Monday, 11 February 2013

2013: What the Year of the Snake means for Abbott and Gillard

This week heralds the beginning of the Year of the Black Water Snake in the Chinese zodiac. Given that China is our new BFF due to single-handedly digging Australia (and all our mineral reserves) out of the GFC, it seems appropriate to examine how the reptilian character from the ancient zodiac may influence the behaviour of our pollies and this election year.

Clearly, both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have been boning up on their Chinese astrology, which describes the Snake as a calm, gentle creature that will only attack if under threat or hungry. Julia has donned a quieter, more deliberately pitched tone in her voice. And the glasses?  Obviously, they’re a nod to the Year of the Black Water Snake being ideal for “steady progress and attention to detail.” The new specs will no doubt help her to keep an eagle eye on those pesky Rudd agitators. Forget Kevin ’07. Gillard’s got this year’s mantra sorted and it goes something like: “Kev’s a Has-Been in 2013”. Ok, it doesn’t rhyme as well, but it fits the bill for being on-message.

Meanwhile in the off-season, the Opposition has clearly been undertaking some high intensity training, which for their sakes, I hope didn’t involve the use of peptides or human growth hormones. Another portent of the Snake is “focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create”. Malcolm Turnbull led the way – as most Australians wish he’d get the chance to do for us all – with a trip to a Chinese doctor (you getting the synergies here?). A few herbal concoctions and a fasting regime later, saw him emerge trim, shiny-eyed and bushy tailed.

That route proved a bit drastic and well, just too much like hard work for jolly ol’ Joe Hockey, who opted for the gastric band, which means he can still chow down on a hamburger, as long as he throws it in the mincer first. And it looks like Julie Bishop’s been lending the boys some of her tan-in-a-can, because the entire front bench looks like they spend cabinet meetings sunbaking on the back of Gina Rinehart’s yacht.

But of course, Tony Abbott has had the greatest metamorphosis of all. There’s the unrelenting wearing of the pale blue tie to perfectly accent the “I’m a Good Bloke, trust me” informal tag line. And it does look suspiciously as though he’s taken a few tips from the PM’s hairdresser and partner, Tim Mathieson and rinsed the grey edges from his crop. His catch cry morphs to “I’m a good bloke, I help out the Nippers and look! I’m A New Age Guy not afraid to colour his hair, heh heh heh!”

But the Year of the Snake emphasises the need to be on the defence. No bold moves unless provoked. Which is probably why Abbott has decided to pull the plug on his regular TV appearances. Everyone knows that this is his election to lose, and you lose unlosable elections by stuffing up. So it makes sense that his team would be micro-managing his appearances within an inch of his life so he can avoid the inevitable gaffes that the ALP is holding its breath for him to make. He’s going to stay in the long grass, watching while his frontbenchers stick their necks out. They’ll bat away at the Government and let him hibernate. Sure, he’ll plant a few cold kisses on babies’ cheeks, wave a few ‘vision things’ around and keep wearing the blue ties, but there will be a lot less of him hustling from the sidelines. His self-talk is likely to be, “When in doubt, wheel Hockey/Turnbull/Bishop out’ to face the media scrum.

For Gillard, this poses a challenge: how to lure the snake out of the grass long enough for him to be exposed and vulnerable to a gaffe of misogynistic proportions?  Pretty difficult, especially when he’s dimmed the lights in the gladiator dome of breakfast television. But he’s not her only worry. According to some Chinese astrologers, 2013 will see “fire in the water” (although “fire in the hole” is perhaps a more apt description regarding the Craig Thompson effect on the ALP).

Interestingly, 2012 was the Chinese year of the Dragon; renowned by being dramatic, full of lavish and unpredictable events. As our politicians shed their damaged skins from a turbulent, aggressive and largely unproductive 2012, it will be fascinating to watch who emerges victorious in a year when cunning, intellect and quiet, steady progress is favoured to bode well.