How to survive Election 2016

Brace yourself, Australia. The 2016 federal election is roughly seventy days away, and if you want to know how long that is, it’s several weeks longer than your longest holidays in high school – even if you went to a private school.

It’s going to be gruelling even if you adore politics – even junkies can overdose. Several respected political reporters will be reduced to gibbering heaps by campaign’s end, and several commentators will be transformed from gibbering heaps into reasonable people.

If you aren’t into politics – that is, if you’re normal – it will be like being slowly having your teeth pulled, without anaesthetic, while the world’s most boring person reads statistical manuals to you. And because the Commonwealth for some reason doesn’t fund dental care, you’ll have to pay for the pleasure.

This election is going to be so awful that it’s entirely possible the electorate will decide to vote out Malcolm Turnbull simply because he subjected them to it, only to change their mind a month later and back Bill Shorten, only to decide he’s terrible and conclude that the only option is anarchy, or in other words a coalition Palmer-Lambie-Muir-Leyonhjelm-Hinch government where every decision has to be unanimous.

The only possible way to survive is by following this guide.


If you can, do. And if you can’t afford to travel for the next 70 days, it’s entirely possible that the agony of this campaign will qualify you for refugee status on the basis of avoiding physical suffering. The great thing is that wherever you go in the world, nobody cares about Australian politics, so except for the minor news item when the result is known, you’ll be completely insulated.

Go to jail

I’m not condoning you committing a crime and getting locked up – indeed, it would be a crime for me to do so, and I’m hoping to exercise the previous option. I’m just noting that if you were on the inside, you wouldn’t hear much about the election, especially in solitary confinement.

Is it worth it so you can avoid Election 2016? Only you can judge. Along with the actual judge in your trial, obviously.

Become an expert

In this era of 24-hour news and endless websites full of insta-analysis, the need for pundits exceeds the number of people who are willing to pay attention to Australian politics, let alone who can discuss it competently.

Just speak confidently about ‘reduced quotas’ and ‘preference exhaustion’ whether you understand them or not – the chances of getting busted are very slim – and you could find yourself on The Drum, Australian Agenda, any number of radio stations and websites or even election night. Just don’t think it’ll make you a celebrity.

Offer to test virtual reality headsets

The other day I got to test some virtual reality headsets that take you to the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef. That was stunningly beautiful in its own right, but the added bonus is that with those luscious images near your eyeballs and David Attenborough’s voice in your ears, there’s absolutely no way that anyone will be able to talk to you about negative gearing. It’s almost worth getting it permanently attached.

Become a very fast voiceover artist

Very few people can talk quickly enough to deliver a line like “written and authorised by Brian Loughnane, Liberal Party Canberra” in roughly one second (see the end of this now charmingly retro video for an example). If you can do this, you’ll have an abundance of work every three years.

Get involved in polling

They tend to need extra staff over the election period – but when entertainment is in short supply during a long and arduous campaign, you can also prank them. Tell them that you plan to vote Pastafarian, and that your preferred prime minister is Supreme Leader Snook. Or maybe boost Ricky Muir’s primary vote so he feels good about his popularity, even if it means he might come crashing back down to earth on election day.

Become a campaign supplier

There’s one group in our community who lick their lips especially lasciviously whenever an election’s called – corflute manufacturers. Two-and-a-half years in every three, they do it tough, but whenever election time comes around, they get a cash bonanza.

Sausage manufacturers also do well, as do makers of bunting and tiny pencils. And if there’s a change of government, or just of prime minister as is more common nowadays, it’s easy to make a quick buck selling shredders in the ministerial wing. Suppliers of marble tables should also stand by.


I don’t mean run screaming, although that’s certainly an option. I mean run for office.

But only if you run for the Senate. Not only is this election (probably) a double dissolution which makes getting elected twice as likely, there’s a brand new electoral system that nobody except Antony Green understands. (Indeed, he’s argued that a DD will leave the government worse off in the Senate, which may show that the government themselves haven’t quite figured out the sums.) And that means everyone else will suck up to you, just in case you’re elected.

Just pick a party name that’s likely to lure at least some identifiable bloc of the electorate to vote for you, like the Free Nachos For All Party or the Make Pirating Game Of Thrones Legal Alliance or the Death Penalty For Turtleneck Wearers Team, and you’ll be courted for weeks, except by the Greens in the latter example.

The numbercrunchers will worry that you’ll get the balance of power, because who knows how things will work out? Not certain incumbent crossbenchers, it seems, several of whom probably just voted to put themselves out of a job.

Take a genuine interest in the governance of this great nation

This is of course the best way to cope, and involves the minimum inconvenience, because you can go about your life while devouring much of the deluge of daily content, analysing the policies and personalities that make our democracy tick and deriving satisfaction from the contest of ideas in Canberra. Unfortunately of all the options listed here, this is the hardest to achieve.

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