It's a familiar scene. You walk into a restaurant, be seated, and gaze up at the chalkboard menu on the wall:
Mushroom risotto: $20
Steak (cooked to order): $30
Fish of the day: market price.
"Market price"!! Oh no. A cold sweat begins to take hold. Instinctively, your hand reaches down and slaps your pockets to ensure that your wallet is still in fact firmly ensconced within the fabric of your trousers, and has not been deftly lifted by the interested-disinterested waiter that greeted you upon entry—because "market price", as you have learned from past unfortunate dining events, is shorthand for "order this fish, and you enter a twilight zone of strange and unintended consequences, where you will cop a financial rogering so severe that you will actually be able to turn down Big Issue vendors in good faith".
And so, deciding that "market price" is territory best left to the uninformed buffoon or those with putrid amounts of wealth, you make a wise choice and order the steak.
If only the Australian public were as wise. For if you believe the polling data, tomorrow, on the 7th of September, millions of Australians will march into polling stations across the nation and order the market price fish by voting in Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National Coalition.
Here is a political party with the audacity to release its (incomplete) policy costings a little over 30 hours before election day—because who would need to know how much this fish costs?
Here is a political party that bangs on about budgetary surpluses but refuses to say when it will deliver one—because who cares if this fish actually arrives for dinner or not?
Here is a political party that has famously ducked questions regarding the extent of its austerity, or "waste reduction" measures—because who cares if you choke just a little as you eat your un-boned fish?
But unlike restaurant fish, which in the end presents well and usually turns out to be quite palatable, the Coalition fish once elected will instead proceed to slap the general populace across the face for the first few months, leaving little else but a slimy, scaly residue over such long-lost dreams as world class broadband, social equality, environmental leadership, and the shared wealth of the mining boom, before settling down in a gentle rot for at least six years of stinking up the nation (I say this because while federal elections are held every three years, Australia has not had a one-term federal government since the Scullin government was ousted in 1931).
Yes, at least six years. And yet the Coalition's votes are expected to roll in. Cast your ballots—we're off to Wonderland.
So as Australia begins to stick its collective head down the Abbott-hole, the memory of old Lewis Carroll begins to stir (for a refresher, Wikipedia has a good Alice in Wonderland plot summary here).
What do we see down the Abbott-hole?
We have a shrunken, cowed Alice drowning in a sea of her own tears as shadow treasurer Joe Hockey pops on TV and explains with a straight face how he is going to save money by helping less people.
We have a beautiful yet inaccessible garden that Alice just can't seem to reach, as it turns out Rupert Murdoch and friends have changed the lock on its door.
We have the Mad Hatter's infinite tea party where time stands still and nothing really gets done, as nobody has bothered to build first-rate telecommunications infrastructure.
We have the grinning Cheshire Cat, appearing and disappearing like the Coalition's 11th hour
now-you-see-it-now-you-don't internet filter policy, with the upwards, twisted grin always remaining, as if to say "surprise, Australia! Now we're really gonna mess youse lot up".
We have the Mock Turtle, who is very sad because he used to be a real
turtle until Tony decided that the Mock Turtle was just indulging in the
"fashion of the moment".
We have live flamingos and hedgehogs (or perhaps brolgas and echidnas) being used in a macabre game of croquet for political ends as the Coalition claws back Australia's conservation and wilderness areas.
We have the very entrance to the Abbott-hole somewhere in Melbourne's Royal Park, down which a White Rabbit scampered holding an unreleased business case for an unwanted and unelected road tunnel, dragging down to hide under the earth the future of public transport in Australia.
And we have schoolyard bully Tony Abbott as the Queen of Hearts. "Off with
his head!", he screams at the slightest provocation, displaying the
skill with which he harnessed the Australian public's great reactionary
pastime of saying "nahhhh, we're not having that!" to great effect with
the Coalition's campaign strategy: "do you see this fella over here? Do
you see the Prime Minister? Do you want him? Nahhh! Nahhhh!"
But the "nahhhh" brigade aren't all bad news. In 1925, our great land of "do as we say" joined the mandatory voting club (now 10 members strong!) in an attempt to force these folk into action.
And for this, we should be thankful. Because now, in a few days time—thanks to mandatory voting—you will be able to walk down the street, point with confidence at almost half the people you see, and exclaim:
"you're all a bloody pack of flamin' galahs",
before you stick your head right back down the Abbott-hole.