The forthcoming federal election has become a peculiar, surreal trip down memory lane, more akin to a nightmarish episode of This is Your Life than a serious political contest. At this point I’d really like to see the whole thing performed onstage as a knowing folly, a nudge-nudge farce, and preferably by hand puppets. No, really. I think as a puppet show it would make perfectly entertaining viewing, but as a federal election, it’s verging on the obscene.
Both sides have seen a curious roll call of past leaders romp onto centre stage, oftentimes swallowing their candidate’s spotlight whole. On the Labor side, early on we had Bob Hawke and Paul Keating continuing their little long-running uber-ego spat, and I can just see them slapping at each other with their hand-sewn felt fingers. Now we have to contend with Punch himself, Mark Latham, such an oafish boorish pest I just want to swat him – or better yet, see him permanently yanked off the stage by one of those great long hooks. He’s such a slut for a column inch or pixel that he’s yet again managed to spray the whole audience, and now the entire country is in need of a good wash. And Kevin. You poor bastard. First an humiliating rumble with Judy, I mean, Julia, then a gall bladder operation, and now they’re trotting you out like Monty Python’s Black Knight. It’s merely a flesh wound! Come on, then! Stabbed to political death by his own party, now those slimy, engorged leeches are desperately trying to revive their fallen Caesar, prodding him back to his mark, mopping up the blood, and starting up the band. I honestly don’t know how he can stand it, except to imagine that, like me, the thought of Tony Abbott as Australia’s next PM is keeping Kevin Rudd up at night.
Which brings us to the Liberal Party Cabaret. John Howard’s back for another rant, reminding one and all that the current leader of the Opposition was never anything so much as Howard’s personal finger puppet, and we’ve also heard a bit from the Abbott and Costello show, with good ‘ole Pete, the PM who never was because someone forgot to sew on his balls, taking umbrage at the Labor Party’s quoting of him on the pesky question of Abbott’s economic credentials. CUE LAUGHTER.
Then, bursting out from behind the curtain to join the other ghosts of leaders past comes Andrew Peacock, who doesn’t even live in Australia anymore but still wants a piece of the limelight, which airtime he uses to declare, “You’d need to be pretty handicapped not to appreciate this Government is dissolving before your eyes daily.” Sophisticated argument, isn’t it? Needless to say, the disabled voters of Australia are rather insulted by the suggestion that they’re unable to follow the show.
But let’s not forget the two Malcolms, slightly less amusing and much less beloved of their respective generations than The Two Ronnies, it’s true, but for my money probably still the only two people in the Liberal Party worth listening to about anything. Actually, Malcolm Fraser has left the party in disgust and disillusionment over its increasingly arch conservative character, so he’s not a current member of the chorus, but he did make his moment onstage count when he refused to endorse Tony Abbott, and suggested the current Liberal Party is not ready to lead. Sock it to ‘em, old boy. Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, is currently on the hustings for his own seat of Wentworth, but every time he opens his mouth, he only succeeds in reminding this voter at least of what might have been. That the Libs went for Tony over Malcolm says too many disturbing things about the party’s direction to name. I’ll give you just one that matters to me: Abbott, like that pathetic, fawning monarchist before him, that great and despicable Referendum saboteur John Howard, is committed to the patent, appalling absurdity of Australia’s ongoing subjugation to the Queen of England. Malcolm Turnbull – and this, it must be said, is something he shares with Labor leaders past and present – believes in an Australian Republic, and so do I.
I can’t wait for the curtain to drop on this embarrassing debacle. It’s an expensive flop, we know that already, but I almost can’t bear to wonder who’ll be left standing on opening night.