Election Diary 2010 — Week Two

The great not-debate: is it all over for Abbott?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Without any real momentum or spark in evidence, Tony Abbott is beginning to look like losing by default, rather than Gillard winning by better campaigning. But on to the main story for the day.

I confess! I didn’t watch the leadership debate tonight. Shoot me now, but the snatches of it that I actually caught in passing were so drearily boring I’d prefer the firing squad.

At one stage a twitter message flashed up on screen suggesting something like: ‘This isn’t a debate, it’s a glorified press conference. Why has the Press Club been allowed to hijack the event?’ Indeed.

The whole thing smacked so much of carefully staged nonsense that I couldn’t help idly speculating how many layers of pancake makeup Gillard was wearing to affect the eerie resemblance to ‘80s digital TV host Max Headroom (remember that one?). Could she have been more bloodless? The cross between saintly, serene mother superior and patronising schoolmarm mannerisms just didn’t do it for me.

Is it: a) new work at Madam Toussaud's; b) Julia Gillard; c) Max Headroom; or d) ruthlessly opportunistic photography? I'll go with a).
Is it: a) new work at Madam Toussaud’s; b) Julia Gillard; c) Max Headroom; or d) ruthlessly opportunistic photography? I’ll go with a).

But neither did Abbott’s halting, almost self-selecting air of the wide-eyed, tongue-tied, innocent upstart. That’s not what I look for in a leader.
And that dreadful worm. I really don’t understand why we need an American device obviously designed to tell apathetic viewers what they should be thinking. The implied contempt for the audience is too strong not to be insulting.

A farce all around.

Polling data should scare Abbott

However, looking at polling data alone should be the cause of serious concern for Abbott. Gillard might be able to skate through the contest by doing nothing because she has a lead. Abbott can’t afford to coast the way he has been. He needs to start swinging a few big punches – if he has them. Otherwise it’s time to unpack the boxes for another three years in opposition.

The last couple of days have left me wondering whether there really was an election on, or whether this was some kind of formality the politicians think they have to suffer through until they are duly re-elected. That’s not enough to win an election, but plenty enough to lose one.

I think that Abbott’s persistence in using every opportunity to talk down the Rudd Government’s performance is beginning to sound like carping rather than serious statesmanship because the points of attack are too many and trivial. He should be able to summon some magnanimity in conceding that Labor could have done worse, and didn’t do so badly holding together the edifice presented to them by a decade of Coalition governments, but that they were beginning to struggle to hold it together, and that it’s therefore time to return to the treasury benches the people who built the damned thing in the first place.

But, oddly, I don’t hear that kind of self-assured talk coming from a man I think is capable of it. I wonder whether there is a strategy of last minute king-hits in the Liberal kit bag. There had better be. Too much more of this and serious election observers will start to manifest senile dementia brought on by frustration or boredom.

The margin call:
right now Gillard looks to me as the outright, though not entirely convincing winner. A Senate with the Greens holding the balance of power may yet rob Gillard of an unquestionable mandate to legislate where Rudd feared to tread.

Paul Kelly right to label Gillard as lacking conviction

Monday, 26 July 2010

It’s been a long time since I agreed withAustralian news media icon Paul Kelly about anything, but he’s such a fixture in the media milieu you can’t avoid his words. On Saturday he ran a comment that resonated with my own perceptions. He argued that Gillard was devoid of convictions.

Kelly’s argument was that Gillard had inherited all the worst traits of Rudd’s refusal to make decisions on anything until he could rely on some kind of consensus support for a policy or legislative agenda. Check.

He rubbished the notion of a citizens’ assembly as a sign of weakness rather than inclusiveness. Check.

He implied that Gillard’s yearning for consensus support for a carbon tax was really a yearning for a soft option. Check.

It seems that just like Rudd before her, she is afraid to stand for anything lest she be held to account for it. This is hardly a quality one would admire in a putative leader.

An unavoidable comparison with her opponent, Tony Abbott, reveals, however, that there seems to be much the same attitude in the Coalition camp. A lack of convictions or courage to voice them all around.

A perfect couch potato election spectacle — no spectacle at all, so the dozing couch potatoes won’t be missing a thing while they’re asleep, and might not even notice an election outcome if the current pace and intensity of campaigning can be maintained at its flat-lined pulse rate.

Things are so desperately boring that I’m commenting on a comment made two days ago, and with all the stylistic hallmarks of being a hastily written scribble transcribed from the back of a soiled fast food paper napkin.

Hello, no, there’s no one here …

Thursday, 29 July 2010

News media are scratching in the dirt like hungry chickens trying to muster enough material for election campaign stories as our leaders maintain an eerie silence that suggests the election will have to be decided without any input or effort from them.

Gillard on the cover of the hotly debated gossip ‘n’ recipes mag.

Yesterday the media gaggle was reduced to speculating about the likely effects on the voters of a spread in – wait for it – Women’s Weekly on Gillard! I think I’m gonna puke.

It seems fairly clear that neither side is prepared to make any major commitments, or pull any rabbits out of hats, until the closing stages, still two weeks away.
By that time Australia might have forgotten there’s an election on at all.

A stunned mullet could raise more interest and inspire more passion than Abbott and Gillard are doing right now.

There’s a lunatic young Greenie running in my district. If it weren’t for the fact that voting for him would be voting for Labor I’d give him a shot. There’s also a Family First candidate, but I’d rather pull out my own fingernails with a pair of iron-working tongs while listening to Barry Manilowe than vote that way.

Is it too late to register a mullet for the seat?

I can see it now: ‘Mullet outrages anglers with total fishing ban in Moreton Bay.’

‘Mullet promises cat hunting season.’

‘Plan to flood inner Brisbane backed by Mullet.’

Letter to WA

Friday, 30 July 2010

The following extract from an email to a journalist in WA summarises my thinking about the election better than an attempt to paraphrase it.

Direct personal experiences count for a lot in assessing politicians. Last week I sent an email to Abbott’s electorate office on a Friday evening. I got a reply the next Tuesday telling me that Abbott was a busy man (duh), couldn’t always answer every email personally, and did I know that there was an election on (!!!) and did I know what a lousy job the government has been doing.

Clearly a scripted ‘don’t bother me’ response, but sent so late I thought maybe his staff are asleep at the wheel.
Never mind. Today I read with arched eyebrows fast disappearing into my hairline that Gillard’s campaign launch won’t be until the 16th of next month!!! Ain’t that election week?

No wonder I’ve been scratching my head about the invisibility of our so-called leaders.

I have always assumed that both camps are keeping their powder dry until the closing stages of the campaign, but right now it seems there won’t really be any campaign at all, just a flurry of press releases about various pork barrels they hope will get them over the line at the last minute.

What do you do? Donkey gets my vote? Left-field crank candidate in the hope preferences don’t just give it to the headline idiots anyway?

My local member is Arch Bevis, a Labor dinosaur with a comfortable majority and zero visibility (read: I have no idea what he does, which means he’s almost certainly done nothing for me lately). I think he assumes the seat’s his just for showing up, and I doubt that he faces a serious challenge from Teresa Gambaro, seafood empire scion and one-time Liberal member for somewhere (maybe a Senator in the last Howard administration).

Right now I’d say your tip for the outcome is a safe bet. Looking at the numbers over the past couple of weeks, though, I wouldn’t count the money just yet. I think one week of really filthy damaging stuff about the corporate arrogance of the Labor machine under Rudd, and with Gillard’s complicity, and Abbott could just steal home. Not so much by winning as by Gillard losing.

I don’t share your animosity towards the Howard crew, whom I regarded as tired and lackluster rather than evil. I don’t think that Costello would have made an inspiring leader, but I still maintain the Coalition might have had a chance united under him, and he’d have done no worse than Rudd. On Rudd I have nothing kind or gentle to say. The man was an arrogant fop, an embarrassment to Australia on the international stage (just read his woeful essays, and imagine what the real statesmen concluded about him, and us by association), and he confused leadership with bureaucratic administration. Besides, his legacy of internet censorship ain’t yet dead, and anyone associated with that rancid, neo-fascist disgrace will have my unequivocal, malevolent contempt for some time to come.

The outcome of the election could go the other way around too, with the Coalition descending into one of its periodic self-destruct modes. And yet I am amazed at how effective Abbott has been in keeping the more loquacious and ill-advised members of his team quiet and off the front pages. Could this be a sign of steely discipline, or just confusion in the ranks about what an election actually means?

Here in Brisbane it’s also astounding how invisible Premier Anna Bligh has been. It’s fairly clear she’s no asset to her federal sister-in-arms and has a lot to lose if Gillard doesn’t win. I heard somewhere around the traps she’d been passed over for the sinecure party presidency because it’s election year, though not ruled out for the gravy train some other time.

I’m inclined to the view that we don’t even live in the proverbial interesting times of the Chinese insult. We live in the most staggeringly mediocre of times in Australia’s political history.

While the country’s journalistic elite has been reduced to speculating on the effect on the election outcome of a Women’s Weekly spread on Gillard, I’ve sunk to speculating, in my blog, on the effect of running a stunned mullet as a candidate in my electorate. My money’s on the mullet.

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