After the election was called yesterday, the Masked Liberal dropped over to our office. In the rain. Clutching a note. It was weird.
Yesterday afternoon, underneath the frosted artificial peak of Mount Hotham, the Lib-O-Vision sprung to life with the threat of big news. At some point, the PM would be calling the election and we’d be seeing him call it live. What we saw was the old adage of the “slow news day” – rolled out before our eyes courtesy of a helicopter shot showing three angles of an empty vehicle. During the twenty minutes of juice wrung from the political lemon of “Well, that was Peter Cosgrove’s hand there,” Labor Boy and I crossed over to the recorded episode of ABC’s Insiders.
— Insiders ABC (@InsidersABC) May 7, 2016
Somewhere in the midst of Scott Morrison’s childish verbal jousting with (read: over) the verbose, and foldy, Barrie Cassidy, LB frankly asked the Immigration Minister to shutthefuckup.
And for the first time, I agreed. But why? Morrison was one of mine.
Scott Morrison. Peter Dutton. Tony Abbott. Are they not men, as some of us are? Are they really the harbingers of evil – the pantomime villain rubbing their hands together as our national identity is roped to the tracks, pleading for clemency to the tune of a ragtime piano?
Are they that bad?
It got me to thinking. Australians versus Politicians. We have a real problem here, which has even poisoned those we elect with an acidic loathing of themselves (read: spills). The recent instability hasn’t helped their cause, with the default setting on the public’s toaster now set to”‘hate.” Bronwyn Bishop was unfairly farewelled as the antichrist, Clive Palmer was laughed off with a drum kit punchline, Tony Abbott continues to be seen as lurking pest a la Slimer in Ghostbusters – waiting to upset the apple cart before slipping through the wall – and even the emergence of John Howard has us asking, “What’s he speaking for? Isn’t he (politically) dead?”. Why are we all solely drinking Haterade? Even in the run up to the double-dissolution, whatever grand omelette Malcolm gently poked toward us was knocked off the table with a swipe of the hand. The budget, which I thought was good (sure there wasn’t the grand thumbs up for the everybody), was quite tidy; it, at least, didn’t deserve half the criticism it reaped. “Malcolm’s millionaires,” please.
But we didn’t want high-speed rail, or tax reform. We want ‘lection.
So, today we have it. But do we even want that? No. Because we’re a bit “eh.” Added to this indignity, it’s the longest one in history. While we want to be able to choose, today, we’d rather choose to not have to choose.
Look in the cold eyes of those who surround you. They know, as you do. Seventy-odd days of political naysaying and doublespeak is ahead of us. Every evening, every morning, the war will rage on, over eggs, coffee and small talk. Apparently Labor Boy thinks that it’ll be fought electorate-to-electorate, because the margins are so thin. Which’ll mean small potatoes for handfuls of people you’ll never meet.
Just throw the starch into the trough, lads, and we’ll sort it out.
The cross-country run we’ve started will follow the standard course of all those since the turn of the millennium; he who annoys us the least, will win. It is probably how all elections are fought. But down here, it’s different. There’s not that veneer of inspiration felt elsewhere. It’s merely a trudge to the polls undercut by a funereal dirge.
Which is strange, because as a populace, we can be inspired by politicians. But not ours. Justin Trudeau. Boris Johnson. Barack Obama. If only they were ours!, we squeal, hand constricting the ballot paper tighter. But, if it were Barack Obama, he’d be castigated as Turnbull is. Obama is a supporter of the banks, a great orator, but his actual progress is harder to chart. Familiar? Justin Trudeau would be dismissed as the worst kind of Leftist, and a show-off by those on his side, and Boris Johnson would be derided as a fool and exiled to the Gold Coast.
We want to be taken seriously, so we’re serious. And the easiest way to be serious is to criticise.
Remember Kevin ’07? Yeah. You shuddered at the memory. A political gimmick that worked down here, consigned to the bin – never to return, save for perhaps the reanimated Frankenstein corpse of Kevin Rudd in the 3007 election. Shuffling a quick trope down the historical hallway of the Museum AusPol, the most memorable politicians are known for something beyond politics. Hawke: beer. Whitlam: the exit. Keating: zingers. Perhaps John Howard refutes this rule, but that’s a big maybe.
But why? Is it because we’re the remnants of an ancient empire, where the most important figure who we have no contact with whatsoever makes the leader of the Government a hollow figurehead? Do we still loathe the bean counters that sent us here two hundred years ago? Or, do we equate political adoration as weakness? Do we see that as an American thing? Is that why political signs are sparse on front lawns of our great nation?
Politicians. Yeah, they’re all bastards. I agree, but even the greatest of bastards have admirers. Richard Nixon won two elections after pulverising SE Asia, Donald Trump in ’16, Silvio Berlusconi on sex and nationalism, Margaret Thatcher on reform. Marginalised, sure. But with people proudly supporting them, beyond the AusPol norm of settling for the lesser of two knobheads.
Perhaps our fear is not in backing the wrong horse, but to be seen at the track.
Either or, we don’t have a choice. Time to choose, Australia.