Dear Australian Labor Party,
I’ve never voted for you.
And I only just realised it.
This is my third election. Ours is a two party system. I cheered when Rudd got in, and booed for years at the failure of Howard to fall in a well and die. But until I came back from the polls today, I hadn’t actually realised that every vote of my life – local government, Senate and Representatives, above and below the line – has been for the Greens.
In 1975, my mother – who was then the age that I am now, give or take a few months – protested the Whitlam dismissal. As a teenager, I found the shirt she wore to those rallies stored in a trunk in our attic. It’s bright yellow with black lettering that says: REJECT FRASER’S COUP D’ETAT: VOTE ALP. When the Liberals introducted VSU, I wore it to the protest rallies. One man of my mother’s vintage raised his fist in solidarity, grinned and told me to maintain the rage, just as Whitlam once did to their generation. I said I would, and feel as though I have.
But you are not my party. You have never been my party.
Because in my lifetime, you have never been sufficiently left-wing.
Possibly you should have taken notice when, earlier in the year, Gordon Brown’s Labor Party in Britain lost government to a hung parliament, which was resolved by a groundbreaking and very weird deal between Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats and David Cameron’s Tories. Tonight, even as the TV pundits are yet to call a firm result, it is clear that the same thing is about to happen here: a hung parliament, wherein the traditional Labor vote has been crucially splintered by a smaller, left-wing party that can never hope to take government.
Splintered, in other words, by voters like me.
I do not want Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister. Although I have only ever voted Green, should he triumph at the end of tonight – or tomorrow, or Monday, or however long it takes Canberra to sort itself into some semblance of order – my mother’s shirt will once again be brought out of retirement. I will go back to waving my fist at The Man, for all the good it does, and protesting the inevitably hideous decisions he will make. Should that future eventuate, the fault will, in part, be mine. I was content for the election to be decided on preferences. I voted Green.
But in all good conscience, I couldn’t bring myself to vote Labor.
It’s not just Conroy and his ludicrous internet filter. It’s not just the party line against gay marriage. Had she had any policies worthy of my enthusiasm, I would have welcomed the chance to vote for Australia’s first female Prime Minister. But I will not vote for the semblance of progress at the cost of its tangible equivalent, even if the cost is something worse. The Labor Party has forgotten that it is meant to be left wing, and by slowly sliding more and more to the centre-right in order to capture a handful of Liberal swing votes, they’ve completely abandoned a key voter base: actual left-wingers.
The swing to the Greens isn’t about Kevin Rudd, or even Julia Gillard. It’s about voting for what we believe. And right now, what the Labor Party believes is just a little too compatible with Liberal Party policy for my taste. Yes, I’d rather Gillard than Abbott any day of the week. But on the basis of policy, I’d sooner the Australian Sex Party ran the country – not least because they (a) actually have policies that (b) make a whole lot of fucking sense.
I understand that the buggery of politics is compromise. But not every whore has a heart of gold, and right now, the Labor Party has taken on a foolish sheen. When the supposedly major left-leaning party is competing for votes and seats with a smaller left-leaning party to such an extent that neither is fighting the right-wingers, perhaps it’s time to redraw the party line? Politicians are whores so that the rest of us don’t have to be, but if the Labor Party thinks we’ll vote for them out of respect for their pragmatic efforts to move further and further towards the right, they’ve got another thing coming.
Well, actually, we all do. Because there’s going to be a hung parliament.
I just hope someone learns from it.