Friday, 6 September 2013

ballots in wonderland: down the Abbott hole

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.


  1. Ha!!! What's more, Lewis Carrolls "wonderland" is a very unforgiving place. The big have power, the small do not, hence Alice's eating of the magic mushroom to grow smaller and larger as necessary. Those who can't keep up are left behind. A vision of the future?

  2. No Longer a Subscriber6 September 2013 at 16:31

    It's dissapointing to see a quality blog such as this being corrupted by its author for partisan political purposes. At the very least I would have hoped for slightly more robust and fact based observations. Instead we get this unbalanced rant which seems to be based on populist headlines.

    Stick to the the fact based comical social commentary of old please.

  3. Thanks for the feedback.

    Firstly, I must say that I am by no stretch of the imagination a partisan hack. I do not identify with nor am I a member of any one party, and while (like anyone) I have particular principles I stand by, I genuinely consider myself a swinging voter who decides on fact rather than ideology.

    I understand that you have no basis to believe or disbelieve me other than this blog, and so all I can do on this point is highlight some of the instances where I've taken a pop at government action/inaction/policy across both sides of politics. While it is true I've had a recent short-term political focus due to the election being current/topical, there's plenty of similar themes and references over the past year or so, including: a dig at the introduction and mishandling of the myki smartcard in Victoria, a reference to a telecommunications project done right hidden within my "places to sit" post, various foolish decisions made in colonial times, multiple jabs at Australian over-regulation and paternalism, and, of course, my post prior to this one, where I took a solid pop at the ALP's asylum seeker policy (a disgusting, populist policy that I consider to be contrary to the spirit, and possibly the letter, of the UN Refugee Convention/Protocol, and a policy that is main reason why I am still undecided as to where my vote is going tomorrow morning).

    I understand that the idea of an Opposition is to check, balance, and oppose, but in my mind a party seeking government must also outline a positive plan forward for the nation, and I believe the Coalition has done an absymal job of that in this campaign. This, therefore, is not a Labor piece, it is an anti-Coalition piece — because I feel that the full release of policy costings less than 2 days prior to the election is disingenous and obfuscatory; I feel that it is hypocritical to bang on about budgeting and restraint while not releasing costings, outlining a plan for surplus, and proceeding with a grossly expensive parental leave scheme; I feel like the Coalition's NBN is a hackneyed cut-down of a much-needed infrastructure project, done for the sole purpose of disagreement (and I have taken a Masters course on this subject); I feel that it is absurd that Joe Hockey appears on my TV and, with a paternal, benign demeanour, explains how he is going to help less refugees; I feel like the Coalition's refusal to take any initiative or responsibility toward public transport is grossly dangerous to our cities... I could go on, but this is a small box.

    Have I exaggerated a little too deeply here in places? Probably, yes. You've noted that on the whole I try for "comical social commentary", and so while I had a point to make here about the election, I also wanted to chuck in some jokes about fish, children's fantasy novellas, and the Australian "nahh, she'll be right" attitude—and I don't think such humour in this context is really doable without pushing the boundaries a little in what was always going to be a piece solely about Abbott/the LNP (for both size and focus/clarity reasons). Some people have told me they found this funny; you may not, and I accept that.

    Still, it's apparent you've enjoyed this blog in the past, and I appreciate you taking the time to point that out (alongside your criticisms) rather than remaining silent. It's always good to receive comment like this, which is why I'm still sitting at work on a Friday arvo writing you this reply. Hopefully I will see you back again in the future.



    ps: it was either this, a post about how I've shaved 20 minutes off my morning routine, or a post about how much I hate pyjamas. Given the currency of the election and the fact that I have expressed the above opinions in person to many a friend, I decided it would only be natural to do this now, and move back closer to "the usual" very shortly.

    1. In my haste to make my earlier comment, I must admit, I did neglect to observe that, content aside, the post was most certainly in keeping with the witty and well constructed turn of phase for which you are known.

      Lets just agree to disagree on this one. I have happily re-subscribed and your post script leaves me eagerly anticipating your the posts that are in the pipeline.

      (Actually, I had not, and probably would not have, gotten around to deleting my subscription.)


  4. Boy o boy these fat cats sitting up in washington making our decisions for us who's more crazier i want to know them or real crazy people? I'll leave that for the readers to judge..... ;)

  5. Surprises can always excite everyone whenever there is a special occasion or just on ordinary days.TeddyBär

  6. Financial planning is just what it sounds like: another plan. And there are surely plenty of financial surprises happening all the time. Some surprises are big, while others are small.