Playing politics in Austr(al)ia and some publishing tricks

I used to smile at the links between the country of my birth and that of my passport – the No Kangaroos in Austria slogan on T-shirts and fridge magnets, MG_0485.1for example, – but the two countries have things in common that tend to make me cry. Let’s look at some of the links. The colour blue, for instance. Blue skies reign over both countries, but so do political directions sharing common stances on say, nationalism and refugees.

Yes, in Austria, the right-wing candidate, Norbert Hofer, was narrowly defeated in the presidential elections by the originally Green “independent” candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen.

But this does not mean that Austria has gone Green. It means that the majority is not yet prepared to go Blue, perhaps reminded of a slogan I heard in the early 70s in Vienna: “scratch the blue and you will find brown”, a reference to the origins of the Freedom Party FPÖ.

Now if there were a more acceptable face to the FPÖ leadership, then the silent majority may well go there in the next election. Norbert Hofer’s could be that face, and I’m wondering if Heinz-Christian Strache would step back, reminiscent of Jörg Haider, and leave the candidature for Chancellor to Hofer at the legislative elections in 2018. As they say in publishing, the book cover sells the book, not the words within.

But some FPÖ followers are restless, reminding me of the Australia First Party, a far-right group trying to become mainstream.

I found another link to Austr(al)ia on the website of the Australian-Austrian Society, a social gathering of Austrians and Australians. Its president is Reinhold Lopatka, leader of the parliamentary group of the People’s Party ÖVP (Black), one of the two main parties in which the Austrians have lost confidence. (The other is the Social Democratic Party SPÖ (Red) whose Chancellor recently resigned to make way for a new more “managerial” face, that of Christian Kern, former boss of the State-run Austrian railways.)

Lopatka was quick to criticise the appointment of Kern, who looks like a last-ditch effort to save the centre. But Lopatka also looks like he is playing his own little game. What if? Considering the need for new faces – new book covers – Lopatka is playing kingmaker and setting things up for a Black ‘n’ Blue coalition post-2018 with bright new faces, say Sebastian Kurz & Norbert Hofer, thus ensuring himself a place and a role in Austrian right-wing politics. (It is interesting to note that the conservative ÖVP has roots in the Austrofascism of the Dollfuß era.)

The Blues can’t work with the Reds – don’t even mention the Greens – but they can work with the Blacks, and probably would welcome the tables being turned and this time round having the Blacks as the minority partner. Haven’t we been there before, albeit in slightly different ways? Bedfellows change, et plus ça change….

And the last similarity in Austr(al)ia: Who really gives a damn about the country and its future, not just its economic future, but also its moral one?

An answer to that question may show where we’re going in both countries.