On Saturday night I went to see The Melbourne Theatre Company’s final showing of Not Quite Out of the Woods, a fairytale walk through the political park. Now I do love me some Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott bouts, and Sarah Palin and the Tea Party fascinate me to no end, but I will be honest: a lot of the content of the show went over my head.
There was some great albeit long-winded stuff about Japanese whaling, Amanda Vanstone and Silvio Berlusconi, but my favourite part was a satirical take on Media Watch and Crikey.com. And all of these characters were played by only four actors!
Now Tessa Keane, the political protégé who propositioned me with this piece (too many p’s?), didn’t attend the show, but the following couldn’t have come at a better time. Here, a summary of the current state of Australian politics. And, boy, is “not quite out of the woods” right!
It looks like the liberal party, under the ever-watchful eye of neo-conservative megalomaniac Tony Abbott, is gaining significant political momentum. And it makes me want to tear my hair out and throw it at someone. In what world could a Bible thumping, hypocritical, snide, arrogant, former Minister for Health under John Howard (when public dental had a seven year wait list) and who doesn’t believe in climate change, possibly be considered a potential leader in this county? Who would choose such a person to become a candidate?
Well, probably no one, but we are not exactly spoiled for choice right now. Julia Gillard usurped someone who was possibly Labour’s most influential—yet somewhat unstable—leader in decades. And what did she replace him with? Our first ever female Prime Minister, who was uniquely positioned to bring about real, meaningful and much needed political change in this country, opted for mild-mannered, middle-of-the-road politics, which are designed to offend no one, which renders them unable to help anyone. Politics in Australia is being reduced to a game; a sport. A sport that’s not even worth watching, except for the many scandals, like the now opposition leader, and staunch Christian hypocrite, being discovered to have a illegitimate love child, whose mother he would not marry, so the child was adopted out, and then tracked him down years later, only to find that Tony was not the father. Or the first openly lesbian labour politician toeing the company line, and voting against the right of gay marriage. Politicians are most exciting nowadays not when they stand on a soapbox, fighting for a cause which can rally people to the streets, but when they get caught eating their own earwax, sniffing other peoples chairs, or most recently, buying ecstasy tablets from a drug dealer on the seedy side of town. (Not technically a MP this time, just a chief of staff, but you can see where I am going with this.)
My point is that politics has become decidedly non-political, and therefore, in the eyes of many of us, meaningless. The answer to every important question asked of a politician is now an accusation against the opposition about the economy, and their tax reforms. Ideology, however misguided, at least attempted to create a bigger picture in which to frame this thing we call the economy, but current politics would not seek to tame the economy and wield it as a tool for the betterment of us all, it would see us become slaves to it, afraid to change, lest the economy gets hurt. Let me assure you, good politics will not harm the economy, but they could stop it from becoming a runaway train. But I am getting off-topic here.
When did election choices become so difficult? Once upon a time political parties represented an ideology which you could stand behind, knowing their decisions would be in line with that ideology. Now it seems we face the choice between being disappointed by the incompetence of the labour party or, being terrified by the radical mania of the liberals. Third party politics has never been more needed, or more elusive. Australians seem tied to the idea that only two major parties are able to represent them, yet neither is adequately representing the will of the majority of Australians. So I will draw to a close this long-winded and somewhat befuddled editorial, with a single request. Demand your political parties engage in politics. If you cannot understand what politicians are saying, or if they are not saying anything at all, then they are not doing their job. Because the job of a politician is to talk to and for you. Demand wherever you can, and most importantly demand at the poll booth, that they talk for you, saying something worthy of you, and of us all. Demand by not being swayed by fear-mongering, and doomsday accusations against the opposition; demand by voting for only people who say something about what they really are, and what they really represent.