Australia’s election is approaching, and the campaign is even more moronic than one might expect. We asked our Australian correspondent Georgia Lewis (who actually lives in London, and also blogs here) to stop drinking Fosters for a moment, and explain what is going on; she told us that one blog post would not be enough to summarise the stupidity; so here is the first half of Georgia’s Aussie election report.
At the time of writing, I am reflecting on the very real possibility that this time next week, opposition leader, Tony Abbott will be the new Prime Minister of Australia. This is the man who rose to global fame after former Prime Minister Julia Gillard tore him a new one over his ongoing, tiresome misogyny and the video went viral. He has also amused people around the world this year by saying “suppository of wisdom”. Abbott is leader of the Australian equivalent of the Tories, the mis-named Liberal Party.
The current Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd. He is also the former Prime Minister. He defeated John Howard in 2007. Then Julia Gillard ousted him as leader. Then he ousted her this year in a bid to not lose the election quite so badly. Rudd represents the Labor Party. Yes, that’s how we spell the party name in Australia. I think it’s to detract attention away from the party’s union connections but it’s not very effective. Maybe Ed Milliband could try that here?
But here’s the thing about the Australian election this year – the two leaders are not actually morons. Not in the academic sense anyway. Abbott was a Rhodes scholar and the equally well-educated Rudd speaks Mandarin-Chinese. And it is pretty obvious what they are both doing when it comes to trying to win the September 7 election. They are appealing to morons.
When it comes to policy on asylum seekers – “boat people” – there is no real difference between the two parties. Both have lurched so far to the right on this one, it won’t matter who you vote for. Either way, if people arrive in leaky boats seeking asylum in Australia, there will be no change to mandatory detention, there will be further reliance on under-resourced neighbouring countries for “processing” and nobody is willing to allow asylum seekers currently in detention to be allowed to work while they wait for a decision on refugee status. Abbot’s “Stop the boats!” rhetoric is proving effective. He knows it is simplistic and populist just as Rudd knows that as more progressive approach isn’t necessarily a vote winner either.
I do not know of any Australians who have been personally inconvenienced by asylum seekers in any way, shape or form, but this does not stop the border control fear-mongering from being successful for both leaders.
Abbott has also achieved bonus fear about the Australian economy. That’d be the one that survived the global financial crisis probably better than any other nation on the planet. But apparently it will all be so much better under an Abbott government. This is when his moron behaviour starts to creep in. Among his fine examples of promised economic management is a very generous maternity leave scheme – except that it will be paid for with a 1.5% levy for all companies with a turnover of $5 million or more. These same companies have been given a tax cut. Of 1.5%. Genius!
Christopher Pyne, the likely education minister in an Abbott government, told Lateline, the Aussie equivalent of Newsnight, that Australia had become “obsessed” with class size and that Australia should look towards countries where schools with class sizes of 40 were not unusual as an example.
So the man who will probably be the next Education Minister has no issue with a policy that will create more idiocy in Australia. Brilliant! Still, more morons is probably a good way to ensure these buffoons stay in power. Keep ‘em dumb!
And speaking of dumb, Tony Abbott can’t help but let his religious views creep into policy either. When he was Health Minister, he was no fan of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Despite being a prolife Roman Catholic, he wasn’t sure Australia needed a vaccine that would save the lives of women. Of course, this did not stop him crowing about it being finally included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme even though this happened because of pressure from the likes of then-Prime Minister John Howard.
Abbott’s views on Gardasil and, in turn, women, are more accurately reflected in this comment he made on the vaccine: “I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated, maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.”
Just in case he looked like he was appealing a bit too much to the anti-science, off-the-wall, Jenny McCarthy-endorsed anti-vaccine lobby, he quickly qualified that statement with a hurried addendum: “If there is a national immunisation programme, I certainly will be making sure that they get vaccinated [with Gardasil] under the programme.”
But, let’s face it, he already opened his damn fool mouth to reveal he thinks that it’s a slut shot – just one jab and your daughters will be instant harlots!
In contrast, apart from an embarrassing incident in which Rudd was caught on camera picking wax out of his ear, he is not quite as gaffe-prone as Abbott. Then again, he does not wear his religion on his sleeve and, unlike Abbott, he did not tell the media that one of the party’s candidates for the election has sex appeal. But that has been regarded as a storm in a C-cup and, hell, it’ll probably make him appear more like a knockabout Aussie bloke to the electorate.
Instead, Rudd has a reputation for being ruthless and difficult to work with – personally, that still sounds better than sexist and a bit creepy, but the Australian voters will probably disagree with me next weekend. And it seems Rudd is now weary – resigned to electoral defeat, unsure what his future holds. That will depend on how badly Labor loses the election. Absurd asylum seeker policy aside, Rudd has not run a particularly moronic campaign. It has had predictable flashes of populism designed to appeal to morons but in a head-to-head battle for supreme idiocy, Abbott keeps coming up trumps.
In the last week of campaigning, Abbott got in one last blast to appeal to the redneck voters. He spoke out about how he finds the burqa “confronting” and “not the sort of attire I would like to see widespread in our streets”. This was in defence of one of his candidates, Ray King, saying it was a “sign of oppression.”
Now, technically, a burqa is actually a mask worn across the nose, made of either stiffened cloth or metal, that does not cover the entire face. King actually mean “niqab” but, hey, all that Muslamic clothing looks the same! It is not compulsory for Australian women, Muslim or otherwise, to cover their whole faces, it is not a common sight in Australia, and neither party has a policy on Islamic attire but I guess it’s good to know where two men stand on this issue apropos of nothing.
King also gets a few more bonus moron points for the time he proposed a policing system whereby suspects would be injected with satellite-trackable microchips that would be fired from a “high-powered sniper rifle.”
Abbott’s nuanced take on the situation in Syria is that is “baddies versus baddies.” With insights like that, he will have so much to offer on the world stage in the coming months if he wins the election. Which I am pretty sure he will. Moron watchers of the world should be on red alert – things can only get dumber Down Under.