Magically, human action (voters voting) has intersected with intangible reality (a cynical campaign) to manifest in statistical justice — the hung parliament expresses pretty exactly the public’s disenchantment with same-old politics. On the night Julia Gillard couldn’t see the flames for the smoke, advising that ‘the people have spoken and it’s going to take a while to determine exactly what they said.’ The next day she got a little smarter:
‘I’ve heard the voice of the Australian people in this election campaign — I think that they have expressed that voice very clearly. I think Australians are saying to us that they want to see a change in the business of politics, the way politics is conducted.’
That still sounds like longwinded spin-fudging. Julia, let me help — we said this, quite precisely: We don’t like either of you lot enough to let you govern. There, does that help?
My favourite election writing came from Crikey’s Bernard Keane. On election eve Keane wrote with a prescience born of disgust and hope:
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The best result tomorrow would be a repudiation of the apparatchiks on both sides, but particularly within Labor. A hung Parliament is ostensibly a recipe for instability and uncertainty — one awaits the AFR piece on how a hung Parliament is a “sovereign risk” — and Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter are not exactly my idea of the public policy magi.
But anything that puts the frighteners on professional politicians, and yanks politics back closer to the community that has so unwisely subcontracted its operation, is for the betterment of Australia at this point.
And so we did. How surprising the wisdom of crowds.* (And that the Green vote reached 14% in the Senate and 12% in the Reps indicates a desire for some kind of idealism in politics, not to mention climate change; a nationwide feeling, as the Greens scored a Senate seat in every state.) Now we face a considerable period of mass political engagement — forced, even the disillusioned and dropped-out among us, to consider what it is we have wrought. Good times.
A non-partisan election dinner menu
Aunty and I had planned a little family party, inc. an actual Doctor’s Wife, for an election-themed dinner (see previous meal there). We amuse bouched on her highly delicious and calorific celery sticks embedded with blue cheese, cairns of cucumber slices, cottage cheese and anchovy, blue cheese shortbread diamonds and mouth-blowing chestnut pastry crescents.
The meal proper began somewhere around Labor 66 and LNP 59 with a plate of blanched New Greens. Not a partisan dish, simply nodding towards the forecast Greening of parliament. Asparagus, spinach, broad beans and snow peas, with lemon wedges and little side jugs of olive oil. (Greenswing: 3.6% Reps; 3.9% Sen.) Individual mushroom galettes yummily represented underground concerns. (Actually Aunty just couldn’t help herself.) Of course, we should have done pineapple instead, as the banana benders proved the gorilla in the room. BTW, cheers to Channel Seven for attempting an early re-b(r)anding of the new Green MP Adam Bandt (below).
For the main course we had slow-braised Ox Tail Stew. Sensational: gutsy but subtly flavoured (orange peel notes), it was an inspired punt on Aunty’s part as the donkey vote shot from last election’s 3.9% to 5.6% of votes cast. That’s over 140% increase of donkeys (at over 14 million eligibles, that’s a minimum herd of 780,000 donkeys moseying past the booths). The stew was accompanied by mash (the Anglo-Celt base) and a lettuce salad laced with blood orange and fennel (Med/European inflections). (Update: the final tally is 12 million votes cast; percentage of donkeys still the same.)
The Hung Pavlova
Towards meal’s end the numbers were adding to a mindbending, mouthwatering prospect: we had hung the bastards. In response, my contribution, the Hung Pavlova, was decked in a Yin Yang of blueberries (LNP) and raspberries (Labor — raspberries indeed!); with respective cores of citrus segments (conservative-leaning independents) and green cubes of apple (left-leaning Green/independent). Sweet and tart, insubstantial and brittle. A just dessert.
State of independents: high speed
It was very heartening to hear what the independent “country” magi had to say on National Interest and elsewhere. At the very least they were talking up the idea that it wasn’t about them; it was to do with stable governance. As New England’s Tony Windsor so nicely put it, ‘We’re going to make sure whatever it is it can work, because we’re talking about the government of Australia here, not who won a prize on a night.’
Windsor drew parallels between a hung parliament and conscience voting (30:35 min mark): ‘[A hung parliament] could be a breath of fresh air … the level of speeches and the way the parliament works is a credit to the system when that [conscience vote] occurs, and there is no reason why that shouldn’t occur more often … but we have at the moment is that the executive makes up its mind and tells the backbenchers of the governing party what to do — someone writes the speeches and we sit through boring hours of listening to speeches praising themselves, and the opposition does the opposite … in a hung parliament where people actually have to think about what they’re voting on and make sure that they pay attention might be a better thing in the long run for all of us.’
Music to my ears: both Windsor and Rob Oakeshott pointedly noted communication difficulties with each other and Bob Katter due to dropped calls — all three calling for a serious broadband network as a matter of urgent national importance, not to mention, as per Greens, climate change. Tony Abbott may not be Bill Gates, as he says, but he should just ask his rural acquaintances. They’d love to give him some advice on the necessity of moving Australia forward sometime into the technological future, like, say, 2003.
*Also, of course, the stoopidity of crowds. From Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay: ‘Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.’