As a rule, I find elections exciting. Yes, I know this makes me seem terribly geeky, but hey – Antony Green is a cult hero. At least I hope he is, because otherwise the shrine in the corner of my lounge room might seem a little freaky.
But this election has been like watching paint dry, if the paint had been advised by head office to defer drying until 2013 for fear of frightening Western Sydney. The debate last Sunday was so dull and formulaic that I was left hoping Tony Abbott would repeat his move from his 2007 Press Club contest with Nicola Roxon, and just start randomly swearing.
Yesterday, something interesting finally happened, though no thanks to either party. As Annabel Crabb pointed out yesterday, the drama over the leaking made for a compelling political whodunit, and suddenly signs of life burst out everywhere. In the Australian, Julia Gillard was hailed for finally displaying her true personality. And when he grilled the Treasurer about the intrigue last night, Kerry O’Brien achieved the unprecedented feat of making viewers hang on Wayne Swan’s every word.
Days like yesterday are blessed relief to those like myself who are compelled to watch the campaign like a Hawke telemovie. And so I’ve prepared a list of ways the campaign could be made more interesting, in the hope of inspiring another day like yesterday.
1) Higher stakes: You’d think a contest for the nation’s highest office besides cricket captain would be inherently interesting, but Julia Gillard disproved that the moment she called the election and used the phrase “moving forward” 35 times. I’d like to see both candidates conduct a second debate while strapped to parallel conveyor belts, moving slowly but surely towards twin spinning buzzsaws of death, or alternatively, Stephen Fielding.
2) Another spill: Since the change of government, politics has only been interesting when there’s an unexpected leadership challenge. With both Labor and the Coalition (twice) having done their bit, it’s clearly the Greens’ turn. Was Christine Milne’s appearance on Q&A this week part of some devious plot against Bob Brown? If the Greens want to be allowed into the debate like a major party, they’d better start acting like one.
3) More Barnaby: Not only is Tony Abbott somehow resisting his natural instinct for gaffes, but Barnaby Joyce is flying under the radar too. How has he been able to resist the spotlight, the one time every three years when the nation turns its eyes to politics? It’s a disaster for those of us who love our politicians long on amusing language and short on common sense. With Barnaby out of the picture, who will undermine our crucial trade relationship with China?
4) More flirting: Tony and Julia had their own rom-com going for a while there, as this video illustrates. Now we’re in the difficult second act, where there’s tension. We need a plot twist that brings them unexpectedly back together – perhaps they could get stuck in a lift or something?
5) A Royal Commission into the leaks: All former Cabinet members (and Rudd staffers) would be summoned, one by one, to answer uncomfortable questions posed by prosecutor Kerry O’Brien. To add further viewer interest, the presiding officers would be the nation’s highest judicial authority, the MasterChef judges.
6) A dissing battle: In the climax of Eminem’s 8 Mile, he faces off against another rapper in a freestyle contest to slag one another off. In many ways, it was like Sunday’s debate if it had been set to a hip-hop beat, or in any way spontaneous. A dissing battle would remind Abbott of his days in the boxing ring, while Julia Gillard would find it easy to achieve lyrical flow – all she’d need would be twenty rhymes for “moving forward”. Like “bored”.
7) A new Joh for PM campaign: Has there ever been a more amusingly absurd notion in Australian politics than the idea that Queensland’s genial dictator could make the transition to federal politics? The guy couldn’t even win in Queensland without dodgy electoral laws. And his capacity to mangle the English language made Kevin Rudd look concise. I know he’s long dead, but you can’t tell me there’s not another fruitloop lurking somewhere on a Queensland peanut farm, don’t you worry about that.
7) More bitter ex-leaders: Speaking of dissing battles – every time Mark Latham opens his mouth, Labor takes another embarrassing hit. While Hawke and Keating’s spat stole the limelight for a whole week. John Hewson’s done his bit on Gruen Nation, but why are John Howard, Alexander Downer, Brendan Nelson and Andrew Peacock remaining silent when they could be hurling bile at their former party right when it’s trying to look competent? And people say Labor’s the party with internal discipline.
8) Time travel: It’s just been revealed that it might be scientifically possible without creating paradoxes that destroy the space-time continuum, so why can’t we go back to last Saturday and cancel the debate? While Tony Abbott could do what he’s been yearning for since 2007, and go back to the days of the Howard Government. Also, Labor might want to go back on their decision to dump Kevin Rudd before much longer.
10) A decent policy: Perhaps one of the leaders could suggest something meaty, with a bit of vision, that confidently articulates a bright future for Australia and outlines the far-sighted innovations that will take us there.
That last one was a bit of a big ask, I know. So instead, how’s about another leak?