Whilst the phenomenon is not unique to this country there is something intrinsically Australian about a group of like-minded young people loading onto an old reconditioned bus, laden with alcohol, a sound system blaring out deafening doof and enough flashing LED illumination to light up the Martin Place Christmas Tree. Yes, we are talking party buses or in the more extreme cases ‘animal’ buses – the quintessential pub crawl on wheels that we have embraced as a bona fide cultural icon of the new millennium.
In recent months, however, we have seen a backlash against these mobile shot parties, with a number of hotels in the Newtown area declaring the buses persona non-grata. Conscious of their obligation to the responsible serving of alcohol and preserving their late night trading, they now exclude the partygoers on these buses from invading their premises. This has sparked a certain amount of subterfuge on the part of bus operators, parking their buses a few blocks away from the hotels in question, and encouraging the passengers to enter the pub in much smaller groups. The ploy seldom works as the rambunctious nature of the juiced up party people is inevitably a giveaway and the doormen are quick to deny entry.
Despite this minor discouragement, the party bus is definitely here to stay and the real possibilities are yet to be exploited. We all know politicians love buses like the big red number Bill Shorten has been navigating around Queensland in recent weeks. But what about a party bus, in both senses of the word, aimed at the mindless, gullible, hedonistic young Instagram generation, voting for the very first time in the coming Federal election – the type of voters that Clive Palmer has been courting with his appropriated campaign songs, dumb arse game apps and funky YouTube commercials.
Clive is already spending millions on his revamped ‘United Australia Party’ so why not grab a fleet of party buses Australia wide, deck them out with his signature political bunting and Trumpian slogans like the highly original “Make Australia Great”, install a DJ playing a selection of Twisted City and Boy George and simply lay on the free booze. We’ve all heard of pollies chasing the ‘swinging vote’, ‘the women’s vote’, the ‘youth vote’ and the various ‘ethnic’ votes – but what about the ‘intoxicated’ vote?
Not for one moment am I suggesting that the United Australia Party would contravene the principles of the responsible serving of alcohol but a Friday night out on one of these ‘party political’ buses, trawling the pubs of inner-city Sydney and listening to Twisted Sister, might well persuade the first time voter that Clive is their man, or as the karaoke singalong clearly reminds them “we’re not gonna take it.”
The buses could, in fact, run all Friday night, unloading their hordes of partygoers at the nearest polling booths on a Saturday morning, just in time for a sobering sausage sizzle. In an electioneering environment that clearly lacks the colour and razzmatazz of American elections, the ‘party political’ bus is something that all political parties might consider as a way of attracting first-time voters. In a democracy like ours, there’s currently no rule about downing a shot or two before you decide the fate of the Government.
Then again if the buses ever did create the type of problem that presents in Newtown today, we could well see mandatory breath testing at every polling booth, enforced by big burly doormen. Add to this compulsory drug testing for any voter that appears even slightly stoned and even pill testing for those who prefer to vote in a fuzz of euphoria – and you soon realise that we could well be entering an entirely new political landscape. All aboard!