Can-Can's One Party Paradise


I am half-Queenslander, you know. My mother was from Queensland and I can well remember the stories she used to regale us with of life "up north". She’d ride a bullock across the desert to school where the master would beat her with sugarcane if she made a mistake during tractor practice. When she headed home the family would toast bananas over the campfire and drink rum out of crocodile skulls for dinner. It was a simple life, yet my mother made it sound almost magical.

And that is what Queensland has always seemed to me: magical. A land of wide-open spaces, rough-and-ready people and enormous walking Looney Tunes characters who’ll let you take your photo with them. Nothing I have seen from the Sunshine state lately has changed this impression — indeed, following the weekend’s state election it seems more magical than ever.

Because our northern cousins have, in one fell swoop, shown us all the proper way to run a democracy.

Now I do concede that one way to look at the Queensland election result is as a bloodbath, an annihilation of Labor from which the party will take decades to recover. It is true that Campbell "Can-Can" Newman won such a crushing victory that the only truly appropriate metaphor for the poll cannot be used in mainstream media headlines, involving as it does four wild horses, a bayonet and some wild cherry lipstick. It is true that Anna Bligh suffered perhaps the most humiliating political defeat since Peter Debnam introduced the strange and alien phrase "beaten by Morris Iemma" to the English language and was punished for his failure by ceasing to exist. And it is true that the parliamentary Labor Party in Queensland has been reduced to a rump of Minogue-esque proportions and will now be giving away shadow ministries in showbags.

But I say this situation is not nearly as great a negative for lovers of freedom as it might seem.

The hand-wringing argument goes that the LNP has now achieved such dominance that Queensland will become a virtual dictatorship, as Campbell Newman and his sinister skirt-folding ways run roughshod over the feeble squeaks of dissent emanating from the broken and bleeding husks of left-wingers. Newman, a military man, will accordingly have the people of Queensland goose-stepping, shouldering arms and strafing Vietnamese villages in no time, thanks to the complete lack of obstacles standing between him and absolute, Persian cat-stroking power.

This is the argument of the craven pessimist. The fact is, Newman’s crushing victory is likely to be the best thing that ever happened to Queensland after the rise of Powderfinger.

Think about democracy as it is usually played. Constant conflict and disputation. Petty bickering. Pointless squabbling over meaningless minutiae. A ceaseless perverse ballet of he-said and she-said and they-said and up-yours that sends anyone who watches it for too long completely Bob Ellis. Every time you tune into Question Time it’s exactly like watching a bunch of hyperactive toddlers brawling in a sandpit, if those toddlers kept making thinly veiled threats of populist violence and there was one particularly camp toddler who was constantly jumping up and demanding sandcastle-building be suspended.

But you see, Queensland has taken a giant step away from that. Because with no meaningful opposition, Newman’s legion will be able to get on with the job of meaningful government. No more will the premier be forced to waste his time "debating" the opposition’s lame talking points. No more will the gears of government be gummed up with the creamed honey of argument. No more will every decision of government have to pass through the furnace of so-called "accountability".

No, finally we will see how a government can really get to work if left alone to do its thing. Without the need to justify itself in the face of nitpicking oppositional whinges the LNP junta can actually get on with doing stuff the way governments used to in the good old days before universal suffrage or Insiders.

Fact is, Queensland is broken and needs fixing. I don’t know exactly how it’s broken — it’s not that interesting to be honest — but I know it is broken because every state is broken all the time (See also NSW, Victoria, Tasmania). It’ll never get fixed through debate and questioning. It will only get fixed by rolling up sleeves, doing hard yards and ruling with an iron fist.

That’s the way of the future, folks. For too long the governance of this country has been held back by the tyranny of democracy. I say it’s time to throw off the shackles of opposing viewpoints and break the chains of reasonable disagreement. How can we build a strong economy if we constantly have to acknowledge the possibility that someone else might have a better idea? How can we protect our borders if we’re always being befuddled by alternative methodology? How can we crack down on single mothers if we let them talk about things? Answer: we can’t.

Queenslanders are obviously pretty savvy people. They realised their state was going nowhere fast with a government forced to wrestle with opposition and they took action. They got together and said "Look, we need to get moving with a one-party state", and by Joh they did it. They’ve ushered in a new period of government where the ruling party will do whatever it damn well pleases and as a result things will start to happen fast. Infrastructure will be built. Tunnels will be dug. Minorities will be pulled smartly into line. You might not like the way Can-Can operates but you won’t be able to deny it will be decisive. What more can you ask for from a proper government?

My only hope is that the rest of Australia gets the message. I hope that next year, when it comes time to choose between the Joker and the Thief all us voters can gather together in a large public square or scout hall, flip a coin to decide who should be prime minister, and agree that we’ll all vote for them. I do not want to see the federal government elected in 2013 with anything less than a 100-seat majority.

Let’s face it, every government will eventually destroy its citizens. At least if we get rid of the opposition it’ll be over as quickly as possible. And if a dictatorship is the price we have to pay for never hearing the words "point of order" again, I say it’s a bargain.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.