I was trying to figure out who I’d vote for if I was Australian and I thought about my first night here, after I’d just flown from Toronto to Melbourne. Jet lagged and starving I went to Woolworths for the first time. All I wanted was a grilled cheese sandwich. I had a loaf of bread in my hand, tomatoes, and now I was standing in the dairy aisle, wondering: What the fuck is “Tasty” cheese? Is it mozzarella? It kind of looks like that. Is it cheddar? It kind of looks like that too. It doesn’t say anywhere on the wrapper what kind of cheese it is. Why is it only called by its descriptor? What’s it hiding? Its title, “tasty” is vague and confusing—why would I buy a block of cheese if I have no idea what type of cheese it is?
Abbott and Rudd are that block of cheese. They call themselves leaders but you have no idea what you’re getting. As a brown, young, broke, inner city dude, the pundits say I’m inclined towards Rudd and Labor but this recent PNG hop over to the far right muddled up what was already a distinguished lack of varied ideology between the two parties. The balls out boldness of Rudd’s flirtation with the right means that we can drop the pretense that these guys always stand for vastly different things.
The question I wanted to sort out was who was the better person? Who might actually do what they say? Who might lead? Who is a bit less of a douchebag?
I can’t imagine being a Labor supporter and not feeling like Rudd has gutted the party from all those years when he wouldn’t go away. Erik Jensen, for The Monthly, dismantles the idea of Rudd as a decent human being, showing how eager he is to play the game. Leaks, back stabbings, and dishonesty are necessary for the Rudd Labor. Again in July he continued wrecking the Labor party for a slim chance to be on top, unable to see that the gouges he dug are partly responsible for their sinking ship.
Then there’s the slippery nature of his policies and personality. He eagerly shifts from one policy to another and leaves us wondering if the PNG plan is a surprise or a characteristic move. Rudd, once promising to lead on climate change, is now blowing it way the fuck up. The best move he’s saved for himself‑weeks after taking over the PMO, he’s made it impossible for anyone to knife him in the back. A chunk of The Australian’s staff took the time to write this piece, which provides an assortment of insults for Rudd: aloof, mean, vulgar, full of himself, and quoting a chief executive as saying, “It was almost like he had a form of Aspergers or autism."
Abbott can seem like the opposite of Rudd. He bikes a lot. Rudd often seems on the verge of a donut inspired death. Abbott’s also managed to keep a grip on the Liberals, even when polls consistently suggest that people prefer Malcolm Turnbull to lead the party; which is even more surprising when you consider that Abbott only beat him by one vote in the leadership spill.
Like Rudd, he has shitty views on social issues like gay marriage but distances himself from the infamously micromanaging Rudd by acknowledging that he, “can’t pretend to bind my party for all time.” Occasionally, he’ll display a sort of conviction that we haven’t seen from the last few Labor leaders, even if it is rooted in a traditional brand of Catholicism (which is also where Rudd’s is based). But for every story about how well Abbott treated his sister when she came out, there’s one like David Marr’s allegation in Quarterly Essay that he punched a wall to intimidate a female political opponent in college. For every story on how charming Rudd is, we’re reminded that he has regular temper tantrums.
So Abbot’s painted as a meathead who can’t keep his temper in check, who’s too muscle-bound to walk straight, while Rudd is apparently a fat headed manipulator who doesn’t trust anyone. I know it’s a cliché to say that our leaders are just interchangeable white dudes but the only thing that seems to separate these two is the way they get angry.
Who are these guys? Most agree that both men can’t see past their own ambition for power. Their dreams of dominance over this country fuel them and scare the rest of us. Rudd and Abbott won’t let go of their insecurities until they accomplish their ascent to power and force all of Australia to deal with whatever it is they plan on doing with it. And what are we supposed to do about that? When the most dedicated and driven men in the country are similarly puckered assholes, it must make it hard to decide whom to vote for. The only difference is that Abbott hasn’t been given the chance to fail.
The Labor party, which steered Australia through the GFC, is now a huge clusterfuck, and Australia’s reliance on China is going to come under scrutiny very soon. The 70 billion dollar a year export reliance on China is what protected Australia from going under, but the world’s second largest economy is going to be slowing down as analysts predict China’s growth to dip from 8-10 percent per year to 6-7 percent. Deeply divided as the country is, Aussies are going to need a strong hand to guide them through that.
If you Google tasty cheese you find the internet is fairly divided on what it is, how good it is, whether it’s ridiculous or not, and if it’s any better than American. This is along the lines of political choice with these two. Tasty cheese does fill you up and it has that reliable rubber texture of crap cheese. I don’t know if I regret buying it but I do know that if I had the opportunity, I’d buy a richer, fuller, stinkier cheese. Or in other words—one with more character.
Follow Adnan on Twitter: @whotookadnan