THERE ARE SOME words and phrases that almost inevitably crop up in politicianspeak across the ideological spectrum. No matter how fond one might be of one's own relatives, for instance, by the conclusion of an election campaign we're all heartily sick of families, be they 'modern', 'working', or otherwise. Some words, though, are a little more abstract, such as community and the mainstream.
Consider also divisiveness.
In his clear rebuttal of the views of the Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders, Tony Abbott stated:
I think that the Muslims in this country see themselves rightly as fair dinkum, dinky-di Australians, just as the Catholics and the Jews and the Protestants and the atheists…We don't like to divide ourselves on the basis of race, of faith, of colour, of class, of gender. That's one of the great strengths of our country. We are always conscious of what we have in common, rather than the things that divide us.
Beyond this specific issue, opposition to divisiveness is a recurring theme for the Opposition Leader.
Responding to Treasurer Wayne Swan's recent accusation that the Federal Coalition had adopted a "callous Tea Party-inspired ideology", Abbott countered:
You will never find from me, or from any government I lead, the kind of politics of division which I fear others seek to introduce.
My message for the Australian people is that I am never going to try to divide them…on the basis of class, on the basis of gender, on the basis of faith.
Divisive politics are harmful; wedge tactics that play voters off against each other have a corrosive effect on our democracy.
We need to look more closely, though, at the way the concept of division is used in our political vernacular.
In particular, the depiction of one's opponents as 'divisive' is a familiar conservative tactic. We give you unity and togetherness, goes the argument; the other lot keep trying to carve up the nation with reference to irrelevant issues like class (and, in more recent decades, gender, ethnicity and sexuality). Recall John Howard's statement that