There’s a point in every election campaign, when your average, sensible, rational and mostly calm punter, will suddenly find himself walking around with gritted teeth, avoiding newspapers, televisions and any pub that allows the open discussion of politics, even if it’s on the other side of the world. Imagine long nails being dragged down an old chalk-board. An ice-cube on a sensitive tooth. Forty seconds in the same room as Tony Abbot. You get the picture.
I reached this point a week ago. It’s a tribute to my steadfast determination not to bash my head against a brick wall that I haven’t written about it before now. But this campaign is different. Don’t you think? Isn’t this the weirdest campaign you’ve ever been a part of, Julia?
Things started out pretty boring. Start as you intend to finish, they always say – but obviously there were people not reading from that same prepared script you ended up throwing out (and that was a good move, by the way). But still, not much worth waking up for so far. Unless you count that Mark Idiot-For-Hire Latham.
You probably don’t know this, Julia, but I was one of those across the country who was thrilled that we finally had our first woman PM. Rather foolishly, both myself and half the population hoped or perhaps even, expected, that finally having a woman doing the job, we’d get a damned good example of the skills and qualities that had hitherto been excluded from this level of government. You’d show ’em, we thought. You’d get it right and show everyone just what a woman in the top job could do.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to use the D word.
Okay, yes I am. Disappointed, Julia. Yes, I know you said there’d come a day when you’d disappoint me – I just wasn’t expecting so many of them, all bunched up together.
For a start – what’s your problem with gay people getting married? A goodly chunk of the world is now going for gay marriage, but not us. Why? Because you feel you need to pander to the religious right, because you came out as an Atheist (good one, by the way!)? I’ve got some news for you, Julia – only about 20% of the population counts themselves so religious that they are politically active within their church. Here’s another statistic for you – 60% of Australians support gay marriage. I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure my 60% beats your 20%. Just go for it. Make gay marriage legal – and gay adoption too, while you’re at it. This particular issue will give you an excellent opportunity to show your leadership skills – something Mr Abbott has no answer for.
On that same note – what’s with the swapping policies on boat people? I was there when you used the word ‘compassion’ in dealing with them, and yet, you’re doing an Abbott impersonation by saying you’ll ‘stop the boats’. Tell me, where does the compassion come in? When are we going to stop shoving little kids in prison because they’re fleeing violence and death in their own countries? This is another excellent opportunity for you to stand up and be counted. You think Nelson Mandela was labelled a statesman because he followed the flock? No – he earned his reputation by saying no to violence, no to revenge, and no to fear. I ask you – I beg you – have the balls to do the same. We have room for these poor people here and we’re a great country for refugees. Let’s do it and love it. Let’s own it. You, Julia, could be our Mandela.
As an atheist, you have perhaps used reason and logic to arrive at your convictions? Perhaps looked a little at evidence as a provider? Can I ask you to do the same when it comes to supporting chaplains in schools as counsellors? Why are you handing millions of dollars to fund untrained, uneducated, religious people so they can go into schools? I’m not saying they don’t have good intentions – but would you provide the same funding to have chaplains administer medical care for these kids? No – so why have people who aren’t qualified in such a position? It’s wrong – and another example of you pandering to the religious right.
Here’s another clue for you, Julia – you’re never going to make the religious right happy. For one, you’re a woman. For two, you’re a woman. Thirdly, you’re an atheist – which, according to many of Australia’s top religious leaders, is literally akin to being an axe-murderer. So give up now. Don’t even try to get their favour. They will never give it to you – and they’re just pretending to in order to mess with your head.
My last piece of advice is in how you deal with Mr Abbott. Please don’t tell me you don’t know what his weaknesses are. You have to – because the rest of the country knows. I’m a bit worried that you’re afraid to push him. I know you’re capable of it – how would have got to where you are now if you weren’t. So just do it. Take the bull by the horns and push him. Get him to explain exactly what he sees the role of women in government. How influenced he is by the church? Exactly what religious beliefs he holds that influence his political opinions and which religious leaders are pulling his strings?
I know, it’s risky bringing religion into the debate – but, seriously Julia, it’s the elephant in the room. You’re being hammered for it, so should he be. The simple fact is, most of the country is on your side. They want to be on your side. But you have to be on your side too.
Come on, Julia, let’s make the rest of this week full of those days when you delight us. Make me proud. I know you can do it.