As America rages ahead of US election day, Australian Parliament goes quiet

T’was the night before voting, when all through Parliament House, not a creature was stirring, nothing even announced.

With all apologies to Clement Clarke Moore and his classic Christmas poem, it has been an odd few days in Canberra and federal politics.

The week is a brief respite from a furious month of budgets, speeches and estimates hearings, a lone week off before federal politicians return for three of the next five weeks in a frenetic finish to 2020.

Whether this week off was specifically planned in anticipation of the United States presidential election, it’s hard to say.

No matter the scheduling, strategic or otherwise, it has led to a week with a lot of political nerds with very little to do.

It’s been a quiet week in parliament. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is back in Sydney.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is up in Darwin, continuing a tour to sell his budget reply message of social housing and child care.

Attorney-General Christian Porter braved the media on Monday for a surprise announcement of the long-awaited Commonwealth Integrity Commission, a watered-down model he must have known would be rubbished and shot down by critics.

But aside from that, the two major parties have put down their swords this week, knowing there’s a much bigger political show.

To be fair, it’s hard for the Australian assistant minister for whatever to get media attention when the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.

As the United States rages, Australia’s politics is oddly quiet. Even half a world away, it’s the only game in town.

Mr Albanese popped his head up over the parapet with visits to childcare centres in the Northern Territory, offering one small thought on the US election.

“That’s in the hands of the American people. But I say this, that democratic processes should be respected,” the Labor leader said in Darwin.

“Our partnership between the United States is an alliance between our peoples based upon our common democratic values. And I am concerned of any questioning that occurs about democratic values and democratic processes. They are precious. They should not be undermined by any leader.”

It was an interesting comment from an aspiring PM, and one that echoed the comment he earlier gave to The New Daily in an interview published this week.

Signalling that he was unhappy about the “undermining” of the values at the heart of the crucial Australia-US alliance raised some eyebrows in Canberra.

Scott Morrison hasn’t weighed into the US election. Photo: AAP

Mr Morrison, seen by some as one of few world leaders who enjoys a decent working relationship with Donald Trump, has kept his nose out of the US election.

Smart enough, considering their importance as our best ally, and the PM probably trying to avoid incensing the famously volatile POTUS while also not putting the potential successor Joe Biden offside.

Tuesday was punctuated by the Reserve Bank’s regular monthly meeting – an unavoidable mandated appointment that, unlike Parliament, can’t simply be changed to avoid the US election.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg called it “good news”, while his Labor counterpart Jim Chalmers also stood up for what his office specifically told journalists would be a “brief” press conference.

But following that afternoon flurry, it was back to the big circus – sitting, waiting, watching the first results of the US election trickle in from New Hampshire.

The five votes from Dixville Notch and the 21 from Millsfield, all coming at midnight local time, gave the first taste of the avalanche of psephology that would come over the next 24 hours or (hopefully not) even more.

Political types often call Friday afternoons “take out the trash time”, when unpopular decisions or controversial announcements are quietly dropped out just as everyone is clocking off for the weekend.

Other popular times for government to take out some trash come just before public holidays, or big sporting fixtures, or other occurrences that enrapture the nation or otherwise attract the attention of journos.

Trump and Biden are the only show in town – even on the other side of the world. Photo: AAP

If there was ever the mother of all trash days, it would be on the Tuesday before the most pivotal US election in history, on the same day the Melbourne Cup was run and a historic RBA rates decision was handed down.

Perhaps no political party was so cynical to sneakily eke out some unpalatable announcement on Tuesday, but the actions of Australian politicians will be interesting to watch over the next day or so.

Following Mr Trump’s 2016 election win, Pauline Hanson and her One Nation cronies famously popped champagne outside Parliament House.

If the polls are to believed, the bubbly may be staying on ice this year for the far-right party (even more so, when you consider their drubbing in last weekend’s Queensland election).

By Wednesday night, we should have a strong indication about whether it’s a clean Joe Biden win, or if the wait for a final result may drag on for days or longer.

Don’t expect to hear much out of Canberra until we know the lay of the land, and who will be leader of our most important ally for the next four years.

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