I love federal elections. Where else would you get the chance to see our elected representatives do insane things like eat a raw onion — on camera, no less — or bulldoze small children on the soccer field?
Every federal election I reread my favorite political book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trial by Hunter S Thompson. Published in 1973, it’s a crazy, brilliant read about the 1972 election campaign that culminated in Richard Nixon being reelected US president. The book is largely comprised of articles that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine over the previous year, edited and updated, with an introduction by Thompson. The fantastic illustrations are by Ralph Steadman.
This election, I was lucky enough to cover the electorate of Wentworth in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. The richest electorate in the country, it has iconic beaches, harbour-side vistas and more colour than a 72-piece box of Derwents. To paraphrase resident Paul Keating, if you’re not in Wentworth, you’re just camping out.
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During the campaign, Crikey editor-in-chief Peter Fray suggested that I might like to write a book. I assumed he was joking. But community independent Allegra Spender won a decisive victory over the Liberal Party and has written herself into the history books as one of the “teals”. Her story, and the story of the other newly-elected independents, deserves to be told.
During the campaign, I was inundated with questions: why are they all women, what do they stand for, how are their campaigns going, are they the puppets of Simon Holmes à Court? (Spoiler alert, they’re not.) I started with these questions and then I looked behind the scenes with other questions of my own — who were their advisers, their financial backers, their strategists?
Many of these people, along with former members for Wentworth, other politicians, historians and political scientists, have agreed to be interviewed, along with several volunteers who put their lives on hold in order to change the system.
In fact, I’ve spent so much time around these people that I can no longer look at that characteristic hue — which, by the way, isn’t teal; it’s turquoise. (Has anyone even seen the Pantone colour chart? Thank goodness for sunglasses.)
I have two months to write this book, which has a working title of The Teal Deal — if any Crikey reader can come up with a better title than that, you’ll win a free copy and an “Allegra Spender for Wentworth” dog bandanna (my cat hates it).
As of last week, I’ve deleted Twitter, fired up the espresso machine and locked myself in the study. As the deadline approaches, if my publishers start to get antsy, I’ll send them this excerpt from Fear and Loathing:
One afternoon about three days ago the Editorial Enforcement Detail from the Rolling Stone office showed up at my door, with no warning, and loaded about 40 pounds of supplies into the room: two cases of Mexican beer, four quarts of gin and a dozen grapefruits. There was also a big Selectric typewriter, two reams of paper, a (box) of oak firewood and three tape recorders — in case the situation got so desperate that I might finally have to resort to verbal composition.