For the last twenty four hours I’ve been multi-tasking: listening to the radio, watching television and surfing the net. As I was working last night, I couldn’t swap around as much as I normally do on an election night which is a shame because there was a lot to choose from this year. Some years the commercial stations all but ignore election night, leaving it mostly to the ABC. But this year all of the stations had extensive coverage. And since I finished work, all of the screens in my house have been operating at full-capacity.
The last time I did this was for the UK election earlier this year with all the associated uncertainty of an outcome there. It took days to achieve an outcome, and thus I spent several days watching television. Thinking back to the minority government in NSW in the 1990s, it took about five months to finally reach an agreement. I wonder how long it will take this time?
If you have an interest in the “theatre” of politics, the last twenty four hours have been remarkable. As I mentioned the other day, we generally give first term governments a second chance in Australia. We seem to say something like “every government deserves a second chance, no matter how good or bad they are”, but this time around we appear to have said something along the lines of “well, we’re not happy with Labor, but don’t really want the Coalition either.” Andrew Robb summed it up well on Insiders this morning when he said we say something along the lines of “we’re sure they’ll find their feet, and besides the other side isn’t ready yet”. Since then, both major parties seem to have gone into “spin” mode again, which is understandable since they’ll need to negotiate with the independants.
Which brings me to my favourite part of election night: that very brief moment – it lasts about 20 to 30 minutes – when you see some genuine analysis and self-reflection from the political pundits on the television and radio panels. The result is known, and there’s nothing else they can do to influence the result. And there was a small amount of it last night between Stephen Smith and Nick Minchin on the ABC’s coverage. Although we didn’t have a clear idea about a government, both knew the result. There was even a little bit of friendly banter… “I can’t find 76, but neither can you” Smith said to Minchin at one point, and they both laughed.
My other favourite part of the night is the “call of the board”, as the commentators go through each seat individually, giving a more “local” insight into the election than is otherwise achieved due to the focus on changing and marginal seats.
It’s a stark contrast to the UK election where the results aren’t known until the poll is declared, and the candidates are all brought up on stage together. As you watch it, there are shades of Australian Idol, as you wonder if one of the candidates is going to burst into tears when they hear the result. The constant stream of results throughout the night in Australia is particularly insightful, as you watch the pundits pontificate, make phone calls to check results, and then offer pure spin for a while, and then finally something reflective and substantive.
Some years election night is like a sprint race, other years it’s like a Melbourne Cup. This year it looks like a Melbourne Cup with a photo-finish.
And it was thus interesting to watch the 7.30 Report tonight and to see Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshot being interviewed by Kerry O’Brien. As I used to work in regional NSW, I used to know Tony and Rob quite well, and think they’re interesting characters. None of them seemed to be in a hurry to finalise this.