the time, I had in mind living in the UK for the compulsary 4 years to apply for citizenship (on an ancestry visa with a British grandfather), but little did I know at the time I would gain European Citizenship – but it was to be Dutch!

So this blog is to be a collection of my experiences and I hope to also gather stories of others in similar situations about either becoming a dual national, or having connections between the Dutch and Australian cultures.  I will write predominately in English, being my native language, though I’m fairly fluent now in Dutch – I can read and speak it well, though am not very confident expressing myself in writing in het Nederlands….though perhaps I can use this blog to try and change that!

I’m currently based in Brisbane but writing this on holidays in North Holland, where my husband, Bas, is sitting outside by the canal with his parents, and our daughters Sophia (3 – born in Delft) and Isabella (1- born in Brisbane) are sleeping soundly.  I look forward to inviting my Dutch/Australian friends to read this blog, and meeting new people through this medium.

Tot zo!