Well here we are.
It's the day after Election Day 2010 in Australia. We still don't know who is going to lead our nation into the next three years.
To all intents and purposes, it's being called a "hung parliament". This means that the few men - who claim to be independent of the major parties - are suddenly the King/Queen Makers rather than ineffectual voices amidst a majority rule government: perhaps the most powerful men in Australia.
The deals these men strike with the minority government by the end of this coming week will determine not only the Government of Australia but also the Prime Minister. It's highly possible, we'll be back at the polls to vote again within 18 months to two years - perhaps even less.
I took such little interest in both of the major options this time around. I barely followed both campaigns and when I did try to drum up some interest, it was almost immediately crushed by the boring platitudes and the quibbling.
The Australian Labor Party actually didn't do that badly this past three years all in all. Australia survived the first onslaught of the Global Financial Crisis and kept unemployment and interest rates manageable. The economy stumbled along with vast amounts of the massive surplus stockpiled by the excessively thrifty Howard Government spent by the Labor Rudd Government on infrastructure. This kept our economy ticking along pretty steadily and it was probably the most effective thing we could have done given the financial and economic debacles happening in Europe and the USA.
Sure! Labor had a few hiccups. Note the following:
The staggeringly stupid Broadband Filtering Plan proposed Stephen Conroy.
The very swift and Machiavellian removal of Kevin Rudd from office.
The painful and ineffectual monitoring of the Home Insulation program.
The backing down from the Emissions Trading Scheme.
The Mining Tax fiasco which could have been successful if Rudd hadn't been so blimmin' obstinate about negotiating with the mining companies on the terms.
There's probably tonnes more.
Even so, Labor still dragged Australia through the first three years of massive, world-wide global financial turbulence relatively unscathed. They really could have played that one up a lot more during the electoral campaign.
I guess Julia Gillard had no choice though, except to keep saying "Let's move forward". Because the previous 2.5 years had been the work of the very man she ousted from the leadership, she probably didn't feel comfortable spruiking about the things the party had accomplished under his leadership.
This is the burgeoning problem with Australian politics. It's more and more becoming about the person at the helm, rather than about the party itself and what it offers as real choice to the Australian people. I think this is what has disenfranchised the people of Australia in this election. The informal vote was the highest in history. People couldn't give a flying fig about either major party. Telling? Yes!
The people of Australia clearly demonstrated that this election campaign was so far removed from what we wanted to know, it seems that a fair majority voted passively. The "problem" with a two party preferred voting system is that we know that the preferences attributed by minor parties will flow to either major party depending on the deals struck during the election lead-up. It means that no matter which party you vote for, your vote is pretty much likely to end up with two - three if you count the Greens - choices, Labor or Liberal/National Party. There's no genuine way to cast a protesting vote so I gather some have opted to not cast a vote at all. The sad thing is that trying to wash our hands of our political parties doesn't really solve the problem effectively.
I, myself, deliberately voted for a minor party as my personal protest at the lack of useful choice available to me between the two major parties. However, I also know its a moot point, given that the preferences will flow to Labor or Liberal as the case may be. I still however, consciously objected to the lack of choice available. My vote wasn't informal, but I, like apparently many others, didn't give a flying F@#$% about either Labor or Liberal in this election. Both parties were unremarkable, practically indistinguishable (on the surface) from the other, and appeared to be more about public smear campaigns rather than telling me what they were genuinely and ethically prepared to do with my taxes.
The crapola dished out to us through the publicity campaigns on either side was a disastrous mish-mash of hyperbole, shit-faced tantrum throwing and outright fear-mongering. It bored me. It desanitised me to listening to real commentary. I could have cared less about the fact our PM was female, atheist, and not married to the man she is shacked up with! I could have cared less for the Opposition Leader's budgie-smuggler bathers, his 'christian values', his old-fashioned views about females, his climate scepticism or his polyphasic sleep experiment in the final hours of the election. It all means nothing to this country's future. Maybe.
There are issues out there in the real Australia that are crying out to be heard and its not all terrorists and immigrants in boats either!
For me personally, broadband infrastructure is begging. If Australians don't want their major cities clogged with even more burbs and ghetto's - then just as rail and road in the previous century opened up the nation - so with efficient and effective high speed broadband in this century. Filtering content within this infrastructure is just plain idiocy of the most asinine kind. The defence of free speech is still just as paramount.
And another thing...
If Julia Gillard had been serious about this election - and don't get me wrong, she's done exceptionally well to keep Labor in the running - she'd have told the Australian electorate about the stuff that the Labor team, together, had been able to achieve regardless of who was leader at the time. I may be naive on this score perhaps.
It sucks to have a hung parliament but it may also be exactly what Australia needs to manoeuvre through the very delicate waters of the rest of the GFC. It's possible that there's a bigger financial crash to come what with the Euro teetering on the edge: so what happens now will determine how well we cope with it, if that crisis eventuates. A hung parliament may be just what we need to shake us up and get proactive. It also may be a total disaster, which we brought upon ourselves with our "Couldn't be f@#$%" attitude.
The four or five independents whose doors are now wide open for "dialogue" with either potential PM will have a massive responsibility to demonstrate courageous wisdom along with a very large dose of ethical consideration for this nation as a whole. Short-term thinking cannot suffice. This has to be long-term stuff: stuff that resonates with positive vigour in 10, 20, 50 years from now.
I mean long after Iraq, Afghanistan, climate change argy-bargy and the internet as we presently know it.
Good luck to these men is all I say! It's going to be a tough gig, even if its also lucrative for their electorates notwithstanding.