I’ve been trying to start this entry ever since I heard the election had finally been called. But… I’ve been so consumed with apoplectic rage, I haven’t been able to construct a sentence.
Regular readers will know I am in fact a card carrying member of the Australian Labor Party. This is largely meaningless until there’s an election and they need bodies to hand out fliers or scrutineer, or very very occasionally when there’s a preselection for a seat. In my nearly twenty years of membership, I’ve voted in maybe two, at most three preselections, always for the losing candidate.
I watched the almost crushingly inevitable dumping of Julia Gillard. I hate reading opinion polls, but after that they became the only thing about federal politics I watched intently. “This had better bloody work, you back-stabbing bastards” I thought, this had better win this government another term or you look even more like bloody-minded fools.
Which is not to say I support this federal government wholeheartedly. There is a list of grand things they’ve done, the NBN for example, but they’ve besmirched themselves or worse with their “solution” to the “illegal” boat “problem”, and then gutting foreign aid to pay for it. Which will, as has been pointed out, kill people – you stop funding clean water programs in the third world, you condemn some of the locals to death. And then taking a huge chunk out of university funding. Because we after all are just a country that makes money by digging stuff up. A banana republic if you will.
I have no special liking for Kevin Rudd. He is an ego-maniacal, power hungry, amoral career political arsehole. However, the other ego-maniacal, power hungry, amoral career politician leading the other party, Tony Abbott, is noticeably worse. Rudd at least isn’t a misogynist – his highly successful millionaire wife would kick him out the door if he was. Rudd at least doesn’t plan to use his prime ministership to impose a narrow Catholic world view on the nation. Rudd at least pretends to be socially progressive, when it suits him.
I know we don’t just vote for the prime minister. Which gives me some hope given the good ministers in the ALP (although my favourite, Lindsay Tanner, is long departed). And scares the hell out of me when it comes to the Liberals. The shadow ministry includes such charming and rational individuals as Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and Barnaby Joyce. The only member of the liberals I would piss on if he was on fire is Malcolm Turnbull, and only because he used to head the republican movement. Which is not to say the ALP isn’t full of deadwood, Darren Cheeseman being a fine example.
So where does this leave me? I have to chose the lesser of the two evils. In fact it’s not a choice for me – I would never ever in a million years think of voting for the Liberal party. There’s that skin crawling sensation again…
Why, I hear you ask, don’t I vote for the Greens? Simply because the Greens will never be in a position to form government, even in coalition. They will never be anything other than a protest party which might, at best, hold the balance of power like the Democrats once did. The Greens can have all sorts of wonderful progressive policies because they will never have to make them work in practice. They can’t introduce legislation and have it enacted, they can’t follow through on their plans, at best they will be able to point out the more obscene consequences of the legislation that passes through the parliament.
And it hurts me to say this about that party. I broadly support their social justice and environmental ideas. Just today I visited an awesome wind farm in Gippsland, and wished the whole landscape was covered with windmills. But at best they might win a few lower house seats, the new members can then sit with Adam Bandt and watch the governing of the nation happening without them.
It’s more than just voting for me, I could help even in small way with the election campaign for the party I am a member of. But… I live in the federal seat of Batman, where I got to watch not one but two feisty local women, one of them a personal friend of mine, passed over for a faceless man. There’s that skin crawling sensation yet again. If David Feeney’s campaign wants my help, I’m going to tell them to fuck off – in those exact words. I could pick another nearby seat to help out in, but the nearest marginal to me is Melbourne, which would mean campaigning against the greens – which might well cause my wife to leave me!
I have a new baby. I could spend my spare time helping out an election campaign for a party that is corrupt and hurts my brain, or I could stay at home playing with my six month old son. Whatever I do, I’m going to be seething with impotent rage, confined to ranting here and on twitter.
This is a grotesque state of affairs we find ourselves in. When our choices are between a party that makes pretenses at social progressiveness, when in fact they’re not capable to standing up to that undercurrent of racism that John Howard discovered and exploited, and then passed on to Tony Abbott. When we people who really care about things like unions, wages, the environment and education have to vote for a party which happily sends desperate people to one of the worst countries in the world. And happily cut funding to the tertiary sector when they claim to be a “smart” party. When the opposition, which is supposed to present themselves as a credible alternative, can do nothing but rage pathetically about the same handful of meaningless issues, because this plays well to all the press that Rupert Murdoch owns. When our choices for prime minister are two middle aged white men, one of whom was dumped by his party for being an autocratic tyrant, but who was then restored when it turned out the country liked him better than that upstart red head. And on the other hand we have a shallow, incompetent maniac who has been told by God that he will be prime minister, and will let nothing get in his way… These are the charming people we the citizens of this lucky country have to chose between. Enjoy.