The 2013 election showed that policies and results are immaterial in being successful in politics if you don’t deliver the message.
The Labor Party had an outstanding case to prosecute. That they failed to do so has cost this country dearly.
Rather than pointing to their successes, rather than outlining their plan for the future, they reacted to headlines in the Murdoch Press. They listened to small focus groups and polls instead of trying to inform and lead opinion. They scurried around ‘doing the numbers’ instead of presenting a united voice and vision. They threw out a fine Prime Minister and tried to “save the furniture” by being even crueller to asylum seekers than their opponents.
By handing the election to, of all people, Tony Abbott, we destroyed any chance to take action on climate change. We lost our opportunity to have a world class communications network. We lost our chance to share in the superprofits made by the companies who mine our resources. We lost protection of our waterways and aquifers. We lost the car industry and the renewable energy industry. We lost partnerships with the states on funding for schools, hospitals, and affordable housing. We lost over half a billion in Indigenous funding in one fell swoop. We lost investment in research. We lost the proposed increases in the superannuation guarantee and tax-free threshold. We lost extra paid parental leave and the Schoolkids bonus. The ABC, NDIS, welfare recipients, and unions are all under constant attack.
We came through the global financial crisis with one of the best economies in the world. Since then, our comparative economic ranking has been sliding and, despite a global recovery, our debt has been growing. Big business is making record profits but this has not translated to any increases in wages and underemployment and job insecurity have risen.
For the first time, we were mentioned on the human rights watch list. Our ranking on the transparency corruption index has slipped from 7th in 2012 to 13th last year. Our international reputation has been tarnished because of our inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, the number and abuse of Indigenous juveniles in detention, and policy that has led to rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the guise of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, discrimination laws are under attack. Muslims are suffering marginalisation and vilification. Pauline Hanson, who was shunned by all twenty years ago for her ignorant racism, is now courted by politicians and media, normalising her toxic stupidity.
We have created a multi-billion dollar Home Affairs Office to address terrorism yet do nothing about domestic violence and sexual harassment.
As Jane Gilmore writes, “at least 71 Australian women were murdered last year, more than 80 per cent of them by a man who claimed to love them. In the last 20 years a maximum of six people were killed in terrorist incidents in Australia. The federal government currently spends $35 billion on national security and $160 million on domestic violence each year.”
Our privacy rights are stripped away to ‘keep us safe’ while refuges, support groups and legal aid centres close down and women are encouraged to arm themselves. We defund early intervention programs and build more jails.
With rising commodity prices, aging power stations breaking down or closing, a freeze on new investment in renewables, over-investment in the wrong type of transmission and distribution, and record gas exports, electricity prices have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, extreme weather events have intensified. Policy uncertainty and a lack of planning has led to a failure in all three aspects of the energy “trilemma”.
We pursue old alleged welfare overpayments with a system that costs more to run than it collects. We can’t afford to increase Newstart, Youth Allowance or the aged pension. But we can afford a twenty-year ramp-up of war machinery costing an extra $400 billion on top of the annual defence budget.
We insist that young people start repaying their education costs when their salary reaches less than a quarter of a junior backbench politician’s base salary and then wonder why they can’t afford a place to live.
When it’s all about the money and protecting your own privilege, society is diminished.
With the departure of Julia Gillard, we lost the civility, decency, compassion and integrity she brought to the job. We lost our optimism and hope.
Can the Labor Party revive it? Or will they once again let those who shout the loudest distract them.