Only God Knows Why


Players Only Love You When They’re Playing

One of the best things to come out of this election, in my opinion, is what seems to be a revamped interest in politics amongst the Australian voting public. Like the ending of Sleeping Beauty,  it seems that everyone is waking from a deep, paralysing slumber, cracking their old bones and realising that they have their voice back and how much of a difference they can make.   After getting swept away in a tide of unrealised political idealism in ’07 and being choked to silence with no vision at all in 2010, the country is abuzz with the talk of who is going to govern and under what circumstances.

People are wanting to know how government is formed, how preferencing works, the role of the senate, the role of a single vote in determining an electorate.  People are interested again in what their vote might mean.  In this spirit of agora, I decided that I would share my own wildly un-educated personal views on what I think Australians have ‘said’ with this recent result.  Everyone on television is allowed to speculate, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

I lay awake all night last night running figures through my mind.  Like the night before Christmas, visions of marginal seats, informal votes, the allegiances of the 3 independents and the likely outcome if another ballet were called danced in my head. I sat up all night, sick with worry for my country.  The uncertainty is the worst.  I have a clear sympathy for one side, and I don’t feel I can start to plan a way forward without knowing which way the chips are going to fall. 

I have such an odd, notional affection for Australia, I wouldn’t say I ‘love’ Australia was all it’s by-joveist connotations.  I would say I love what we could become.  I feel like we are on the verge of giving birth to a new Australia, and I’m full of sweaty, cold sickness and wide-eyed optimism as to where it might go.

With all this in mind, I found myself wondering what MY personal take was on what the voters were saying with this result.  A lot of my friends were disappointed that so many people could vote in a direction that we feel is such a poor decision, but I think that this is not simply political apathy or mere stupidity.  There seems to be so much in play in a scenario where neither party can form government. 

Julia Gillard’s quoting Bill Clinton –  “The People have spoken, it’ll just take a while to figure out what they’ve said” seemed particularly lacking in aptness.  With the amount of informal voters being compared to 1984 (the year, not the book.. the figure being around 6% that year) and neither party being able to form a clear government, I think the people have spoken loudly and with great eloquence.

Tony Abbott stepped in to try and settle this question for Julia (how kind of him).  He seemed to be asserting that the vote was a show of no confidence in the current administration.  In his mind, obviously, this seemed to be a ringing endorsement of his party.  I don’t see how being unable to form government is exactly a giant rubber stamp for him either.

In my humble opinion, despite what Julia and Tony have both said, it seems to be like Australian’s have said:  “Neither of you are satisfactory.  We’re too afraid to have either of you in charge.  Neither of display any sort of acceptable social conscience.  You both offer to crush my civil liberties in differing, yet equally gruelling ways.  You’re both awful, and pretty much the same.  I’ve just gotta choose my least favourite value and sacrifice it when I vote.” 

Australians are declaring a show of no-faith in their leaders.  We are tired of having a sickly, under-representative political system.  It asthmatically wheezes with the weight of so much of a political spectrum resting on the backs of 3 parties, two of them being pulled farther and farther right.  In fact, the two major parties are virtually indistinguishable at times.

More than ever before, Australians are not voting – and the results of those that vote is that we aren’t confident that either of you can form a satisfactory parliament to represent how we feel.  With all this talk of the economy, Australians, like the iconic beggar, are saying – keep your money, we want change. 

It has certainly been one of the most interesting elections of late.  It lacked the exhilarating feeling of a turning tide like ’07, or the despondency of  ’04, where we held our palms out like drought-ridden farmers, waiting for a crushing system to be overturned in favour of better social policies.  We’ve never had such an accountable government before as we will now.  Now in both the upper and lower houses (if a minority government is formed), we will have to see a heightened level of diplomacy in order to pass legislation.  What an exciting prospect.

Perhaps this hung parliament is exactly what Australia needs right now.   In a sense, a grand democratic act.  “We want change!”  say the people.  As the song goes, Labor or Liberal – same kind of criminal.  Australians are saying they are tired of the tyranny of the semblance of choice.

 While I argue it is both a right and a responsibility to be politically informed and to use that information to cast your vote, I can also see the point that someone with a social conscience would have difficult voting for either major party without feeling a bit complicit in something dirty and underhanded.   Surely she Julia can hear the voting public gasping for a real option like we’ve sand in our throats?

I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep properly until I see the outcome.  It’s funny, because the people have spoken and told politicians that we want real options – we want real policies – we want action on social issues and the politicians are confused!

 Labor badly misjudged this election.   In my opinion, they ‘lost’ this election on the social issues.  Like the proverbial one trick pony, they tried to trot out the fear of workchoices that was key in 2007.  Unfortunately, it was the same trick, different pony.  What got Australians so low on Labor is that they promised action on climate change and a better system for refugees and have not delivered either.  So what do they do in response?  Become MORE like the party they got voted in for not being like.  It seems like bizarre political suicide to me.  (Then, what do I know?  That’s what I said about appointing Tony Abbott as leader, and he seems rath-er pleased with himself.)  I don’t feel that Liberal have won more of the vote so much as Labor lost it.

We’ve told those in power that we don’t want any of them in control.  We don’t like having a choice between right and even more right.  We want to take the country in a  direction for which there is no option on the ballot paper. 

 The ultimate irony is that it’s now still the decisions of politicians who decide who will form government.   I guess in the cold light of day, the two aren’t as synonymous as they’d have us to believe – political will and political reality.  Now, instead of waking up and realising what this might mean for policy, we are getting further political manoeuvring out of the control of the public to determine which person is least unfit to run the country.

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2 Comments so far
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Yes, it will be very interesting to see what happens. I think this election has seen more Australians take interest because of the sheer craziness of Abbott. Recently I was reading an article by Tom Gleeson (obviously not the best expert on the topic) about whether or not Australians should have to vote. In the USA, politicians have to excite and encourage voters to get off their asses and get to the polling booths to vote FOR a candidate who they find inspiring, and if they don’t, then why should they put a vote in for them? Whereas here, because you HAVE to vote, many of us find ourselves voting not for a party whose ideals we agree with (not that Liberal and Labor are all that different anyway), but for a candidate who shits us the least. While I think Abbott would make a terrible leader for our country and I *prefer* Gillard, all Australians eligible to vote did have their say, and if that’s who we’ve voted to take leadership of our country no matter how crazy he is, then he is the face of Australia and the people’s choice (both embarrassing and sad, but viable). Moving backward, moving backward, moving backward? Haha

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Comment by Leah

Powerful post.

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