Christmas messages from politicians and political parties started hitting my inbox on the 20th. The number of messages increased rapidly over the following four days, filling my inbox like Christmas shoppers fill department stores.
One thing that I noticed about these messages was that the “Christmas” theme was often confined to a small paragraph or even just a greeting.
The first festively-themed email that I got was from Greens leader Senator Bob Brown. The subject line, “Seasons Greetings,” and a message that only contained the word “Christmas” twice, once on a personal level and once in the postscript, reflects the secular platform of the Greens.
Senator Brown’s message focused on the successes of the Greens in 2011:
What a fantastic 2010! And it will flow into 2011, not least with our four new senators increasing our team in the federal parliament to 10 on 1 July.
Three of the great policy challenges for 2011 will be saving the Kimberley's James Price Point from a gas hub, permanent protection for Tasmania's high conservation value forests and getting a decent carbon price for Australia.
But Christmas is coming first. Don't tell Paul, but I've been down to the outdoor gear shop to get him a decent sleeping bag so that we can head off to Tasmania's central plateau, careless about any summer blizzards. I don't need any present as there is a new footbridge over the Liffey River, which will be a boon for platypus watchers and walkers headed for Drys Bluff alike.
I and my fellow MPs, Christine, Rachel, Sarah, Scott and Adam, wish you and yours a brilliant summer with many happy times together.
p.s. If you are looking for a double-win Christmas present: send a donation to the Papua New Guinea Greens whose leader Dorothy Tekwie is currently touring Australia. PNG has elections coming up in 2012 and with your help this young, vibrant party can see its first members elected. You can donate by direct bank transfer to:Friends of the Global GreensPNG Project BSB: 633000 Account Number: 141613 679
Second was Labor Connect, a party website of the Australian Labor Party. From them came a message written by Labor National Secretary Karl Bitar, which wished “members and supporters a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a safe holiday”. Bitar goes on to recap the year and looks into the future of Labor and Labor Connect.
Here is Bitar’s message:
We wanted to take a moment to wish all of our members and supporters a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a safe holiday.
With your support we have seen the re-election of a Federal Labor Government this year. The Gillard Government has been hard at work with well over 50 pieces of legislation passing through the Parliament since the election, including legislation critical to implementing National Health Reform and building the National Broadband Network.
As with each and every year it is the hard work of unsung Party Members like yourself that make Australian Labor the great political party it is. The realities of the Parliament mean that during 2011 there will be much to do to advance our progressive agenda.
Along with a new year we are also approaching the one year anniversary of the Labor Connect Blog and the six month anniversary of the ThinkTank and the Labor Connect Community. The success of these initiatives have relied on our committed members taking time out of their day to contribute their thoughts and ideas to us, for this we want to thank you.
Please keep involving yourself in the conversation between the public and the Government. Your voice genuinely helps to shape the work of the Australian Labor Party.
In 2010 we have a strong agenda to grow our online program and improve opportunities for participation so we look forward to working with you in the New Year.
Have a happy and safe holiday,
Karl Bitar and the Team @ Labor Connect
The next pollie to send me their Christmas message was leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Senator Barnaby Joyce. Joyce’s email was the only message that I got from a politician, and here I should admit that I’m not signed up to receive emails from Senator Steve Fielding, that actually discussed Christmas and what it meant to them.
After speculating on the details of Christmas, Joyce contends that “the virtue of Christmas is therefore not in an item you purchase for someone, which to be honest is usually quickly forgotten crap, but how you act.” That’s a message which, perhaps, he should have given Tony Abbott before the Coalition leader threw a billion dollars at Andrew Wilkie during the negotiations after the federal election this year.
Here is Senator Joyce’s email, entitled “A Christmas message from Barnaby”:
Christ was not born on December the 25th. It is far more likely that it would have been in late September, autumn, if Mary and Joseph were, as reported, returning to Bethlehem for the census, under the direction of Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus. Our current celebratory timing has more to do with the pagan Roman season of Saturnalia starting on the 17th of December, the birthday of my wife Natalie a name derived from the word "natal day".
Saturnalia would have quickly paled into obscurity had it not been associated with a person who a large proportion of the globe, including me, believes to be The Christ, the Son of God. Another large portion believes the same person to be a great prophet and many others who would class themselves as not holding a religion find the same individual’s statements as espousing the virtues of a good person and a tolerant society.
The paradox comes when those who laud the views of this Person, Christ, do not appear to follow these values themselves, then others attribute this paradox to a hypocrisy of a religion.
Christmas is a time of great joy and great loneliness. It shines the light on those who have somewhere to go and those who have nowhere. It is a great joy when it is shared by others but it can be devastating if the experience is merely observed through the window. There is nothing as lonely as Christmas carols for one.
The virtue of Christmas is therefore not in an item you purchase for someone, which to be honest is usually quickly forgotten crap, but how you act. There is definitely someone near you now who has no-one and is not so much looking forward to the 25th, but dreading it. Their experience in some instances will be absolute despair. This experience of despair many associate with the homeless on the street but it may just as easily be in the best house on the nicest street. Our part in this scene is to try to be a form of solace to the problem. Despite our reluctance, whatever we give personally is so much more rewarding than any tokenistic electronic good. We should never put out of our mind the idea of saying, “if you’d like to pop round for lunch we’d love to have you”; leave the option open for one of the greatest Christmas gifts. The magic of Christmas is the bravery to take down the barriers and be nice, to the stranger, yes, even to the ex.
Children make Christmas and there is almost an undisputed public shunning of those who think it clever to destroy the magic for kids. Everyone tries to desperately fight the tide of adolescence where the joy of the presents under the tree is lost by the impending mad rush to adulthood. That magic morning of watching children sticks in the memory banks. These are the couple of hours that are remembered in a person’s life; long remembered after promotions at work, parties, disputes and peers are wiped away.
There is nothing more nauseous than to be cynical or politically correct about Christmas. Every time I hear the term “Season’s Greetings” I believe I have just encountered a salutation to be given to the cloaca of a cooked chook. It is “Christmas” for goodness sake. There a four seasons, one Christmas, and I am not in the mind to send people a card saying, “Happy spring – hope you’re all well.” or “ May the joy of winter find you in good health” or “Welcome to the magic of mid to late autumn”.
The world is not going to collapse around your ears if you bite your tongue and say live and let live, it is actually Christmas. People who sing carols are not religious zealots. Be nice to someone outside your comfort zone. To all the children I say, as an earnest politician and dedicated representative of the people of Queensland that, Santa is real and I’ve seen one of his sleighs being serviced at Macquarie Island near the South Pole. I suppose he’d have to have a depot in the south as well.
Now for the leader of the Opposition, Mr Tony Abbott. Mr Abbott seems to have taken his self-defined “job to oppose” a bit far, with him seeming to oppose Christmas as much as any Government bill. That’s quite a backflip from a person once training for the priesthood!
Here is Mr Abbott’s Christmas email, with a total of one sentence about the holiday for which the email is named:
A Christmas Message from Tony Abbott
A year ago, I said that I couldn’t promise victory but could guarantee a contest. Back then, only the most optimistic supporter could have anticipated the scale of our political recovery.
The past 12 months have seen the removal of a prime minister, a first term government losing its majority, huge anti-Labor swings in South Australia and Tasmania and the defeat of a well regarded Labor government in Victoria. Right around the country, the Labor brand is becoming toxic. All this is testament to the hard work, unity, discipline and belief of the Liberal team.
I’m extremely grateful for the support of my federal and state parliamentary colleagues, the party divisions, party members and thousands of volunteers – all of whom can take credit for the Liberal Party’s recent performance.
We owe it to all the families struggling with cost of living pressures and to everyone disappointed with a government that’s been all talk and no action to do even better in the year ahead.
I hope all of you have an enjoyable and restful Christmas with family and friends. I look forward to working with you all again next year as we strive to rid our great nation of what is probably the worst government in living memory.
The last Christmas Message to hit my inbox was from the Prime Minister of Australia, Ms Julia Gillard. This consisted of a link to listen to Gillard making her Christmas address, accompanied by a significantly shortened transcript of the speech.
The transcript and the speech (both below) reflect on 2010, and try to offset the disappointments of the year with the fact that Labor remains in Government in the Federal Parliament.
One unsurprising omission from the transcript is Ms Gillard’s acknowledgement of the contributions to the Australian Labor Party by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
To every member and friend of Australian Labor – Merry Christmas!
Now is a time to reflect on the year just past - its challenges, and its achievements as well.
Most notably, Labor has finished the year in Government in Canberra – which means we can go on making a difference for the people who rely on us.
To the Australian Labor Party membership, from our National Secretary through to every volunteer who handed out a Labor how-to-vote card – my deepest thanks.
For all members and supporters of Australian Labor, my wish is that this Christmas, wherever you are in our country or overseas, you have the chance to do those special things that mean Christmas for you, with people who are special to you.
I look forward to working with you in 2011 to advance the values and ideas of our great party in our great country.
Some time ago I also received a Christmas card in the post from my local member of parliament. The front of the card had my male Liberal MP standing amongst “thee generations of girl guides.” Pushed off to the side of the picture was a small clipart picture of a Christmas tree adorned with the words “Merry Christmas”.
Those two words on the cover were the only mention of Christmas on or in the card, with the message inside simply congratulating the guides “on 100 years of commitment and service.”
All these messages seem to become almost petty and partisan, perhaps with the exception of Barnaby Joyce, when looked at in comparison to the Queen’s Christmas address. For her yearly message, the Queen gained more media attention in Australia than any Australian governmental figure. Of all the people with power in Australia, the top award goes to someone on the other side of the world.
On another note, this year Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young ran a program which invited people to mail Christmas cards to children in detention centres, care of her office. If you didn’t get the chance to send a card this year, keep an eye out for this next year!
Don’t forget that you can get involved with OCSN! Simply click the “Post a Comment” button in the grey area below this article and say what you’re thinking!