Most of my Saturday mornings start with a quiet, reflective time. ’Pong has gone to work, the cats are fed and have finally shut the fuck up and gone back to sleep. It’s not yet time to join the Snarky Platypus for our regular gym, lunch, shiraz and sarcasm session. I’ve got a couple of hours to sit, still unshaven and often in my underwear, sort through the newspapers and my notebook, turn them over in my mind, and see what emerges.
What emerges this morning is laughter. About John Howard.
Not a belly-laugh, though, nor that loud, pointing, “Haw haw haw! Hey Charlene, will ya just look at that!”
No, it’s a quiet chuckle. A roll of the eyes and a slow shake of the head which says, “Oh, you bloody idiot.” And this moment of amusement is certainly helping to make up for the anger of the last fortnight.
I may return to the anger later today, but perhaps not. It’s too nice a day to remind ourselves that our own government reckons that racial vilification and the death penalty are vote-winners. Except when there’s a different kind of black person that they want to suck up to.
I did laugh out loud, I must admit, when I saw yesterday’s news that Howard had suddenly discovered Aboriginal reconciliation. I have yet to find a single person who genuinely believes this change of heart — after years of impassioned argument for the exact opposite — is anything other than pre-election panic. And I was amused to read Possums Pollytics’ astute observation that this backflip-dressed-up-as-leadership is as transparent as it will be counter-productive.
On Thursday one client summed it up when he told me that he’s no fan of the unions — and I know his company has previously donated money to the Liberals — but that it’s simply time for a change. Fresh ideas. And I’ve heard those same sentiments from people who’d you normally think of as welded-on Liberal voters.
I’ve mentioned before that Christian Kerr thinks this election will be “It’s Time” versus “economic management”. Increasingly I agree. If that’s the case, then every single last-minute flip by Howard reminds people that he’s had 11 years to think through this stuff. And every TV advert reminds them that their money’s being pissed away.
As usual, Annabel Crabb (bitch) nails it when she asks us to imagine the lumpy federal landscape we’ll have to inhabit if Howard actually wins.
[A]t last count he has: his own personal hospital in Tasmania; several thousand new health administrators on local hospital boards, according to a recently announced proposal whose documentation amounts very precisely to one press release; a large stretch of the Northern Territory to administer; a referendum in 18 months; a handover of power to his Treasurer some time quite soon after that. (Why not just have an election then and there, and let the voters choose Costello if they want him?)
Every week, it seems, there’s a new idea, bearing no critical relevance to its predecessor. It’s a bit like watching a three-year-old building a pizza — “ham AND cheese AND Smarties AND apple AND toothpaste AND olives AND …”
Annabel Crabb is without doubt the wittiest political essayist we have in print. She isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. Noting that Howard’s 5-point plan for re-election doesn’t actually mention his Incredible Indigenous Insight, that must’ve been an extremely recent idea.
There are several ways of describing this kind of decision-making. If you were being optimistic, you’d call it front-foot, if you were being polite, you might call it ad hoc, and if you were being brutally honest, you’d call it panic. After all, Wednesday had been a relatively good day for the Government, with historically low rates of unemployment announced; why distract from what should be a reminder of the Government’s successes?
I’ll come back to that 5-point plan later, I think. If that’s Howard’s core strategy, it’s worth a detailed look. Especially as all the signs point to the election being announced this weekend.