With less than 24 hours until the polls open, and figures now divided over who will win, the campaign has taken an ugly turn.
Tony Abbott is in the middle of an announced 36 hour campaign bender. Dragging his media pack with him, he is on something of a whirlwind tour of fish markets, media and mining towns, stopping only for the occasional light shandy. Apparently, sleep is for the weak – although it’s an open question as to how many people will turn up for a 3am stump speech. His media pack are leaving a trail of coffee cups and empty V cans behind them, and last night discussed the possibility of pooling their resources and sleeping in shifts.
Julia Gillard, meanwhile, is actually taking time to catch the odd snooze, although she’s kicking off every day by blitzing breakfast radio and TV (including ABC’s Triple J radio – Abbott, following the example of his former leader John Howard, is missing in action with that demographic) before heading off on her own version of a royal progress at warp speed. Factories, shopping centres and schools figure highly on her itinerary.
The Greens are likewise heading out, along with the minor parties and Independents. It’s all systems go for these last precious hours.
Meanwhile the fingers are flying thick and fast to bang out editorial after editorial endorsing the candidates. Unsurprisingly, all News Limited papers (with the notable exception of the Adelaide Advertiser) have backed the Coalition to win, while Fairfax papers are lending qualified support to Labor. The language is strong: ‘negligence’, ‘debacle’, ‘We deserve much better’, and the wonderfully hyperbolic ‘shambolic and tragic’. And that’s without even looking at what Andrew Bolt or Piers Akerman have to say.
Cue Benny Hill chase music and sped-up montage. It’s all very silly, right?
Stop and listen to what’s being said, though. There’s no doubt this campaign has been really negative, but the rhetoric has ramped up to a degree where it borders on hysteria. Now, instead of being used as an unfavourable contrast, the dire warnings are forming the bulk of the speeches. Abbott’s a ‘risk’, says Gillard (over 10 times in her last 15 minute media conference). Gillard is ‘incompetent’, retorts Abbott (and his language is more varied, but boils down to about the same level of saturation). WorkChoices will be back. Our borders won’t be ‘safe’. We’ll be plunged into the digital Dark Ages. We’ll become a third world nation in terms of debt. The sky will fall. The world will end.
Et cetera, ad nauseam.
What’s going on? Take a long, deep breath in. Smell that? It’s desperation.
The candidates are running on empty. After a campaign that leapfrogged the country, debates, pressers, forums, photo opportunities, meet-and-greets (also known as grip-n-grins), they’ve got very little left in the tank. It’s hard to sell yourself when you’re exhausted – but it takes far less energy to condemn your opponent. The leaders also know that there will be saturation media coverage in this last day, and this is their last chance to scare us. The more they repeat ‘risk’, ‘incompetent’, ‘unsafe’, etc., the more chance there is of that sinking into our malleable minds and making us vote based on fear rather than give due consideration to policy. We get rapid-fire summaries of announced policy almost eclipsed by pronouncements of doom, and we start to forget what’s actually on offer.
So I propose we completely undermine that idea with a quick side-by-side recap of the bigger policies from the major parties.
National Broadband Network
Labor’s offering a fibre-to-the-home network with an optimum speed of 1 Gigabit per second to 93% of the country. The remaining 7% will receive wireless and satellite.
The Coalition has proposed a mainly wireless network, offering a peak speed of 12 Megabits per second, supplemented by satellite and fibre-to-the-backbone.
Paid Parental Leave
The Coalition is offering six month’s leave to new mothers, to be paid at their wage (or minimum wage, whichever is greater). A father choosing to stay at home will be paid at the mother’s wage. This will be paid for with a levy on businesses earning over $5 million per year, and will not start until 2013. Until then, they will offer the same scheme as Labor.
Labor’s proposal is for 18 weeks’ leave for primary carers, paid at the minimum wage. In addition, 2 weeks’ leave will be available for secondary carers. This leave is extended to cover fathers as primary carers, same-sex couples, and adoptive parents. This will be funded from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
Labor has promised a citizens’ assembly to investigate a price on carbon, but has confirmed that a price on carbon does form part of their policy.
The Coalition has ruled out any form of carbon price.
Both major parties have ruled out amending the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Both parties are promising the Budget will return to surplus by the end of the 2012-13 financial year. The Coalition is promising to deliver almost double the amount promised by Labor. Coalition costings are found here, while Labor’s can be found on their website.
Cuts to Services
The Coalition have announced they will cut services including: the computers in schools program, the Renewable Energy Future Fund, Trade Training Centres, a suite of climate change-related programs, the Australian Human Rights Framework and the APS Indigenous Employment Strategy, as well as reduce funding for Solar Homes and Communities, Green Car Innovation Fund and Green Building Fund, among others.
Labor has announced cuts to public service funding for the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Public Service Commission. It has also redirected funds from some renewable energy programs (including large solar power station projects) to fund the green farming and car trade-in policies.
The Coalition will reopen the Nauru detention centre and install a boatphone to make decisions on turning back asylum seeker boats. They will also reintroduce mandatory Temporary Protection Visas and automatic rejection for anyone suspected of deliberately discarding identity papers.
Labor wants to build a regional processing centre in East Timor to be administered by the United Nations.
There’s more, of course, but these are the policies most likely to be subjected to scare-mongering in these last 24 hours.
You can check the respective parties’ websites: Labor, Liberal – which contains the Coalition policy and Greens. For a bit of contrast, try the minor parties as well: The Australian Sex Party, Australian Democrats (rumours of their death were greatly exaggerated – or at least delayed), Liberal Democratic Party and Family First.
To find Independent candidates in your local seat, check the Australian Electoral Commission for names.
Read the policies (you can find analyses of many of them in the archive here), check the costings, and try to keep those in mind when you hear – yet again – the slogans, the spin and the scare-mongering.
And then have a think about what the last three years have been like for you. And the three before that (since the Coalition team is largely unchanged from the Howard years, leaders notwithstanding). There are a number of posts in the archive here that go back to last election campaign. It can be enlightening to see just how much changed – and depressing to see just how much hasn’t.
That’s what matters in this campaign – not the spectre of WorkChoices, the Great Big New Tax boogeymen, changes of leadership on either side or questions of religion, gender or marital status.
Policy and history.
And when you go to the polls tomorrow, don’t – don’t, I beg you – cast an informal vote. If you can’t stand either of the major parties, put your vote where your heart is – and don’t let anyone tell you that it won’t count. Because you can bet that when the figures finally come in from the Electoral Commission, strategists and analysts from both sides will be going over the fine detail. Every vote that bleeds to the Greens or a minor party is a signal of discontent with the status quo.
And you’re not ‘sending a message’, regardless of what Mark Latham tells you. You’re just lumped in with every ballot paper that was incorrectly filled in, illegible or just plain doodled on. If you want to send a message, do it with a valid vote.
Every single vote matters.
I’ve called this blog ‘The Conscience Vote’ because I think that’s the most valuable thing any of us can do with our democratic rights. Vote our consciences – not by party loyalty, not by personality, not informally, and most of all, not mindlessly.
So go to it!
I’ll be tweeting and blogging throughout the day tomorrow. You can follow me here for exit polls, news reports, counting and the all-important announcements. And this blog will continue – getting elected doesn’t mean we can take our eyes off politicians, after all.
Right now, though, I’m going to make myself a cup of tea, toast some crumpets and take some time out to sit in the sun (what little there is of it in Melbourne right now).
I’ve got some thinking to do.