In Survivor at Tribal Council, players go to vote for who they would like voted off the island. Sometimes it is quite agonising. But imagine that was how we voted for politicians? I think it would be quite easy (although Andrew Norton isn’t so sure).
For me the hard thing is what to put first. Except that, in every election (federal and state) that I have voted in (I guess with one exception), I have voted the same way and will do so this time around. The hard choice is not whether to put a major party above another major party but whether to put a minor party first. In effect, the vote ends up being for the major party anyway (as I put them second). So why I might put any effort into this at all is beyond me.
But in doing this I have never really deliberated on the basis of my own preferred criteria: entertainment value (although my voting pattern, it turns out, matches this anyway, for the feds but not States). I wrote about this some time ago:
There is a part of me (actually a large part) that believes that in modern democracy the real differences between alternative governments is not politics or policies as much as how much entertainment value they might provide during their term in office.
When it comes down to it, Australian politicians do not offer what U.S. ones do in this regard. This week’s events with the Vice President are a big case in point (see this link for one example). In an earlier era, we had such value from Dan Quayle; so much so that a part of me was sad when Bill Clinton was elected (especially as he droned through 45 minutes of acceptance speech). But boy did he turn out well on the entertainment front.
It seems to me that Australian politicians really need to get out more. What the above US examples have in common is that they happened on vacation or out of the office (or at least out of meetings) time. Australian politicians appear to be overworked and not spending enough leisure time or time in front of primary school classrooms. If they did this, we may be able to get a better quality of government (for our amusement that is) with probably little sacrifice in the quality of other things politicians provide.
In Australia, I am pretty sure that the following is true: having Labor in government and the Liberals in Opposition maximises total entertainment value at the Federal level while the Liberals/Nationals in government and Labor in opposition maximises entertainment value at a state level.
Just consider the evidence, Keating, Whitlam and Hawke were extremely entertaining as prime ministers while in opposition, Beasley, Crean and Latham where hardly at their full potential. In contrast, Fraser and Howard were dull as dishwater as prime minister but the same two people were wonderfully entertaining in opposition (something people tend to forget). And just add to that mix Peacock and who can forget, Downer, and what fun we had. At the State level, Kennett is an obvious mark in favour of my hypothesis while Bjelke-Peterson takes the cake. The Labor folks just don’t rate in this environment.
That said, in historical terms, the maximal entertainment value outcome outlined here. was not always the case. I am pretty sure that the country’s ‘interest’ was served very well with Menzies and the cadre of Labor opposition leaders. It was only in the late 1960s that the switch came.
To be sure, I am, of course, talking about entertainment value rather than whether they were good or not. Although I still pine for Keating where we had both. But I expect that Kevin Rudd will come true to form in the entertainment department if he wins tomorrow. It will hopefully end 11 years of boring Australian politics.