From the vault in 1998 --Things you should never ever swallow

Synopsis, being a summary of what has gone before, for the benefit of new readers: AUSTRALIA, a dry brown land mass 10 degrees south of the equator, is having an election.

Purpose of election:
To chose by popular vote members of a representative assembly to govern the dry brown land in a manner to which it is accustomed.

Nature of choice: Without arousal, insipid, cheerless. Now read on.

Discourse on to the nature of choice offered: Let us face facts. Coffee has shattered our nerves; takeaways make us slaves of indigestion; Joseph Stalin has made us shrink from the name of socialism, and has destroyed in the more refined part of the community (of which number I am one) all enthusiasm for uproarious political activity. And now this has to happen. Woe is me. What am I to do?

A VOICE: I suppose you are referring to the impending poll. Deary me, it takes the cake, doesn't it? Here we are almost perched on the threshold of a new millennium and no one gives a budgie's arse for any of the candidates.

MYSELF: Indeed. One simply cannot get the contestants one so richly deserves.

-- You can say that again.

I have myself a passion for reform and I thought the whole secret to success -- before my benevolence was so bitterly disappointed -- seemed to lie with those who proclaimed to speak for us in the elected chamber of the nation's capital.

-- And do they?

A fair question. I believed we were better off with the party that proclaimed its roots deep within the soil of toil than some other, whose allegiances seemed overwhelmingly wedded to the business classes.

-- So you chose...?

I'm afraid it came down to deciding between the lesser of two evils. Should I go with this one...or that one. I was really trying to make the best of a bad job.

-- But lesser ain't always better.

Precisely. I like to look upon myself as reasonably sophisticated with a mature sense of what onstitutes informed choice.

-- And how many times have you done that?

Made an informed choice? Well. Let's see. I suppose I've been making choices come election time all my adult life. Now I'm jack sick of it. I've lost the will to pick.

-- Surely not.

It's true. I no longer care for Arthur or Martha. My pick has lost its peck.

-- Cynicism does not become you.

Leave me in peace. My world is not a happy place. My dreams have died. Have pity on my grieving soul. It is all too much. Farewell.

Consequences of parting: None. The election proceeded anyway.
Extract from “Wilson's Short Compendium to the Political Process” (13th ed.): Democratic government rests on an assembly of men, and some few women, who are searched and sought out through the whole nation to become the people's champions, to supply the assembly from the bloodline of its many battlers, thereby sustaining the people's great love for its parliament and their desire to be ruled by its ways. In such representative figures -- free of avarice, partiality and want -- the nation can confidently invest its highest ideals and hopes for the future. Such is the people's public spirit that they hang on their government's every word, which is duly reported to them on many occasions during each day. For the people value its counsel and choose to celebrate its goodness through frequent lauding outpourings in their many journals. End of extract.

Relevant excerpt from the press: Local identity Mrs Valda Meek (nee Clissold) is to contest the seat of Kooweerup in the upcoming federal election. In a statement released today, Mrs Meek, of Main Drain Rd, will be standing for the newly formed Party of Moderate and Peaceful Progress Within the Limits of the Law.

This will be the first time that the party has fielded candidates in the locality. Mrs Meek told the Kooweerup Courier that she stood an even chance of making an impression in the poll and was looking forward to sitting in the cross benches in Canberra. “The meek are gathering”, she said”,and when they gather as one the major parties are reminded that the meek are due to someday inherit the earth.” Conclusion of excerpt.

Nature of proposed impression: Brash, confident; up yours.

Election prospectus of new party: The parties that have failed you will ask you to vote for them at the next election. Will you vote to save Australia or will you go to the next election and vote for MORE OF THE SAME?

At the forthcoming election we ask you to remember our past, consider our present and vote for the future.

At the forthcoming election we ask you to vote for progress -- vote for the Party of Moderate and Peaceful Progress Within the Limits of the Law. While we may be a bit light in the policy department at the moment, our party is clear about its intentions. Indeed, our name says it all.

Perhaps you are thinking that this title fails to differentiate us from all the other parliamentary parties. Fear not, as we are seeking a full list of notables as potential candidates. If you have had a portrait photograph in the paper recently or are not currently subject to criminal investigation -- then we want to hear from you. We have established an efficient tendering process for a range of seats throughout the country. In line with current business practices, we will allocate electorates on a contractual basis by granting local franchises to the successful applicants. So if you are interested, sign on today(*) and our Party (Corporate) Plan™ will be forthcoming by return mail.

A new venture such as this inevitably runs into its share of knockers. “What are you going to do about unemployment ... or the economy ... or greenhouse gases”, they ask.

Obviously these people have not heard about such key aspects of the democratic process as the parliamentary question on notice -- what a powerful people's weapon that one is! -- and the cross-party parliamentary sub committee.

To them all we can say is this: “Once you have invested in the Party of Moderate and Peaceful Process Within the Limits of the Law, we are sure to be paying out dividends by the end of our first term in office. With a steady income of $1 for every vote mustered over 4%, your hard working investment in democracy will be going to a good cause, the best cause of all -- you.”

YOU can make a difference! A new career (base salary $81,856) within the democratic process is waiting for you! The prospectus ends.

(*) Conditions apply. Send $70 general service fee and SAE with your application TODAY. Please itemize all previous preselection experience.

Meanwhile ... : Since the calling of the election, JOHN HOWARD, resident PM and budgeteer, has been vigorously addressing the DEMOCRATIC PROCESS now unfolding via a series of press conferences and photo opportunities throughout the length and breadth of this dry brown land.

Example of the above: I am obliged to the electorate for the support it has already extended to my government and for its continuing interest in our welfare. I am especially pleased with the many inquiries we have received about the manner in which we plan to pass the time during any forthcoming term in office.

I cannot, of course, speak for all members of my government. But as to myself, I plan to rise each day at 8.30am, wash, shave and proceed to my breakfast. Henceforth, until evening, I intend to dedicate my working energies to the business of good government.

One-third of each day I will spend arguing the fine points of law and administration with the parliamentary opposition. A third more I shall spend in my chambers in the society of leaders of industry and commerce. And the final third I hope to dedicate to dismantling the apparatus of state and selling off whatever I can at bargain basement prices.

Special give-away: The Australian Federal Parliament(Promoter), in conjunction with Corp Aid, wish to announce the winner of its 1998 “Who Dares Win” election competition. This year's winner -- by a very large margin -- is, once again, Australian capital. Congratulations. The cheque is in the mail.

A VOICE: Who do you reckon is gonna win the election?

MYSELF: Now there's a question. And a darn important one too. Who do I reckon is going to win the election ...

-- Yes?

Don't rush me. I'm considering the options. Let's see. On one hand we've got the Coalition, and on the other we've got Labor. Right? And in between we've got this One Nation outfit, and the other smaller parties. It's a hard one to call ... I don't know.

-- Well, who are you voting for?

Who am I voting for? Now, let's see. It's either Labor or Liberal, or one of the smaller parties. Help me out here. It's polling day. Right. I'm walking into the booth. I've got my chits in one hand -- the local one and the big long one they use for the Senate -- and in the other this pile of how-to-votes. And I'm thinking ...

-- Tax?

No. No. I'm not thinking tax.

-- Jobs?

No. Not jobs neither.

-- Health and welfare?

No. I'm thinking which one of these bastards can I trust. That's what I'm thinkin'. I'm asking myself: who can I trust?

-- And who can you trust?

You're rushing me. I'm asking myself who I can trust. I'm thinkin', and wonderin'.

-- And?

Ummmm. It looks like I'll be in there all bloody day.

-- So you don't know who you'll vote for?

At this precise moment in time?: no. But I'm working on it.

With the ever-hastening approach of the first Saturday in October, there is a proportionate increase in speculation as to the outcome of the titanic struggle which is taking place throughout the length and breadth of this dry brown land. Within the four corners of this vast continent, masses of men and women are locked together in a battle-front which rages within every conceivable locale. The bitter parry and thrust of campaigning has carried the conflict to new and unexpected levels of debate. The --

The Greenly Left Masses: Isn't there some mistake. Surely

this isn't the election you're referring to?

Myself: It is.

The Greenly Left Masses: Our election? But it can't be.

Myself: Yes, I'm sorry, there must be something wrong. It certainly doesn't sound like our election.

The Greenly Left Masses: It does not!

Myself: But I thought -- ah ha. My mistake: I've been reading from a Kim Beazley media release.

The Greenly Left Masses: That explains it.

Myself: And I thought it was the editorial ...

(Sounds of thousands of thighs being slapped and convulsions of laughter.)

Excerpt from our archives: ARTHUR AUGUSTUS CALWELL, who has been buried for some years, was exhumed last month following a dispute as to the interpretation of his legacy. The old man was alive and well, and looked extremely fit as he stepped from his coffin. “You're a long time dead”, is all he would say to waiting representatives of the media before being driven away in an ambulance.

He was later treated to a fine meal in his honour at the Maidstone RSL Club by members of the western suburbs branch of Old Guard of True Believers, who presented the distinguished parliamentarian with a set of steak knives and a bottle of Brown Brothers Tawny Port.

In a speech of acceptance, the grand old man of Australian Labor thanked his hosts and reminded all present that he welcomed the opportunity to address the issues that now confronted the nation since last he walked upon its brown visage.

“When I was minister of immigration after the war”, the honourable deceased told his audience, “we knew `two wongs don't make a white'. Now, what do I find? Little yellow devils are everywhere to be seen.”

After lamenting the turnabout in the country's demography, he inquired as to the health of his long-time antagonist Robert Gordon Menzies, and quizzed those present as to the nature of the current government.

“Naturally I am glad to be back among you all”, he said, “and would appreciate an opportunity to return to political life at the earliest opportunity.”

Following Arthur Augustus Calwell's re-emergence as a key player in the Australian political landscape, it is rumoured that the One Nation party, as well as the ALP, hope to endorse him at the upcoming federal election.

However, sources close to the distinguished parliamentarian have suggested that a number of interesting legal hurdles pertaining to the electoral roll have arisen consequent of his exhumation.


And so it came to pass that the election washed over the dry brown land like a cleansing torrent, enervating its every nook and cranny.

In the hearts of its people, so long parched and thirsty, a new hope was born. Once desolate men and women lifted their eyes from the dust and a new power was born which, if harnessed, could change the condition of all their lives.

The mighty hand of the masses, no longer joined in humble supplication, became an angry fist, a fist clenched firm around the anguish contained within it. From within that fist shot forth an omnipotent digit which promised to threaten and cajole the indolent and the mean.

A power like that is something to behold.
From the vault(How things change! Two elections ago!): Life of Riley: September 23 1998 .