I am loving this election.
It's not because it's particularly exciting. It's particularly boring, actually. The two major parties are just mimicking each other, fighting to outdo themselves in the mediocrity stakes, while the minor parties quietly object and cross their fingers for a few Senate seats (or, in the case of Wendy Francis, resort to homophobia and bigotry).
No, the reason I am loving this election is the elevated discussion. With thanks to twitter and blogging, politics is more interactive than ever before. Australians who are curious and/or passionate about the political system can finally connect with like-minded folk, to agree and argue and criticise, freely and zealously. The best part is that the politicians themselves are receptive to the criticism they receive via these forums. They are altering their campaigns as they go along, trying to appeal to this increasingly assertive voting pool (with varying results). It is empowering, feeling as though you are part of a movement that can actually change things.
So how do I think these politicians are doing? Like I said, there is not much to distinguish them. Tony is a little more conservative that Julia. They're both desperate and flailing.
Let me break it down:
(NB As I am neither a journalist nor a public figure, you should not expect my political opinions to be balanced, considered, well-researched or impartial... just honest and instinctive.)
I had high hopes for Julia Gillard. I wrote about them here, when she first toppled Kevin Rudd to become Australia's first female Prime Minister. I admired her apparent honestly and integrity, despite the fact that we had (have) different views on a lot of important issues. Sadly, the election trail has not been good to Julia. She has lost her spark and vision. She is a diluted version of her former self, resorting to gratingly over-used slogans, vague hyperbole and kissing babies. It is clear that she is being pulled this way and that by the various factions in the Labor Caucus -she cannot speak freely because she is not making the decisions. That is not necessarily a bad thing, except that it is a little scary to have a Prime Minister at the helm of the country who is disempowered. I don't blame Julia... it's the nature of Labor Party politics. It's just frustrating. She's not the fresh spark I wanted her to be. I guess I was destined for disappointment.
Oh Tony Abbott... there's not really much to say, is there? I have to admit that I don't detest him as much as a lot of other women I have spoken to (such as these). I don't think that he is a liar. That notorious 7.30 Report interview was not as damning as the media made it out to be... Yes, we cannot trust everything he says. But is that such a surprise? No. So why is it so awful that Tony admitted it? I find it refreshing, to be honest. Also, I don't think that he is exactly a woman-hater. I think that is a little harsh. He is, however, patronising and bigoted. He has resorted to fear-mongering. I simply cannot stand his xenophobic "STOP THE BOATS" campaign. Ugh.
And some other players:
I think that Malcolm Turnbull is my single favourite politician, at this point. If only he had played his cards right - waited to take over the leadership until the impending election was closer - I think that the Liberal Party would have had a good chance of winning this election. Fortunately for him, he has been smart since regaining his focus (after threatening to stand down from politics altogether). He is the martyr of the failed ETS. He is moderate, intelligent, charming and refreshingly normal. He has principles. Oh no, wait, I think those are the words I used to describe Julia when she first became PM... Oh, what can I say? I am an optimist.
I have to mention Penny Wong. She has been heavily criticised for her appearance on Q & A where, as a lesbian, she supported her party's decision to uphold the Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to existing between heterosexual couples. Ryan Heath writes a thoughtful article on why we should be empathetic towards Penny. She is in a sticky situation, as a senior Cabinet minister with an obvious conflict of interest. I completely understand why she has decided not to voice her opposition to this policy. I just wish that she would admit that the legalisation of gay marriage is something that she would like to work towards in the future - that equal marriage rights are an essential component in a free and equal society - instead of trying to justify her party's position and over-exaggerating effect of the existing reforms Kevin introduced a few years ago.
Fiona Patten is the president of the Australian Sex Party. I didn't know anything about her or the party until I saw her shamelessly triumph in a debate against the afore-mentioned Family First senate candidate Wendy Francis. (Okay, so the Sunrise audience deemed Wendy the victor but I think there must be some sort of mistake... so I am just correcting it). Fiona opposes the internet filter, censorship and tax exemptions for religious organisations; while supporting the legalisation of gay marriage and a national sex education curriculum. She is progressive, enlightened and persuasive... what's not to love?
So where is this election heading?
I think that the Labor party is destined to win. Unquestionably. Tony Abbott is far too polarising. I know that the polls show that the election is going to be close but, with all due respect, they are wrong (in my unqualified, entirely instinctive, opinion). And doesn't it demonstrate the dire state of Australian politics that the Labor campaign can sustain so much mismanagement and bad publicity (home insulation scheme, anybody?) and still have even a sliver of a chance of winning? It's sadly demoralising.
My disillusionment reminded me of this scene from Looking for Alibrandi... watch for Jacob Coote's speech, starting at 1 minute, 20 seconds.
It hits a sweet spot, doesn't it?