Three weeks after deposing Kevin Rudd, as though ticking off another item on her to-do list, Julia Gillard called a federal election (one of only three winter federal elections in Australian history). I can’t summon the heart to give much of an account of the five week campaign which followed, especially since the twist in the story only came once the votes began to be counted. You really had to be here. The campaign was truly godawful, a complete extinguishing of the hope which had seen Kevin07 elected three years before. Both major parties pandered to the same focus groups in the same few marginal electorates. They peddled small bore middle class welfare and indulged trumped-up fear; they blandly appealed to the most disgracefully narrow-minded tendencies in the darkest marginal corners of the Australian electorate, the people who fear their leaf blowers will not be powerful enough to defend their McMansions against Taliban invasion. It was easy to to believe that the entire country had become, as one correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald wrote, a Boganocracy.
For a White House in need of a few moment’s levity, recent events in Australian politics might have provided an opportunity for a bit of fun. A meeting was planned between the Australian prime minister and President Obama after the G20 meeting in Canada next week. A supreme prank could have been devised whereby the president’s aides agreed not to mention Australia and somehow deprived their boss of any news thereof, surely not too difficult with more pressing business at hand. On the day of the meeting, the Oval Office door would have opened and instead of his good mate Kevin Rudd, in would walk a smiling redhead, Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard. Alas this prank will never come to pass. Obama thankfully seeks out his own news, and in any case after this week of extraordinary upheaval in Australian politics, the newly sworn in Prime Minister Gillard is far too busy to travel overseas.