In what is fast becoming a state-wide celebration of pork sausages and community cake stalls, the press would have you believe that ‘Queensland Decided’ on the weekend, except that we didn’t.
Heralding the end of the most uninspiring political race of my generation, the Queensland State Election was the political equivalent of when my childhood friend Murray let off some expired safety flares inside The Bank Nightclub on Flinders Street in Townsville when we were 19, making almost no noise, filling the room with smoke and burning his hands in the process. Everyone was unimpressed for a minute, then went back to drinking and smoking, unperturbed.
The only thing certain in Queensland at the moment is widespread political apathy. I thought that this would lead to a protest vote going towards the nut-job parties like the Katter Party & One Nation – but no one could even be bothered with that. I guess that isn’t surprising if you still believe in the ‘myth’ of the rational voter - considering there seems to be no widely available materials on their policies apart from agitating and being racist (in One Nation’s case, anyway).
Exit polls asking voters/sausage eaters what mattered to them highlighted the usual in large percentages – jobs, education, health & power prices. In the lead-up to the election, the media would have you believe that it was going to be decided on the basis of support for the Adani project. This was an entirely moot point because the project continues to have bi-partisan support, but professional progress-blockers living in air conditioned houses in inner-city Brisbane continue to not dig the ‘vibe’ of the project, currently underway 1000kms from the comfort of coal-powered homes – whilst at the same time bitching about the cost of power. These attitudes were juxtaposed with the regional towns hell-bent on it going ahead, so residents can all afford to chip in for a leaf blower to get rid of the tumble-weeds rolling through their economically depressed towns. Fewer than 13% of voters said they cared about the inevitable project, that will bring billions of investment into regions of the state that have been in effective recession for 2 years. It seems that despite the bluster, common sense was finally reigning supreme.
One of the saddest political ads I’ve ever seen in my life, was Liberal leadership candidate Tim Nichols (“Who?” said everyone in Queensland, before about Wednesday last week when they realised he was in the running for premier) apologising for being a central figure in the Newman Government by telling everyone that he’d ‘made mistakes and learnt lessons’. As a student of the art of marketing, I couldn’t believe that someone recommended he do that. Campbell Newman was an angry little garden gnome, with virtually no mates in Government, but he was elected to mop up the enormous deficits of the Labor Party and really didn’t do anything but deliver on his mandate (albeit in a ham-fisted way). I thought apologising for being a stable, hard-hitting, skull-cracking government (precisely what we are all desperate to see in any of the offices of the land) was the dumbest bit of political strategy execution I’d ever seen. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t do him any favours.
I tried to explain the state election to my 2-year-old daughter (who is whip-smart, super verbal and as tall as a four-year-old). I explained to Vivienne that there was four turkeys in a turkey race – a blue turkey, a red turkey, an orange turkey and a green turkey. When I asked her who was going to win… she shrugged her shoulders and screamed the “THE PINK TURKEY”, then asked for a juice ice block. To me, that was the most eloquent metaphor for the entire election, perfectly summing up how everyone in Queensland felt. We all wanted a glorious, silken-feathered pink turkey to vote for, but there was no pink turkey, so we all only exercised our democratic obligation so we could get a sausage in bread and stock the freezer with lamingtons for summer. Absolutely no one up for election was suitable for leadership, no one had a decent pedigree or sufficient policies, and no one captured the imagination of the state.
It’s looking like the red turkey, who I like to call ‘Palacechook’ because that is how you correctly pronounce her name (not Palaceshay as the image consultants would have you believe), will waddle over the finish line, while the rest of us turn our backs with our juice ice blocks, resigned to being constantly angry, underwhelmed and bored by our democracy.