Australia, and of course the political scene therein, certainly falls into a heady state of idleness over the festive season. Kickstarted by the end of the school year in early to mid December, the holiday season coma only deepens as a year trudges towards the explosion of colour, family and money that is Christmas. Those with school-age children, of course, are usually well and truly on annual leave by this point, and no doubt for many the scant few days between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve fly away leaving no trace. After the anticlimax of another orgy of orchestrated celebrations, soaked in champagne and assorted other fluids, one’s normal life slowly resumes. Some people stay on leave for a while longer, leaving often vital cogs out of the machinery of industry, pieces missing from the puzzle. It is not until February that the working world really threatens to return to business as usual. It is often not until then that the fizz of the festive season becomes a distant memory, rather than a particularly persistent hangover.
At the moment, there is something of a void in the place where “normal political debate” would be. The most dominant political figure in the country is on leave, along with several other fairly important ones. I get the impression from talking to various people that little could be further from their minds than politics right now. The cricket is omnipresent, and outdoors, sunshine lingers. One almost wishes that Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard would announce something really daft and out of character, just so that we could actually see how many people noticed or cared. Unfortunately this appears quite unlikely, with the Federal Government on auto-pilot along with the Opposition (who also have to overcome their irrelevancy besides).
It’s all a bit of a shame, because the start of a New Year offers our country’s leaders the opportunity to recalibrate and present their vision for the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be great if, on Australia Day, the leader of each of the nation’s major political parties gave a speech at the National Press Club outlining their immediate plans for the future? I am sure that most of us would like to think of Australia as a nation of innovators; a nation always seeking to advance the proverbial nation fair. What better opportunity for the nation to reach forward towards the future than its national day? What better way could there be to remind us all that our democracy is one of our most precious assets, and that we should be seeking to not only protect its virtues but to work to make sure that it is even better tomorrow than it is today?