The Australian election has been set down for November 24. Prime Minister John Howard's calling of the election begins six weeks of the actual election campaign, and puts an end to the "phoney election campaign", which began in the early 1940s.
All through what is certain to be a thrilling and erotic election campaign, Mr Behemoth will be bringing you the news "from the trenches". I will be "telling it how it is", and speaking "from the horse's mouth". You should consider this journal your source for "the straight dope", so that you can look "beyond the spin" and get "informed" about "things".
To understand the intricate and complex workings of the Australian political landscape, it is necessary, before we get moving, to give you a broad OUTLINE of the main players in this political danse macabre.
THE LIBERAL PARTY:
The Liberal Party is the party currently holding the reins of power, and has been for eleven years, ever since John Howard took government from his predecessor Paul Keating, cunningly sneaking it away while Keating was in a pub attacking people with a broken bottle. The Liberals are the party of the free market and conservative social values. For example, they believe in giving small business a "helping hand" by allowing them to reduce lunch breaks to a maximum forty seconds, and stab employees in the eye when appropriate. They also believe in Judeo-Christian values, such as strongly opposing gay marriage and spending up big on home furnishings.
In this election, the Liberals are the underdogs, because the electorate has become tired of them. There are numerous theories on why the polls are so bad for the Liberals. Some say it is because of their industrial relations policy. Some say it is because of their Being A Group Of Weaselly Liars policy. It is hard to say. But Howard has many tricks up his sleeve. One trick is generosity, evidenced by his announcement on the first day of the campaign of $34 billion worth of tax cuts. Another trick is smear tactics, evidenced by television ads that hint that a Labor government will render all Australian men sterile. A third trick is showing his impish sense of humour, evidenced by his statement that he cares deeply about Aboriginal reconciliation.
But the Liberals are not alone. They rule as part of a COALITION, along with:
THE NATIONAL PARTY
The National Party is a group of eccentric folks in broad-brimmed hats who represent rural Australia and the powerful manure lobby. Their policy platform is two-pronged; they believe in a "fair go" for the bush, and they also believe in doing what the Liberals tell them to.
THE LABOR PARTY
The Labor Party is the opposition in Australia, and is led by Kevin Rudd, a small clockwork doll that can be wound up and released to do delightful tricks such as speaking Chinese and ignoring lap-dancers. The product of a difficult childhood, Rudd has many similarities to John Howard, but differs in that he is neither bald nor dependent on the blood of virgins for sustenance. The Labor Party is over a hundred years old and was born out of the union movement, a powerful movement full of committed people devoted to fighting for workers' rights and making people hate them.
The Labor Party is first and foremost the party of the free market and conservative social values. In a way this makes them sound somewhat similar to the Liberals, but Labor does possess a clear and obvious point of difference on matters of principle, in that it believes in fibre-optic rather than wireless broadband.
In the election, Labor is depending on little more than the fact that almost everyone in the country wants to vote for it, a risky strategy for sure. Rudd has adopted a "small-target" strategy, which has three main planks:
1. Say and do as little as possible.
2. Make every effort to conceal the fact that deputy leader Julia Gillard possesses "beliefs".
3. Repeat the phrase "working families" every three seconds until the majority of the population gives in and eats their own faces just to make it stop.
If Rudd has a flaw, it is that he too "intellectual". Conservative commentators have scored telling blows against the Labor leader by pointing out his obvious "intelligence" and "education", serious handicaps for anyone wishing to assume the most important role in the country.
The Greens are a small but vocal party focused on environmental issues and social conscience. They believe in saving the planet for future generations and possibly smoking some drugs. Their leader is Bob Brown, who is gay but not as charismatic as you'd think. Although they are called The Greens, most of the party's members vary from light pink to dark brown in colour, and only a few are genuinely green. They are in favour of equal rights for gays, women, refugees and other minorities, and are therefore not to be taken seriously. A random sampling indicates that 100% of Green Party candidates are women between the ages of 20 and 30 who sit next to me at work, which suggests they may struggle to find broad appeal.
The Democrats are a group of hard-working idealists committed to upholding the values of parliamentary democracy and classical liberalism. They are made up of a number of low-profile politicians who have so far failed to notice their party no longer exists.
Family First is a party which is strongly in favour of families, and strongly opposed to people who are not members of families. Their policies include opposing abortion, opposing gay marriage, opposing sexually explicit education, opposing thought, and attending creepy churches to sing horrible songs about Jesus. Their only member of parliament is Senator Steve Fielding, who is notable for riding a scooter and having over eight hundred children.
And there you have THE PARTIES. In the next instalment: LIFE ON THE HUSTINGS.