Tony Abbott

Editor’s Note

September Editor's Note

They say democracy is a serious matter. I wouldn’t know; I’ve never voted.* As a non-citizen for many years, I couldn’t here, and Dutch democracy – with its multi-party governments, supported and criticised by a vigorously diverse press, and consistently high levels of voter turnout despite them being free to stay home – hardly needed me to contribute from afar. 

Two years ago I was naturalised, partly for professional reasons and partly because, well, after 35 years of living in this country, my status was starting to bug friends and in-laws. People have died for the right to vote, clog boy, they’d say. Don’t you like us enough? Even I felt somewhat puzzled to be fathering children of a different nationality to mine, so I sat the test, had my de-clogging ceremony, and was surprisingly touched. 

Yet now I’m rueing my timing. This federal election, my very first, I’m being asked to choose between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. The latter is on the record as advocating that one’s virginity is a gift, but I’ll be buggered if I give him mine. Which leaves Kevin Rudd: a man judged unfit for leadership by his own party after a four-year trial, only to be reinstated for his mascot value.

There are other suitors, of course. There’s KAP (Katter’s Australian Party), and PUP (the Palmer United Party) – superhero parties framed around their cartoonish founders. I gather Glenn Lazarus and James Blundell could well join the Senate, as might Pauline Hanson and Julian Assange. So allow me to come back to the initial premise. If democracy really is a serious matter, how has it come to this?

The Monthly has tried to take this election campaign seriously. We really have. But to try any harder I’d argue is un-Australian; once upon a time, after all, irreverence prevailed over earnestness in this country. So you won’t get an official editorial position from us beyond that of Don Watson’s penned victory speech, which can be suitably delivered by either Rudd or Abbott on election night. At the same time, we haven’t given up on seriousness: Christos Tsiolkas’ essay reminds us that both parties’ asylum-seeker “solutions” pander to the dark side of voters’ natures.

I don’t advocate not voting, mind. At a local level, the choice needn’t be so difficult; in my case I have a fine local candidate. And there’s always the protest vote, though not against the major parties per se. If there’s one subject this election campaign has shone light on, it’s Rupert Murdoch’s ways. As Mungo MacCallum highlights, nothing has been more disrespectful of democracy in this country than the Sun King’s brazen rule in the press, which has bludgeoned the electorate with anti-Labor (and anti-Greens) propaganda not just for the past five weeks, but for the past five years. Perhaps, rather than go through the motions and think of Holland, that’s what it will come down to when I finally make it past the sausage sizzle on 7 September to consummate my right to vote: what wouldn’t Rupert do?

*With one exception: in last year’s Victorian local government elections, mainly for reasons of self-preservation, I voted for my wife.

John van Tiggelen

John van Tiggelen is a freelance writer and the author of Mango Country.

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