And they’re off! After shooting himself in the foot with almost every step towards the starting gates it appears Malcolm Turnbull has managed to save a bullet for the starter’s pistol. The turnaround in the fortunes of our two political leaders since I checked out their Chinese New Year horoscopes in February, at the start of the turbulent Year of the Monkey, suggests this race is far from decided.
The first opinion poll of the campaign has the two major parties neck and neck with pundits predicting a tight race, but ultimately Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative Coalition is expected to prevail against the Australian Labor Party’s Bill Shorten.
But what do their Chinese horoscopes say? Your intrepid Girl Reporter investigates.
Malcolm Turnbull – Year of the Horse
If Malcolm, a Horse in Chinese astrology, is to win the top job he will need better luck than he has so far enjoyed. But there are wise words from Chinese Fortune Calendar’s Master Tsai: “When Horse meets Monkey, Horse can reach its achievement after hardship.”
Monkey is not opposed to Horse in Chinese astrology but he does not make for an easy ride. Malcolm has booked himself in for one of the longest races in Australian election history and at the moment it’s not looking at all sure that he can keep up the pace. He may regard himself as the best turned out thoroughbred but does he have what it takes to stay this long course on going that seems to be getting tougher for him with each passing day?
At the start of the Chinese New Year it was all going pretty well for Malcolm – his popularity was still high but there were signs of trouble. Predecessor Tony Abbott was well into his Definitely Not Sniping Tour and his disgruntled former bandmates had launched a series of proxy attacks, most notably against the Safe Schools program, which aims to help LGBTI children get through school relatively unscarred.
Bullying is a horrible thing to deal with, especially when you’re a vulnerable prime minister, so I guess it was no surprise that Malcolm opted to cave in to the right wingers of his party and let them do over the kids unimpeded.
And we hadn’t even got through February.
Turnbull requests investigation into Safe Schools program – Stephanie Anderson, ABC 23 February 2016
Horses are great at communication and establishing good relationships but they can lack patience, which can make people feel they are fickle. They don’t like to be constrained or controlled by others, and so far that’s been a price Malcolm’s had to pay to appease Team Tony. A Horse under pressure may be inclined to emotional outbursts, which would be unhelpful to his chances.
And while Horses are diligent at first, they can lack staying power, fizzling out before the finish line when it all gets too hard. Malcolm has had all the advantages of incumbency in setting the date for this race, but he’ll need perseverance and patience to bring home the prize.
Bill Shorten – Year of the Sheep
“When Sheep meets Monkey a shy sheep will prepare to get in the spotlight.” So said Master Tsai at the start of our merry Monkey year and the transformation in perceptions of the Leader of the Australian Labor Party since then has been something to behold.
As Malcolm has shrunk before our eyes, Bill has blossomed and the consensus is that all that slow and steady-as-she-goes policy work of 2015 is now paying off.
Sheep (or Goats as they are also known in Chinese astrology) can look forward to an unexpected return as long as they are diligent and unafraid of hard work.
There’s no doubt that Shorten has put in the work – but will it be enough? The spotlight is now on him as never before but so far he’s tapping out a fancier pattern in the parade ring than the favourite.
If there was a metaphor to sum up the reversal of fortunes for both men, it would be that, for all his cunning plans, Malcolm has managed to call an election on the day that Bill is in Beaconsfield for the 10th anniversary of the mining disaster there.
Bill’s dogged presence in all weathers throughout the ordeal of the two men trapped underground made him something of a national hero. Interesting choice, Prime Minister, to draw the nation’s attention to the last time Bill Shorten the trade union leader made such a positive impression.
It’s a two horse race and they’re coming out of the starting gates neck and neck. That’s probably the most surprising aspect so far of this most unusual campaign. But it is a Monkey year, when we should expect the unexpected.
Who knows, maybe we’ll even manage to have a sensible, civilised national conversation about our concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru and locate some bipartisan political will to find a solution that treats people humanely and accords with our obligations under international law. Or is that too unexpected even for a Monkey year?
My grateful thanks to one of my favourite political cartoonists Christopher Downes for permission to use two of his works to accompany this piece. Check out more of his cartoons in Tasmania’s Mercury newspaper or find him on Facebook.