One of the extraordinary things about Double Dissolution is the contrast between Lee Zacharia’s disarmingly logical analysis of a political situation and his totally illogical, albeit understandably emotional, reaction to the breakup of his marriage.
The title of the book refers not only to the double dissolution of the Australian Federal Parliament on 9 May 2016 but also to the dissolution of the author’s
three-year-old marriage at much the same time.
This book, then, includes Lee’s interviews, observations and opinions about the 54-day election campaign; it also details the personal demons that haunt his marriage breakup. The political coverage is incisive, witty and eminently readable, told in a voice that places the reader on the bar stool next to Lee’s. But the inclusion of Lee’s relationship issues adds little, if anything, to the value of the book – except where he recounts politicians’ responses to his personal predicament. Because, given half a chance, he will unburden himself.
On the political front, Lee does nothing to hide his personal views. While these may colour the language of his reporting he clearly relays what he hears and sees with a transparent accuracy laced with humour:
…the media is angling for a great magniloquent battle. Bill Shorten has Benjamin Buttoned Rudd’s arc, apparently reversing from the national running joke of daggy, ineffectual sound bites, to, seemingly by virtue of one half-decent Budget reply speech, a great rhetorician.
This concept is as difficult to swallow as the unkillable idea that Turnbull is himself a great speaker. Upon assuming leadership, it became apparent that Turnbull was at best an articulate waffler, one who appears to keep talking until he can find out what the point is.
Lee makes clear his views on Australia’s immigration and off-shore detention policies and his consequent dislike of anything that Peter Dutton (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) does or says. Unfortunately, he never gets to interview Minister Dutton. He does, however, gain access to some interesting people such as the now former senator, Ricky Muir, who earned his respect – and indeed the respect of many – by the unpredictably responsible way this representative of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party performed his senatorial duties. Ricky and Lee play pool together and have a fascinating conversation.
Lee also lunches with Senator Nick Xenophon, whose wise advice on how to handle a marriage breakup is recounted. Lee’s interview with Tony Windsor takes place during a lengthy drive and also results in good advice, while an interview with Sarah Hanson-Young involves go-karting.
Conversations with people Lee meets in the streets and at polling booths may not represent a statistically valid sample of the public’s views, but they do reveal what lies behind the attitudes of many voters.
So months after the election outcome, but while its memory is still fresh, this is a book for those interested in politics and the Australian political system. Lee’s candid style, his not always gentle mocking of political nonsense, his longing for policy over personality, and his sense of humour lend understanding both to the to the election process and its results. At the same time, those seeking advice on how to recover from a broken marriage may or may not take comfort from Lee’s musings on his own personal dissolution.