He liked to be called The Babe and Felipe Ysmael had enough money, made from steel and benefits gained in Filipino politics, that nearly everybody adhered. He had so much scratch that it was often said that $1000 to him had no more meaning than a single cent does to most. And this was the late sixties, a time when decimal currency had just landed in this country and $1000 was worth a whole lot more than it is today. Yes, Ysmael like the projection of gentility, youth and import that the moniker The Babe exuded. But it was the title the newspapermen bestowed upon him- The Filipino Fireball- that more accurately described the manner that launched him into the public eye, his gambling. Ysmael hit Australian racetracks from seemingly nowhere, shining bright before burning up quickly.
Come Saturday afternoon, the New South Wales Labor Party will, in any real sense, cease to exist. Killed by their own arrogance, incompetence, corruption and stupidity, the good folk of New South Wales will bestow the greatest electoral carnage on a single party ever seen in Australia.
“Well, this is the sweetest victory of all. This is a victory for the true believers: the people who, in difficult times, have kept the faith. And to the Australian people, through hard times, it makes their act of faith all that much greater.”
Saturday night was one for the true believers though, quite probably, not the true believers Paul Keating was talking about. Tony Abbott had pulled off a miracle. Even his most ardent supporters would never have dared dream a year ago or even six weeks back of the prospect that the hard-man of the Right would take away Labor’s majority in the House. The Rudd Government was, of course, one of the most popular administrations in Australian history, Julia Gillard was the darling of the bleeding hearts and it had been 79 years since a first-term government was thrown from office.
This is the closest federal election since 1961 and for a generation of political nerds this is a nirvana that may never be seen again. There is always a certain level of pleasure throughout any campaign for election geeks who enjoy forecasting swings and deciphering polls and breaking down seats and analysing the sport of it all. We often delude ourselves though. Quite often the winner is known within thirty minutes of the polls closing and the remainder of the election coverage is spent dissecting where it all went right or wrong and measuring the extent of the destruction and the margin of victory.
Last week I discussed the home-town bump that propelled Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership and Labor to government as Queensland gave Labor an additional nine seats at the last election on the back of some huge swings. It was quite apparent that Rudd being a Queenslander drove much of the support Labor received in what has traditionally been a Coalition state and Labor’s worst performing state.
Homerism is not confined to Queensland. While it is most prevalent in the Sunshine State, homerism is a hallmark of every state in Australia and is more of a factor in smaller states than in the larger ones. It is the little-brother mentality and it could prove critical to the outcome on August 22.
Being caught up in the sport of the election, I decided to attend a political comedy night last week. It was hosted by a friend and despite my loathing of cheap and nasty left-wing political humour and my well-honed instincts suggesting this would be painful, I went along. The fact the gig was at Trades Hall (seemingly the Operative Painters and Decorators Union is no longer affiliated with the Victorian Trades Hall Council as the building was in a dire need of a paint job and some spackle) should have been a loud enough warning but I persisted and it is a crossroads of time I wish I could have returned to and taken the path less travelled.
Such is the disaffection with the state Labor Government in New South Wales, the western Sydney seat of Penrith went Liberal on the back of a 25.5% swing. The result, rightly, terrified Labor Party officials who understand a wipeout in Western Sydney will see them lose Government. Winning western Sydney is as important to Labor as it is to the AFL. It is not just about football out west.
Tasmania and Western Australia have very little in common with the exception of a love of Australian Rules football and the fact I have never set foot in either. Politically they are also extraordinarily diverse with Tasmania being the most left-leaning state in Australia (with the exception of the period between 1975 and 1987 where the fall of the Whitlam Government precipitated 12 years of Coalition totality in Tasmania and the Franklin Dam dispute saw the state furiously turn its back on Labor) and the home of the Australian Greens while Western Australia has consistently voted conservative with the exception of the period between 1983-90 when they backed local boy Bob Hawke (though it is interesting to note that West Australian Kim Beazley only achieved 49.5% and 48.4% of the two-party preferred when he led the ALP to election in 1998 and 2001).
The outcome of Victorian seats is unlikely to have much impact on who will form the next government. It rarely does. Despite having 37 seats and being Australia’s second biggest state, Victoria does not come close to holding the sway New South Wales and Queensland have on determining the governing party.
There is no more bombastic or self-involved state in Australia than Queensland. For good or ill, Queenslanders are proud of the individuality Queensland seems to have among the states. Queenslanders identify with Queensland more than any other citizen around Australia identifies with their respective state. They believe in their own. They buy into the narrative that they are perennial underdogs, downtrodden and misunderstood by the rest of Australia. They are statist to the core. Just look at State of Origin.