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Sun, 2004-Oct-10

The Federal Election

I'm one of those people who like to sit home on the night of a federal election and watch the results come in. Last night, after the bowls (Ruth "Less" took the inaugural women's title in stunning style) I watched the bloodsport in real time. Bloody it was. The ABC is still showing that labour has pretty-much matched it primary vote from last time (a +.03% swing with 77.7% counted) but has consistenly lost ground in important marginals. I live in the suddenly-marginal seat of Bonner. It's a new seat based on redistributions, but it seems the sitting member Con Sciacca had his choice and believed it would be a safe bet. He's currently behind by a very small margin in counting.

It has been an interesting campaign. One based on "trust", which in politics is code for "mistrust" and for "fear". A cabbie on morning television described the situation simply with the familiar phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". It's a fair comment. When we have had a booming economy for so long, and noone you know is suffering from particularly bad times... well, why change?

In acknowledging the oncoming defeat throughout the night several Labour stalwarts talked about the Liberal interest rates scare campagin, calling it a lie. A lie that was swallowed by the electorate, but a lie nonetheless. It was a lie, but only if taken on face value. The Liberal party knew what it meant, and the electorate knew what it meant. I suppose the Labour party knew what it meant, also. It again was code. Code for "He's crazy". For, "He's got an economy and he doesn't know what to do with it!". "He could ruin everything you've built!". It was not a lie. It was simply hysteria-building. Interest rates are a great trigger for hysteria, because it is something outside the influence of individuals that they tend to have sleepless nights over. It's something that affects them far more than tax policy, but which they don't understand and can't control.

Those two messages, the "You feel safe with John" message and the "He's got a gun!" message penetrated deeply. Labour's response of "Money's not being spent on the right things", and "The rich are getting richer" didn't really have the same impact. In the economic and political climate of today, it is far easier to vilify those who aren't keeping pace than to vilify those who are too far ahead. We aren't a nation of people who want to live at the same standard as our neighbour (were we ever?). We want to be ahead.

In comes family first, and the collapse of the democrats. A polarising campaign in the Senate. To me this is the big news of the election. We knew that the democrats have been falling apart. I personally wasn't particularly aware of the emergence of family first. On the surface they appear to be the beginning of the emergence in Australia of an american-style christian right. Most commentators are comparing their probable behaviour in the senate to that of Brian Harradine.

I didn't vote for this party. It's not because I don't want to see christians in positions of political power. It's that in my opinion most christians who actively seek political power are not worthy of it. This is no doubt true of all people, but when secular politicians seek power I am not pressured to vote for them as individuals by those I know. When secular politicians make bad decisions it doesn't impact negatively on the perception of my faith. When secular politicians fail, it is not translated into a failure of my people.

I come from a grass-roots church where power is rarely sought. People are chosen, but they are not seen as gods on earth. They serve. That's what leaders are supposed to do. When service opens the door to a power trip everything starts to go to hell. I don't want to be identified with that.

I suppose now is a good time to throw in my results from a "personality test" :

One Nation 25%
National Party 27%
Liberal Party 47%
Labor Party 69%
Democrats 77%
Greens 75%

I voted pretty-much according to that table (I voted before taking this test). On the house of representitives paper I voted for the greens, democrats and labour before liberal. I had to think carefully about the last three spots. Family First scares me at the moment, but it was that against One Nation and the "Citezens Electoral Council", a US-based political cult who's policy agenda is "A national bank: A people's bank", who think that the royal family of Britain is behind the global drug trade and behind global organised crime, and who believe that everyone but them are "facists". Tricky choice.

I didn't number all 50 spots on the senate paper. I figured that believing in a strong senate and seeing a Democrats collapse I'd go with whatever the Greens wanted to do with our beloved upper house. I guess that wasn't the opinion of most, though. The real news of the election evening was that its possible that by July the government will have a real or effective balance of power in the sentate.

I'm almost looking forward to that prospect, to be honest. We've seen three terms of the Liberal government so far, but each has been tempered by moderate voices. I'm almost looking forward to seeing the Liberals in full swing. I think that that exuberance, combined with a likely downturning economy next time might just be enough to get a change of government in this country regardless of what Labour does.

Oh well. In the end it has been a poor showing for the parties I would have liked to see in power, but like many Australians the pit of my stomache is actually leaning towards the liberals again this time around. I hate what they've done with the good name of Australia internationally over the last three terms, but it's hard to argue Labour in the same position would have acted differently. I hate what they're doing to the health and education systems, but maybe if they could get their whole agenda through things would balance out. I favour their industrial relations policies to some extent. I favour some of their economic policies to some extent. I think they're the right people to have in power during an economic upswing. When it comes to the bust, though... I think Labour is the better party to have in power.

Benjamin