August 23, 2013

Twirling towards freedom

Campaign Week 3: Kissing booth

By Michaela McGuire

Three weeks of campaigning down, two to go, and there’s already enough material for a photo gallery of ‘Tony Abbott’s kisses and misses on the election trail.’ For a few anxious days there, it didn’t seem as though we’d get a more hilarious photo than the one of Abbott sniffing a woman’s hair, but yesterday Abbott obliged us by bending down and giving an elderly nun a nice, open-mouthed kiss on the lips. When she heard about the fizz this little peck had created on social media, Sister Jacinta Fong exclaimed, “We’re just good friends!”

Apparently Abbott wasn’t at Sydney’s St Vincents Hospital just to move the hearts and stomachs of the nation. It was also to announce a $340 million plan to boost health services. Although according to Senator Penny Wong, “Abbott has confirmed he would cut $3bn from the health system to pay for his commitment to remove the means test of the private health insurance rebate.” Not quite: the removal of the means test has only been cited as an aspiration, and Abbott hasn’t guaranteed it would be done within his first term. Whether or not the Coalition’s health policy spends $340 million or cuts $3bn from the health system, what remains certain is that it’s not going to be what we remember from this week of the campaign.

When policy announcements take the form of an endless back and forth from each side, the shouting of facts and figures is never going to be as interesting to most voters as a quickly slapped together meme about Tony Abbott’s relationship with women.

Whether Abbott keeps offering up his lizard lips at campaign stops as a means of ensuring that his kisses receive more media coverage than his policy announcements is between him, God and Sister Fong, but it wouldn’t be a bad strategy.

As a member of the political left, I’m used to being in debates where we yell at each other loudly in a rush to agree with each other. I’m just not used to seeing it onstage. The recent leadership debates have seen Abbott and Rudd do little more than natter away at each other about the increasingly diminishing differences between their parties.

With so little variation in the political debate, which now frames Australian solely as an economy, criticism of the campaigners looking for purchase has largely been reduced to photos, saying “Hey, check out these assholes.”

Similarly, without much good to say about either of the men anointed to lead our democracy, perhaps it’s no surprise that we perk up when we see a picture of Rudd with a child dressed as Nemo. Finding Nemo was a great film after all, and unlike the candidates running in this election, had a moral.

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.


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