Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Politics Of A Circus

(I apologize in advance for this article...but...well...build a bridge).

I'm going to take risk here and step outside of my comfort zone to talk about politics.

I know, I know - you're probably rolling your eyes and preparing to close off your browser window and look, I can't blame you. But if you'll just stick with me for a couple of paragraphs at least, I'll try to give you some insight into what is going on down here in Australia right now.

Quite frankly, it's an Alice in Wonderland styled tea party.

The contest for the Australian Federal Election 2010, essentially, is being fought by two sides. There is a third party and a couple of minor players but essentially what the Australian populace has got to choose between is two parties who both sit on the center right.

Let me try and illustrate this for you.

The Australian Labor Party is led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Already I can hear you say - hang on! Wasn't there a man in there?? Well, the answer is yes - there was. Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister up until June 24th this year. However, in an act that has been roundly described as being akin to political lunacy - several machine men within the ALP panicked over some poll results that showed they were taking a beating and decided that they must move against him. In a coup that had outwardly, had the look of being beaten with a wet newspaper, Julia Gillard was installed as the Prime Minister and Kevin Rudd was dumped.

Newly installed Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard.

This was a man who won the 2007 Federal Election in a stunning land slide against the Conservative Liberal/National Coalition - lead by old war horse John Winston Howard. There is no denying that, in the lead up to this fairy floss coup, the ALP was in a fair bit of trouble poll wise. However in all of this confected nail biting one thing stood out plainly in the polling - Kevin Rudd was still polling strongly as preferred Prime Minister over the conservative candidate/opposition leader, Tony Abbott. Since June 24th and more recently since the announcement of the Federal Election campaign, the ALP has lurched from one embarrassing media gaffe to another in a breathless effort to try and raise the profile of it's newly installed leader, Julia Gillard. It has been difficult to do so, especially since Gillard has been viewed as the woman who knifed a perfectly adequate leader in the back.

Dumped Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd.

The Liberal/National Coalition were utterly decimated in the aftermath of the 2007 Federal Election. Their own Prime Minister, John Howard - a man considered unbeatable up until the early months of 2007 - lost his own seat and there was a massive swing against the Conservative Government. The carnage was palpable. Since that time, the Coalition has gone through three leaders, two of whom polled poorly right from the time they were elevated. Currently they are being lead by an avowed Catholic (and former aspirant to the priesthood) Tony Abbott - a man who wears his conservative heart on his sleeve and who has been roundly viewed as one of the most ruthless operators in Australian politics. Since the 2010 Federal Election campaign was announced the Abbott lead Coalition has gone on the attack, criticizing the incumbent ALP government for knifing their leader in the back, for wasting bucket loads of tax payers money, for being incapable of stopping the (refugee) boats and for imposing great big new taxes on the populace.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

The Greens - well they are the "third force" and as their name implies they are a party of the Left. Lead by perhaps, the only honest sounding politician in Australia right now, Bob Brown - the Greens platform is...well...green. They have been given a kick or two for preferencing the ALP in this election (we have a preferential voting system in Australia - Compulsory! - but preferential), but they have preferenced the ALP in most elections in years gone by.

The only other party of any note in this upcoming election is perhaps the Family First Party, a party that has been bankrolled by cashed up evangelical churches here in Australia and outwardly portrays itself as being the party for "families" - nuclear, white bread, middle class families. They caused a minor shit storm this year when it was revealed just recently that they were negotiating a preference deal with the Australian Sex Party!!


So there you have it. A very brief overview of the Australian Political landscape in my country - from my point of view. Now, you may ask - why would I devote a post to talking about mind numbing, potentially divisive politics. Well, we have an election coming up on August 21st and at this point in the game some two weeks out from polling day...

I have no friggin' idea who to vote for.

The ALP, in my opinion have behaved atrociously since the dumping of Kevin Rudd as PM just a few short weeks ago. There was never any need to dump him, no matter how bad the whispers against him were. Sure, he was a rather bookish fellow, renowned as a micro-managing control freak but his team steered Australia through the worst crisis to hit global financial markets since the Great Depression and Australia's economy is doing relatively well. Most knowledgeable commentators out there believe that the Federal Budget will return to surplus inside three years or so and the ALP's strategy will have strong legitimacy into the future. What has happened however, is that a group of faceless, factional warlords in Sydney have experienced the mother of all brain farts and moved against him, replacing him with a woman who has made no secret of her ambition in the past. It is now becoming increasingly clear, however that Julia Gillard is manifestly inadequate as a Prime Minister. She rushed forth, claiming victory in negotiating a way out of a potentially disastrous spat with the mining industry here in Australia over a Resource Super Profits Tax that the Government wanted to impose on the big miners - never mind that it was revealed that former PM Kevin Rudd had pretty much sorted it all out at the eleventh hour before he was knifed in the back by his own people. Julia Gillard was also summarily trotted (one assumes by the same dickheads who installed her) into a studio of a major Australian womens magazine to doll herself up for a windswept and lippy photo shoot (which actually made her look dumb rather than dynamic). And, since the announcement of the campaign, she has made an art form out of saying a lot but saying nothing all at the same time. So much so that just a week ago, Julia Gillard fronted the media to declare that she was "throwing out the campaign rule book and from now on she would give Australia the real Julia".

Double U Tee Eff!?!?!??

The Abbott led Coalition are just an appalling parody of a wannabe neo-conservative mickey mouse club. I make no secret of the fact the traditionally, I have despised this side of politics and everything they stand for. However since I reached my...thirties...my cynicism has caught up with me and dammit - I can actually find myself agreeing with certain aspects of conservative politics. I mean - shite - I find myself classing myself as a small L liberal at times rather than an old fashioned working class Labor/Union man. But Tony Abbott is fucking scary. Where does one start??

An avowed Catholic who is bitterly opposed to abortion for any reason whatsoever, anti-gay marriage, anti-refugees (If I hear "Stop the Boats" one more time I will reach through the television screen and rip his tongue out), let's all lick big business' arse as much as we can and screw everybody else, WORK CHOICES, chums in the H.R. Nicholls Society, "I know politicians are going to be judged on everything they say, but sometimes in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark.Which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks." That is a dead-set quote from the horses' mouth!!!

I mean - this was a man who launched his conservative party's formal election campaign in Queensland this past weekend and spent his entire speech ripping the shit out of the ALP - if there was any presentation of Coalition Policy for the next term of whatever Government, I didn't hear it. This is not to excuse the ALP mind you. I haven't been able to interpret anything remotely comprehensible from them either. But I'm just sayin'

We have witnessed a procession of former leaders, party hacks parading as personalities and a multitude of other dickheads from both sides of the political divide popping their heads up and having their two cents worth like media tarts desperately grabbing for that one last 15 minutes of fame and the Australian Media - which is overly represented by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited stable - has worked themselves into a lather over the personalities of Australian Politics. The debate about Australia's future has gotten severely lost in all of it. The media is as culpable as all sides of politics in it's neglect of comprehensive and detailed coverage in favor of headline grabbing shit storms that have absolutely no relevance at all to the task that all Australian citizens - by law - must acquit themselves to in a few short weeks.

A Selection of former political identities who really should learn the meaning of the word FORMER!

Many people who would traditionally vote on either side Labor or Liberal/National quite conscientiously are indicating that this time they will instead vote Australian Greens as a form of protest against the major parties. The Greens are considered the lesser of three evils. Many Australians have no idea who they will vote for at this late stage and are still making up their minds. They live with some flicker of hope that something, anything will happen in the next couple of weeks that will have them sway towards their party of choice, or either of the majors.

This election has been quite literally, the weirdest election campaign in living memory. A kind of Australian Idol styled personality contest where neither of the personalities on offer have remotely any appeal. From where I stand - both majors are utterly desolate when it comes to any sort of policy. Oh sure they have announced some...thing! But I haven't been able to grasp much of it at all...and I know I'm not stupid.

Like...neither party has offered up anything, ANYTHING to address the health and social problems of  indigenous Australians. I have heard nothing. And, just as my own home State Government here in South Australia is gearing up to slash something like $450million dollars from health in this state alone, the ALP is talking about some half arsed Federal take over of health across the nation while the Liberal/National's are off in fairy land. I think the best thing they have come up with is hospital boards...whatever the f*** that is???

All the grand gestures that Kevin Rudd tried to put forward about addressing climate change and the environment came to nothing basically because he got rolled by the same miserable hatchet men that tapped him on the shoulder sometime around June 24th. As for the Coalition...well...Tony Abbott has been quoted as saying that "climate change is crap" so any chance of the Coalition doing anything remotely responsible to address the environmental challenges we face as a nation are about as strong as...oh, I dunno, the Pope entering "Dancing With The Stars"...

The economy...

Well the economy is beyond me. I'm flat out trying to balance my own home budget much less try to grapple with a purported $1trillion dollar national economy. I mean, am I supposed to understand it???

At this point I am seriously considering not voting at all. Given that it's a compulsory voting system and I risk being fined for not voting - my inaction would be a significant one...But none of these idiots deserve my vote. None of them deserve to be in government - OR opposition. They have prostituted the Australian Parliamentary Process that is based in part on the Westminster System of Democracy and have turned it into a slutty side show. I actually turn the television off now whenever the news comes on or Julia or Tony pop up and I grimace and yelp like a frightened child. I no longer give any credence to anything the journalists say because they seem more intent to bang on about what some politician's latest gaff was rather than present the arguments presented by both sides so that I can carefully consider what is on offer. Journalism in Australia is lazy, intellectually bankrupt and asinine.

A Toad...and Federal Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop (She's the one on the left).

That democracy has degenerated into the sort of B-grade reality television spectacle shown on late night TV makes me feel actually a little desolate. Not so much because they have abandoned me and my future...

...It's because they have abandoned my children and their's...



  1. Hi Dean,

    2007 was my first year out of high school. I was proud to be one of the girls around the uni campus in their "Kevin 07" t-shirts and the biggest belief I had was in the importance of voting. My, how I have changed! Maybe it's just that I've grown out of the "post-adolescence idealistic phase" but it is such a shame that I, and pretty much every one of my friends, am so fed up with politics that I am seriously considering donkey voting. The Sex Party and the Marijuana Party seem to be winning all our votes simply because we feel it's even more absurd to vote Liberal or Labor.

    Have there been times before that you've felt like this? What's your recollection of the first time you voted?

    Amelia :)

  2. Man...the first time I voted in an election was '93 and that was the whole Paul Keating vs. John Hewson era. Keating was pretty popular then and Hewson was so god-awful (it was the campaign where he was trying to sell the GST - the first time round).

    Love him or loathe him, Keating had charisma and could speak organically rather than sound pre-rehearsed. By comparison, todays politicians are schooled in the art of public speaking but they have bastardized this art by learning how to say nothing and dressing it up to sound like they are profound.

    I call it Bullshit v2.0.

    Today, the political process has become so stage managed that there is next to no substance or conviction in any of the major parties.

    It's really up to us to reverse that deterioration by saying "I will not accept that"