At the People’s Market in West Melbourne the mood was jubilant over Adam Bandt’s Green victory. Not so much up the road at Trades Hall. Our man at large went election partying.
Midnight at the People’s Market in West Melbourne for the bandit celebration — gah, doof music and pho vans in a loading bay re-purposed into a bar; gah Melbourne — I experienced something I hadn’t expected on Saturday night. Victory.
Hah, good god 45% of the primary vote. Earlier in the evening a adviser for still-MP Adam Bandt had said “the numbers aren’t looking good” and was preparing a “we fight on” speech. Wasn’t needed.
Bizarre. Had come back to Melbourne for one thing: the pure quality of its despair, its unadulterated commitment to negative dialectics and how a great loss is actually a victory in antithesis mode.
Melbourne was even better placed for this role, because power wise actually nothing was flowing to here. The Liberals were in Sydney at the Four Seasons Hotel, a place where more shady love affairs for money have been consummated than anywhere else in the city, so hell why not.
I was going to be up there but decided I could only half face it. I also knew — from experience with victorious Republicans — that they’d pull the credentials late. Sure enough, hours before it was due to start, I got an email from a pearly yah girl, or so I imagine, informing that “unfortunately we cannot accommodate you”. A few ABC journos got the same thing.
Hah! They iz the masters now.
Hennyway, as with life in general, I came for the despair and stayed for the politics. Started at Bandt’s but there was too much hope, so I went to Trades Hall, where about 60 people — most of them in black — were quarter-filling Bella’s Bar, and watching the ABC on a giant screen.
I tried to get them to change it to Nine, so we could see Richo’s head 30-feet high and wide, like a giant Pollock. But no. Then as the results came in pretty much exactly as polls had predicted, they turned the TV off, and Casey Bennetto came on to do a few songs about the light on the hill and Paul Keating, the neoliberal now looked fondly back on.
It could have been 1990. Actually, it could have been 1890. So I got out, and went to watch TV at a friend’s, so ultra-leftist that he calls Bandt “Adam Bhitler” and drank gin with him in a book-lined city flat which the building directory lists as “the penthouse”. I missed most of the results because we got into an argument about class as a form of material abstraction, or not.
Melbourne, see. They should put that as a tour instead of the sodding Healesville Sanctuary.
By that time it was clear Bandt was going to win.
“For them, despair is not an option. They will have to turn the TV on, turn the (excellent) music down and get out of the ancient halls of memory.”
The Greens had felt strong all day, as I’d toured round the polling booths and sausage sizzles with Mr First Dog, and the “Coal Diggers”, the gals who in 2007 had formed the John Howard Ladies Auxiliary (“ho’s hos”) and who were now dressed as blonde white-shoe miners with diamante helmets, snorting “coking coal” off mirrors and teasing bewildered Liberals.
They’d teased Palmer United spruikers too, but since all of these were employed and some were backpackers with little English they were harder to get purchase on. The Greens were everywhere. Indeed, they’d peeled off a bunch of people to hand out “blue green” cards, asking Libs to preference Green to keep an independent voice.
Greens of old had been pressed into service for this, rung up at 6am and ordered to “dress Liberal”. Several had to be dressed by their partners, like meat puppets. Indeed, by noon, the Greens were so overstaffed there were rumours they were birding for Palmer United, in places where Sven and Giulietta hadn’t turned up.
Back at Bandt central, they’d been sending out people for a last door-knock, going right up to 5.30pm. A United States-style campaign, against the dominant Oz idea that you knock off on Saturday am, doing a few hours birding and then watch the footy and go to a happy or sad BBQ.
So that night, I high-tailed it back to the People’s Market to be with these brave stalwart people and also because a new bartender there was charging single prices for double measures.
The meeja were collected there in a small Polynesian hut, three quarters size, making them look like giants. Adam, surrounded by klieg lights giving his usual brilliant speech, pointing to big concepts while also hitting concrete issues from carbon pricing to denticare, doing a joke or two, a reference to upcoming marriage, a better, more natural politician — in the best sense — than anyone Labor will be able to cough up in the weeks to come.
“Where you from?” a Channel Ten guy asked. “Bolivia,” I said. “DELETED and I were in the jungles with Regis Debray and el commandante.” “Great,” he said, smiling, “give them my regards”.
They were packed up and gone within two minutes. Later on a laptop TV feed, Rudd’s speech was being played over and over — another bad, odd, nothing speech. Abbott’s too — low on generosity, high on triumph. Would have been good for the despair.
But with the results in — Greens vote down, but Bandt, Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam perhaps back in, Janet Rice in in Victoria, and a 45% primary — 45%! — it was hard to get in touch with my inner-Melburnian. The fight will be long against Abbott, but much of it will be on home turf, playing a poker hand entirely composed of jokers in the Senate. The people in the People’s Market seem ready for it. Whether the ALP is remains to be seen.
For them, despair is not an option. They will have to turn the TV on, turn the (excellent) music down and get out of the ancient halls of memory.