|From Public Housing To The Lodge: Anthony Albanese wins the Australian Federal Election, bringing the career of Scott Morrison and his boofhead Coalition government to an end. The defeat of the boofheads was the victory Australia had to have.
CRIKEY! Those Aussies are pissed-off. To appreciate just how pissed-off they are it is instructive to look back at the last time Kiwis moved against their two major parties so aggressively. In 1996, National and Labour, between them, accounted for just 62 percent of the Party Votes cast. Taken together, NZ First, the Alliance, Act, United Future and the Christian Coalition accounted for 34.76 percent. The comparison with Saturday’s vote, of which the centre-right coalition of the Liberal and National parties attracted just 35.4 percent, Labor 32.8 percent, and their challengers 31.8 percent of the Primary Vote, is compelling.
The 1996 General Election in New Zealand was the first to be conducted under the new MMP electoral system, offering electors the novel opportunity to have their political choices much more accurately reflected in the final tally of seats. The 2022 Australian federal election, by contrast, was conducted under the well-established (if complex) Compulsory Preferential Vote system. The electoral havoc wrought across the Tasman is, therefore, even more telling. Angry Australians have dealt a massive blow to the two main political groupings, along with the political culture of bullshitters and boofheads in general.
These latter accretions to the Australian political system have multiplied alarmingly over the last 25 years – and not just in the Liberal and National parties. Some of the blame undoubtedly must be sheeted home to the One Nation Party, whose founding figurehead, Pauline Hanson, somehow succeeded in transforming ignorance into a political virtue. Like her fellow populist, Donald Trump, Hanson and her minders love the poorly educated – who reciprocate that love with unnerving passion.
The conservative coalition of Liberal Party toffs and National Party country bumpkins could not ignore Hanson’s vulgar intrusion into the hitherto settled politics of the Right. The Boofhead Vote was notoriously ill-disciplined, being as likely to award its second preferences to Labor as its more respectable conservative fellow-travellers. If Hanson couldn’t be beaten (and John Howard gave that option his best shot) then the only other alternative was to join her boofhead crusade.
But those second preferences came at a price. Yes, it was an unlooked-for blessing to witness the defection of that part of the Australian working-class which balked at embracing the socially-liberal supporters of feminism, multiculturalism, Aboriginal rights, sexual diversity and environmentalism who were becoming more-and-more entrenched in the Labor Party. But, how to transform Hanson’s party into a reliable electoral way-station for the Right? Part of the answer involved hitherto decent and responsible conservatives forcing themselves to pretend that these new recruits were not dyed-in-the-wool racists, sexists, homophobes and xenophobes who’d never met a lump of coal they didn’t like.
The ethical corrosion which these new electoral calculations inflicted on both the Centre-Right and the Centre-Left was devastating. By requiring their more sophisticated followers to hold their noses and adapt themselves to the needs of the Boofhead Vote, both parties had opened a pathway to power for their most ambitious and unscrupulous opportunists. Parliamentary politics, never all that refined in Australia, was coarsened still further.
Making matters worse, especially for the Liberals, was the vicious class politics at work on the Right. The upwardly-mobile working-class, and the middle-class suburban “battlers” who idolised “Little Johnny Howard”, felt keenly the lofty condescension bestowed upon them by the Liberal Party’s aristocratic grandees. Safe in their leafy, blue-ribbon redoubts (or sprawling squatter estates) these worthies felt more keenly than ever the pull of noblesse oblige. Boofhead votes were all very welcome, naturally. But, you couldn’t have boofheads running the party, or, God forbid! – occupying The Lodge!
To which the boofheads (Tony Abbot, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison) responded: “Well see about that, mate. You just watch us.”
But, the boofheads could never have succeeded, or at least, not so completely, had it not been for Climate Change. With Australian coal fuelling the furnaces of China, and Australian iron and copper holding up and connecting much of the world, the inconvenient scientific truths of global warming prompted Australia’s richest and most conservative industrialists to go in search of politicians who could be relied upon to make damn sure that nothing of any significance was ever done to curb it.
To the many boofhead prejudices already injected into Australia’s political bloodstream was added the manifold dangers of Climate Change Denial. It was an affectation adopted without hesitation by a worrying number of the well-paid workers in Australia’s mining industry. The latter’s powerful trade unions made the formulation of a science-driven Climate Change policy extremely difficult for Labor. Meanwhile, on the right, the unholy boofhead alliance of ignorance, anti-intellectualism, evangelical Christianity and rank opportunism had destroyed the career of the leafy-suburbs’ Liberal standard-bearer, Malcom Turnbull.
The 2019 Federal Election, was won by Scott Morrison who succeeded in mobilising every available boofhead vote where it most mattered. (Which was not, as Labour and most of the pundits assumed, in the left-leaning cities.) Unfortunately for the Coalition, 2019 also marked the moment of Peak Bullshit. In the years that followed, the all-too-real impacts of global warming – in the form of devastating bush-fires and floods – left the denialists with an ever-decreasing audience among intelligent Australians.
Labour’s equivocation on the Climate Change issue had already fuelled the rise and rise of the Greens, threatening the party’s left flank and forcing it further and further away from Boofheadism. This became easier, and much less costly electorally, as even the dimmest working-class boofhead began to realise that having his prejudices tickled by Scotty From Marketing did nothing to halt the rapidly rising cost of living.
But if the Greens were challenging Labor for the support of young, non-boofhead Australians, the Liberal Party was about to fall victim to what might best be called “The Revenge of the Grandees”. The good and the great of the leafy suburbs had had enough of watching highly-intelligent and accomplished Liberal moderates whipped into line by the likes of boorish National Party leader, Barnaby Joyce. It was time to strike back against the corrupt political meddling of the Mining Industry and its refusal to accept the reality of Climate Change.
With what might be called “progressive capitalist” backing, a team of first-rate female “independents” was enlisted to destroy the Liberal’s moderate wing in its blue-ribbon seats - thereby making it impossible for the Morrison-led Government to win re-election. This rich admixture of regal blue and environmentalist green produced what, on the night, proved to be a “Teal Revolution”.
The Liberal-National Coalition now faces an historic fork in the road: either abandon Boofheadism and keep the Centre-Right in play; or, double-down on the failed politics of ignorance and prejudice. Dwindling to a vague political memory in the cities, and dying, unloved and unlamented, in some dusty bush electorate.
The editorial published on election day in the Melbourne-based small-l liberal weekly The Saturday Paper, said this of Australia’s boofhead PM:
Morrison, this cruel and bilious man, now asks for a fourth term. He says he’s just getting started. He plans to be different. He looks out at the carnage behind him, all of it the result of his ineffectiveness and ineptitude, and says he is a bulldozer. There is no crisis that doesn’t begin and end with him imagining himself as a small boy playing with a toy truck.
Yes, the Aussies are an angry people. Too pissed-off to give Anthony Albanese and his Labor Party a ringing endorsement, they have grudgingly made him their ‘lesser evil’ prime minister. What they enthusiastically made certain, however, was that Scott Morrison and the Coalition did not win.
The defeat of the boofheads is the victory Australia had to have.
This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website of Monday, 23 May 2022.