Club Politique by Che Tibby

A bet each way

I hauled my sorry arse out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4.30am yesterday to get to a little town called Hastings out on Western Bay. The housemate bought me a gift voucher to go on a charter boat called Blue Magic, and we were due to cast off at 6.30am. Seen as I've been out of bed at 6.30am almost everyday for the past six months to get the last few chapters of the thesis finished on time, it wasn't toooo much of a systems shock. But damn it was cold.

It being 7 degrees was forgiven once we were out on the Bay though. There's honesty and peacefulness out there. It's hard to say what it is, maybe its something about the greens and greys of the shoreline in the distance, the smell of the ocean water, the sounds of gulls, watching the skipper kill a 2m Gummy Shark with a rubber mallet.

Pity I don't eat shark (too many heavy metals, those things should be classified WMDs).

It was a bit early in the season though and we only brought in one snapper, but I'll be back out on the water again in the New Year when the numbers have picked up. As it is the skipper gave us an extra four hours on the water just because he's a good natured bloke, but sadly the only thing I brought home was a sunburn like no other.

And, it kind of only covers half of my neck/face/behind my ear/one arm? Normally I'd be writing this at small block, a great place over on upper Lygon Street, but today I'll have to make my own coffee so my apoplexy doesn't scare any children.

Despite the disappointing lack of fish, certainly not the fault of Blue Magic, the day was good if not only because of the chance to forget about reading angry bloggers and commentators harping on about the election. I've decided 'that's it'. I'm going for political agnosticism.

Most of the past week has involved persons from either end of the spectrum exchanging fairly useless barbs about the 'triumph of conservatism', the theft of the election through fear, whether it was a mandate for Howard's Iraq policy, and exactly how much of a reaming the unions are in for (although Howard has promised to not forget the little people).

Probably the only really useful find during this reading was a site called troppo armadillo, who seems to present an obviously left, but fairly balanced assessment of current Australian issues.

I also enjoyed that the spend-a-thon only lasted four days before the Treasurer was talking about their viability being in doubt. Four days! Electorate? Suckers...

The thing about all this reading, besides only slightly getting in the way of finishing the final chapter of the thesis’ to first draft, is that it's just plain annoying. I know that partisan commentary is what politics is all about, but if I have to read one more self-referential hawk crapping on in retrospective justification of Iraq I'm buying a sniper rifle myself.

My final word on this partisanship has to be to Janet Albrechtsen, who gave us this wonderful little quote on the rise and rise of Howard.

While our left-wing cultural warriors in the media are crying foul and wanting to elect a new people, the rest of Australia dispatched a powerful message on Saturday. Conservatism is cool.

Bad news Janet, conservatism may be many things, but it certainly isn't cool. Conservatism is like a rubber. Something we both put up with to help us get to the fun stuff.

Reading all this partisan prevaricating has had a few interesting outcomes though. For starters it has exposed balanced commentators like Hugh McKay, a social researcher who seems to have called the election months beforehand, around the issue of the economy. Unfortunately, my web searching over the past week hasn't turned up any statistics to back up my opinion of his opinion, but it seems that economic stability was the key factor in the election result.

So despite the apparent wailing and gnashing of teeth, barely heard over the sounds of triumphal grandstanding, we'll have to wait till the polls come in and we can make a rational assessment of the results.

If it was the economy then the election result brings into question the whole 'left-right' split we seem to have become so used to. Once upon a time politics could be characterised as pretty simple, the left represented 'the worker' and the right represented 'business'. But as the seasoned commentator Paul Kelly indicates, things just aren't cut and dry any more. The classic example being used here is timber workers cheering Howard.

Much like the situation in New Zealand, the incumbent Government is largely there because they're the ones delivering the consumer goodies, and the opposition can't seem to get enough traction in issues to dislodge them (even taking into account leadership issues and the way this discredits a party).

The curious thing is the way that New Zealand and Australia are in essentially the same economic position, but have different types of government that would have been at different ends of the spectrum under the old system. It appears that being a good economic manager is the key prerequisite for governance, even if that economic success is actually the result of globalisation, but if you have it you can then sneak your social policy in as a rider?

And leaves me wondering, who in the hell wants to live in a world run by economists?

It could be worse though, the other interesting development is the rise of the Family First Party (FFP). Although them gaining space in the Senate seems to have been mostly the product of a glitch in 'the system'. I heard on TV that only 2% of the party’s votes were directly for them, the remainder being through Australia's weird proportional representation rules.

Having recently seen a documentary called With God on Our Side about the Evangelical movement in the US, the most famous member being George W. Bush, I was a little alarmed at the prospect of this party getting into the Senate.

This was however till I heard, heard mind you, that the party enjoys fairly progressive policies on things like Aboriginal reconciliation, asylum seekers etc. So, this would suggest that they aren’t strictly ‘right-wing’. Suggesting that the old split is again, irrelevant.

They've also been favourably compared with the United Future Party in New Zealand, so the only question will be how they'll fair without a political mover and shaker like Peter Dunne at the helm. Time will tell.

As it happens, only a few minutes ago I found out that the Coalition may be heading for the first outright majority in the Senate since Malcolm Fraser. With the (rumoured) two FFP members, Howard is tipped to have almost unprecedented power to reform pretty much whatever he wants.

Yup. Political agnosticism. Can’t bear myself to back ‘the winners’, and too scared to stick up for ‘the losers’ in case I’m ‘discredited’ for dissenting from the big boys.