Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Australian election blast - 5 days that John Howard would probably like to lock up in the desert, with some refugees, kids, and an airline hostess.

There's plenty of reasons why one means to blog but does not get to it - computer meltdowns, lack of closure, the desire for perfection, Al Qaeda in the Internet (new group, seriously). So I'm going to cut straight through the bullshit with a very quick and likely unlinked (visit Typing is not activism... by Friday if you NEED links) rantagious update. About what? The Australian election.

We're about 88 hours (who's counting?) from the close of polling booths on Saturday. That will hopefully be followed soon after by the sound of a door slamming shut on John Howard's burgerlicious haemorrhoids as he LEAVES THE BUILDING!! Everything, apart from the Murdoch-owned press, is pointing toward a change of government. There has been no flash in the pan swing away from Howard. Rather, as soon as there was a viable federal opposition leader in place late last year, the polls swung and have stuck in a range of between 42-46% support for the government, 54-58% for the opposition under Kevin Rudd.

Particularly interesting has been the past 5 days. Typically, this would be the point when the Labor Party (opposition) would find a way to self-destruct. This time, however, the Liberal Coalition (conservative right wing government) has been utterly battered.

Late last week, an auditor-general's report was released detailing how a grants program designed to support regional projects had somehow been politically hijacked and distributed in a manner reflecting the need to insure and buy votes in key electorates. Grants adding up to millions of dollars were awarded to first-time applicants whose proposals were incomplete and whose projects had met with departmental criticism. They happened to be located in marginal electorates. This also led to a meltdown from Mark Vaile, the deputy Prime Minister, accusing the auditor-general of - funnily enough - inappropriately playing politics during an election.

The next headline was that John Howard had confirmed that Peter Costello, our even less popular treasurer, would definitely takeover from him about 18 months into the next term of government if they get back in.

This was followed by a lot of noise and finger-pointing over the possibility that cracks were appearing over internal loyalties and allegiances, as well as over the future leadership and direction of the party.

No sooner was a lid on this than the Supreme Court handed down a rejection of a Freedom of Information application that had been before the court for almost two and a half years. Local media had applied for details of governmental discussions about a second wave of industrial relations reforms. The current wave - WorkChoices - follows the American model of industrial relations and is driven by Howard's hatred of unions and Costello's love of a well-behaved work force. Oh yes. And money. They both love money.

WorkChoices is a critical issue in this election as it was introduced without ever having been voted on by the public. After the last election the Coalition government won an unanticipated Senate majority and realized they could rubber stamp everything they'd been wanting to do for the previous 8 years. This latest acceptance by the court that the discussions were internal cabinet materials and therefore not for the public is backfiring for Howard. They have blocked the release the way they wanted to, only to assure people that they are hiding a further wave of reforms - just as the Opposition has been insisting that they are.

And now, the government has truly got into desperation politics. One of their Senators, Andrew Robb, is the kind of douchebag who would fit perfectly into the Bush Administration. In the last 8 hours, he propagated a story that 13 of the Opposition's candidates were legally ineligible to stand for election because they hadn't fully resigned from publicly funded jobs at the time of their applications to be candidates for election.

One of Howard's satanic gifts has been to perfectly time announcements and statements in a way that capitalises on the news cycle. Robb, while equally - possibly more - satanic, lacks this gift. Before tomorrow's front pages went to press, journalists had time to ring the 13 Labor candidates and seek statements regarding this. While one was not contactable, twelve confirmed that their candidatures are indeed valid. Furthermore, both they and the journalists have gone on to point out that this kind of a desperate ploy by the Government is exactly that - desperate.

Reassuringly, Centrebet has Labor odds on to win at $1.28, with Howard's Government paying $3.80. Some lefties have apparently bet a bunch of money on Howard to win so that even if he does, they'll have something to smile about.

The smiliest thing that could possibly happen would be if a change of government is augmented by Howard being shown the door in his own electorate of Bennelong. There, a former ABC investigative journalist with a high public profile, Maxine McKew (rhymes with 'chuck glue') is running for the Labor Party. Despite holding the seat of Bennelong for over 30 years (since the 68-year old stopped living with his mum... to go live with his wife) Howard looks to have a fight on his hands that he is being tipped to lose. He would be the first Australian Prime Minister in almost 80 years to lose his own seat at a federal election - and he'll have bloody well earnt it.

Still... staying on as a backbencher in an opposition party for another three years might be even more punishing.... nah.

My hopes are for a Labor Party win in the Lower House with the balance of power in the Senate to be picked up by the Greens, just btw.