As a foreigner observing our first Federal election we can’t help but wonder if John Howard and his merry band of liberals and nationalists are going to pull this election out of the bag. We can’t stand politics and have a healthy loathing for the men and women that practice it. But politics is a great spectacle, and you can learn something about a people by how much scorn they have for their elected officials.
On the left, you have thinly veiled socialists who threaten to turn over the nation’s labour policy to the unions. They seem to be popular chiefly because they are not John Howard, whose face and eyebrows have become a bit too familiar to Australians over the last few years.
On the right, you have a government riding a China-boom without any real apparent plans to liberalise an economy that’s as regulated as any we’ve seen in Europe. Both parties support a strong government role in national life.
And the public seems to accept this. Indeed, the public, like a well-fed farm animal on a bright summer day in a field full of grass, appears remarkably content, not particularly fussed with anything really, except maybe climate change and the price of petrol and property.
A lunch companion assured us yesterday that Howard is a clever campaigner and that the election is still very much in doubt. Still, one of the signs of the late stages of a boom is a complete indifference to political issues. People simply can’t be asked to care when there isn’t much to worry about.
This lack of attention to politics is a good thing, we admit. If fewer people meddled in public affairs – telling us where to smoke, how much water to bathe with, and what kind of car to drive – the world would be a better place. As it is, we sense Australia becoming more like America each day, full of restrictions, taboos, and lame-brained politicians proposing incremental degradations in freedom. But we could be wrong. We barely understand Americans, and are still getting to know Australians.
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Who will you be voting for? Does it matter? Leave a comment below.