In 1971 I wrote the play Don’s Party about the 1969 election night, when Labor supporters were fervently hoping for the arrival of the Great Gough. As it turned out he was five seats short of arriving and we had to wait until 1972 before the long dark night of conservative rule ended.
The similarities with this Saturday’s election are obvious, and many of the old baby boomers, faint memories of the idealistic dreams of the sixties not yet erased by Alzheimer’s, are hoping fervently we won’t see a re-run of 1969. There are many reasons to wish Johnnie bon voyage, the most pressing being the thought of another eighteen months of television footage of his morning walks.
It’s time to say no to those daggy shorts, the horrible knees, the resolute stride towards a neo con past where Anglo man still rules the world, and the total lack of wit or spontaneity in his travelling badinage. Joy number two will be picturing the tears and foot stamping of the well paid hosts of Howard acolytes littering our press.
Any journalist who can turn a man his own party dubbed a “lying rodent”, into the Saint who saved Australia, has, like their idol, a superb grasp of slippery rhetoric which has hopefully earned them enough money to retire. These same scribes have falsely divided Australia into “Howard hating elites”, and “ordinary Australians,” without ever asking the question as to why many with the remnants of a conscience, including “ordinary Australians”, find it hard to stomach him.
The shameless exploitation of fear and hysteria over four hundred genuine and dehydrating refugees on Tampa might be a start. The ludicrous and hugely expensive “Pacific solution” might be another. The moral sleaze of the Saddam kickbacks, the lies of children overboard, the blatant and immoral pork barrelling of Coalition electorates, the attempt to deliver a cowed and cheap workforce to employers without a mandate, the constant and unrelenting grovelling to George Bush, the deathbed conversion to climate change and reconciliation lite – the list could go on.
If John can’t pull a Tampa out of his baggy green in this last week, it looks over for him. But we’ve been through 1969, and the anxiety is rising nonetheless. The thought of the most unlovely and thuggish front bench in Australian political history, namely Abbott, Downer, Costello, Ruddock, Andrews, Hockey and the rest retaining power is a thought that could send our already soaring rate of depression exponential.
If Rudd does win it will be heartening proof that the cynical pundits who say the hip pocket nerve is the only factor are wrong. Many would like a return to simple decency, and Rudd patently has more of it than Howard. If it’s not a re-run of 1969 and John and Janette are prised out of Kirribilli, the greatest relief for me will still be the end of the morning walks.