Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Photo: Andrew Meares
Well, it is pretty much done and dusted, except for the Senate, which needs the attention of a Machiavellian sleuth to work out whether Katter delivers Labor or Palmer delivers a green or the Nationals get their first senator in South Australia.
And who makes it all possible? The party worker – those individuals who man the pre-polls, run the barbecues, raise money to run campaigns and never get paid a cent. How do you say thank you to those without whom you would never have a hope? In your office they are stuffing envelopes full of last-minute endorsements of your character and capabilities, they are manning phones and guiding their political primadonnas around a minefield that only a politician of great worth could discover in a completely peaceful meadow.
They knock on doors wearing the new-season fashion of tacky t-shirts soon to be seen on display at a Vinnies store near you. They are the unselfish reflection of the democratic process and too often forgotten by those who ultimately get the salary that comes with the political prize. Mrs Salmon in St George has worked for the Country Party, the Nationals and now the LNP for about 70 years. Apart from treasurer of the branch, she has never sought office. The Labor Party has them and the Nationals and the Liberals and the Greens. They want for their nation a philosophy – not for themselves personally.
On Saturday they will be at every polling booth because they care, not because they benefit. You will navigate a path that avoids these fanatics in their fluro t-shirts. But in other nations people would die, literally, for the opportunity to be accosted by a multitude of political choices. In our nation no one is so enamoured by the political contest that disappointment justifies the threat to person or property.
In fact, we are possessed of a healthy political amnesia that has the revelry of a win dispersed within the week, within days, by the awkward choices of the job.
The armies of mineworkers in high-vis shirts and steel-cap boots will board the planes on Monday as if Saturday never happened. The cows on the dairy farms will be oblivious to any change in government and plod deliberately to their stalls. Office workers will flick between the stations in the traffic on the way to work skipping over politics for the melody pill of their preferred beat. If you are getting divorced you will still be in strife and if you are getting married your partner will still be expecting the nuptials.
This is the elixir to candidate syndrome, that peculiar affliction where sure things convince themselves they are for the high jump and donkeys think they are about to come home in the Melbourne Cup.
Within days the recriminations will be well under way – Labor will thank Mr Rudd for his long service to the party. The Coalition will thank Mr Rudd for his long service of Labor. Very quickly the new guard, who have already organised the numbers in the Labor opposition, will be working out how to lumber the new government with their faults. The debt will become our debt, the unemployment our unemployment, the myriad of parochial afflictions in every city and town will quickly come to rest on our shoulders.
The farmers will ask if fairness at the farm gate is any better served by us than others. Timber workers and fisherman will wonder whether a green agenda is a bipartisan curse. The lady in the weatherboard and iron will search for the money to pay the power bill.
So, as the red, green, blue and yellow t-shirts of a campaign that feels like it has gone on for an eternity are dispensed to charity clothing bins or morph into shoe cleaning rags, the elated and the disappointed will share in equal measure the same economic future: a nation at the end of record commodity prices but lumbered paradoxically with a record debt.
Barnaby Joyce is the opposition spokesman for regional development, local government and water.