The chaos of the election campaign has morphed into the chaos of a potentially hung parliament. Bitter recriminations are flowing between shock-jocks and party members, and social media accounts are busy either being created or deleted. New outlets are in a frenzy reporting everything that’s not nailed down – even when it is becoming clear that not much has changed – and might not change for another couple of days. In terms of the senate. not much is going to be known for weeks – but never mind, there must be one more pundit, politician, ex-politician or journalist to interview, one more story to report or, more likely, one more story to make up.
Naturally, I’m pleased that Labor has performed more strongly than anyone expected. I was concerned both before the day and during the day -a lot of people where I was handing out didn’t seem interested in any how to vote cards at all – but that perhaps betrays a loss of interest in large political parties. Certainly, there has been a growth in size and power of smaller bodies- something that has not, at least for the Greens, translated into any more power in the lower house. It now looks like Labor is certainly in a position where it might be able to challenge to form a minority government, but that is likely to be a poisoned chalice in a parliament with such a plethora of minor parties – and that’s before we even consider a Senate which as NXT, One Nation, Jacqui Lambie, Hinch and a few others, too.
But through the whole day, and well into the evening as we watched the various pollies and journalists try to make sense and backtrack from their predictions (or in the case of ScoMo and Julie Bishop, spin furiously about how it really was a good result regardless) I had one overriding thought: who would be a politician? It’s easier, by far, to sit on the sidelines and snipe. It’s easier to lump them all in the basket as being leeches off the public purse. It’s easy to just shake your hand and express annoyance. But there is something brave – and foolhardy, perhaps – about putting your name up for public opinion. It’s optimistic – a belief that you, out of everyone, will somehow manage to connect with enough voters to sway them to your opinion, with or without a party’s backing. And it’s running the risk that you will be chewed up and spat out by those voters – at almost any time. Regardless of winning or losing, you can be sure that you will be exposed to harsh invective and criticism based on nothing more than some other human’s blind hate for the party you might represent. It’s a brutal business.