Welcome to the resuscitated Charlotte is Moved. According to Wikipedia, I’d posted the blog, ‘with political, social and artistic themes, from 2013 to 2016.’ I don’t remember why I stopped writing it, but my guess is that because of my partner’s death in 2015, I had lost the mojo for it.
How did Charlotte come to be in the first place? As noted in this website’s book section, Charlotte Biscay was a pseudonym I’d used for a story in a British Columbian anthology, and later for some corporate editing and writing I did on returning to Australia – a company, Charlotte Biscay Associates, was created for the purpose. Charlotte had an earlier blog but, wanting a bigger and better one, it was changed to Charlotte is Moved. Wordsmith that I am, I love the double meaning. Not only did Charlotte move to a more professional website, she wrote on whatever happened to move her, and in this new rendition she’ll be doing much the same.
I’m writing this in the antepenultimate week of the 2022 federal election. With a COVID infection ever possible and wanting to make sure just in case, I went this morning to cast my vote in the local pre-poll. Satisfied to have it over and done with, I still came back feeling somewhat deflated. I live in Warringah, Zali Steggall’s electorate, where she won with a whopping swing of 18.3 percent in 2019. The campaign the Liberals waged against her then was rough, and we’d expected them to pull out all stops to regain the seat. But then the PM intervened, postponing the party’s preselection until he got a candidate he wanted. The delay caused one potential candidate to bow out, and two others were jettisoned in favour of the one we’ve got. Informed opinion is that his woeful captain’s pick has nothing to do with winning back Warringah, where Steggall is pegged to be re-elected, but to help the government pick up other seats in Sydney’s western suburbs.
So why have I left the pre-polling booth feeling so downhearted? I volunteered for Zali Steggall in 2019 and have again this time. By every criterion, she deserves to be re-elected. With her campaign for meaningful action on climate change, her support for an effective federal integrity commission, and for gender equity she’s been a perfect fit for this electorate. She’s worked hard as our local member, encouraging local businesses and community organisations. But I worry about the direction Australia has taken, how the triennial elections campaigns have become so presidential and the media so concentrated. That in 2019 Australia elected a bully for prime minister by a slim margin, and we can’t rule out his being elected again. I’ve watched as he’s lied, obfuscated, deflected and spun while the media for the most part responds as though hypnotised by the very force and incoherence of his words. Confessed political junkie that I am, even I can’t continue watching, and understand completely why people less interested to begin with have been so disengaged.
Yet the hurdles facing my adopted country are enormous. Climate change is our biggest challenge, with Australia the most vulnerable among the developed nations. And years of neglect and short-sighted policy have left us with a host of other urgent concerns. Hospitals, aged and disability care are on the point of collapse; there’s a shortage of general practitioners in the regions; gross inequities exist in education, and housing is increasingly unaffordable. There’s a rising incidence of homelessness among women 55 and over. We’ve had a decade of low productivity and low wages, and now, after pitiful expenditure on training and the COVID border restrictions, we have a shortage of labour combined with punishing inflation. These are just some of the issues I can think of off the top of my head.
After decades of politicians chasing votes by cutting taxes, we shouldn’t wonder that services are so poor. But few today, least of all those seeking election, dare to speak the obvious. We’re going to have to pay for better social outcomes, and that will mean higher, fairer taxes. We’ve been lied and spun to for too long, and the jig is up.
Independent candidates like Zali Steggall have scared the bejesus out of a Coalition threatened by the possibility of minority federal government. As far as I’m concerned it’s the outcome they deserve, and would do much to restore our stumbling democracy. Nor have I the slightest doubt that Anthony Albanese, who has shepherded the ALP through some of its darkest days, would be a good prime minister – far far better anyway than the divisive, power-hungry dissembler we’ve been saddled with. Every single assertion of the current incumbent can be rebutted, and although this should have happened a lot more during this campaign, I won’t launch into a boring disquisition on them now. Instead, I’ll be hoping that our better angels will prevail.
It’s reasonable to ask why an artist should concern herself with politics. My simplest answer is that politics affect every aspect of our lives, and artists are not immune to this. Unlike other businesses, for example, the arts received no Jobseeker support during the pandemic. Neither did our public universities. These were political decisions, and particularly punitive ones. More complex answers would address other questions – whether an artist’s focus and energy should be directed to her work alone, whether the very act of producing artistic work is indeed political, or whether only certain of these works are, and why that might be so. Like many artists I’ve struggled with these questions. For the time being I leave them to you to ponder.