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Lyndon Blue: Review

Filtering by Category: political

A CHAT WITH STREET ROLLER HOCKEY LEAGUE FOUNDER EAMONN LOUREY

Andrew Ryan

You’ve probably heard of the Street Roller Hockey League – Perth’s most unique, well-populated and funniest grass roots sports organisation. Certain disgruntled Bayswater residents have certainly heard of them – they’ve heard the sound of hockey sticks clacking at their Bayswater Bowls Club headquarters, and lodged complaints that have now left the league without a home. In light of recent developments, and to get a handle on the bigger picture, I sat down with SRHLfounder and tireless boss dog Eamonn Lourey.

Lyndon Blue: I guess first up I was hoping to get a bit more background on the SRHL, because from my point of view it just kind of appeared one day, but I’m sure there’s quite story in the origins. It’s pretty unique as far as sports leagues go, even as an organisation generally… Were there projects abroad that inspired you? Did the idea emerge fully-formed?

Eamonn Lourey: It’s interesting you say that – a lot of people mention that they had never heard of the league and then boom one day it’s all they can see in their newsfeed. It might be something to do with a Facebook algorithm but it’s likely just organic word of mouth through someone in one of your outer friendship circles rather than someone you are super tight with. I suppose it’s a pretty Perth thing in that sense. Looking back I wish I mapped which people or teams influenced the most people to join for further seasons. Would be interesting reading.

From day one, I’ve just tried to ensure everyone is having as much fun as possible. And then harnessing this energy and allowing everyone to become a walking billboard for the league.

But anyway the origin story goes like this.

In 2013 I was in my last year of Physiotherapy at uni. This year was all practical based in hospitals and rural towns. By the time I got to my final year I absolutely despised physio and I was looking for a distraction. The Street Roller Hockey League was that distraction.

I used to frequent a couple of op shops a week on the way home from these hospitals and/or rural towns. One day in May I found an ice hockey stick in Balcatta. It was only $5 so I purchased it for no reason other than it would be stupid not to buy it.

That weekend I went to Luna and watched Spring Breakers with my friend Craig. We got chatting pre-film and we found out we both had bought ice hockey sticks from op shops that week. We decided we should at least try to play a game. We told our mates and they were keen to join in. That turned into the Original 4 teams – the Dalkeith Ducks, Mosman Park Murderers, Cottesloe Street Sharks and Hamersley Rangers.

We then put it on Facebook, wrote a little spiel on SixThousand and another 6 teams joined in time for our first season. I like to thing drinking cheap wine and watching Spring Breakers on that wintry night in Leederville has influenced the league.

My main inspiration was my friends who had all quit sport after finishing school. They turned 18, got into uni, discovered Clubba and part-time jobs and organised sport was the first thing that fell away.

I personally think organised sport doesn’t work for Generation Y and Z. Our generation doesn’t want to commit to 2 trainings + 1 game at a scheduled time every week. If you choose to commit to organised sport you have to schedule your life around sport/recreation rather than sport/recreation around your life.

Loose/social/pickup sports like basketball or frisbee will continue to flourish in the future. Sports that are social and loose also tend to be non-competitive. Competitive sports are a drain once you hit a certain mindset. I believe encourages people to feel like they are part of a community.

Community has always been a major ethos in our league. For generation’s Y, Z and beyond, our main community is now in the virtual realm. But people still want the physical connection too.

I suppose the SRHL is either weird or groundbreaking in linking sport and the virtual community together. Currently there are 117 teams and you only get to play 12 of them per season. Despite only getting the chance to play 10% of teams in a season, people still feel a sense of connection with other players that they haven’t had the opportunity to play yet. I suppose it’s the online community that drives the entire organisations ‘culture’ for lack of a better word. When people meet up in the physical realm whether at a social event or at a game, they already feel connected to that person.

Other inspirations include the films The Warriors (the themed gangs repping their turf); Semi Pro (Will Ferrell as a owner/coach/captain/equipment manager/entertainment manager); Mighty Ducks trilogy (max 90s nostalgia). Another main inspiration of mine in all aspects of my life has been to do try and do things the complete opposite way society expects them to be done. This is true of the Street Roller Hockey League. I actively try to avoid making decisions that dinosaur traditional sporting organisations make.

And I’m also influenced by that Nick Allbrook article on Perth 2 years or so ago.

LB: I’m fascinated by how much it’s evidently grown. 117 teams is a hell of a lot, even if – as you say – they don’t all play each other. How surprised were you by the popularity? Do you think the decoupling of competition and routine with social sport is the main thing that’s drawn so many people in?

EL: To be honest, when I started the league I didn’t see it lasting more than a year before I moved onto my next project. Of the 10 first season teams, I knew 8 of them from various social and existing sporting circles. Our second season started in March of 2014. We had 27 teams sign up. The majority of these new teams were people I hadn’t met before. But often our circles were connected through various mutual friends who they had discovered the league through. It seems Perth only really needs the first two steps in the six degrees of separation theory.
So when random people started joining and becoming personally invested in the organisation I knew it had potential to thrive into the future. There are a number of reasons I think registrations have boomed.
First of all roller hockey is actually really fun to play. 95% of players have never played ice or inline hockey prior to joining the SRHL. It was a sport that was foreign to so many of us. Australian’s knowledge of hockey primarily relies on playing Bali copies of NHL games on our mod chip Playstation and the Mighty Ducks.
We all started at square one together i.e. no one really had a clue what they were doing. People brought their little prior knowledge on hockey and coupled it with loose tactics from other team based sports. And what resulted was sport in its rawest form. Everyone picked up the sport together but learnt how to play in a trial-and-error method.
It’s rare for people to pick up a sport as adults. It’s even rarer for adults to pick up a sport, have fun doing it and not get blown out of the water by experienced players.
Decoupling competition and routine are a major reason behind the league resonating with so many people. Other reasons that differ between the SRHL and other organised sports are…firstly, DIY team creation. For most sports in Australia, you sign up to an existing club. The club likely existed before you joined and will continue to exist after you retire. You have no control over your team name, jersey colours, song, branding, social media etc etc. Our model borrows from other social sports like mixed netball, where groups of friends start their own team. Starting aSRHL team requires both creativity and a DIY attitude. Teams base themselves in a suburb or locality of Perth and incorporate that suburb into an interesting team name. Teams often choose clever wordplay (Fremantle Cappuccino Strippers, Applecross Dressers, Innaloominati) or represent a local ‘tourist attraction’ (Wembley Food Courts, Swanbourne Nudists). Teams also design their own logo, jersey and backstory behind their franchise.The overarching idea behind this was to facilitate an increase in suburban identity – to get people interested in their neighbourhood and community again.
Secondly, structured skill development. A lot of people get disenfranchised with organised sport when there is exterior pressure on them to achieve a certain skill level to be able to play.In the SRHL, we place no emphasis on structured skill development. 96% of the SRHL have never played ice or inline hockey prior to joining. Player’s skill levels tend to progress at their own rate. The more hockey they play, the more confident they are and the better they get.
Third, tiered competition. Due to the loose nature of the league (teams can exist for 6 months to 3+ years), the SRHL doesn’t have divisions with relegation and promotion. As we are catering for a number of different skill levels, teams are pitted against competitors at or around their skill level. This ensures each and every game is safe, enjoyable and a tight contest between two evenly matched teams. Reducing one-sided scorelines also ensures maximum enjoyment.
Fourth, affordability. We charge $55 a season per player. This is remarkably cheaper than registration fees for any other sport. This fresh model of cheap, accessible and flexible sport has really resonated with Generation Y.

LB: Nice, makes sense, those points certainly resonate with me. I’ve always been pretty rubbish at sports but I love the camaraderie, the drama, the strategy and everything – plus those aesthetic things you mention like uniforms, songs, names and all. So the idea of giving people more autonomy over that stuff, and cultivating more emotional investment in one’s locale, is really appealing.
Speaking of location, though, it’s now well-known that you’ve encountered some road blocks lately. My understanding is that residential noise complaints – and a subsequent council decision – have led to the shutting down of your DIY concrete rink headquarters at Bayswater Bowls Club. Is there still hope of using that venue? How’s the search for alternative spaces going? I’m also wondering whether you see these recent development as a gloomy forecast re: support from the extended community.

EL: Yeah so originally the league started off by playing on underutilised and unloved public basketball courts and carparks. There seems to be a bit of taboo about rollerblading on basketball courts and we got kicked off some spots. It was ok as in the first few seasons there was only 10-20 games per weekend and we got find another spot. As the rego’s kept growing we were getting booted from 1 spot a weekend. We decided we would need our own facility or the league would die.
We spent a year and a half fundraising for our own rink. We raised $60K and laid a concrete slab on a disused bowls green at the Bayswater Bowls Club. It was the start of a beautiful relationship. The Bowls Club only had 48 bowlers and we had nowhere to call home. We gave them increased bar trade and a massive boost in membership and they gave us a purpose built spot to play.
We are the first street hockey league in Australia. So when we built the rink we went in blind. We had no prior Australian example or national sporting body to provide us advice on what to do. The international outdoor rink builders didn’t get back to us.
We received informal noise complaints early on and we attempted to mitigate them. Then the complaints were formalised and the council had to investigate. We breached the acceptable background limits of the Health Act 1977 4 times over 6 months. The Councillors called a special meeting 2 weeks ago now and hastily voted to shut us down until we can guarantee we could comply.
It was pretty disappointing as we tried as hard as possible to get the noise under control. The infringing noises were the sticks hitting the concrete, the stick hitting another stick when the puck is in contention and the puck hitting the boards. Verbal communication and cheering are exempt from the Noise Act.
We put conveyor belt and core flute on the outer surface of our rink, which reduced the puck on board noise. The other two noises are harder to modify as they are part of the everyday playing of the sport. We have hired a sound engineer to come up with some recommendations but it is likely that we will need to install a sound proof wall near the rink.

LB: As a final thought – any visions for the future of the league? Or future projects in general? Strikes me you’ve got the kind of brain where things are always brewing…

EL: Future visions for the league are an interesting one.

Long term our goal is to control our own venue. I’d like to theme it similar to a traditional bowls club but with sports and activities more in line with contemporary Australia. This could be hard to achieve though because councils don’t give land out willy nilly these days (as they did with bowls clubs back in the day). Every recreation facility has to be multi-purpose nowadays too.

In the short term, we are making plans to get more street hockey specific rinks dotted around Perth. Our soon to be legit strategic plan is to have 4 purpose built rinks that service their local community of both hockey players and general society. These 4 rinks would be based in the NE, NW, SE and SW corridors of Perth.

Depending on the week I spend between 20-40 hours on the admin side of theSRHL. At the moment this is all unpaid so between hockey and my actual job I don’t have much time to work on other projects.

My mind is definitely always brewing though. Most of my ideas are just silly puns for potential food trucks.

The scheme that has stuck with me since I turned 18 was opening a bar (who doesn’t have that dream though). If I was gifted a milli I would start an alt sports/music bar in Chinatown called Willy Chow Chow’s.

Wally Koochew was the the first VFL player of Asian descent. His father was Chinese and his mother was Norwegian. He was born and bred in Melbourne and turned out to be good at footy. The Carlton Football Club signed him up for about two seasons in the early 1900s. Apparently some Carlton FC members handed back their memberships as playing an Asian footballer was a blow to the White Australia Policy at the time.

As you can imagine he suffered a heap of racial taunts at games. Apparently one of his nicknames from other teams was Willy Chow Chow. Name a bar after him so we can remember our fucked past.

Someone should start an Australian history podcast (like The Dollop). Stories like these need to be told haha.

PARTY TUNES, PARTY POLITICS: THE LESSER-DISCUSSED USEFULNESS OF POP

Andrew Ryan

Pretty much every week I fill this column with words about music. This is pretty standard fare for a music column. However, like most pop music writers, I’ve rarely broached the more fundamental, almost embarrassingly simple questions. Like: what do we actually make pop music for? And – seriously – how useful is it beyond of entertainment and escapism? Part of the reason these questions don’t get asked in this sort of context is because they’re huge questions, and could warrant a library’s worth of writing. But even if you can’t drink the ocean, it can worth dipping your toes in.

Popular music criticism – understandably – tends to zoom in, not out. It’s not commonplace to see a discussion of what a record or performance could mean beyond its own internal logic – those things like style, genre, signifiers, structure, melody, rhythm and timbre, variables that can be played within an elaborate game of composition and performance. In certain contexts, social commentary does emerge around contemporary music – and lately there’s been plenty of debate on issues like cultural appropriation, gender representation and race relations in pop. Yet these conversations seem to revolve around issues that crop up incidentally and prove to be problematic. What about the actual political use value of pop music? We’ve all encountered overtly political music – and it’s tempting to ignore the topic, since plenty of it is cringeworthy. Beyond hyper-self-conscious efforts (“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”) I do wonder: what can pop music achieve, how can it affect a place, steer a cultural mood?

Questions like these are usually left to the ethnomusicologists, music therapists, pontificating hippies et al. Generally, the question of purpose or use value bears an insinuation – a suggestion that music ought to influence society, or represent something beyond itself and its sonic/emotional content. Which good-time-lovin’ musicians and listeners might deem haughty, pointlessly intellectual, and unfair.

After all, we all already know about pop music’s common use value, more or less. I figure it boils down to roughly five things, though you could itemize it a million ways:
1. It sounds “good” (i.e. interesting, or fun, or comfortingly familiar – it has a positive memory association). (Mate, why are you listening to D’Angelo? Well it sounds good, doesn’t it, you gronk).
2. We relate to the moods or sentiments it conveys. This music SOUNDS how I FEEL, man!
3. It provides an aurally pleasing departure point for other good things in life like dancing, moshing, driving, beard-stroking, jogging, drinking and having sex; it acts as a sort of helpful cue and soundtrack for different components of your lifestyle.
4. It provides “cultural capital” – mate, you haven’t listened to Einstürzende Neubauten? I have. I have the t-shirt and the vinyl. I am a better, cooler person than you, and it feels good.
5. If you make music yourself, it’s a means of oh-so-important “self-expression” – an expressiveness which can be enjoyed vicariously by the listener.

We take these utilities for granted, and perhaps rarely discuss them for the same reason we rarely ask “why did we invent tortillas?” – it seems too straightforward to warrant a conversation, or at least to produce an interesting one. And yet beyond these familiar, internalized notions, it seems that the political usefulness of pop music is a mysterious and little-understood variable.

Without a doubt, my interest in this topic has been piqued by the hefty waves of discontent rolling through my peer group in response to the incumbent federal government’s policies, and the recently announced budget of 2014. Still, that notwithstanding, I’ve long been fascinated by stories of pop music that has measurably effected the political sphere around it. Like, say, Os Mutantes (“The Mutants”) a still-active Brazilian group who formed in the 1960s, and upon integrating with the colourfully countercultural Tropicália arts movement grew to be considered a legitimate threat to the Brazilian Military Government. With their oddball rock-and-roll sound and strange art-world influences, they became of a local emblem for the era’s openness to sex, drugs and party culture, plus the subversive qualities of the modernist avant-garde. Their shows would be interrupted and raided by the military; the Mutantes played up to their reputation, mocking their oppressors with ironic uniforms and releasing unapologetically experimental records. It would be foolishly romantic to suggest that they played a vital role in bringing down that government, which lasted from 1964 to 1985. But they, and Tropicália as a whole, were a genuine force of resistance. It is impossible to say to what extent they mobilized the culture against oppression, and to what extent they reflected a countercultural zeitgeist. These two things are tightly intertwined.

Beyond the general and fairly bland notions that “everything is political” (because everything has motivations, implications and consequences) and “everything is music” (because everything is vibrations in space), music and politics in the vernacular sense have a long and tangled history. Let’s quickly call upon Plato, who had elaborate, specific and ethically-driven ideas of what should be fostered, and what shouldn’t be permitted, in music (flutes are out, by the way… apologies to all Platonic flautists reading). You might think Plato is a cool guy, but he was none too keen on the development of musical styles:

“Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited. When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.”

This might seem dramatic, but I’d suggest he’s at least right about the second bit. There’s a synchronicity between musical shifts and shifts in “the state.” Cause and effect may be hard to establish, but if you want to maintain the social status quo, it’s best to keep music stagnant, and vice versa. Of course, we all learnt in high school English class that art is shaped significantly by its context. More intriguing is the question of how much art can shape sphere in which it exists.

It’s well known that music can have an anthemic function, that it can enhance solidarity and rally people around a cause. Percussive rhythms and vocal songs have long been used for warfaring and ceremonial purposes. Before the Zildjian company started making cymbals (which are now rock-industry standard) for artistic purposes in the 19th century, it made them to scare off enemies of the Ottomoan Empire. All totalitarian regimes have espoused certain propoganda-ready styles and denounced other, freer, more individualistic approaches. There is no doubt that music becomes a more potent tool, the more it is resented by the powerful. That’s a good start.

In the 1959, the folk song ‘We Shall Overcome’ emerged as an unofficial anthem of the American Civil Rights movement, performed by the liked of Pete Seeger on Joan Baez (the latter led a crowd 300,000 strong in singing the song at a march on Washington). In 1965, president Lyndon Johnson used the title phrase in a speech, thereby expressing his support for the protest movment in a remarkable turning point. Rarely has a song lyric meant and achieved so much.

Protest songs can be easily spotted, throughout history and across the world. From classical music (Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco) to hip hop (“Fuck The Police,”) there’s no doubt that protest songs can transcend their specific origins to become enduring, adaptable things. Australia is no stranger to them either. Here we seem to focus most heavily in indigenous rights (see: Yothu Yindi’s “Treaty,” and Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning” among dozens more) and the folly and futility of war (tunes like Eric Bogle’s “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” Redgum’s “A Walk in the Light Green” and The Herd’s “77%.”

But the fact that these songs are political does not, in itself, prove much. In a modern pop context – outside of crucial pushes like the Civil Rights movments – do political messages in pop songs actually sink in?
In 2010, the University of Minnesota’s Mark Pedelty and Linda Keefe conducted a rigorous study of students’ listening habits versus their topics of discussion. The academic pursuit confirmed what you might assume: students who listened to “political pop” were significantly more politically engaged than those who stuck to apolitical chart-toppers.

For sociologist and cultural theorist Theodor Adorno, music “possesses a unique ability to awaken our soporific social consciousness.” But Adorno was averse to pop music, believing it to be shallow and commercial, contending that “must resist commodification in order to be a powerful force for socio-political change.” He espoused specific approaches and sounds, and as such echoes Plato: music has an interent political power, but there’s a right and a wrong way to use this potential.

On the one hand, it’s hard to deny that much of the world’s most popular “political music” seems entirely benign. Bands like U2 and Rage Against The Machine preach anti-establishment politics, but exist in – and receive their platform from – the corporate music industry. If they were a genuine threat to the status quo, they probably wouldn’t have record deals. And while their songs may grow from specific concerns, the end result is often too vague, too generic and fuzzy, to rally listeners around any particular push for change.

But that doesn’t mean that pop songs are mere window dressing in the sphere of political change. To cite one recent example, I’d argue that Pussy Riot, while more noted for their antics than their music, needed the latter to attract a spotlight – which has allowed them to illuminate the injustices of the Putin regime around the world. Their August 2012 single “Putin Lights Up The Fires,” was more than a fashionable accessory to their politics; it was a passionate centrepiece, a great punk song, and a sort of lifeblood driving the message forward through amplifiers and airwaves.

Joan Baez has shared her own thoughts on the matter of pop and the way it can reach people: “I think that music is probably the only medium that really does cross all boundaries, and all languages, and all countries.” Perhaps it’s not the only one, but the cross-pollination of music around the world has been manifest in every potent example, from the subversive weirdo-pop of Os Mutantes to the anti-Apertheid anthems of South Africa. But Baez, who sang “We Shall Overcome” to that 300,000 strong crowd, has no illusions about the interdependency of music and action. “The social change is never really made by music,” Baez continues “it has to be backed up by what you do.” Which for Baez, and others, has meant civil disobedience and getting arrested. The pop song is, perhaps, benign – until it is put in the right place at the right time.

On Sunday, I attended Melbourne’s “March In May” protest, a peaceful stroll (in a 25,000 person group) through the CBD. For the most part, the March was quiet, somehow strangely subdued. The moment I felt my heart rate pick up was when a drum fired up amid the throng, and began pounding rhythms upon which chants were layered. This mustered a certain amount of enthusiasm from the surrounding marchers. But when the group turned a corner – from Bourke onto Swanston street, towards Federation square – we saw a band setting up, a rock band with a saxophone. The band fired up with an ebuillient groove and the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. There was nothing political about this band’s music, but at that moment, it put wind in the sails of countless protestors. It was not the substance, it wasn’t exactly a self-contained ideology, but it was an invigorating force.

Which is partly why music need not be “political” in the way we might commonly talk about it in order to have a real political impact. An instrumental house music dance party – if held in parliament house, say – could have a tremendous impact. “The dangerous thing about listening to music,” said Tori Amos, “is that you don’t really know the effect it’s going to have.” The same can be said about the music you make and share. Which is why, in a time of great political discontent in Australia, the role of pop music might just be getting more interesting, more dangerous, every day. And it needn’t be “Beds Are Burning” to ruffle a few feathers.

GREEN AND GOLD, MAJORS AND MINORS, POLITICS AND POP: SOME THOUGHTS ON THE WA SENATE RE-RUN

Andrew Ryan

It’s last Saturday, and I haul my bedraggled self out of bed and roll into the familiar car park of the place where I attended primary school. The familiar trees, birdbath, windowsills and fences are just where I left them. Today though, they’re adorned with trimmings that aren’t so nostalgic. There are cardboard signs, posters, flags, in different shapes and sizes, espousing one political party or another. Volunteers in sunglasses and coloured t-shirts proffer how-to-vote cards in the warm sun, though I dodge them and find my way past the sausage sizzle to the polling booths. This story is not unique to me. Hundreds of thousands of Western Australians do just the same today, having their name crossed off before ensconcing themselves in a cardboard cubicle to write on an oversized slip of paper. I opt to vote “below the line” this time – eschewing the easier option of choosing one party and entrusting them with subsequent preferences, I number the boxes 1 through 77. My cobwebbed Saturday morning brain strains more than it ought to with the straightforward task. I fold it the paper and wiggle it with some difficulty into the already-cramped ballot box. I wander out, buy a fundraiser cupcake with a monkey on it, and get on with my day.

For me, in the scheme of things, the morning of Saturday April 5, 2014 is not particularly remarkable. But somewhere, probably only a few kilometers away, a former graphic designer named Scott is inhaling the first few hours of one of the most crucial days of his life.

By now, you already know what happened. Western Aussies voted and – while the final count may take another couple of weeks – the results are pretty evident.

Green fiends had been on tenterhooks since Senator Scott Ludlam was cast into political purgatory following an Australian Electoral Commission bungle last Semptember (a now-infamous 1370 lost ballots that ultimately necessitated the by-election). But on Saturday night his supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief. As the count progressed, it became clear that Ludlam had fulfilled the necessary quota on first preferences alone – a welcome rarity for a Greens candidate. In the yellow corner, acolytes of the Palmer United Party had every reason to pop the champagne. It didn’t matter that PUP’s key WA senate candidate Dio Wang had been elusive throughout the election campaign, or that Clive himself disappeared into a black hole on voting day. The right-leaning party was primed to scoop up disaffected former Coalition voters, and with a brutal multi-million dollar advertizing blitz that outspent the majors and the Greens combined, there was never any chance they’d go unnoticed.

Like a clanging paddock gate, votes swung heavily, away from the major parties starting with L. Cue significant wind in the sails of The Greens and Palmer United. The Liberals’ primary vote took a dive of 5.5%, and Labor’s dropped almost as much. But perhaps more telling is the overall primary vote percentage, in which the Liberals claimed 34% and Labor a measly 22%. When the two parties who’ve historically dominated elections by huge margins only accrue just over half of the primary vote combined, the line between “major” and “minor” parties starts to feel more tenuous.

Of course, soon enough, no-one will give a shit about primary vote percentages. Heck, it’s probably a relative few who do right now. And as far as WA Senate representation goes, it will be almost back to business as usual: a few Liberal senators, slightly fewer Labor figures, a Green dude… the key difference being a stronger presence from the yet-unpredictable Palmer camp. But certain intriguing trends and truths emerge from this election that will probably play on the public consciousness long after the specifics are relegated to the haze of memory.

Firstly, it’s obvious that the major parties can no longer rest on their laurels in WA. Indeed, they have no stinkin’ laurels. The WA Labor reputation is an unfunny joke. The only certain Labor Senator to come out of this election (with Louise Pratt’s fate yet unclear) is right-factional big dick Joe Bullock, who the day before voting day made the genius strategic move of saying the ALP was “untrustworthy” and full of “mad” members, and that he himself had voted against Labor. Sweet tactics mate. Bullock’s bizarre antics notwithstanding, the party has every appearance of being a shambles, with ALP Senator Mark Bishop lambasting his own party, and former ALP Premier Geoff Gallop saying he’s “devastated” with the state it’s in.

The Western chunk of Australia has little reason to love the Liberal Party right now, either: there’s no unpopular Labor mob in power that need “kicking out,” and between the well-loathed shark kill policy and deep cuts to health, education and more – there’s little to get excited about there. Palmer, with his promise of more GST revenue for WA (never mind that he has no means of delivering this), more humane asylum seeker stance, colourful personality (see: twerking, the Titanic II, animatronic dinosaurs) and gleaming double thumbs-up, comes across to the casual observer as a more appealing right-wing presence.

For my part, I’m not too glad about the PUP’s success: they enjoyed the biggest positive swing on voting day, but I can’t imagine how anyone thinks an East coast-based party led by a millionaire mining-magnate screwball who tells journalists to “shut up” when they invoke climate-change science is a good party to represent WA. But so it goes. What does interest me is the quick pick up in the Green vote, a vote that had been on the decline ever since Bob Brown’s departure and peak popularity in 2010. To dismiss the improvement as a default by-product of major party unpopularity would be unfair. The Greens’ campaign, though far less expensive than Palmer’s, was remarkable. At least in my social sphere it was ubiquitous, and it ran off blood, sweat, tears, charisma and – interestingly – internet and music culture.

Scotty Ludlam had been well-loved by a select group of hardcore fans for years – Crikey’s “First Dog On The Moon” had already immortalized him as an anthropomorphized cartoon haircut, and his hair features in Fremantle street art – but, without question, it was his scathing parliamentary attack on Tony Abbott – a poised speech innocently titled “Scott Ludlam Welcomes Tony Abbott to WA” – that catapulted him to widespread notoriety. It wasn’t just that he eloquently articulated a whole range of gripes that Western (and not so Western) Australians had with the Abbott government. It put him on the map as an intelligent, credible alternative voice: a guy who not only cared about things like refugee rights, internet privacy, the environment and a diversified economy, but did so on the basis of facts, figures and research rather than sheer hippie goodwill. The marriage of anti-Abbott venom and inspirational, cinematic slogan-crafting (“We want our country back… Game on Prime Minister, see you out west”) proved to harbour a sort of social media magic ingredient. It was shared profusely and now sits atop more than 850,000 plays. But, needless to say, its viewership – particular the receptive chunk – was geared towards the left. In Parliament, Scott may have been preaching to an almost-empty room. In the internet sphere, it’s unclear to what extent he was preaching to the choir. Whatever the case, it was going to take more than a viral video to ensure his seat was won.

That’s where Ludlam’s tireless yet nonchalant work ethic really began to show through, with relentless internet and broadcast media activity that made him a constant presence that managed not to insult your intelligence. Unfortuantely, his follow-up speech to “Welcome to WA” failed to attract the same sort of attention: “Our Vision for WA” in which Scott details his elaborate vision for “WA 2.0” racked up only a fraction of its predecessor’s views. But the snowballing hype and increasingly earnest faith in the man was on course.

The Saturday before the election, Capitol hosted “Ludapalooza”- a massive gig/club night functioning to rally the troops and raise funds. The Greens’ campaign managers didn’t need to set the thing up. Capitol’s Death Disco night took the initiative; such is the enthusiasm that Ludlam seems to engender. There were live sets from Sam Perry, Lilt, and Command Q; DJ appearances came from Black & Blunt, the Death Disco DJs and – not content to simply attend – the Senator himself, under the half-assed pseudonym DJ S-Ludz. From all reports, his selection was suitably respectable without affecting over-the-top hip factor: Underworld, Cut Copy, The Herd, Flume and others – including Nine Inch Nails, of whom Ludlam is a devout fan. Other attempts to invoke pop culture to engage the younger demographic have seemed more bizarre: his “Vision for WA” speech, when uploaded to Youtube, features an incongruous Doge meme (“such liberals. much animosity. wow”). Ludlam reported his own mixed feelings on that one to pop culture site Junkee: “Can’t help myself. I put the Doge text in that video because it’s very now, but in two years people are gonna watch it and just go, ‘What was he doing?’”

Such a public admission would seem to counteract any criticisms one might sling about Ludlam’s tactics being too superficial, trendy, or contrived to corner the youth vote. These moments are sporadic, unashamedly silly, and self-aware. And unlike Kevin Rudd appearing on “Ready, Steady, Cook,” Tony Abbott invading Big Brother or John Howard attempting to play cricket, these tangents actually seem to grow from genuine personal interest, thereby dodging a fair amount of the usual pop-meets-politics cringe factor.

Now elected, Ludlam has earned a brief reprieve from the trudgery of endless self-promotion. But, with the incentive of election out of the picture and supporters less agitated, his next challenge will be maintaining his profile and getting his messages out over the hubbub of major party politics. He’s professed to hating the farce that is contemporary Question Time and the 24-hour news cycle (what decent politican wouldn’t?), but he will be at least partially judged on his performance in those arenas nonetheless. There will probably be no surprises regarding how Ludlam votes on major policy passing through the Upper House, but the next few years will certainly be interesting in terms of watching him either stagnate or grow as an autonomous political figure and Left-wing torcherbearer, in the era beyond hair jokes and viral videos.

Many, like myself, are eager to have a politician on the national and international stage whom we can get behind, who is actually likeable, who we can trust to represent our state intelligently, articulately and with a degree of compassion and humanity. Of course, it’d be folly to put all our faith and unguarded optimism in just one man. It would be foolish and counterproductive to foster the “cult of personality” around Scott Ludlam, toting more superhero fan art and t-shirts, without holding the guy to appropriate scrutiny like everyone else (those Kevin ’07 shirts look a bit silly now huh).

The real positive lesson to take from Ludlam’s campaign is not that the guy is great and everyone loves him – but rather that, if enough people care enough about something, it’s possible for that collective will to stand a fighting chance again big union power, big corporate power, big politics, big money. What really won Ludlam’s seat was thousands upon thousands of volunteers, phone calls, door-knocks, staff and supporters – all believing that certain things may be defended against the odds.

Scott Ludlam is not the goal. Representation for those people, places, species – indeed, ideas – that can’t buy or impose their own voices so readily is the surely goal. As such, the soft-spoken Ludlam, with activist and creative roots, is less an embodiment of those things we must defend, and more an apt metaphor for the way in which we might defend them. Still, one might be forgiven for affording a promising politican bit of faith and affection. Heaven knows, the opportunity doesn’t come around too often.

P.S. For a detailed and really nicely written run-down on the Ludlam campaign, I cheerfully endorse this article (http://junkee.com/headliners/how-scott-ludlam-won-the-west/) over at Junkee. Happy reading!

Sharks, Boats and Winning Votes (or: The Fantastic Mystery Of Public Sentiment Right About Now)

Andrew Ryan

“It’s not very nice to hook sharks who are minding their own business and shoot them in the head.”

I can get on board with that statement.

“And killing the critters probably won’t put a stop to shark attacks happening in this state.”

Likewise. For sure.

It’s also exciting to rally behind a cause, particular one that has such a seemingly straightforward and workable premise: bug-eyed, powerful villain (Colin “Cullin” Barnett) cruelly attacks the innocent, misunderstood underdog (ol mate Sharky, who may or may not be voiced by Barry Humphries). The good guys (noble activists) can float out and remove baits from the drum lines, saving the day in a Captain Planet-style triumph (cue majestic synthpop-meets-community-rap theme song). Plus, seriously, how heartening is to see 4,000+ people show up on the beach to protest a government policy? Crikey, (the ghost of Steve Irwin speaks through me) maybe compassion’s not dead after all? Maybe apathy doesn’t reign supreme?

And yet I find myself bewildered and more than a little dejected. I love you, shark-huggers, I really do, but your enthusiasm and good-heartedness can only do so much to cheer me. See, I’m in a state of bafflement, observing the prevailing public outrages and the not-so-prevailing ones. What’s being said and how loudly, how often; what does and doesn’t weigh on people’s minds. I find it to be a fantastic mystery.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I think about the whole shark cull issue, in 500 words or less.

Let’s start with some facts – everyone likes facts. According to the IUCN, Tiger sharks and Bull sharks are not yet considered threatened, while Great Whites are slightly worse off – “vulnerable” (but not yet endangered, contrary to some reports by well-meaning activists). That’s good news, sort of! These men in grey rubber suits are not facing extinction or ecosystem-destorying scarcity in the immediate future.

Now, since the policy became an encroaching reality, many online dissenters have asserted that the plan will be useless, that there’s “no science” to support the tactic. I began to believe that myself, when the Greens Party announced that 100 shark scientists and “professionals who work with sharks” had co-signed an open letter to the WA Government decrying the policy and suggesting alternatives. Far be it from me to contradict 100 experts, not to mention swathes of surfers, whose hobby literally rides atop the threat of shark attack, and even shark attack victims, who’ve come out saying they’d rather let their attackers live in peace.

If you read that open letter, you’ll find that the scientist cohort never said the catch-and-kill approach wouldn’t work. They just reminded the government that there are more humane options, and that when we swim, we should know the risks (which, growing up in WA, we all do). There is, as it happens, evidence to show that baited drum lines do make beaches safer to swim in (see ABC’s “fact check” video on the matter or this article). So while the image of a shark with a rifle to its head may upset you (I’m certainly not a huge fan), it might be a bit misguided to say that Colin’s brutal fishing trip is doomed to be totally ineffective.

But hey – that’s not really what I want to tackle (no pun intended). I don’t want to convince you that the cull is an OK idea. I don’t love it myself. What mystifies me is the widespread outrage brought on by this particular issue, this lonely and comparatively minor issue. The sudden vitriolic attacks on a state government which previously attracted only the default quantity of scorn. One picture of a fish being killed goes up on ‘Perth Now’, and the comments flow in:

“UnAustralian absolutely disgraceful!!!”

“Disgusting!!!!! Shame shame shameful and the arrogance is unbelievable”

“I reckon we should feed the WA premier to the sharks”

And so on. I can relate to the distate, totally, but to me it boils down to a simple fact: humans do – historically, increasingly, constantly – harm animals in the name of self-interest. You can probably pre-empt my elaboration on that: a shark is a fish, which we kill by the squillions. Granted, individually a Great White is more ecologically “precious” than a tuna, but overall the fishing industry is more ecologically harmful. And is there an intrinsic difference between the two animals’ right to live?

In terms of the need to kill these dudes, the shark at least might take a bite out of your leg – there’s a pre-emptive self-defence vibe. We’re not going to stop swimming or surfing (are we?) so it makes sense to protect ourselves from becoming lunch. A tuna, however, is doomed to die simply ‘cause we reckon the little guy tastes good on a rice cake with some basil and cracked pepper. I don’t want to get on a cynical high horse here, I’m as hypocritical as the next guy, but it’s entirely likely that most people opposing the shark hunt have gone to a fish ’n’ chip shop and munched on “flake,” which is, of course, shark. Colin’s killed one so far; between thirty and a seventy million (seventy million!) sharks are killed by people each year for recreational or commercial purposes. So, shouldn’t we be about seventy million times as outraged at the latter?

I’m not sure, to be honest. But you get what I’m getting at. And yet, my main point, what I’m ACTUALLY getting at, my main source of bafflement and distress, is still to come.

Here it is, in a pair of neat statistics. According to recent polls reported by the Sydney Morning Herald:

80% of Australians oppose the WA Government’s Shark Cull policy.

60% of Australians want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

Reading the latter line makes me feel ill. Genuinely, physically ill and a little light-headed. What is going on here? Seriously, in what twisted nightmare is that a real statistic? Suddenly, the shark cull seems like a tragic – if not conscious – distraction from the bigger fish to fry.

A bit of background, again, so we’re on the same page – though given the context of this article, I may be preaching to the choir on this one. Firstly, as you surely know by now, it’s not illegal to seek asylum, even if arriving by boat. The 1958 Migration Act makes this clear. Secondly, no asylum seeker arriving by boat has ever been found to be a terrorist or threat to national security. Third, asylum seekers are denied the right to work (since August 2012), and they don’t receive any assistance from Centrelink – so they can’t “take our jobs” or our sweet sweet welfare moneys. And despite politicians’ claims that boat people are “queue-jumpers” (Tony Abbott, 2012) or “economic migrants,” (Bob Carr, 2013), 90-94% of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are found to be genuine refugees. Last year, despite having one of the world’s stronger economies, Australia ranked 49th for refugee intake, while 80% of refugees continued to be hosted by developing countries.

Those are a few of the dry, but important “myth-busting” statistics, often touted by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. But perhaps more eye-opening and terrifying is the largely obfuscated day-to-day reality that asylum seekers endure. The scary truth about how we treat those who come to us seeking a safe haven from persecution and violence.

Conditions in offshore processing centres have been gut-wrenching to hear about for a long while. For the sake of discussion let’s start December 2012. Amnesty International representatives visit Nauru and report their findings – that there is a lack of legal representation for asylum seekers, and a lack of health services; the camps – comprised of leaky army tents – reach temperatures exceeding 40°C, often flood, and are plagued by rodents and insects. Nine men are on hunger strike. During the visit, one man tries to hang himself from a tent pole. Amnesty advises that the centre be closed and all asylum seekers be returned to Australia.

In July 2013, a former guard at Manus Island named Rod St George publicly admits that Immigration staff at the detention centre had been ignoring a series of rapes and assaults on male detainees. The men who’d been assaulted were forced forced to remain in the same cramped tents as their abusers, since there was nowhere else to put them. Some detainees were sewing their mouths shut in protest. Suicide and self-harm occurred “almost daily.” The tents were scorchingly hot; medical services and facilities inadequate. St George says the centre “couldn’t even serve as a dog kennel.”

All this, and 60% of Australians want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

I remember the day, also last July, when Kevin Rudd appeared on the telly to announce a new asylum seeker “solution,” and I naively thought maybe the team had engineered a useful plan – channeling, say, the vastly cheaper and more humane idea of community processing, or at least processing on-shore as per the insistence of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Instead, we saw Labor take the low road of deterrence through cruelty. “If you come here by boat, you won’t be settled in Australia,” came the threat. Deals were struck with neighbouring nations for resettlement locations: first Papua New Guinea, then Nauru. Wherever it would be, it wouldn’t be here, they said – a reassurance aimed at winning over voters who were scared, prejudiced or under-informed, an attempt to beat Tony Abbott at his own fearmongering “stop the boats” game.

Fast-forward slightly to August. The UN finds Australia guilty of almost 150 violations of international human rights law for its indefinite detention of 46 refugees. In September, the Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, sweeps into power and – lo and behold – things don’t appear to be getting better.

“Operation Sovereign Borders” comes into play. The boats don’t stop coming, though we do stop hearing about them (at the time of writing, even Scott Morrison’s meagre “weekly briefings” have ceased) because the revelation surfaces that it’s a national security threat to mention the boat arrivals. Seems legit.

In November, in Brisbane, a 31-year-old asylum seeker named Latifa gives birth and is promptly separated from her child. Latifa must return to the detention centre, while the baby remains in hospital. She has a six-hour window each day in which to visit the infant; the rest of the time, she’s locked up. The father isn’t allowed to visit at all. Soon, Immigration minister Scott Morrison will give the go-ahead for families with newborn babies to actually be sent to offshore detention centres.

And 60% of Australians want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

Early this month, it emerges that women in detention centres do not have easy access to sanitary items, let alone birth control, and must request them one-or-two-at-a-time from guards in a humiliating twist on Oliver’s “please sir, may I have some more?”

In more recent weeks, it the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre reports that pregnant women on Nauru are requesting abortions because they fear their babies will not survive the heat and filth of the detention camps. Women who do give birth are told that their babies are considered “illegal,” like them. People are referred to by their boat number, not by name.

And 60% of Australians want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

January 26 crops up: Australia Day comes and goes. The headlines that aren’t accompanied by waving flags and meat pies are devoted to the killing of the first shark. I feel the weird cognitive dissonance of wanting to celebrate Australia whilst constantly digesting new information about the our government’s cruelty, both towards our indigenous brothers and sisters and foreign friends seeking refuge. I swallow the sick joke of spouting self-congratulatory hashtags like “mateship” and “a fair go” as the wheels are in motion stripping desperate people in detention centres of the right to legal aid and appeal. I want to celebrate the awesome things about the country, its breathtaking beauty, the inspiring side of its history, its achievements, its clever and cosmopolitan culture, but the anniversary of the first colonial fleet’s arrival feels like a jarring day to do so.

And 60% of Australians want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

I try to console myself. People have been misled, right? By Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison’s weasel words, by News Corp, et cetera; people are making their assessment based on lies, simplifications, hidden realities and skewed half-truths. If that 60% slice of Australia knew a bit more about the situation, I tell myself, if those folks dug a little deeper, they’d feel differently. But such a suggestion feels both condescending and unduly generous. Besides, even if it’s is true, it’s cold comfort. It’s a hypothetical. It doesn’t change the reality.

For now, I’ll keep wondering how we got to this point, trying to make sense of it all. I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg, and have a lot more self-education and listening to do. It’s 6am now, and I need to sleep, but maybe soon I’ll read Chris Tsiolkas’ essay, “Why Australia Hates Asylum Seekers.”

And maybe we’ll keep protesting the shark cull and maybe, maybe it will achieve something tangible. It may not have saved the first shark, but it’s definitely mounted the pressure, the onus is on Barnett to defend it, and people are already stealing bait off those darn drum lines. And maybe if that reminds us of the fact that we can affect real change, we’ll begin to feel ready to tackle problems that are not so straightforward. Problems that require us not only to protest, but to debunk and erode the prejudices that surround us and live within us. To heal a culture of fear and hate. When we start to do that, there’ll be every reason to celebrate.

ELECTION POST-MORTEM: WHAT THE RUDDY HELL HAPPENED?

Andrew Ryan

Just because you can see the train coming, doesn’t mean it hurts less when it hits you. Press and polls foretold a Coalition victory in Saturday’s federal election, but despite months of mulling it over, the headlines were hard to swallow. I was walking down Market Street in Freo when I heard the news. A single salty tear rolled down my cheek and splashed into my frogurt. Dark days were upon us.

Since then, my mood’s been zigzagging – from despondency, to denial, to desperate optimism and, overwhelmingly, disbelief. Tony’s in. Nine out of ten things you care about are being Express-posted down the crapper. How did this happen?

Because, seriously, if you’d told me five years ago – hell, even twelve months ago – that Tony Abbott would soon be Australia’s top dog, I would have spat coffee all over your face. It would have seemed a preposterous notion – and it still does – because it relies on not just one, not two, not a hundred, but literally millions of people believing that this man (memorably described by Paul Keating as an “intellectual nobody”) is apt to run a country. This man, who for the last decade and beyond has been a reliable source of cretinous gaffes, casual sexism, underhand racism – or at the very least cultural ignorance – all the while boasting the approximate charisma of a bowl of warm spew.

And yet, my disbelief isn’t really to do with the Abbotisms. Yes, I know, Tony’s a creep – a sometimes-incompetent public speaker, a bumbling constitutional monarchist whose not-so-carefully-scripted remarks routinely betray attitudes that don’t belong in this century (or any other century, ideally). Still, the man is not an idiot per se: he’s a Rhodes Scholar, a one-time journalist and business manager, a driven politician who evidently has the nous to climb to the top of the dung-heap. We are wasting our breath bemoaning Tony’s personal shortcomings, because they are (a) already well-known and (b) increasingly exaggerated (yes, I’ll say so); we risk hyperbole and ad hominem, thereby selling our own arguments short. Tony Abbott is perfectly capable of making himself look like a nasty, bigoted, vapid old crook.

Nay, what baffles me most is that we succeeded in electing a party that offered us no positive vision; a party lacking both style and substance, whose singular goal seemed to be dismantling anything put forward by the other guys. The Libs courted us with negative space, promising nothing new, save for some long-ass roads and a paid parental leave scheme. The rest were contrarian, subtractive, even regressive promises: no more carbon tax, no more independent Climate Change Authority, no gay marriage, less mining tax, less Racial Discrimination Act, no more sad-looking brown people arriving on boats. Less funding for schools, hospitals, public transport. A (very) watered-down NBN, a smaller (read: pissweak) emissions reduction target for 2020, and no targets for 2030 or 2050. On the last day of the election trail, they dropped this final whopper: a $4.5 billion cut to foreign aid. There were those who were outraged but, in the scheme of things, the announcement barely caused a ripple.

In swapping Kevin’s flawed plan for Tony and Co’s barely-there, anti-everything platform, Australia has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, done a poo in the bath, lit a cigar and is now reclining in its leather armchair to gaze on, smilingly vacantly at the destruction. I keep coming back to the question: how in Menzies’ name did this happen?

I’m not a political analyst and I’m not going to attempt to answer the question in any conclusive way. I do know, however, that the Wall Street Journal’s woeful article from Monday, (“Why Tony Abbott Won”) is one of many which offer no satisfying answers: it paints Abbott as the straight-talking underdog who called bullshit on climate change “hysteria” to win the hearts of the Australian public, all amidst “media bias against him” (never mind Rudd-as-Nazi on the front page of the Daily Telegraph).

Most other news sources cite Labor’s internal conflicts and the Carbon Tax as decisive issues. Okay, but really? Do people care that much if a party has two head honchos in one term? If the party was beset by disunity, it still managed to pass over 550 pieces of legislation – including some important reforms (for the record, I thought Rudd’s first ousting was embarrassing, and Gillard’s deplorable, but this doesn’t nullify their respective achievements).

Meanwhile, has the carbon tax caused us that much pain? And if it has caused a noticeable increase in the cost of living, are we so short-sighted that we’d prefer to let future generations bear the far greater load – once it’s already too late?

It seems we bought into an economy of fear and finger-pointing. Tony’s relentless antagonism was, if nothing else, hard to ignore. Do we love to hate our governments so much that as soon as a walking lizard-man shrieks “boats!” or “economic emergency!” (two so-called crises unsupported by the figures), we grab the torches and pitchforks without seeking out the truth of the matter? Or could it be that, after toying with Labor for a while, we inevitably retreat to the perceived “safety” of the Liberals – who are ingrained in our psyche (even in the subconscious of the left, as Ross Gittins has suggested in the SMH) as genetically better-equipped to handle the economy and preside over our comfortably capitalist, patriarchal society?

I dunno. I try not to assume the worst about my fellow Australians. I’m hoping that everyone voted Abbott in because they thought it’d be funny. And let’s be honest – it will be. The suppository of all wisdom?! Jesus. You can’t script that.

Coalition win aside, there is plenty to puzzle over in the Senate. Meet Wayne Dropulich – senator for the Australian Sports Party, whose policies focus on sports, sports, and uhhhhhh: sports. Then there’s David Leyonhjelm, the Liberal Democrat who got in because his name was first on the ballot (“looks like I’m the senator for donkeys!” he cheered) and because people confused his party with the actual Liberal party. There’s Jacquie Lambie, a member of Clive Palmer’s goon squad, and Glen Lazarus, a former rugby star known as “The Brick with Eyes” (exactly what you want in a politician). My personal favourite is Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, who’s tweeted jokes about 9/11 being an inside job, uploaded videos to Youtube where he flings kangaroo poo at family members, and supports the “unimpeded recreational use of the environment.” This guy will be sharing a room with ten Greens senators. Fetch the popcorn.

So where do we go from here? With a parliament peppered with various sorts of nutters, troglodytes and legitimately nasty dudes, the situation may already seem dire. For those of us whose prospects lie within the arts or academia, it might feel like we’re already totally rooted (to use the technical term). As per their 2010 campaign, the Libs haven’t deigned to formulate an Arts policy, and they will move to cut “wasteful” spending on academic research programmes – bypassing the Australian Research Council on the decisions because ARC might fund, y’know, art and philosophy and all that airy-fairy shit.

It’s a grim outlook. But as soon as we despair – as soon as we become disengaged, disillusioned angstophiles merely moaning on Facebook – they win. As soon as we resign ourselves to the “politicians suck, why bother?” mentality, they win. The bottom line is money, but the other bottom line is future votes, and that’s our trump card. A petition created just days ago, demanding the uptake of Labor’s fibre-to-the-home NBN plan, has garnered more than 120,000 signatures already; who knows if it will influence any MP’s decisions, but that sort of thing sends a message. It says that electing a government is not a blanket endorsement. Seats won doesn’t equate to a mandate on every policy. If we keep drilling it in, it will grow to be meaningful.

No, online petitions won’t be enough. We need to get a bit old-school, however uncool it may seem. We need to actually write letters to our local MPs. We need to call them up, bang on their door if necessary; hearing us out is their job. We need to protest, we need to make art and music that confronts those who are heartless, cowardly, short-sighted and selfish. We need to keep a critical eye on whatever media we consult, and call out spin and falsehoods. We need to let bad times galvanise us, and we need to keep the momentum up. If I sound idealistic, naïve, crazed, delusional: I’m cool with that. The one thing I’d hate to be right now is apathetic, indifferent, too jaded to bother. Because once the voting’s over, that sort of attitude plays right into the hands of parliament’s ultimate bastards and drongos. Democracy doesn’t begin and end on election day.

Don’t get me wrong – there was plenty to be concerned about under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. But with these new developments, many of us are dreading three years of cold, conservative hell recalling the worst of the Howard years. Let’s give them hell back. At worst, our kids will think we were pretty cool.