There’s been a good deal of debate this past week – probably too much – about the pros and cons of Julia Gillard’s announcement of the date of the federal election. For my money, the best piece of commentary was this one by Bernard Keane over at Crikey; a much-needed injection of balance against the hysteria and general frippery of much of the print media’s coverage. Once the dust had cleared, and the announcement could be seen for what it was (i.e. not very interesting), it seemed to become possible, for this blogger at any rate, to begin to think about what we all might have to look forward to in what we all already knew was going to be an election year.
The date of the election (that’s 14 September for anyone, unlikely as their existence would seem, who, precisely contrary to the rest of us, cares but doesn’t know) will not change the game plan of either of the major parties. Tony Abbott had already come out swinging (or, to be accurate, less swinging) with a fatuous ‘mini-campaign’ designed to counter Labor’s relentless ‘relentless negativity’ attacks. Neither party is going to tell us how they’re really going to be spending our money if in office after September, so I won’t be including that in my list, in almost no particular order, of the Five Things To Look Forward To This Election Year. You will observe, dear reader, that what the list actually documents might be any old year in Australian federal politics (with one or two ignoble exceptions). What does this mean? That twenty-four hours or, indeed, seven months, is not so long in politics after all.
Five Things To Look Forward To This Election Year:
· More reports like this. Conditions at the Nauru detention centre are similarly appalling. In November last year, Amnesty International called the camp ‘a human rights catastrophe with no end in sight.’ This week, a nurse who resigned in protest at what she had witnessed there likened the Nauru facility to a concentration camp.
· The ratcheting up of anti-asylum seeker rhetoric. The opposition has already started, but it can be reasonably expected that both sides will come to the party. History has, after all, demonstrated that it’s a potentially election-winning strategy.
· The return of Q & A. Watchable, if not essential at first, the ABC’s flagship current affairs panel program has become a tepid and stultifyingly predictable non-spectacle of stage-managed-out-of-existence pollies, uninspired and unqualified ‘commentators’, and dull as ditchwater questions from the public. And. Please. Stop. Putting. Tweets. On. The. Screen. It is very, very annoying. A final word? Q & A also prevents Tony Jones from hosting Lateline. Unpardonable.
· More disastrous environmental mismanagement. Things are especially cheerless at the state level, with eastern Australia’s Liberal governments winding back environmental protections anywhere they can. NSW’s Barry O’Farrell supports coal seam gas exploration, grazing trials and laxer duck hunting regulations in that state’s national parks. Federally, we have a Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, who is a champion of the fossil fuel industry, and of the sale of uranium to politically volatile and human rights-spurning countries. The University of Queensland's Chris McGrath summed up the recommendations in Ferguson’s Energy White Paper, released November last year, in this way: ‘burn, burn, burn it all.’ (For more on Fergo’s gross unsuitability for his current portfolio, see here). Then there is Tony Burke, Environment Minister, currently being grilled for some reason by the mainstream press over his probably insignificant connection to the Obeid scandal rather than over his dismal failure to adequately protect the Great Barrier Reef. Burke is, if nothing else, true to his name.
· A Tony Abbott prime ministership. There. I’ve said it. It’s unclear whether opinion polls mean anything at all, but they are as of the time of writing telling us that the Mad Monk is well on his way to becoming the 28th prime minister of this country. This is not, I stress, a prediction; for all I know, he won’t even end up as the Coalition’s challenger to Gillard in September. Not much point, either, in predicting what an Abbott-led Australia might look like (although I’m at least half-convinced by the unstoppable thought that Campbell Newman’s Queensland is looking like a fairly advanced rehearsal). What I will say in regards to the proposition that an ultra-conservative Catholic bullyboy with no ideas will be running Australia by this time next year is only what Paul Keating told Fran Kelly a couple of years ago in anticipation of such an eventuality: ‘god help us.’