Jump around! Jump around! In the kitchen at the Micro-Parties Party in suburban Perth on Saturday night, they were jumping around. Gals and guys in bright yellow Daylight Savings T-shirts, black with white lettering for Fluoride Free, a pungent coil of odour of ganja coming in the window from the garden. Jump around! The McGowan-slide was on, but in the upper house, the numbers were looking good.
The five-party carousel — each of five micros getting one upper house district in which they get all second preferences — was spinning as the night went on, and the results came in. Looked like it would deliver, three maybe four seats, lock One Nation out altogether. Jump around! Daylight Savings and Fluoride Free were gathered around a formica table, chattering excitedly about the things they would do: 1) ban fluoride and introduce daylight saving; 2) um …
Smell of ganja, sinks full of ice and beer and casks of whoite woine. Jump Around! Finally, I’d cracked it to get back to a student party.
”Hey you’re a journalist …”
“Where’s the Legislative Council?”
“I mean, like is it in an office building somewhere? Think I might need to know …”
“What did you say your name was?” I said, reaching for my … fuck. No notebook. Double fuck. I’d left it at the One Nation Party. I could see it now, Spirax Reporters Notebook, on a table near the bar. That could be embarrassing.
Two hours earlier, I’d been in the sweaty crush around La Hanson, dozens of bodies in orange “One Nation” T-shirts, as she and Colin Tincknell — he’s back! — stood before klieg lights and cameras and did one live cross after another. The crowd around them cheered, waved signs — “Yay Pauline!”, “Go Pauline!” — egged on from the sidelines by James Ashby, in blue-and-white dotted shirt, bug-eyed, jumping up and down, like if he stopped he would cry for a week.
“Yay Pauline! Go Pauline!” the crowd went, again. The Melville Bowling Club, close to Freo but defo not of it, a flat-roofed ’50s structure like a temporary classroom, much added to — a homely, welcoming place.
Standing close, earpieces in, Pauline was in a black-on-white number with an Aubrey Beardsley touch, her taste on these matters at least, impeccable as always, Tincknell in a blue suit. Both in TV pancake make-up, they looked like a couple whose cruise ship had crashed into an Italian seaside town, and were now being interviewed as witnesses. Certainly felt like it. One Nation was on 5% in the lower house, and it was heading south, a result bad beyond anyone’s imagining. “Well Brian/Stacey/Florinda, the preference deal did hurt us,” said La Hanson several times, using the disaster to do a bit of internal politicking. But look at all these people here.
Standing close, I suddenly felt breath on my neck, and a big beer gut pressing into my back.
“Hello mate, you a supporter?”
“Journalist,” I said.
Neck-breath man was joined by another portly guy, to my right side, who also pushed a generous belly in, to box me in, in white fat.
“Crikey, hey?” he said, having no clue what I meant. Having left my press pass in the cab. “How’d you get in.”
“I walked in. You’ve got no security on any of your three doors. Anyone could get in,” I said. I looked around for someone to vouch. Tincknell? Pauline herself? Ah! The Elegant Young Man was standing a couple of people in front, a touch out of his place — in this crowd, his whole body was thinner than most people’s legs. Would just knowing me mozz him? Chastened, he disappeared and returned with a peppy redhead, who gave me an orange wristband, after googling “Crikey!”.
By now Pauline was on her sixth cross. “Wave those signs,” Ashby mouthed, a meat-puppet Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubeman, people behind rocking their signs frantically, like it was a mid-morning supermarket sweepstakes. “Look I really can’t hear you,” said Pauline on the last cross, taking the earpiece out. “We’ve given time to the media, now it’s time to just be with the supporters and have a party.”
“YAY,” the first heartfelt cheer of the night went up.
Reporters broke for their cars. Elegant Young Man checked a couple of figures with the peppy redhead.
“About 23.2%,” she said. “So how do you like Perth?”
“Oh, it’s peachy,” he said, flipping his notebook.
She curled a strand of hair through her fingers: “Are you staying locally?”
“‘Scuse me, I have to file.”
I drifted to the bar, talked to a metro candidate: “How do you get into this?”
“Well just because no one is listening to the people.”
“So what would be the first demand, if you’d got balance of power? What would be the deal-breaker and maker to support a major party?’
His face fell. “Oh there’s so many.”
“What are your basic demands? Demands are what politics is.”
A middy’s worth of time ticked by. Both of us became more embarrassed.
“No, I couldn’t tell you, I’m sorry.”
I made my excuses — “I have to go talk to someone else” — and circulated. I ran into people I’d met on the road that week, decent people, honest people, who didn’t strike me as racist or paranoid. Their main concerns were economic, work conditions, the state, how on Earth it had been shafted after 20 years of boom. Sam Brown, Bunbury candidate, FIFO campaigner drifted into view.
“Gonna stay with the party?” I asked.
“Absolutely. Keep fighting on FIFO.”
“You’re great on FIFO. You’ve got to keep up that fight. You, uh, need to up your knowledge on some of the other stuff. Less googling. More books.”
“I’ve got some government documents …”
“Books, Sam. Read books.”
Elegant Young Man floated up. “I’m heading to the Moon Cafe,” an Art Deco palace in Northbridge, where a cabal of Liberals was meeting. We shared an Uber.
“That redhead …” I said, as we pulled away.
“Yes, she seemed a bit interested in me.” Elegant Young Man took off and polished his tortoiseshell glasses.
“I intimated to her she was barking up the wrong tree.”
“She was in the wrong terrain. She was wandering the Petrified Forest of Argentina with a maple syrup spigot.”
“With radar like that, you’ve got to wonder about the party.”
“You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties, you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties …”
At the Micros shindig — I’d dropped Elegant Young Man at the Moon Cafe, as a venue for a conspiracy, more camp than a UNHCR Syrian border processing centre — and was now beside Glenn Druery, double-denimed (possibly — no notes), and singing the old Jona Lewie song, rocking on his heels.
“If we lock One Nation out, I’ll claim credit, you bet I will. Look, everyone’s here!”
“Where’s Family First?”
“Been and gone. They brought this …” He indicated a pallet of mineral water.
Flux people were logging in online. Daylight Saving and Fluoride Free were still rocking it, hot chicks filling out the black and yellow T-shirts. In the living room, the Liberal Democrats, nerdy boys, in check shirts with button-down collars. The whole place looked like some eugenics experiment Love Camp, except the Liberal Democrats cannot be persuaded to breed in captivity. Or out of it. They make pandas look like studs. If a panda were here, he’d have been cracking on, have his shirt off, swinging it round his head to Bad To The Bone, going to the Lib Dems, “guys, get into it!”.
Lib Dems. People who drink Milo while discussing whether it should be legal to sell heroin in preschools.
“So, the last ride, Preference Whisperer?” I said, trying to think what was incriminating in my lost notebook. “Every upper house is losing the ticket system.”
”Mate, people will always need advice. I’ve got more work than I can handle.”
He clapped his arm round a Fluoridista.
“Looks like you’re in!”
“Yeah, uh, so Glenn, uh … what do we do now?”
Postscript: the micros are on track for two at best. Shooters, not part of the carousel, would appear to have prevailed.