It is Friday evening here in Australia. Tomorrow are important events such as TAS playing Newington in the NSW GPS Rugby Thirds. My eldest daughter is coming with me to watch. That's good. Australia is also playing South Africa in the Rugby. We need a win. There is also an election on.
In this post I thought that I would try to explain the mysteries of Australian politics as clearly and as simply as I can for the benefit of international readers. Mind you, you may need a little sporting knowledge to understand.
To start with, we have two main teams. The team that is in is trying to stay in to avoid going out, the team that is out wishes to go in. To achieve this, they have to bowl the batting team out.They are playing on the main oval, the House of Representatives. However, there is a game on another oval as well, the Senate. We will come back to that in a little while.
On the main field, there are three groups. The Liberal Party used to stand on the right of the political fence and talk about the evils of the workers. The Labor Party stood on the left of the fence and talked about the evils of the workers. The Country Party now National Party sat on the fence and talked about the high cost of fencing.
The world changes. Both Liberal and Labor are worried about the working families of Australia, both are worried about the inability of the other to balance the family budget. By contrast, the National Party is worried about the high cost of combine harvesters.
Just outside the fence around the oval are a number of players trying to get into the game. The Greens have one player, although its not quite clear whether or not he is on or off the field. In any event, most of the Greens are up the trees around the oval trying to defend them from the bulldozers; the grounds need to be reshaped say some; the Greens do not agree.
Stretching around the oval on both sides of the Greens is a raggle taggle lot of would be players. One rather big group, the Palmer United Party, surrounds a plump and excitable mining magnate who has fallen in love with cricket, although he is still not very clear on the rules. By borrowing friends and staff, he has been able to put together a full scratch team. His corporate jet is parked nearby. It has brought in the advertising bill boards that ring the oval, as well as the bulldozers Mr Palmer wants to use to redefine the grounds. The Greens look on suspiciously. They know about bulldozers, if not combine harvesters.
Just to the right (or is it to left?) of the PUP crowd, a disconsolate figure wearing a big hat stands among a much smaller crowd of hatted followers. This is Bob Katter and the Katter United Party. It's really not fair, he thinks. Mr Palmer was going to join him at one point, but then decided to form his own team. He consoles himself with the thought that he and Clive have still been able to form an entertaining song and dance act that has attracted crowd attention.
Things are tense out in the oval. The game has been briefly suspended while Liberal captain Abbott argues with the the umpires, It's an arcane dispute over the rules of cricket. Mr Abbott has said he would only play if he could win the main game without bringing in players from other teams. He wouldn't play without a full team. The Umpire has noted that Mr Abbott's team appears to be a combination of two teams and therefore in breach of the rules that Mr Abbott has laid down.
Supported by his ever loyal deputy, National Party leader Warren Truss, Mr Abbott argues that we are all one team, there is no difference between us. This is an Abbott team. Mr Truss nods wisely and murmurs just so. This view does not appear to be shared by all the players. The National Party members have gathered in the gully to talk about soil erosion. Some Liberal members can be heard murmuring that the Nationals don't quite understand the rules of they game, that they don't play by Liberal rules. One Liberal looking at National candidate Barnaby Joyce is heard to remark, who does he think he is? Shane Warne?
At the batter's end, Labor leader Kevin Rudd stirs nervously. He has just come back to the captaincy after a changing room coup. He has come in to bat in the fading light with his team down, and is trying to achieve at least a draw. He pokes the wicket with his bat, and looks at the stands. Many of his team have given up, gone to the showers without waiting the results. Angry, he waves his bat at the crowd and does a little dance, trying to gather crowd support.
Meantime, over at oval two, the Senate, chaos reigns. Under the rules of Australian cricket, players on oval two can reject or amend the results of the games on oval one. The rules of team selection vary too, allowing all sorts of people to become players that would simply not be allowed in the main game. To become a player on oval one, you must win the vote in a single electorate after distribution of preferences. On oval two, each state is a single electorate with multiple members elected by a proportional preferential system.
The crowds gather around the oval fence, waiting for the signal. It's a much more varied crowd. Ex fish and chip shop owners jostle with country singers and ex-Rugby League players. All the smaller teams are there. Greens' leader Christine Milne has her prospective players and supporters out of the trees and ready to charge. Bob Katter and Clive Palmer are there too. The big parties are there, but so too are a myriad of smaller teams from Smokers Rights to Libertarians to Hunters and Fishers. The teams mingle, trying to strike preference deals before the rush for the wicket.
The bell sounds. The unruly crowd charges. The rush is on. Meantime, back on the main oval the game has been called off pending an entire new team selection process. Now we wait.
I missed a remarkable number of typos; now corrected! In a comment, JCW drew attention to this poem. She modified it slightly, but looking at the last public opinion polls this morning, I thought that I would repeat the first two verses in unmodified form. I know that it's so very Imperial and old school, but it somehow seems appropriate. It's really about all Labor can do.
THERE'S a breathless hush in the Close to-night -
Ten to make and the match to win -
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"
The sand of the desert is sodden red, -
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; -
The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"