Monday, August 30, 2004

What's Up With That? #5: Upside-down in Australia

Prime Minister John Howard, the leader of the government of Australia, has announced that the country's next national elections will take place on October 9, 2004. Already you're thinking, "Why do I care about Australian politics?" To which I reply, "No reason why you should, unless you're from Australia. Or from New Zealand, which is right next door, and might have something to worry about if the Aussies get crazy all of a sudden."

But there is a point to my mentioning this.

Mr. Howard represents Australia's Liberal Party, which has been the ruling Aussie party since 1996. Here's the weird part: the Liberal Party is actually the more ideologically conservative of Australia's two largest political factions. The opposition, known as the Australian Labor Party, is the truly liberal party, relatively speaking.

What? How did that happen? Maybe the Aussie conservatives were sitting around the barbie one day grilling kangaroo meat, drinking Fosters Lager, and singing rounds of "Waltzing Matilda," and some Outback Jack in the gang pipes up, "Oy, mates, 'ere's 'ow we'll fool 'em -- we'll call our party the 'Liberal' party, so all the liberals will vote for us, and we'll win the election." And everyone shouted "Huzzah!" or whatever it is they shout in Australia when they mean to say, "That's a capital idea, old bean." (Remember, Australia is a country that, before it was a country, was a continent-sized penal colony. Not only that, but they have that Crocodile Hunter guy, who has nothing to do with politics, so far as I know, but whom I personally find irritating.)

I thought only the American government pulled crazy stunts like naming things the exact opposite of what they are, the way the Department of the Interior is actually in charge of a whole lot of outdoor stuff, and not really much at all that's inside. Or the Central Intelligence Agency, which, as we've seen lately, has precious little genuine intelligence evident in anything it does.

One last item: the Australian liberal party, which as noted above is called the Australian Labor Party — apparently because the conservatives were already calling themselves the Liberal Party, as if that made sense — spells the second word in its name "Labor" even though everyone else in Australia spells that word "Labour," with a "u" in it, as the Brits do. Perhaps they figured if the conservative faction was going to do something as stereotypically American as name themselves the opposite of what they are, then the true liberals would at least spell their own name American style.

All of which just goes to prove that the stupidity of politicians knows no national boundaries.


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