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Wake me up when the election is over

  • 10 May 2019


In his press conference calling an election Scott Morrison declared: 'If you vote for me, you get me, if you vote for Bill Shorten, you get Bill Shorten.' This seems a rather obvious observation (putting aside the fact that in Australia voters elect their local MP not the prime minister) until you remember this could be the first government in over a decade in which we see a full term prime minister.

In the words of Tony Abbott discovering street libraries for the first time, there are Australians who have 'never seen anything like this before'.

Young voters and migrants who have become citizens since 2007 have little experience of 'stable government'. The feverish speculation that launches on social media whenever there is a whiff of leadership tensions birthed the question 'Is it on?' The obsession with 'on-erism' even sparked a joke that leadership spills are the main national sport, albeit a blood sport.

If Shorten is victorious on 18 May it would require three quarters of the caucus to knife him under the Rudd rule. Similarly, a win for Morrison could only see him removed by a two thirds majority. Only time will tell if these protections are enough to stop a challenge.

On the bigger picture of uncertainty, the election has been a sort of long anxiety spiral. It is hard to know if the spiral began when Morrison visited the Governor-General, or when Gillard deposed Rudd, or when the media began to accelerate into a disrupted, saturated 24/7 news cycle, or when politicians turned their work into a permanent campaign. In any case, it is exhausting.

The public is not waiting with bated breath for the result on election night — the level of interest is too low. And while they are dissatisfied, they don't seem to be waiting with baseball bats the way they did with the November Victorian state election. They seem to just be waiting.

Waiting to know if 'this lot will be voted out'. Waiting to know if Shorten 'will steal their utes'. Waiting to know if Australia will act on climate change. Waiting to know if their franking credits will be safe. Waiting to know if their wages will rise. Waiting to know what their tax cut will be. Waiting to know about Engadine Maccas. Waiting to know if they will be protected against vegan terrorists. Waiting to know if Newstart will get an increase after 25 years.