Gentlemen, start your engines!

Ah, I love the smell of an election in the morning! Camera crews waiting outside Yarralumla sneak one last ciggie. Candidates of all persuasions reach for The Good Suit and ponder which tie they should wear. Journalists place last-minute bets on The Date and wonder just how many grams of speed they should lay in to last the distance. Media outlets everywhere reach for their plans and everybody says goodbye to their loved ones for a few weeks.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is on Sunday, live from his Adelaide Hills palace, dutifully repeating The Message. “To change the government is to change the country.” “Trade unionists.” Repeat ad nauseam.

We’ll hear Lord Downer repeating his scary mantra many, many times as the Coalition fights to the death.

“I think they need a miracle, really,” says The Sphere of Influence. “Unless Kevin Rudd falls over in the campaign, the Liberals will find it very difficult… Unless they get their [economic] message to the forefront of the campaign they’ll have no chance.”

So they’re the battle lines, at least so far. Labor will reinforce their message that it’s time for a change. The Coalition will reinforce their message that only they can maintain the economic boom. And everyone else will be scrambling for Senate spots.

And now we’re just waiting for The Announcement…

[Update 1215: The election date is Saturday 24 November. JWH is currently doing a media conference, which will doubtless be analysed to death over the next 24 hours. Have fun, kiddies!]

2 Replies to “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

  1. Like everyone else, I’m just glad the formal campaign is finally underway. As for my own politics: my yearning for Coalition failure in six weeks rates much higher than my desire to see a Labor victory. Howard has GOT TO GO.

    It’s like this…

    I’ve never given my primary vote to either of the Big Two parties, but like a lot of people in 1996, my preferences went to Liberal over Labor on the grounds of fatigue: tired of Keating’s smug head wedged up his arse, and tired of Howard’s 15 year campaign of bashing away at the doors to The Lodge. (‘Fuck it. He’s waited long enough; let him have his turn.’)

    I think my first regrets came with the announcement of Howard’s dubious new Code of Ministerial Accountability, which he immediately tore up and threw out the window as soon as the first of his ministers dropped the ball. Worse still, he started callously barking at anyone who dared to state the bleeding obvious and challenge his hypocrisy. Thus began the Government’s long descent into deniability, xenophobia, jingoism, cruelty, the smothering of alternative ideas and innovation — from publicly marginalising and sneering at minorities, right through to mismanaging all levels of policy — and finally, with the likes of Kevin Andrews and Alexander Downer, brazen incompetence.

    Howard has GOT TO GO.

    The worst legacy of the past 11 years has been the Coalition’s success in lowering the electorate’s expectations of the political class so drastically that the very idea of good governance and accountability has become some quaint glossary term in Australia’s book of political history. Instead we’re told Howard’s Culture Wars against…well, anything new…are what’s saving our national identity and our future. How the fuck did we get to the point where educated men of privilege, like Gerard Henderson and David Flint, can, without a whiff of irony, use their considerable power and influence to routinely complain about those damn “elites”, who have the effrontary to go to university and use their skills to advocate minority causes which otherwise struggle to be heard. And the public, by and large, just nods its head.

    Howard has GOT TO GO.

    And it looks like Kevin Rudd might actually have what it takes to finally drive the stake through the Coalition’s stone cold heart. Good on him. I wish him the best of luck. But if he’s really as savvy as the media think he is, the he’ll know full well that with the real campaign underway, he’s going to have to shift gears pretty smartly and roll out Labor’s detailed policy platform. Coming across as a capable, sensible guy and playing small target politics has gotten him this far, and it makes political sense to delay detailed policy until the incumbents don’t quite have long enough to tear it apart and poach the bits they like. But the Ruddster must know that he won’t be able to just surf the polls all the way into shore.

    So as I look forward to seeing Labor’s policy platform, I also want to see the minor parties rise to the occasion for once, and sell some robust packages of their own. I’d still be ready to vote Democrat if only they could get their internal shit together, but what are the chances of that happening? I’ll probably end up voting Green, but don’t they realise they’ve got a real chance this time to become the third voice in Australian politics? If only they could unchain themselves from the trees for five minutes, look at the bigger picture, and put together a broader raft of policies based around the idea of Sustainability that more voters might be prepared to invest in. I wonder how serious they are in gaining real numbers in Parliament…possibly even the balance of power in a Rudd Government…where they’d have to show some real legislative maturity. But they’ll need to start communicating with people beyond the confines of Green Left Weekly and the Socialist Alliance if they’re to have any hope of getting there.

  2. @Stephen Stockwell: Thanks for that impassioned speech — which I think reflects the views of a significant sector of voters. Are you a doctor’s wife?

    Keating did descend (ascend?) into megalomania towards the end of his time as PM. Howard has also taken to megalomania, but unlike Keating’s it’s most certainly a descent. And it’s dull.

    At least Mussolini built palaces. Hitler wanted to rule the world and exterminate everyone who didn’t meet his purity standards. Howard just wants a nice house and a place to hang his Bradman portrait.

    Howard is the nerdy kid in the playground who was never chosen for the football team. But through rumour-mongering and gossip he’s undermined the team’s morale and eventually he got the ball. He can’t kick a goal, but now he’s got that ball he doesn’t want to let anyone else play. And if anyone has any other suggestions his petulant reply is “Aw, no-one wants to do that.”

    I’m reminded of the speech by Anthony Albanese in which he described Howard as “grindingly inadequate”.

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