What an interesting election! The temptation to speculate in the current limbo period between chaos and anarchy is too strong to resist, so here is my summary of this new reality.
The Liberal Party certainly provided the biggest laughs at the end of the election campaign. Among their curious strategy choices they decided not to mention the union-bashing reason they triggered the double dissolution in the first place, saving it for Malcolm Turnbull’s acceptance rant. Instead, to attract the votes required to support their divine right to rule, the Liberals focussed on the economy, something over which they have little control, and stability, a subject they know little about. In fact, the only promise we know will be kept is that they will continue to abuse refugees.
Turnbull is still confident he can establish a majority government, but if this is correct, it is not likely to be his government for very long. It was hard to hear his speech over the sound of knives being sharpened and axes being ground. However, we did get to see the ‘real Malcolm’ finally, an angry, misunderstood, unappreciated genius filled with self-pity. It was not a pretty sight. His blame-laden summation of the election was a curious mea-not-culpa, given the entire campaign was constructed around his messianic progress around the country.
The Liberals, by building their entire case around stability, completely misread the good old ‘mood of the people’. Their apparent definition of stability gave away their game plan; a state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change. It typifies the conservatives, who wish to remain in the past rather than prepare for the future. Don’t worry about the future, they are saying, we will prevent it from happening. The response from the public was understandable, a boot to the groin followed by a knee in the face.
Were they in this election?
The big winners on the night. But are they? No, they are not. Their portion of the vote is still only slightly above historic low levels and the victory they are busy celebrating is merely the fact they have almost caught up to another failing party. While the Liberals are coming to terms with their mediocrity, Labor is dancing with joy at achieving it.
There were hopes at the beginning of the election campaign, which feels like years ago, that this time it would be different. Turnbull and Shorten were civil and the debate was thoughtful and considered. But as the weeks wore on, the usual panic set in on both sides and the battle descended into name calling and lies, with both parties claiming – ludicrously – that they could be trusted. I have news for them; the political trust bus departed many years ago.
But the fallacy that this was a victory for Labor must be maintained for their confidence and the momentum must be carried through so that Labor is in a position to lead either this hung parliament or the hung parliament at the next election. For that is likely to be the outcome if the lessons continue to be ignored by both parties.
Hopefully, the concentrated attention and grovelling from the Libs and Labor will not go to the heads of the independents in the lower house. Loathed and insulted by the major parties only a few days ago – who stated categorically they would not have a bar of them — they are suddenly shining celebrity beacons of hope and prosperity and worthy prospective team members in a new era of cooperation.
For their part, these idealistic members of parliament will be happy to help, grateful that the ineptitude and short-sightedness of the majors have elevated them to the balance of power. It will also be nice, after years of abuse, to have politicians from the major parties bouncing around like trained seals.
But will they play ball? Of course they will. They are politicians. The prospect, distasteful as it is, of mixing with Liberal and Labor MPs every day, is preferable to chancing another election. They will lean towards the least nasty party, which, traditionally, is Labor, but either way it will be a spectacle.
Unlike the Lib/Lab duopoly of the lower house, the Senate is actually a more representative body, giving us an insight to different aspects of our country. Conservatives, the old working classes, greenies, the unattached middle and, to round off, a healthy selection of anarchists and racists. It really is very representative.
The reality is we will see Liberals, Laborites and Greens voting together to maintain the status quo a little longer in an effort to squeeze the others out. That old chestnut stability, in other words.
We the People
What do we want? The election has provided the definitive answer. We don’t know what we want. In fact, we are angry because there are no leaders who can tell us what we want and why we want it. It’s not our job to know what we want, particularly now we have more of everything than in all of human history.
Unfortunately, the major parties have forgotten how to lead and articulate a vision of the future. They have become fixated on two things, telling us what we don’t want (the other party) and promising us that they will not do anything if elected (stability again). Their vision ends at an election and when they refocus they can see no further than the next one. Getting into power has become more important than that power and the result is that the Liberal and Labor parties are now holding the country back due to their inadequacy.
But perhaps the days of leadership and vision are over. It feels like it, which is why the world is drifting into rudderless turmoil. And it will continue until a fearless Leader comes along and tells us what we need, why we need it, how we can get it and is able to articulate the bigger picture to convince us why we want it.
But until she comes along, enjoy the new reality.
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