blamebrampton (blamebrampton) wrote,

Australian politics: a Harry Potter primer

There's a federal election coming up here. For those in the rest of the world, Australian politics can be hard to follow. No one outside the country is really sure who the members of the Opposition are. In fact, a lot of people are no longer sure who our Prime Minister is, since he was so swiftly bumped off by his own party. In order to fill you all in, I have prepared this useful guide, in terms my flist can follow.

Until recently, the Australian Prime Minister was Harry Potter. He was elected to the position back in 2007 when the Australian Labor Party took victory, displacing the eleven-year-long Liberal (Conservative) reign of Voldemort . Voldemort had been convinced that he would be returned to power by an electorate only concerned with the economy, but misread the situation, as it turned out that many Australians were also concerned with Climate Change, Decent Treatment of Refugees, and Economic Policies that were more sustainable than Growth At All Costs.

At first, Harry was a lovely Prime Minister. He apologised to the Stolen Generations -- Indigenous Australians who had been removed from their families through much of the 20th century. He was serious about dealing with Climate Change and took a leading role in the lead-up to Copenhagen. When the Global Financial Crisis crippled many of the other leading Western economies, a mixture of quick and well-targeted stimulus spending and a basically stable economy meant that it was barely a blip in Australia. Occasionally one will hear people here moan about the GFC, but a quick set of anecdotes about what happened in much of the rest of the world sees them scurrying back to their comfy homes and mostly decently paid jobs.

All seemed well. Harry was ably supported by his Deputy Prime Minister, Hermione , and Treasurer, Ron . But there were rats in the ranks and holes in the skirting boards! Although Harry's nickname of the Ruddbot began as an affectionate term, it became less and less so as he showed a disturbing tendency to rely on autocratic policies, jettisoning some of his core beliefs in the name of electoral and economic pragmatism.

Meanwhile, in the Liberal Party, everyone expected that Voldemort would be replaced by Peter Pettigrew . Instead, the leadership of the party went to Alberic Grunnion   ... Yeah ... that's what we said. After a dignified pause, Draco Malfoy wrestled the mantle of power from his colleague.

As Dark Lords go, Draco wasn't too bad. He was a bit of a softy when it came to things like starving the poor and beating the workers, and believed in handy things like Climate Change and some degree of market regulation. And he was a bit hot. He thought himself reasonably safe, by virtue of being smarter than anyone else in his party, born to rule, and the only attractive Conservative in the country. Confident beyond what common sense would dictate, he put his friends Pansy Parkinson , Vincent Crabbe  and  Gregory Goyle onto the front bench. He should probably have been more diligent about reading from the Death Eater Handbook, or at least attending the Slytherin Common Room tea and crumpet parties, because fate was not kind to him.

It was Harry's fault, of course. All shiny and Saviour of the Worldy and coming up with a perfectly reasonable (Carbon) Emissions Trading Scheme. Draco was captivated by the shine off the PM's glasses and, in a moment of madness, suggested bilateral support for the ETS. The energy utilities and mining companies shrieked as though they had suddenly found a flobberworm in their undies. 'We'll all be rooned!' they cried.

'No you won't,' said Harry. 'You've been squirreling away billions a year since China started buying all your minerals, and you charge a fortune for power without needing to bear any of the environmental consequences as it is.'

'No you won't,' said Draco. 'I've been on half your Boards and I know exactly what kind of taxation burden you can cope with and this is well within the limits.

From the back of the room, Crabbe spoke up. 'Leave them alone, you big bullies!' he shouted. 'They're only little miners!'

'Are you confusing them with minors?' Goyle asked him in a whisper.

'Do teenagers contribute millions to our election campaigns?' Crabbe whispered back.


'Then there's no confusion.'

The flames of conservative ire were quickly fanned, and Draco was summarily toppled from the leadership, with Crabbe installed in his place. This was a very disturbing development, since Crabbe had taken to dressing like this:  Not only did he not want a carbon tax, but, he informed the populace, he wasn't convinced about global warming at all, despite the fact Victoria had recently burnt down and five-year-old children were known to scream in horror at the novel experience on the very rare occasions it rained. (Strictly speaking, that could have been true of 13-year-old children, but they had all seen Twilight and so were familiar with precipitation.)

Accordingly, the ETS was defeated in the Senate, and Australians were told that polluting was bad, but not so bad that anyone should risk their profits for it. The Australian populace were not thrilled.

Harry considered his next step long and hard. There were a number available to him, including calling an early election, attempting to reach a compromise with one of the groups within the Senate that would allow a majority vote, making concessions to the ETS such that the Libs would accept it, or waiting.

He chose to wait. Until 2013.

The Australian populace said, 'Seriously?'

Harry said, 'In these times of economic austerity and global insecurity it would be irresponsible of this government to press forward on a policy that has neither bilateral support nor an international framework in place to allow the rapid and effective implementation of a quantum shift in how we price our energy. In the absence of these measures, I am responding to the clear needs of the Australian people to proceed in a manner that is measured, timely and responsible and not outside the market structures of our major trading partners, with whom we have a clear and longstanding ...'

The Australian populace said, 'No, seriously?'

At about the same time, three other things were happening. The first was that a well-intentioned scheme to subsidise home insulation came up against that all-too-common foe of the decent policy: the shonky exploiter. While many insulation companies continued to do their excellent work, pleased at the small increase in trade, some fly-by-nighters came in and did appalling work, leading to the deaths of four workers through electrocution and heat exhaustion, and quite a number of house fires. 


'Hang on, you HATE regulation,' Harry said.

Crabbe glared at him, replying, 'Only when it pertains to banks, mining, media and anything else we enjoy making money from.'

Harry felt sure the Australian people would see the nonsense in this. He was wrong. He also felt sure that a simple apology would also suffice. He was wrong there, too.

The second thing happening in the background was the schools stimulus package, wherein many millions of dollars were invested in school building projects around the country. This was a basically sound idea: giving builders and their suppliers work in a very slow period at the same time as providing infrastructure. And in some cases it worked very well. In New South Wales, a state that has all the organisational sophistication of a rabid Hungarian Horntail in heat, there were a few issues. Private schools were allowed to manage their own budgets as they saw fit, public schools were subject to the rules and regulations concerning contracting arrangements that were in place state-wide. To no one's shock, the private schools got more bang for their buck, as has been the way in NSW since time immemorial (due to the aforementioned Horntail-like mentality. Remember, my friends, this is the state that had an economy based on rum for several years.)

Crabbe declared that this was a prime example of Harry and Hermione leading the country to immediate ruin.

'But we're one of the healthiest economies in the world!' Harry complained. 'THE healthiest by some markers. There is always waste in government, surely keeping people employed is worth a little here and there, and it's not as though there aren't demonstrable improvements in most schools!'

'Unregulated disaster!' Crabbe shouted.

'When did you start liking regulation?' Harry asked, frustrated.

'I have many close friends who are regular,' Crabbe replied.

The third thing, which was ultimately to prove Harry's downfall, was the Resources Super Profits Tax (known as the Mining Tax). This was a proposed tax that came out of the Henry Review, led by leading economist Ken Henry. In short, he found that some, mostly small, businesses and individuals in Australia were shouldering a disproportionate level of taxation burden, while some big businesses, particularly those that benefitted from the country's natural assets, were under-taxed. This was one of 130 or so recommendations in the review.

Harry ignored a lot of the review's findings, but thought he would be on safe ground with the Mining Tax. There were several reasons for this. The first big reason was that the majority of the tax would fall on the shoulders of two companies, both of whom were majority foreign owned, and so the Little Aussie Battler theme that accompanies most political complaints in this country would not hold water.

The second was that it was not an outrageous tax. In its raw and un-negotiated form it proposed a taxation level of 40%, for mining profits above 6%, in return for dropping all state royalties and assuming a proportion of the economic risk of mining exploration and activity, with the former being more protected. To put this into context, individuals in Australia pay 45% on all income over $180,000 pa and company tax is currently 30% for companies that do not make their profits from depleting the nation's mineral wealth and have no protection of their risk by the government.

A majority of mining companies in the country would have paid significantly LESS tax under this reform. Harry thought they were bound to be pleased.

The miners, as one, said that Harry had eaten their babies.

Crabbe was quick to join the fray. 'You're destroying the backbone of the economy! ' he told Harry. 'The miners are the only thing that got us through the GFC!'

'No they weren't,' said Ron. 'In fact, if everyone had laid off staff and closed down operations at the rate they did, we'd have gone into a serious recession instead of continuing to experience economic growth throughout the whole period.'

'What the fuck would you know?' spat Crabbe.

'I am the Treasurer,' said Ron. 'I read things.'

'LIES!' shouted Crabbe.

'We saved you all and now you want to burn us and eat our babies!' wailed the miners. 'We'll all be rooned!'

'No you won't,' said the International Monetary Fund. 'That's actually an elegant tax that will see most of you better off and provide economic security and stability to the government and private sector at the same time, especially since the tax will be invested in superannuation, so everyone in the country will benefit from its natural resources, not just mining investors.'

'What the fuck would you know?' spat Crabbe.

'Bitch, please,' said the IMF.

Harry and Ron knew they were right, but the problem was explaining this to people, and getting people to listen. Because I feel certain there are now three of you left reading this -- possibly a few more who skipped ahead to the next bit of dialogue. Tax is the sort of thing that makes most people feel like a little nap, or perhaps gouging their eyes out with a fork.

They began by outlining the benefits of an equitably distributed taxation regime, based on shared responsibility and mutual benefit.

The miners ran an ad on the telly that said, 'Harry Potter ate our babies! He will be coming for your babies next! FLEEEEEE!'

Crabbe was ecstatic. Suddenly, one of the most popular Prime Ministers in the nation's history was losing support at a rate usually only seen when an under-aged wizard's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire. He felt certain that he would take that scar-headed bastard down at the next federal election. Foolish Crabbe.

For the one thing less sentimental than a Death Eater is a member of the Australian Labor Party's New South Wales Right Faction. They looked at the increasing unpopularity of Harry, and they panicked. Regardless of the fact there was no election called, regardless of the fact that the Australian populace's political attention span hovers somewhere between gnat and mayfly, regardless of the fact the debate was still being played out and slowly shifting in Harry's favour, they decided that he should go.

Remember the Hungarian Horntails. And the rum -- famous drinkers the NSW Right. I should also point out that it can be very hot here and they will go out in the midday sun.

Over one long (-knifed) night in June, Hermione was taken to one side and told that only she could save the country.

'But Harry is the chosen one,' she probably protested.

'He's not that bright when it comes to things that don't involve defeating Voldemort or Defence Against the Dark Arts, is he?' the NSW Right asked.

'You make a convincing point ...'

Harry was shocked and hurt by the betrayal, especially when Ron went over to Hermione's side. 'Et tu, Ronald?' he sighed. And yet there was a degree of grace in their interactions, and Harry pledged to stay on as a backbencher to continue working for the good of the nation.

Crabbe was torn. He had longed to bring Harry down, and now he had lost his chance. Worse, people liked Hermione, she was seen as smart and friendly, and had excellent hair. He panicked for a moment, but then he looked up and saw Harry pass behind Hermione and Ron, and flash a look of pure emotion, and he knew that he was saved. For he knew that look! It was the same look that Draco Malfoy gave him whenever he thought he was not looking, and could be seen in hundreds of photos and most video transcripts of Parliamentary Question Time.

'LOOK WHAT THOSE BASTARDS DID TO POOR HARRY!' he shrieked. 'You can't trust them!'

And lo, the Australian voting public listened. Because we like a good scene in these parts, and this was more entertainment than we'd had since the Crown Prince of Denmark married a nice Tasmanian girl.

For Ron and Hermione, the guilt was like a horcrux around their necks. So they did what any rational person would have done under the circumstances and called an election.

The media ran to Harry's side to ask what he thought of this. 'Obviously, I think you should vote for Hermione,' he said, 'as the alternative is too hideous to contemplate.'

'He's so gracious,' said most of the media.

'Gracious my arse, he wants a front-bench seat if they're re-elected,' said Laurie Oakes, who by no stretch of the imagination could be mistaken for Rita Skeeter.

Meanwhile, Crabbe decided to make hay while the sun shone.

'It's still the same old Trio!' he declared. 'Nothing's changed! They're going to unleash a mining tax and eat babies!'

'But we've changed the tax,' said Hermione. 'We ran the numbers and consulted with the miners and now everyone is happy.'

'Not everyone!' said Crabbe. 'You wasted millions on the schools stimulus! Ha!'

'Actually,' said Nobel Prize-winning economist and former World Bank chief Joseph Stiglitz, 'Hermione and Harry acted exactly as they should have in that case and although a small amount of money was wasted, it prevented a far greater waste.'

'What the fuck would you know?' spat Crabbe.

'I'm an American,' Stiglitz replied. 'Trust me, I know government waste.'

'They crucified poor, innocent Harry!' cried Crabbe.

'What do you care?' asked Harry. 'You hate me.'

'It's the principle of the thing, the Australian people elected Harry, not Hermione.'

'Only if they live within the electoral boundaries of my Queensland seat,' Harry reminded him. 'We have a system wherein the party elects the leader in this country.'

Crabbe pounced. 'Ah! But what kind of a bastard stabs their party leader in the back?'

'I don't know,' said Harry. 'Shall we ask Malfoy?'

'Don't drag me into this,' said Draco. 'I'm busy building my international profile for the inevitable ambassadorial or UN career that will go with my magnificent hair.'

Crabbe was not to be deterred. 'Hermione is a puppet of the NSW ALP Right!'

'Actually, we hate each other,' she admitted. 'I'm from the South Australian Left. And I'm going rogue, but in the laid-back Adelaide sense, not the mad Alaskan sense.'

'She's just as bad as Harry! ' Crabbe cried. 'An autocratic power-hungry loon who refuses to work with other members of her party!'

'Has anyone seen Pansy or Goyle lately?' Ron asked.

'We're still here!' they chorused from off camera.

'We're the party of economic security and expertise!' declared Goyle. 'Even if I just contradicted my leader's costings to the tune of $7 billion dollars.'

'I miss Draco …' muttered Pansy.

'It's because I know what $7 billion looks like, isn't it?' Draco asked her with a wink.

'That and the hair ...'

Hermione finally grew tired of all the needling and decided to strike back. 'Do you have any actual policies?' she asked Crabbe.

'Absolutely! Paid parental leave!'

Hermione's jaw dropped for a moment. That was actually a really good idea and one she should have had first.

'Funded by a small increase in business taxes,' Crabbe continued.

Hermione smiled, she could see a light at the end of the tunnel and it was most definitely not a train.

'And a massive reduction in government spending, designed to bring the budget back to surplus by 2013. That will be funded by a reduction in public servants and services.'

'But we're already doing that without the reductions,' Hermione said, miffed.

'Shut up,' said Crabbe. 'Finally, a rationalisation of employment conditions to make things fairer for employers.'

At long last, Hermione pounced. 'You mean a return to WorkChoices, the immensely unpopular Voldemort policy that eroded working conditions for millions around the nation and saw you thrown out at the last election?'

'Of course not! Don't be ridiculous! I hated WorkChoices, anyway, it's dead, buried, cremated ...'

'Didn't you design it? And if it's buried, why are you cremating it?'

'Shut up. Anyway, no WorkChoices. There'll be a whole new system with a whole new name.'

'Will it be wholly different to WorkChoices?'

'Er ... oh look! Elvis! I hate boat people!'

'There's no way that's Elvis. Er, boat people, er ... actually, maybe that was Elvis, let's go see ...'

Meanwhile, nearby, the Australian populace stood, shaking their heads. 'We were half-hoping someone might address Climate Change,' said one.

'It's winter, nothing's on fire,' sighed another.

'I still care about Climate Change,' said a deep voice behind them. It was Senator Neville Longbottom , leader of the Greens! (Who gets a bigger photo because he was one hell of a hotty in his youth!)

'If you vote for the Greens, we'll continue to attempt to bring Australia back to a world-leading position in things like alternative energy technology and production, carbon tax and social issues. We'll champion a sustainable economy, in every sense of the word, and we'll demand decent treatment of refugees who come by boats, and who are no different to the rest of us who all arrived here by boat at some point or other in the last 60,000 years. And we'll work with the ALP to get gay marriage on the agenda, too, because it's a basic human right.'

And for a brief moment, the Australian people looked to him, and saw that not only was he a former hotty, but he was also a fundamentally decent human being who deserved his party to have the balance of power in the Senate. But then they were distracted, as Dolores Umbridge , the Family First Senatorial candidate for Queensland, declared that gay marriage was nothing more than legalised child abuse, and Padma Patil , the openly lesbian Climate Change Minister nearly ruptured something insisting that the government was currently following the right path on both issues.

And after telling the centaurs that Dolores was taking a walk in the garden and carrying a hoofpick, and passing Padma a cup of tea and trying to look past the contorted rictus of Party Line on her face, the Australian public took a long hard look at all the options available to them.

'We're fucked, aren't we?' asked one.

'Oh yes,' agreed the voter standing next to him. 'Beer?'

The first voter shook his head. 'It's too serious this time. Better make it rum.'

ETA: Some non-Australians have asked for a 'cast list', you can find it here, but life is probably too short unless you are actually studying politics.
Tags: politicians behaving badly, politics
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