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The Revolution Will Not Be Petitioned

Almost 20,000 people have signed a petition to oust the Australian Prime Minister. Not that that actually means anything.
Κείμενο Lee Zachariah

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When Barack Obama strode decisively into the office of United States President, his opposition simply couldn’t handle it. Within two months of victory, the following petition appeared online:

We the people of the United States of America do hereby firmly reject the Obama Administration as our ruling body. We do not condone any of its actions henceforth, nor do we accept its values as our own.


We strongly implore Congress to impeach Obama before serious damage is done to America as a nation.

This after only two months. You’ve got to wonder just how crazy the conservative movement in the US really i—

Wait, sorry. My mistake. The above wasn’t about US President Barack Obama, but rather Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Which, given I deliberately changed the names, I now realise I knew all along.

So, let’s examine the momentary outrage you felt after reading the above. Given polls show that Australians would have swept Obama into office in both 2008 and 2012 had they been given the chance to vote, I feel statistically safe in assuming that you are (or were) something of an Obama supporter. And in reading the above, you probably felt a pang at the injustice of it all: that a movement was calling for the removal of the leader after two months simply because they didn’t like him.

The petition to remove Tony Abbott from office has, at time of writing, 18,354 signatures. Underneath, a curiously specific piece of text informs me that 81,646 are needed.

Included is a letter directed to Governor-General Quentin Bryce, which lists the reason for the petition:

Already the LNP has removed several key, and crucially important ministers from the Cabinet. Among these are the ministers for Science, Mental Health, Aged Care and Disabilities. Insultingly, they have been replaced with a minister for Sport.


Furthermore, the LNP has announced plans to close Hospitals, not least among them the Brisbane Childrens Hospital, and has shown a blatant disregard for Australian values by including only one female minister in the LNP Federal Cabinet.

That Joshua Smyth, the creator of the petition, considers the closure of a hospital, a cabinet reshuffle, and “I don’t like sport” grounds for government dismissal is bizarre, not least because the larger Abbott controversies include the carbon tax, the NBN, the relationship with Indonesia, the Gonski backflips, and treatment of asylum seekers. But it’s Smyth’s muddled message that stands out the most.

Like Jody Mason, the Iraq war protestor who in 2003 who chained himself to an unused side-door of a non-profit Washington State rural health organisation with a sign reading “Reduce deficit” as he shouted “Blood for oil!”, Smythe is suffering from a lack of focus.

Focus is not something Tony Abbott is lacking. His nonsensical “Stop the boats” catchphrase clearly hit harder with voters than Kevin Rudd’s “How will you stop the boats?” retort, always delivered in an awkward staccato delivery.

There was no issue too great, too nuanced, or too off-topic that could not be answered with a swift “Stop the boats”. It was almost as if it were designed to be mocked, because whilst you were busy mocking it, Abbott was busy winning an election by a margin that dwarfed Rudd’s canonized 2007 victory.


Mr Smyth’s petition isn’t a complete wash, though. In focusing on the closure of Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital, he’s identified an issue he clearly feels strongly about. Focusing on specific issues is important, but so is knowing who is actually responsible for them.

The issues surrounding the Brisbane hospitals – the new Queensland Children’s Hospital, the Mater Children’s Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital – are the remit of the Queensland Government, so on that particular issue, it’s probably Campbell Newman you want to boot out.

Consequently, I suggest a brand new petition, this time directed at Queensland’s Governor Penelope Wensley AC, who is the one charged with firing that state’s government, should the need arise.

The new petition will also be completely ineffective, but it’ll at least go to the right person.

Follow Lee on Twitter: @leezachariah

For more Australian politics: 

Being Racist Could Get Easier In Australia 

Australia's Refugee Situation Is About To Get Even More Bleak

Thoughts On a Fire-Fighting Tony Abbott