Editor in Chief
So the election is over and Tony Abbott is Prime Minister. Congratulations to him, as Jaymes Diaz proved, one does not simply fall into elected office in this country and he ran a well-managed campaign. The ALP has suffered a defeat that, while not as catastrophic as some had imagined, featured their lowest primary vote since the inter-war period. And it’s hardly difficult to see why.
A strength of any political campaign competing with the Abbott-lead coalition should be relative complexity of argument. When you only have to extend your line of reasoning beyond three words on most issues there is no excuse for not putting forward the most nuanced argument available. Despite this the ALP seemed happy to either slump to the intellectual level of their competition or completely fail to communicate their message in areas where they enjoyed an obvious advantage. This has been a pattern of behavior for the ALP since they won office six long, frustrating, confusing years ago.
Asylum seekers are a classic case in point. Since the Howard era, the coalition has shown an unsurpassed propensity to flaunt not only international law and the UN but also basic human sympathy and compassion in its endless quest to reassure the western suburbs of Sydney that people who are afraid of brown people will always have a friend on parliament hill.
The obvious choice for a party that is supposedly more progressive than the LNP would be to adopt a more humane approach, in the hope of appealing to the huge number of people who turned on the Howard government over this issue and leave the coalition to their race to the ideological bottom trying to win the votes of the cast of the first season of ‘Go Back to Where You Came From’.
There was never anything to be gained by this. The people of western Sydney and Queensland believe that NRL is a real sport, and Queenslanders think that having two houses of parliament is a bit over the top, so obviously they are people that tend not to take in a lot of information that conflicts with their established belief structure. They are also deeply suspicious of people fleeing war and ethnic cleansing, so the chances that they would not see some kind of trickery in the ALP’s appeal seems quite slim.
Maybe the ALP could even articulate an argument that points out this is an issue of international proportions, over which any Australian government will only have limited control if they fail address it on at least a regional level in a manner that could not be confused with an American tourist speaking progressively louder and slower to someone they presume cannot understand them. Instead Rudd and the ALP chose to try and one-up the LNP by adopting a policy so ridiculous that the only objection Andrew Bolt could must was one regarding lack of capacity.
In addition the ALP alienated its base, many of whom contributed to the huge number of votes for minor parties, which lead to a candidate from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, probably two from the Palmer United Party and possibly one from the Australian Sports Party getting elected. The Motoring Enthusiasts Party is ridiculous enough, but the Australian Sports Party just wants us all to play more sport. I can’t think of anything more quintessentially Australian or useless than a senator who comes at every single debate wanting more people to play sport. Will he help repeal the Carbon Tax? Who knows, I guess it depends on which option will result in more people playing sport. Will he support action in Syria? I guess that all depends on whether or not it will lead to more people in Australia playing sport. Well done Western Australia, we’re all so proud.
The NBN should also have been a clean winner for the ALP. While it wasn’t going to solve all our Internet problems and would only have brought us up to speed with South Korea about a decade ago, it represented the first large-scale, genuinely forward-looking piece of government investment in a long time. Tony Abbott was and is fond of saying he’s going to build the ‘Roads of the 21st Century’ and the fact that no one in the ALP pointed out that these roads will in effect be online and that in fact he had committed to build those roads from an existing copper network shows a catastrophic lack of ability to communicate a message. Actual roads are the roads of the 19th Century. I acknowledge that the ALP’s level of infrastructure funding was lower than the coalition, but show me someone who thinks that upgrading roads is more important than high-speed internet and I’ll show you a truck driver or someone who lives on the Bruce Highway and then I’ll show you their ‘Juliar’ bumper sticker. As with asylum seekers, the coalition pretty much had its base nailed down here, and the ALP failed entirely to put forward their point of difference.
If the ALP is to be, as Rudd put it, a ‘fighting force for the future’ it should probably think about being a politically palatable and progressive party participating in a thought provoking debate. I couldn’t think of a word for debate that started with P. Sorry.