ELECTION night is coming up in Australia. And straight away, right there, that last sentence or even its first word, I know I’ve lost some readers. Which is sad, but I don’t really blame them. Many sources, most of them unfortunately foreign, have defined our politics in various ways but not exactly these terms: as a joke. And they’re mostly right. I think it was the creators of South Park who in one of their episodes defined presidential American politics (around about the time of George Bush’s incomprehensible second term against God knows who (Al Gore?)) as a choice between a douche and a, I believe, shit sandwich. And really that’s what we’ve got in Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd. But I’m thinking when it comes to who between them is the douche, and who is the shit sandwich; it’s totally up for debate. So I’ll leave that up to you, dear reader. Perhaps give me your opinion?
Back to the joke which is fast approaching its punch-line on September 7. With the Greens and their leader Christine Milne bleeding popularity in the wake of a swiftly, and in my opinion bafflingly, becoming extremely conservative society, we’re left with two choices: incumbent Rudd and experienced opposer Abbott. Now despite Australia’s inevitable transition to a republic from its monarchistic hangover being still a ways off, our federal politics is becoming increasingly presidential. As in more and more every three years people are voting for either Labor or the Coalition’s leader, rather than their local member of parliament or even the potentially life-changing policies each party represents. After September 7 we will have an Abbott (most likely) or Rudd (less likely) government, rather than a Coalition or Labor government, respectively. As portrayed at least by a negatively homogenising Murdochian media.
Abbott first. I rub my hands with disgusted glee. A former Catholic clergyman (alarm bells!!??), private schoolboy and currently quite wealthy but I have no idea by what means, man. Abbott is a tool. And I mean that in a literal and not exactly insulting sense. He is little but a blunt instrument used by the wealthy, the old and the culturally right-wing who really control Australia to put the rest of us in our places. He is able to do this effectively because the “rest of us”, as young people, immigrants and progressives of myriad varieties, have due to our very diversity a wide range of views that cannot be adequately captured by centre-left Rudd. Centre-right Abbott is able to as the homogenously conservative power-bloc’s attack dog bite into the cracks and stretched connections between disparate progressives, further widen said cracks, then fill them with conservative propaganda and policy. Because of this wedge factor the values channelled through him pervade each of Australia’s loosely constructed three classes. The lower class love him for his paranoid racism, the middle class love him for his promotion of small business-based employee slavery and the upper class love him as their wrecking-ball against any hint of human rights and egalitarianism below them that might come at their financial and philosophical expense.
As prime minister, Abbott will drag Australia quite mostly willingly backwards on human rights, the environment, the arts and the much vaunted but rarely actually practised idea of our commonwealth as a champion of the “fair go” and equal opportunity for all. Don’t even get me started (but I already have) on his attitudes toward women. If sexism and misogyny were themselves sexual attractors, Abbott would have more “sex appeal” (a reference to his comment about one of his own female candidates) than any man alive. And that’s despite his hairy, gangly, big eared, bicycle-riding latex wearing and genuinely disingenuous appearance. Abbott is ’50s power Australia thrust into the 21st century. Prepare for an only seven days away rip in the space time continuum, as the Doc from Back to the Future repeatedly warned of in reference to elements of different points in time coming into contact. Abbott’s irrelevance to cultural modernity will form a black hole beginning in Canberra that will soon after take the form of the rest-of-the-progressive-world’s horrified reaction to his election as prime minister. His leadership of our nation will quickly move beyond irony into cynicism.
Rudd is more complicated. And this is reflected by his numerically superior but divided and conflicted supporters. Hence his waning popularity in the mind of an electorate which elected him in 2007 as a champion of the people – some of whom are the same people who in 2013 look set to dismiss him from the top job due to his intra-party backstabbing, right-wing lurching on boat people but massively left-wing grasping on education and other things, reputation. Rudd would still like to be seen as a man for the people, but due to his own private-school background, not to mention pompous manner of oral expression, and his wife’s millions (earned, albeit, through provision of underprivileged employment services) he could never be a man of the people. There’s a few problems with even the “for” part. He outdid even the Coalition on human rights violations by decreeing to send all visa-less boat arrivals in Australian waters to Papua New Guinea – his worst infraction in that direction.
I mean, I understand politically why he did it, but he still shouldn’t have because aside from how he surely knows as a diplomat it makes us look to other countries, it would have lost him as many votes as it gained. Also, the carbon price, which Australia had an opportunity to lead the world on. He brought forward before the election its market-dictated price reduction of more than 10 bucks a tonne charged to big polluters. But hasn’t been able to capitalise on the move. Meanwhile the world continues to turn, and, apparently, warm. And the mining tax. Oh, the mining tax. It was a fuck up, but it wasn’t really Labor’s fault. Howard should have taxed the miners years ago, but of course such a move wasn’t in his political DNA. Then the dubiously titled Mining Boom conveniently came to an end not long after Labor’s ascendency. The boom was really a 10 or 20 year-long vehicle the upper class used effectively to further accumulate wealth and distance themselves by the depth of a mining shaft from the despised working class – which could do little but watch on jealously and catch any scraps that fell off the ivory tower’s dining table.
Why do the two represent a joke? I hear you thinking. Because with Rudd the people don’t know and have really never been able to figure out what to expect from him. He speaks to people like they’re children, he changes his policies based on populism rather than core political values and his argument, though quite true, that government spending during the GFC prevented recession simply hasn’t penetrated deep nor covered wide enough. Abbott’s core supporters, on the other hand, know exactly what to expect from him. He will erode workers’ rights, ignore the environment and kick away any and all ladders leading to the middle-floors of his rich puppet masters’ skyscrapers of abundance (I already used “ivory tower”). His core detractors – who unfortunately don’t all automatically support Rudd – understand this reality. But the problem is too many people who aren’t rusted on Coalition supporters also tend to believe that he will be good for them, their families, their jobs, their health, their environment and their fundamental human rights. Which is quite simply false, as all the pluralistic evidence points to. As long as you actually care to consult the evidence. And most people don’t. Or they only slurp from News Corporation’s biased and unashamedly rightist trough. I didn’t say it was LOL funny, but it is a situation that is to a healthy democracy what an episode of X Factor is to quality entertainment. It is ridiculous, and we either know it and can’t do anything about it, know it and don’t care or don’t care enough to know. If we get an Abbott government swaggering and sleazing its way around the country and world-stage from September 7, then we got the government we deserved.
Anyway, aside from the candidates I’ll leave you with something I suggest captures how much of a joke the wider and most protracted election campaign we’ve ever seen is:
“BLEED”. Noun, acronym.
Stands for: Bloody Longest Election Ever Disorder.
Definition: madness or otherwise mental turmoil resulting from the Australian national election of 2013; which at about 9 months was the longest in that country’s history. Symptoms included involuntary tackling of politicians, obsessively compulsively watching ABC 24 or Sky News and venting politically on Facebook in gibbering, nonsensical rants that led to anything from un-friendings to letter bombs.