Victorian state elections 2010: Underwhelming. The Greens cash in on voter apathy.

Today was supposed to be a momentous occasion in my life. Having recently turned 18, I was able for the first time to exercise my democratic right to vote, and to finally take the future of Victoria into my own hands and make a difference – if at least by one vote. Needless to say, the Victorian state elections have been painfully underwhelming and drop-dead-boring to follow. In my previous post on the 2010 Federal elections, I noted that there is no longer any passion in politics: same boring ads, same staged debates, same cliched speeches masked over with fancy promises and sweet nothings. Politicians are in slumber mode, and the electorate wearily shows up to the voting station once more – feeling numb and expecting nothing at all. In many ways, these elections are similar to the recent Federal elections, in that they have been exceptionally uninspiring – except in the case of state elections, nobody really cares anyway.

One thing that I’ve found odd (someone please explain this to me), is that the Greens are so fashionable. Not politically of course. Their policies carry little substance. I’m talking about Green’s supporters and the way they dress.  It’s as if they’ve realized that no sane person would vote for a haphazard party, hastily put together on a vague idea of “saving the planet”, so they resort to Mac-style tactics by appealing to the lowest common denominator: looking ‘cool’ appealing to the smug, hipster demographic. That’s right, if you’re an artist, in a band or you buy your jeans from a grocery store, chances are you fit the Greenie stereotype.

At the polling station, I was met by the usual crowd of party-fanatics handing out as many fliers as possible, in the hopes that they could win me over in the last minute. There was something different about the Greens supporter. Let’s just say off the record, that not even that attractive 20-something Greenie girl, waiting for me at the entrance with short-shorts and a handful of glittering ‘eye-candy’ fliers, could get me to vote for The Greens. If this is what I think it is, then it is: Desperation. If they can’t win you over logically because of sound policies, then they go for “plan b”: trendiness.

That’s not to say that the two major parties, Liberal and Labor ran anything resembling a campaign either. The only admirable thing I can say, is that, scare tactics and campaign smearing have been at a minimum. Perhaps that’s because neither party has the budget to launch a successful smear campaign – or they just didn’t have the imagination to make anything up. No-wonder then, that voter apathy is skyrocketing and becoming the norm. At times like these, a quote by Elie Wiesel comes to mind:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference”

click to enlarge

Indifference is what many people feel in regards to politics today. The only way to get voters’ attention is with novelty: “Provide me with a revelation of TigerWoods-esque proportions, or leave me alone to play golf”. In a world dominated by political-correctness (pun intended) and a clinical dissociation between the leaders and the people, no wonder people are thronging to vote for the Greens. At least they seem ‘alternative’, and hey, it makes you feel good about saving the environment! Now stand aside as I park my hummer and guzzle a can of coke that 12 Chinese children died to make. But what have the Greens really got going for them? Well nothing. And here’s the election flier they hand out at polling booths to prove it:

There are so many things wrong with this flier, that it practically embodies what is bad with politics today. Firstly, the slogans “Your vote is powerful” and “Because who you vote for matters”, is the kind of crap I’d expect to hear dished out of a Nivea hair ad: “because you’re worth it”. These slogans lack any context as to why we should vote Greens, and leaves a glaring question unanswered: does my vote still matter if I don’t vote Green? Perhaps, you’re “powerful” enough to make that decision on your own – without having fake Green guilt shoved down your throat by misguided friends. But they’ll have you know – that they’re very capable at branding you as a right-wing bible-belt fascist if you don’t agree with them.

The list of their policies is even more ludicrous. They represent an over-simplified summary of nothingness, and I kept thinking to myself: this must’ve been a project given to Grade 5 kids, because there is no way this was written by an adult. These are simply milk-n-cookies feel good goals that you would come up with, if you posed the following question to a primary school: “What can make Victoria better?”. So unless you can be bothered reading through their flier, their policies are essentially:

Water: Save more water!

Health: More money for health!

Education: Make it better!

Public transport: Put more buses on the road!

Climate Change: DUH!

At least The Liberal party were respectable enough to give out a no-nonsense, one-sided simple flier. Because unlike the Greens, they realise that they have no need to appeal to uninformed constituents in a last-ditch scramble for votes:

Labor wasn’t exceptionally terrible either. At least they can vouch on John Brumby’s good record and that killer automatic smile with nothing behind it:

The one thing that all the fliers shared in common? They were each printed on “100% recycled fibre” and certified as “Carbon Neutral” and “Greenhouse friendly!” Wait: did they just steal the Green’s “green” message? Nope – because if  The Greens get the votes, they’ll be sure to put a “Carbon tax” on everything imaginable: next election, you’ll be paying to see each flier, and you’ll feel guilty about it as well.

According to an article in the Australian:

The acceleration in the Greens vote, he says, is being driven more by instinct than specific issues: “It goes across a range. At one end it is almost apathy: ‘What have I got to lose?’, ‘I’ve tried the other two, they are just going to be more of the same, so why don’t I try these other guys?

All the major parties ran underwhelming campaigns, and The Greens are standing on the side, looking trendy and snatching up votes, not based on the party’s merit – but simply the fact that they’re a ‘change’ and they represent an idealized version of what most kids hope to emulate. Well here’s one teenager in the key ‘Youth Demographic’ (18-24) that is bucking the trend. By voting for one of the major parties, I might be voting for crap – but at least it’s the kind of crap that I’m familiar with.

2010 Australian election guide (written before the election)

In Soviet Russia, an air conditioner is called a politician because it makes a lot noise, but it doesn’t work very well. Keeping a close eye on the Australian federal elections makes one squirm – because there is a tangible sense that the people running for the ballot are by and large politicians rather than leaders. (Politics: “Poli” a Latin word meaning “many”; and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures”).

Catchphrases like “working families”, “the Australian people”, and “for our future” have become so redundant this election, that they no longer make an impact. So if the speeches won’t swing you, here, gratis, is a brief election guide of the contenders, and my bets for the winner. [written prior to the election]

Labor: So Keating dumped Hawke, and Julia dumped Kevin. As the tribulations of our intimate relationships, so too are the chronicles of the Labour party and the extended trade union family. The party has experienced 3 traumatic splits (1917, 1931 and 1955) which debilitated it and kept it out of office for many years. In a stunning victory, Kevin 07, toppled Johnny “go for growth” Howard, and since then he and his party have been spending like mad to get the economy squeaky clean. That is, until he was kindly ‘let go’ a couple of months ago. It turns out that the public wasn’t actually asking for insulation or school halls – just a solution to housing unaffordability, unsecure borders, and an economy over-reliant on the transient mining boom [thanks China!]. Under Ms. Gillard’s helm, the party is trying to do what the Liberals should’ve done with Costello – use a fresh face to win the election (and scream “work choices” loud enough so that everyone can hear). Whilst Australia under the Labour Government has successfully weathered the global financial crisis, the question must be asked: Is it sustainable to throw billions of dollars at your problems to wish them away? Maybe, although the last time I tried I was grounded for weeks. My odds: $2.30

The Liberals: The underdog in this election, the Liberal party seeks to confuse everybody, because the only thing liberal (small ‘l’) about it, is Tony Abbot’s lycra bike short-shorts. Often termed as “fiscally responsible”, “economically conservative”, “financially sound”, or any other two word variant comprised of the aforementioned synonyms, this party has the policies and the know-how – just not the leader. From popular sentiment, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop form the ultimate political dream-team to lead our country into the nebulous future – perhaps the elephant in the room for the Liberal party. These guys tick all the boxes – internal democratic debate and dissent, strong foreign policy and a business minds – but it turns out that voters judge a book by it’s cover and vote for the person running the party, and not the party itself. Thus, there is a chance that the Liberals may languish in the opposition for another term, simply because Mr Abbot is portrayed rather negatively by the media. Let’s just say that his personality doesn’t particularly effervesce with charisma, emotion or politically correct opinions. It’ll be a close one, but Labour hasn’t particularly screwed up the country, and the Liberals are still waiting on that winning team. M

y odds: $2.50

The Greens: These guys appear green on the outside, but really exude a bloody socialist red buried deep within – contributing to the flight from rationality that plagues our society. And I’m not just talking about their illogical polices or complete lack of economic understanding – the main problem with this party is primarily ideological, as it goes with left-wing politics in general. For the record, most of the so-called “environmentally friendly” policies are simply attempts at furthering government control and impeding economic progress. The solution to global warming is not neo-luddism, apocalyptic scaremongering or carbon trading schemes – the solution is alternative energy – after all, you guys aren’t really ready to give up your tv, transport, refrigeration, computers [and yes facebook too], or pay more for them either. Without the green veneer, this party is simply a latent attempt at Trotskyism – and that means that every greeny is just as equal as the last one, comrade! Too bad they’re predicted to become our third major party, mostly thanks to the army of 30 something, latte-sipping bohemians on Flinders Lane. My odds: $4.30

Family First: Brother and Sisters of Australia, can you hear me? Can I get an ‘Mhmm’? A concoction of grassroots evangelical fundamentalism and a vague political attempt to legislate based on family values, this party may alienate everyone left of the centre right on the political spectrum. In fact, the only thing these guys are putting first is a copy of the St. James bible, a gun and an insistence that all debates be conversed through glosollalia. Jokes aside, this party advocates banning abortion, banning euthanasia, and banning everything on the internet that doesn’t conform to their narrow ‘moral standards’. The law of the political jungle states that if you ban too many popular things, then you’re basically banning any hope of making it to the lower house. Of course, you can always fall back on the pure, unadulterated love from your family, and die hard supporters in Midwestern United States. My odds: $6.70

It seems that this election, the important issues such as the war in Afghanistan, the failures of the Capitalist system, and our reliance on China are not discussed – not only because both sides of politics hold similar views on these matters, but more for fear that open, unregulated debate will expose the personal views of the debaters, and maybe a controversial headline on the front page of The Age. Ultimately, the Liberals are likely to regain a few seats, particularly because people are becoming disenfranchised by state labour parties. Labour though is in for a close victory, mostly because after preference deals with the Greens, they’ll have enough seats for a majority in parliament. There is also an acute possibility of hung parliament – and perhaps come this election, it may be better to leave it that way.