So there are elections going on in countries other than America?
Yes, but they really aren’t quite as interesting.
I don’t know, this one sounds interesting what with a Green versus a some kind of extreme nationalist?
That’s AUSTRIA. I’m explaining AUSTRALIA.
Well, the main thing is we’ve got that joke out of the way early.
And the green won that one in Austria and the crypto-fascist lost. Also his name was Norbet.
OK, so Australia then. Didn’t Australia just have an election?
The last federal general election was in 2013. They have them every three years.
So who won that one?
A quite right wing conservative called Tony Abbot became Prime Minister.
That must have been alarming for liberal Australians?
Technically Abbot was a liberal. The main conservative party is called The Liberal Party.
So the Liberals are conservatives?
Mainly, but parts of the party are more centrist. It’s due to the Coriolis effect.
So Tony Abbot is trying to win another term?
Tony Abbot, the guy you said won the last election.
Oh yeah, him. No, he was dumped as PM last year by his own party.
Nasty – so why was he ousted?
Mainly because he was a bit of an obnoxious git – which is sort of how he got elected in the first place. When he got into power he alienated lots of people, particularly independent senators. That meant he had trouble passing legislation but really the main reason was that he was an obnoxious git.
So they found somebody less obnoxious?
Oh yes indeed. Malcolm Turnbull is suave, well-dressed, rich, handsome, charming and a political moderate much closer to the centre of Australian politics.
He sounds like a dreamboat. So who is the opposition?
Bill Shorten, leader of the Labor Party. Ex-union boss, party machine sort of man, actually a bit dull and lacking in charisma.
Well, that sounds pretty bad . Nice to see US spelling, though.
Australian’s only spell ‘labor’ that way for the labor party. The rest of the time they spell it Labour.
Coriolis effect again, I suppose. Still, Labor must be worried.
They are currently ahead in the polls. Charisma is not a mandatory quality that Australian’s look for in a leader. John Howard served several terms as PM and he has all the charisma of a bank manager.
So the Aussies prefer their politicians to be dull?
Bob Hawke, who was PM through most of the 80’s, had a world record in beer drinking and a talent for colourful language. Paul Keating, who succeeded him, was a debonair lover of fine things with an equally sharp wit. They even made a musical about him.
So what are the big issues of the day?
It’s more what ISN’T the big issue – which is immigration and border protection. Since the turn of this century, Australia has been taking a tough line on asylum seekers arriving by sea. Tony Abbot’s catchphrase at the last election was that he was going to ‘stop the boats’. Both parties have followed policies of sending asylum seekers to offshore processing centres in Pacific nations. While they claim humanitarian reasons for doing so, these centres amount to locking innocent people, including children, up in camps. Riots, hunger strikes, cases of abuse, and people setting fire to themselves have cast this policy in a very nasty light. However, the political vitriol thrown out in past elections has been so strong that neither party thinks they can backtrack on the issue. So, they are both trying to avoid talking about it.
So the one big issue they need to talk about, they won’t talk about?
Yup or at least try really hard not to. That and tax reform. Both parties are very much in favour of tax reform so long as it isn’t any specific tax reform.
That is going to make for a low turnout come election day…
Ah! But, people are required to submit a vote. You can do it by post and you don’t have to fill in anything on your ballot paper but voting is mandatory. The government is keen that people vote. Also, voting is on a Saturday and people sell sausage sandwiches and have cake stalls.
Wait, I like BOTH of those things!
Voting is great in Australia. Because everybody turns up, it has a nice community feel to it.
But the queues to vote must be enormous.
No, why should they be? It’s not like you can’t plan for an election that everybody knows is going to happen.
So is anybody talking about the immigration issue?
Well, the Green Party is. They act as another left of centre party.
Which splits the leftwing vote which is why the liberals who are actually conservatives keep winning?
No…Australia uses Alternative Vote (aka Instant Run-off Voting, aka Australian Ballot) for the lower house and other proportional systems for the upper house of parliament (The Senate). So people can vote for a minor party 1 and then maybe a major party 2 and so on.
So it’s a three party system?
Technically a four-point-something party system. The Liberals are in a permanent coallition with The National Party, which is a pro-rural/farming party. The leader of the National Party is Barnaby Joyce who was the guy who threatend to euthanise Johnny Depp’s dogs. He is also Deputy Prime Minister – which is a role whose purpose is to give the leader of the National Party something to do.
There are also a heap of very minor parties that sometimes win seats in the Senate – such as the Motor Enthusiasts Party.
OK, you are making things up now.
I wish I were.
So what is the bottom line on all this?
2 July everybody votes and then everybody works out the mess the next day.
But what if somebody awful becomes Prime Minister?
Prime Minister of Australia is not a job which comes with much job security…PMs tend to change more often than Australia has elections.