The Hare and the Tortoise

We all know the old Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare. I can’t help but draw a parallel with the big race looming in Australian politics.

On the one hand we have a cocky, sure-fire, plucky Mr Abbott. Fast on his feet and quick with the jabs. Behind him, taking careful steps is our off-again, on-again Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. Few would argue that it is a level playing field. The Ruddster was plopped bang into the race with a heavy handicap weighing him down – the Labor Party. And as he drags that baggage behind him toward the finishing line, Mr Abbott grins like the rabbit that got the carrot, I’ve got this one in the bag plastered across his smug mug.

But is there still time for the hare to slip up? Take his eyes off the racing track, take a nap? When it comes to sharing some concrete policy, he’s definitely stalled. Meanwhile the tortoise trudges on, taking his message to the Australian people, trying to polish the party-poo into something more palatable. He’s emphasising the new and improved, less corrupt, more disciplined Labor Party. If nothing else, Mr Rudd has a tough shell and it’s weathered some savage attacks. Can he surprise us? Can he pull a rabbit out of his hat?

The polls remind me of a tipsy slapper who changes like the wind, first all over one and then the other. She’s not all that reliable and fickle as hell. I don’t have much faith in her. Frankly I’d sooner listen to a soothsaying octopus.

But, to be honest, the Australian people by and large are fickle as well. One more major crazy sexist gaffe or a sneaky, leaked scandal and the hare might just get overtaken. The media on one side of the fence (in Murdoch’s paddock) are clearly rooting for the hare. They are ruthless in their campaign against all things tortoise. Others tentatively suggest that the race isn’t over until the seventh of September, trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else.

Most talk on the street is that Australia will let the smug hare scamper over the finishing line. It’s not like they’re terribly happy about it though. It’s just that they’ve had a gutful of turtle soup. What’s the difference between a tortoise and a turtle? Buggered if I know. Between a hare or a rabbit? One is tender and the other a bit tough and gamey? They all look the same to me.

Old Paul Keating pulled his tortoise shell over the line while John Hewson lost the seemingly unlosable race in 1993. It’s the popular storyline that is played over and over again in Hollywood films. The underdog, the Karate Kid, Rocky Balboa, the tortoise, persevering against all the odds to become the victor over the bully. It’s a theme that runs through our collective consciousness which is why we hack to death the tall poppies and root for the underdog.

Slow and steady wins the race, they say. But I do think, short of the vainglorious hare having a kip under a tree, the tortoise is going to have to move those legs a bit faster, take a short cut or just ….I don’t know….cheat. Because if the hare wins the race, I feel Australia will end up with rabbit stew on its face. Not pretty. 

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