Monthly Archives: August 2013

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Kodos

“Take a look at your beloved candidates. They’re nothing but hideous space reptiles.”

Although it’s a Homer Simpson quote, it could just as easily be related to the Australian election.

It’s from the classic Halloween episode where the aliens, Kang and Kudos, kidnap two politicians and take on their appearance. Nobody really notices anything too different or suspects anything, and even when they are revealed, the public are powerless to stop one of them being elected.

Despite this being an excellent satire of the American situation, it can also just as brilliantly relate to our current situation in Australian politics. I’m not saying someone should try to yank our two leader’s heads to see if a giant alien is hiding underneath, but I’m also not saying that this is a ridiculous idea.

There are a number of remarkable similarities between the alien’s actions and those of Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd in the last couple of weeks. They make a series of bizarre, incomprehensible public statements, and a number of hilarious/depressing gaffes (suppository, anyone?), and although the two probably won’t be caught holding hands in public any time soon, you just never know at the moment.

Kodos so eloquently sums up the modern-day election campaign by saying: “All they want to hear are bland pleasantries embellished by an occasional saxophone solo or infant kiss”. Replace saxophone solo with a visit to a factory or school, and infant kiss, with awkward kiss to the back of a poor lady’s head, and you’ve got a precisely accurate summation of the Australian election.

In a campaign speech, one of the aliens gives the inspiring proclamation of “We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling towards freedom”. This could easily sub in for either leader’s election speeches, with both focusing bemusingly on ‘A New Way’, while constantly emphasising past mistakes and returning to old policies.

The alien claims that the “politics of failure have failed…we need to make them work again”, echoing the sentiments of Rudd’s announcement against negativity a few weeks again, while continuing to provide a negative campaign.

Homer eventually reveals the candidates for what they are, stating that they are “phonies” and “alien replicons from beyond the moon”, and let’s be honest, who hasn’t, at some point in time, wondered whether Rudd or Abbott is in fact an alien imposter from an outside universe?

Kang accurately surmises that the people are unable to do anything about it because “it’s a two-party system; you have to vote for one us”, a depressingly apt way to also sum up the Australian system. After being questioned about a third-party, the aliens implore them to “go ahead, throw away your vote”, a statement even more relevant to our situation following the Coalition’s preferencing which is seemingly an attempt to ‘Rains Of Castamere’ the Greens out of Parliament (if you haven’t seen Game Of Thrones yet don’t Google that one).

There are no real, significant differences between our two major parties, nothing big enough to allow debate to be primarily focused on policy. Because of this, our election campaigns have become a battleground of personality and rhetoric, of media appearances and sham ‘debates’.

The episode concludes with Kang being elected and immediately enslaving the population, and Homer says “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos”, a sentiment that many of us may be employing following the upcoming election.

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Mistaken For Strangers

‘Mistaken For Strangers’, billed as a music documentary about The National, is neither about The National, nor even really a music doco. And that’s why it’s brilliant.

‘Mistaken For Strangers’ is truly about the camera operator and directer Tom Berninger, and his complicated relationship with his brother Matt, the leader singer from the band. He provides a humorous, self-deprecative and ultimately moving portrayal of being the young brother in the shadows of a highly successful sibling, and wonderfully shot live footage from The National’s expansive world tour of 2010 provides a lovely backdrop and foundation for the true story of the film.

It is certainly not your typical band doco. Hardly anything is revealed about the band, their origins, and the production of this years Trouble Will Find Me. The other band members are utilised mostly for their opinions of Matt and his relationships, and Tom Berninger gradually becomes the focus of the movie.

‘Mistaken For Strangers’ is a quirky, eccentric, and borderline self-indulgent reflection of life on the road as an outsider, but Berninger manages to achieve this while still remaining relatable and likable, as well as portraying the band in a wholly positive light.

The tale begins when Matt invites his 9-years-younger brother along to the world tour as a roadie. Tom decides to bring along a small camera, and eventually, and predictably, becomes much more focused on creating this film than his real duties on the tour, something that leads to many heated, and undeniably entertaining, arguments between the brothers.

Tom constantly references to Matt’s success and fame, at times bitterly, and others just bemusingly, and can only a muster a series of highly amusing questions to the other band members, including “do you ever get sleepy?”, “do you take your wallet with you on stage?”, and “which of you can play faster?” (directed at the Dessner twins).

Matt Berninger comes across as patient and light-hearted, although at times he’s shown to, understandably, lose his temper at his brother, and funnily does this after cereal was discovered in the hotel bathroom.

Ultimately, you don’t need to be a fan of The National to enjoy this film for the nuances and relatable themes, and you’ll definitely be much more inclined to the band after viewing it. It’s an unconventional, constantly engaging, intimate reflection on living in the shadows of a successful older brother, and the difficulties involved in relationships like this.

The Fake Debate

What we witnessed last night was not a debate.

It would have been more apt to name it ‘two politicians giving separate press conferences while standing close to each other’, but that doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

A worthwhile debate requires interaction and arguments between the two leaders, but we didn’t get any of that. What we got was a dull, bleak charade full of rhetoric with no real substance.

On the few occasions when Rudd or Abbot interrupted the other, or attempted to counter their points, they were quickly shot down, and then continued to rehash the same tired rhetoric that’s been prevalent across the first week of what will be a very long campaign.

The Australian people deserve better than this to accurately make up their mind and participate in the democratic system, and if there are any more of these ‘debates’ in a similar vein, it will be a wasted and tiresome display.

Both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott barely veered from their own very set scripts, and often strayed far away from the question, choosing instead to address their opponents perceived failings.

Nothing was achieved in this ‘debate’ that couldn’t have equally been produced from two separate press conferences, or just a simple press release. We didn’t see either leader assert themselves over the other, or venture off script to rebut the others point.

But the fact that the debate failed at its very basic level to provide a thought-provoking discussion between our two prospective prime ministers is not either politicians fault, or the moderator. It’s the basic rules that accompany it that prevented any real debate to take place. With very restricted time limits on each leader, little to no chance for rebuttal, and strict rules against interrupting or directly addressing the opponent, there was never going to be any productive discussion.

It’s almost impossible to imagine that this ‘debate’ would have even slightly swayed any undecided voters, and isn’t that the exact point of these events taking place? We didn’t discover any real strengths or weaknesses from either leader, and the status-quo was religiously upheld by both.

The only moment that could possibly inspire swing voters was Rudd’s announcement of a conscious vote on same-sex marriage within 100 days of his possible re-election, but even this was announced before the ‘debate’, and could have easily just been put out in a press release.

The next ‘debate’ must give our leaders a chance to actually have a real, interactive discussion between each other, to give the voters a real insight to how the handle the pressure of a live, open debate, and how they can actually communicate their policies without the aid of ingrained slogans and obviously prepared answers to predictable questions.

The forthcoming debates must be reconsidered in this light, or they might as well be replaced by simultaneous media releases from each leader, and we deserve much more than that.

Wine Glasses, Gaffes, And Scaring Children: Election Week #1

The first week of the election buildup featured pretty much exactly what you’d expect: mistakes, petty insults, and little substance.

In a week where Australian politics got its very own versions of much maligned American politicians Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner, it was a farcical and slightly comical beginning to what will be a very long election.

When the weeks starts with the revelation that a chairman of an Ethics (yes, ethics) Committee sent his mistress pictures of “his penis plonked in a glass of red wine”, it’s probably going to be a bad week. Yep, Coalition MP Peter Dowling’s attempts to one-up Weiner were revealed, and he promptly stepped aside, but we’ll have to live with that mental image for the rest of our lives.

Carrying on with the ‘let’s embarrass Australia internationally’ theme, Jaymes Diaz’s catastrophic interview went viral and made the headlines in the US. LNP’s Diaz claimed that the party has a “six-point plan” to ‘stop the boats’, but after being asked a total of eight times to reveal these, he could not. Diaz stumbled through the painfully cringeworthy interview before finally being saved by a disapproving minder, and slowly backing away from the interviewer, looking dazed and lost.

This typified how the campaign so far has been solely focused on catchy slogans and the go-to line of ‘stop the boats’, without any real substance from either Party.

You’d think that a candidate being unable to detail any of his Party’s key policies would be the biggest gaffe of the week, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong.

Enter Stephanie Banister, the figure-head for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party. Banister showed a predictably awful lack of basic common knowledge in the interview with Channel Seven, which included the phrase “I don’t oppose Islam as a country”, reference to the Koran as “haram” and claims that the national disability insurance scheme was “working at the moment”. It doesn’t begin for another three years. In another embarrassment for the country, this interview also went viral, and has led to many accurate comparisons with the one and only Sarah Palin.

Not surprisingly, Banister is also facing criminal charges after allegedly placing anti-Muslim stickers on supermarket products, which is probably what got her into the One Nation Party in the first place. Mercifully, she has now resigned.

On the topic of actual policies, the week was rather sparse. The focus, as usual, was on economic issues, with each side announcing one big spending policy. Labor announced an extra $450 million for out of school care places, while the Coalition stated that it would cut company tax by 1.5%.

Meanwhile Kevin Rudd visited a lot of schools and Tony Abbott visited a lot of factories.

Will it get any better tomorrow? It’s debatable.