Tony Abbott is set to become Australia’s next Prime Minister after leading the Coalition to a resounding victory at the ballot box. The results weren’t as dire for Labor as they might have been but the voters’ message was still clear; it is time for change.
The result marks the end of what has been a bitter battle. Not just between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott or the Labor party and the coalition. But between and among Australians of every political persuasion; from politicians to journalists to media magnates to the public at large. Between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd; between Rupert Murdoch and Kevin Rudd; between Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard; between Alan Jones and Julia Gillard.
There has been infighting, cross fighting and every other type of fighting in between. Mud has been flung, boundaries crossed and the discourse lowered.
The past six years in parliament have been undeniably ugly and yet, almost implausibly given the rhetoric, hugely productive.
One of Tony Abbott’s most enduring achievements as an Opposition Leader was his ability to discredit the government’s achievements. He was merciless and effective in challenging their management of the economy and parliament.
And yet from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the Gonski/Better Schools overhaul to paid parental leave to the carbon tax; Labor’s legislative legacy is not unimpressive. Labor is responsible for several vital pieces of public infrastructure but it is also responsible for the political disarray that has reigned.
For all of Abbott’s personal success in undermining the government’s achievements he was, of course, greatly assisted by the Labor party itself. As Tanya Plibersek aptly put it they scored nine out of 10 for governing the country and zero out of 10 for governing themselves.
It has been a tumultuous time and it is time for politicians to govern themselves as rigorously as they govern the country. Because failing in the former inevitably procures a failure, of some sort, in the latter.
Tony Abbott emerged victorious yesterday but he was not the only winner. There was a woman on television last night who might not have won a seat in parliament but was a clear winner nonetheless.
Women were an obvious priority for all politicians this campaign but the effect was far from empowering. The fight for female votes often felt token as opposed to a sincere intent to address the issues women face. There have been too many instances of sexism – both blatant and insidious – that indicate why gender equality remains an ideal.
But an antidote to all of that, throughout this campaign, and in fact for some time before it, has been the inimitable ABC journalist Annabel Crabb. I doubt there is a thinking man or woman who has tuned into the ABC over the past six months who hasn’t been impressed by her wit, warmth and wisdom. She is smart, funny, feminine and never makes concessions for being any, or all, of those things at once. She is fantastic at what she does and what she does is a bit different.
A cursory flick through the channels on election night confirmed that television, like many other fields, remains the domain of men. On each panel there was at least one woman but usually just the one and, like in many other fields, it is hard to escape the sense that the position is almost token. The ratio on the ABC was no different; Crabb the only female among three men but the difference is when you watch Crabb work in her unique, understated and deft way it is her male companions that quickly seem token. For no other reason than the fact she’s fantastic at her job. (I should add that the host of ABC’s 7.30 Leigh Sales, who was noticeably absent from television last night, has a similar effect.)
It is the reason why, night after night, Crabb has made what has been an otherwise quite disheartening campaign just a bit more sanguine. For that she’s an honorary winner in Australia Decides 2013.
Who else would you nominate as winners in this campaign?