Australia is a country with close political and cultural ties to the UK, and so its people are naturally keeping a close eye on the unfolding political break of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Most news coverage in Australia seems to communicate one main emotion shared amongst the Australian population: confusion. This event has caught the world off guard. The majority of Australians don’t seem to know what to think about the new unexpected direction that the UK has taken. Not unlike most Britons back home, I imagine.
Bill Shorten, leader of Australia’s central opposition to Malcolm Turnbull’s government made a statement outlining David Cameron’s “weak leadership” and promised a “strong and focused future” for Australia under his lead. One news channel captured a reporter interviewing a number of Australian holidaymakers who said that they were “delighted” by the drop in the pound, as their winter holiday destination had now become significantly cheaper. The reporter predicted that more Australians would now be incentivised to travel to London but also made the claim that fewer Britons were likely to visit Australia as a result of Brexit.
Soon after, the broadcast coverage changed topics to Tasmania, a dependent state of Australia who’s right to govern itself as an independent country has not yet become a mainstream political argument.
The first thing I noticed about Australian politics is that nobody seemed to care about it very much. Most people I talked to would much rather watch an AFL game than a new speech from the Prime Minister. I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing either. Countries that tend not to be concerned with their own politics usually have fewer domestic problems than countries which are. Their lack of interests in politics doesn’t come from a lack of passion for their country, but rather from the fact that most people don’t see any pragmatic need to become involved. They don’t see many general problems in their lives that could be solved with a vote.
But with political parties becoming more and more indistinguishable over the years, many older Australians confessed to me a feeling of isolation in recent times. They find themselves being punished for using words or phrases that were often said by news anchors or radio personalities back in their youth. They sometimes feel that everything they say is being cautiously reviewed and monitored, as though they were walking on eggshells A feeling, I’m sure, not unfamiliar to many older Britons who voted to leave the European Union. There is a more visible push back against political correctness in Australia, whereas the push back in the UK seems to have been largely silent until the results of the referendum came to light.
When asking a barman more or less my own age what people generally thought about Brexit in Australia, he responded with: “I don’t think many people here know anything about the issue really.” He later laughed when I told him I thought the same was true of the UK.
All eyes are on post-Brexit Great Britain, and I feel that most of the world is having largely the same reaction as Australia; they don’t know what to think. It is quite clear looking in from the outside that the whole world is watching our United Kingdom to see what it will do next. Come what may, at least we might enjoy being the centre of attention for a few brief moments, even if it is only to make fools of ourselves.