I wasn’t going to blog about the current Australian Federal election. After all, enough other people will spill oceans of ink on it, and I have a decent enough contempt for my own opinions not to waste people’s time shoving them down their throats. My only credentials to comment, after all, are being moderately bright and reading the Shepparton News and The Australian fairly regularly, and hearing the odd bit of radio and TV news.
However, I had one or two little insights on some of the parties and thought I’d throw them out there, one week into the campaign, for whatever they’re worth.
1. Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party of Australia/National Party of Australia
The ALP and the Liberal/National coalition are the main contending parties, but they’re so similar in policy that it takes a degree of imagination to identify real differences. Suffice it to say that one is ever-so-slightly to the left, and the other is ever-so-slightly to the right. To steal a line from P.J. O’Rourke, to support their campaigns requires one to jump on the blandwagon.
Currently, the battleground issues seem to be these –
(a) On asylum seeker policy, the ALP would direct all unauthorised boat arrivals to Papua New Guinea. The coalition would try and tow them out of Australian waters. I think it’s safe to say nobody much expects either policy to achieve anything over the long term.
(b) On the building of the National Broadband Network, Labor would connect every house to the grid and the Coalition would connect as far as a ‘node’. I’m not convinced the election will be won or lost on the NBN: my strong impression is that the great mass of voters (a) don’t understand what the NBN is for, (b) don’t see it as particularly relevant to them, and (c) have only heard of it lately in the sense of it being behind schedule and spreading asbestos.
2. The Greens.
Eternally the “party of the future”, the Australian Greens acquired a House of Representatives seat at the last election. Over the last few years they lost their long time leader Bob Brown, replaced by the fairly uncharismatic Senator Milne. Their policies are fairly predictable for a green party. Maybe they’ll keep their House of Reps seat, and maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll keep their Senators, and maybe they won’t. Despite some fevered imaginings, I don’t think anyone genuinely believes that one day they’ll form a government.
3. Katter’s Australian Party
Like most parties with their leader’s name in the title (think Pauline’s United Australia Party), KAP is essentially one politician’s personal following. The party’s heartland is very much rural and regional Australia and its ideas are an odd compound of libertarianism and pre-World War One economics (in two words: tariffs and autarky).
My personal fear is that if this party gets significant publicity in the campaign, the attention will be a poisoned challice for rural Australia. At a time when country areas are being depopulated for the city (1), when rural jobs can’t be filled for want of candidates (2), and when urbanites everywhere are tending to look down on country dwellers as ignorant yokels, the countryside surely needs to show its reasonable, sophisticated and creative side. What it has here is a party whose candidates seem to be preoccupied with sexual morality (3) and whose policy goals include the right to boil a billy without a permit. For obvious reasons, this does not fill me with hope.
4. Palmer United Party
Founded this year by a prominent businessman, this party carries the odour of a Donald Trump-style publicity stunt. It has done little so far to make its policies known aside from putting them up on its website (which, in our information-saturated world, is the equivalent of talking in a locked room). I have literally no idea what the party thinks on any given issue and can’t see a lot of point finding out, given that only its founder seems to think it likely to win any seats. So far their biggest contribution to the campaign is trying to attract volunteers with a party involving models and sex. I am unable to comment in non-defamatory terms.
The campaign rolls on…
(1) See Chris McLennan, ‘No longer a barrel of fun at Lalbert’, Weekly Times, 18 July 2012, p. 12; idem, ‘Wedge of Darkness’, Weekly Times, 1 August 2012, p. 8; Bernard Salt, ‘How Warren lost its youth’, The Australian, 15 February 2013
(2) Chris McLennan, ‘A farm by any other moniker’, Weekly Times, 30 May 2012, p. 17; idem, ‘Search for Ag future’, Weekly Times, 1 August 2012, p. 10.
(3) ‘Katters party gets into strife’, Shepparton News, 25 January 2013, p.53; Marty Silk, ‘Katter party is ‘homophobic’: member’, Brisbane Times, 13 February 2013.