Australia is in the midst of the longest election campaign in my lifetime. I won’t be voting as the Australian Electoral Commission assures me I am no longer on the electoral roll and, as I am living overseas permanently, I won’t be added back any time soon. Still, I keep a close eye on how things back ‘home’ progress on the political front and this year’s campaign has got me almost happy I don’t have to cast a vote.
A quick precis of the last couple of decades of Australian national politics would go something like this:
- Perhaps the worst government since WWII was dismissed by the Governor General, elections called, and a Liberal Party government formed under the fairly weak leadership of Malcolm Fraser.
- After a couple of years the Australian Labor Party are back in office under former union boss Bob Hawke who, along with Paul Keating, make a series of necessary changes to improve things in some areas while running up a bunch of debt, too.
- The voters get sick of the ALP after they gave them one last chance in a close election, and eventually elect some adults to run the country and repay the debt. The Liberals under John Howard do exactly what they promised and run the government effectively for election after election.
- Voters get the impression that running the country must be easy because Howard and his team make it look easy and, in a fit of incoherence, elect Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party.
- Rudd runs the country into the ground with his incompetence, is knifed by Julia GIllard who drives the stake deeper into the heart of the country, and eventually Rudd is back on top when the Labor Party starts looking for a way – any way – to win the election.
- Voters turn back to the Liberal Party to lead them out of yet another Labor Party pickle and put Tony Abbott and his team in charge. The Abbott government doesn’t do much at all to arrest the economic slide or pay back the debt, though they do have a good handle on immigration which helps.
- The Liberal Party gets spooked after a few bad polls and knifes Abbott, replacing him with the good-on-TV-but-politically-basically-ALP-lite Malcolm Turnbull.
- Turnbull calls a double dissolution election.
Yeah, it’s biased but if you wanted neutral you’d be at Wikipedia, right?
The Liberal Party (plus the Nationals, together serving as the Coalition) expect their voters to come out and support Malcolm and his bunch. Given the choice between Liberal, Labor, and Greens, I’d normally line up for the conservative Liberals. The Greens are basically the loony left, the Labor Party simply can’t be trusted, and while the Liberals have let the country down in a few areas, they are still better than the alternatives.
But this year is different.
Electing the Liberal Party of Malcolm Turnbull is essentially the same as announcing that the coup he pulled to depose Tony Abbott is A-OK with Liberal supporters. It would also be sending a message that his left of center policies and anti-conservative stands on everything from climate change to taxes to free speech and foreign affairs is fine, too.
And they aren’t. Not by a long shot.
In other words, voters like me (if I were still eligible to vote) would be left to choose between sending a slightly centrist government back to Canberra or switching for a left of center government by the ALP.
Like I said, I’m almost happy I don’t have to cast a vote because I couldn’t in good conscience vote for anyone on the slate of candidates I’d be given.
Oh sure, there would be a Liberal Democrat candidate I could probably get behind, but they’d have little chance of being seated in the House and so my preferential vote would eventually find its way to one of the major parties. There might even be an independent candidate I could support but, again, there’d be little chance of that independent being seated in the parliament. The way the preferential vote works would mean I’m contributing to the election of someone who shouldn’t be trusted to govern: a Green or an ALP member, or a Liberal who supported knifing the guy that the Australian people put in charge.
This is going to be a long campaign and the final vote won’t take place until July. I’ll be watching from the sidelines with interest and hoping that some liberty minded candidates find their way into the next parliament, but I can’t help but feel that the Liberal Party has shot itself in the foot by imitating the leader-dumping habits of the Labor Party and installing a leader who seems right out of Labor central casting.
If only there was some way Turnbull, Shorten, and the Greens could all lose – now that would be a result I could get behind.