Leading article Australia

Tongue-tied election

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

One of the more enduring images of this election campaign will be the toe-curling performance of Liberal candidate Jayme Diaz as he attempts to obscure the fact that he has no idea how to answer the question being put to him by saying nothing whatsoever at all. This hilarious and excruciating moment has become an international YouTube hit (the last one we had was, of course, Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny’ speech) and the hapless candidate for Greenway has provided visual fodder for any number of comedy sketches across the globe.

But aside from causing great mirth, Mr Diaz’s famous 15 seconds is the perfect metaphor for this highly evasive and tongue-tied election campaign. A campaign in which both parties go out of their way to avoid saying anything of substance. After six years of chronic failure and economic mismanagement, the government clearly has no idea how to answer any of the multitude of hard questions being asked of it, while the opposition is too frightened of panicking the voters to spell out what really needs to be done.

That is why 8 September will usher in a new period in Australian life, regardless of who wins the election. It will be an era in which the nation is forced to confront the uncomfortable realities of rapidly rising unemployment and an ever-increasing gap between government revenue and government spending commitments.

Mr Rudd and Labor have no idea how to handle such an economy. Like a couple of kids who inherited a vast family fortune and eagerly frittered it all away on expensive toys and free gifts to their union mates, Labor have no concept of the good old-fashioned values of ‘earning your keep’ and ‘living within your means’. Indeed, ministers contemptuously mock such phrases; their preferred fantasy being to compare our debt to that of worse-off nations. Mr Rudd’s inability to articulate even a single plausible solution to the challenges the nation faces makes the dumbstruck Mr Diaz look like a garrulous oracle of wisdom and prescience. Preferring to wave around distracting jars of Vegemite and proposals for same-sex marriage, Mr Rudd has created an environment in which answering the hard questions truthfully is avoided at all costs.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Abbott and the  conservatives have found themselves in the near-impossible position of having to outline their plans to repair the damage and restore our economic wellbeing without providing unnecessary ammunition for Labor’s relentless scare-mongering. Thus far, the Coalition team have performed this high-wire act with skill and aplomb, and indeed honesty.

Yet the fact remains that, should their troops manage to scramble victoriously over the ridge on 7 September, they will be confronted by an economic landscape devastated by Labor and littered with unexploded landmines. No wonder they’re largely mute on what the future looks like. This will go down as the election where little of substance was said. Perhaps we should thank Mr Diaz for his straight-talking.

Sex and the pollie

Alas, the demise of Julia Gillard has not signalled the demise of the Misogyny Wars. As all else fails and their case for re-election comes apart at the seams, Kevin Rudd and Labor have desperately seized on the last remaining stitch in their threadbare tapestry: the question of Tony Abbott’s attitude to women. In a moment of self-confessed ‘exuberance’, Mr Abbott gifted the Labor party the best distracting technique of all — proof that the opposition leader is ‘sexist’ after all.

So, how should one respond to this ‘scandal’? Well, if she wasn’t already a shoo-in for Lindsey, Fiona Scott is now. Apart from the celebrity status she has achieved as a poster-girl for anti-political correctness (a surefire vote winner in any electorate outside the pampered inner cities), the good-natured and charming way she has reacted to the furore marks her out as a quality candidate. And — well, we may as well say it — she certainly has more ‘sex appeal’ than your average Labor female pollie. What the hyperventilating Prime Minister and his hysterical handbag hyenas tend to forget is that the red-blooded men (and women) of the western suburbs are more than happy to speak their mind free of PC paranoia, and respect rather than resent those who do so.

Besides, much as we would love to, we would never argue that Mr Rudd’s well-documented fondness for the occasional strippers club is a reason not to re-elect him. It is his appalling record as an economic manager that renders him utterly unfit for the highest office in the land. Flippant comments about ‘sex appeal’ or anything else pale in comparison.

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