September 7 was the first election day I have not spent handing out how-to-vote cards since I was 15. Not for want of trying. I volunteered to do a stint or two on the barricades, provided it was in a tough part of the electorate of Melbourne, like Collingwood or North Fitzroy where I could see the fraternal harmony between Labor and the Greens as they tore each other’s throats out. But my offer to help fell upon stony ground. I telephoned the Liberal party three times to offer my help, but to no avail. Eventually I found the phone number of the Liberal candidate, but got a recorded message saying: ‘The tape is full and you cannot leave a message. Goodbye.’ I was therefore at a loose end on election day, so I was able to wander down to the local library and vote at my leisure. But, as the younger generation say, I was gobsmacked by Labor party posters saying ‘Kevin Rudd. A New Way.’ New? Recycling Kevin Rudd with his weird policies, extravagant spending, gross incompetence and internecine fights with Julia Gillard seemed so divorced from the generally accepted meaning of the word ‘new’ that I did not know whether to laugh or cry. It showed just how out of touch with the world of reality the ALP had become before and during the campaign.
The election also showed again that celebrity candidates and endorsements are of next to no value in politics. Look at Peter Beattie, who stood for the electorate of Forde and was supposed to sweep all before him, but got a bath. Using endorsements from the glitterati for your party must inevitably be counter-productive, as it shows that you move in a rarefied zone, detached from the mundane concerns of normal people and acquainted only with the remote interests of the rich and famous. It must also convince people that they are being discriminated against when it is so easy for celebrities to get the ear of politicians, but so difficult for lesser mortals. Rudd suffered from this with his absurd summit on the future and fell victim to the long memory of the Australian people and their interest in cutting uppity politicians down to size. By the same token, Tony Abbott’s decision to take a billet at the police training college was brilliant and has the added advantage that it is thoroughly consistent with the public perception that his lack of formality and pretension are entirely genuine.
The Liberals have apparently ignored my advice to turn up the heat on Bill Shorten and as a result he has been able to launch himself as a seemingly unblemished candidate for Labor leader. I had hoped that those who look favourably on Abbott’s government would have seized the early opportunity to brand Shorten as a thoroughly immoral turncoat who lied to and ratted on both Rudd and Gillard, all the time dressing it up as in the best interests of the ALP. This could have become the most memorable aspect of his personality that came to people’s minds. But he seems to have escaped this scrutiny and the press has been promoting him as viable instead of the damaged goods that he really is. How could anyone rely on Shorten’s word or believe that he was telling the truth, with his track record?
Thank heavens that Abbott has stripped Federal ministers and departments of their fancy and confusing titles. From now on, their names will describe exactly what they do. We never went as far as the French with their Minister for Solidarity and Social Cohesion or the Italians with their Minister for Territorial Cohesion, but we were well on the way. We should also stop the practice of allowing private organisations and pressure groups from taking names that include Australia or a State and pretending they are actually part of the government and speak with its authority. Animals Australia, Parents Australia, Environment Victoria are just three examples of pressure groups that exist to promote their own propaganda, which is legitimate, but not with the illusion that they are the government.
As some say politics is a dirty business, it is only fair to note that a few people deserve to have the record corrected in their favour. One is Abbott’s senior aide, Peta Credlin, who was not only criticised, but maligned, ridiculed and slandered during the years in opposition. But she has had the last laugh and, judging by the election result, has proved herself to be skilful, discreet, loyal and effective. As the Labor party has shown many times, their boys’ club that generated the gossip just cannot abide a successful woman; for them, women are only fit subjects for filthy jokes at union dinners. If I ever succumb to the entreaties of my myriad doting fans and return to active politics, I will certainly enlist her as my counsellor.
Finally, a new constitutional and political principle was born last Monday night on the ghastly Q&A. Apart from the usual bias and total lack of representation from the Coalition parties and the prolonged and hysterical abuse of Rupert Murdoch, the highlight was a speech by the playwright David Williamson in the course of which he denounced Abbott and asserted that people had not actually voted for him, but had only voted against Labor. The lynch mob that passes for an audience clapped as if a demon had been exorcised. My guess is that this will be the mythology developed from now on and that the left establishment will make it their principal anti-Abbott argument over the next three years: that his is not a legitimate, elected government.
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