I am reminded of British headlines in November 2004 following the re-election of George W Bush. The front page of The Guardian's G2 section was all black with two very small words in the middle. 'Oh, God', they said. I still have a copy in my loft back home: it reflected exactly how I felt. The Daily Mirror was less subtle: 'How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?', it screamed. Inside, it summed up Dubya's platform simply for its readers: 'Mr Bush opposes abortion and gay marriage, doesn't give a stuff about the environment, is against gun control and believes troops should stay in Iraq for as long as it takes.'
We Europeans were staggered that Bush could have been elected for a second term. A friend in Boston, prior to the election, had expressed his intention to move to Canada if this came to pass. (He didn't.) Before last week's election in Australia, a friend in Victoria half-joked about upping sticks if Tony Abbott became the next prime minister. I hope she's still here, but I'd understand completely if she'd left. I fancy New Zealand myself. Last Sunday I couldn't do online news, television or radio. Oh, gods, indeed.
It's been a funny old week.
I have never really understood the concept of floating voting. The idea that you would give the other guys a fair go, just for a change. Surely if you truly believe in a set of core values, it can't be OK if a different set is used as the basis for policy-making for a few years, can it? Especially if the impact is of global significance, not just backyard.
The PM-elect has yet to hold a proper press conference. The LNP seem to be taking up the reigns of power without blabbering to the media. This has been interpreted by their mates at News Corp as an attempt to calm the political brouhaha. Presumably so they can claim to have brought peace following the turmoil of Labor's last gasp.
There are some pretty weird, even disturbing results around the country, but I take heart from the unlikely survival of Sophie Mirabella, one of the least personable members of Abbott's Opposition Cabinet. My opinion is not based upon her notorious apparent reluctance to help a fellow panelist on Q&A when he became ill, but her unpleasantly dogmatic demeanour when presenting the LNP's policies. And I welcome the trouncing of the extraordinarily inept western Sydney candidate Jaymes Diaz who failed to articulate even one measure in his party's six-point-plan to stop the boats. His electorate bucked the national trend, with a 3%+ swing to Labor.
(I must digress to wonder why parents burden their offspring with variations on a theme that condemn them to a lifetime of having to spell their name – Ashleigh, Janeice, Michel, Jakob etc.)
From now on self-publicist Clive Palmer is bound to call even more press conferences than he did before being (nearly*) elected to the House of Reps to represent Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast. This is where he has his dinosaur park and his golf resort and other institutions immodestly bearing his name. He picked up 5.56 per cent of the lower house votes nationwide and 11.31 per cent in Queensland. This is too many for me to be able to persuade myself that his large number of employees were voting for him, especially those at his nickel refinery who each received a Mercedes or a Fijian holiday in 2010. No, I have to conclude that there are even more stupid/floating/protest voters out there than I previously thought possible.
Just about the only things that amuse me about Clive Palmer are his ridiculous statements. He has accused Greenpeace of working with the CIA to destroy the Australian coal industry; declared Campbell Newman unfit to govern Queensland because he is bipolar; and denounced Rupert Murdoch's ex-wife as a spy for China.
Proportional representation in the Senate means that numerous 'micro' parties may frustrate Tony Abbott's attempts to pass controversial legislation through the upper house. In theory, this should be a good thing, but some of those parties only have one policy, and are waiting to know for sure whether they will claim a seat before formulating their views on run-of-the-mill issues such as health, education and the budget deficit. Some of them polled an extremely small proportion of the primary vote – less than a quarter of a per cent in one case. Welcome to Canberra the Australian Sports Party, the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and Family First, as well as Palmer United and Katter's Australian Party.
This was made possible by a new phenomenon in Federal elections, the 'preference whisperer' as The Guardian has nicknamed political consultant Glenn Druery. He advised the minor parties how to make preference deals to maximise their chances of bagging a Senate seat.
And finally a word about Bob Katter, whom I wrote about, perhaps a little unkindly, three years ago. Since then I have grown quite fond of The Man in the Hat. A bit eccentric he certainly is; and you may not agree with many of his policies; but I believe you cannot doubt for one minute his absolute dedication to the constituents of Kennedy (in remote Far North Queensland) which covers more than twice the area of the United Kingdom and is an awful long way away from either the state or national capital. I was saddened when it looked as if Katter was about to lose his seat, having suffered a swing against him of 16 per cent. Now it's thought he will survive, after preferences. He is pure Queensland, and I realise Parliament is a better place for people just like him.
That wouldn't make me a floating voter, however, should I eventually get the chance to participate in an Australian election.
* By the end of 17 September, the result in Fairfax has still not been called. Palmer leads by only 64 votes, which makes a recount inevitable. He is alleging vote rigging.
This post was last updated on 17 September 2013