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Choosing aunty over mum and dad

So little Johnny, who is your favourite parent? Mummy or Daddy? Aunty Heather! I want Aunty Heather!

Yes, this is a simplistic metaphor, but you get my point. The electorate’s, and coincidentally media’s growing love for any candidate who doesn’t come from a major party is akin to children picking their cool Aunty Heather over their parents in a contest of who is the better caregiver. Sure, the whole idea of picking one parent over the other is unrealistic, but an election is basically a contest between who is going to care best for the country; a Labor government or a Liberal government, and in this election, it appears, in South Australia, at least 1 in 4 voters chose neither.

My favourite cognitive linguist, George Lakoff, who studies political metaphors, is responsible for the idea that left wing governments represent mothers – based on nurturing values, whereas right wing governments represent fathers – based on authoritarian values. Using this metaphor, I am heartily sick of hearing people say ‘a pox on both their houses’, ‘I don’t like either party’, ‘the establishment is broken’, ‘our cool aunty or fun-loving uncle Xenophon / Greens / Hanson / Lambie etc will look after us better than our boring old parents’!

The thing is, as fun as it is to spend a few hours a week with cool aunty or fun-loving uncle, they’re not your parents. They don’t have to pay the mortgage, organise your school lunch box or follow-through on promises to buy you a pony, which then has to be looked after for its entire life. They can buy you an ice-cream once every three years and apparently that’s all it takes to make some voters happy. The messiness of actually having to parent, to form government, to take legislation to parliament, to develop policies in the national interest, to balance a budget, to deal with the constant media narrative of ‘major-parties just aren’t credible’ is a completely different kettle of fish than appearing on the TV for the odd sound-bite and never actually having to give away anything about ideals or vision of policy positions BEFORE THE ELECTION. The media helps facilitate such Teflon-campaigning.

Before I get jumped on as being unfair, I am happy to acknowledge that Australia’s cool aunties and fun-loving uncles have been good to us over the last three years. The cross benchers in both the lower and upper houses, including Greens, McGowan, Wilkie, Lazarus, Xenophon, Lambie etc, did manage to pretty much scuttle the Abbott and Turnbull budgets three years in a row, protecting us from the worst of their neoliberal agenda. I have a great love for Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott who helped Gillard’s productive minority government achieve many great policy outcomes. But the thing is, if that’s these people’s roll – if they’re here to mediate the odd policy, to block the very worst, to negotiate some pork-barrelling for causes they care about – that doesn’t make them pure and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re undeserving of scrutiny during the campaign. In fact, it could be argued, it’s even more important to know where they stand if they have the power to determine what happens in parliament. It also doesn’t mean the majors, who are doing the hard-yard policy work of government or opposition – are somehow automatically ‘not-credible’, just because this work is harder, messier and therefore easier to criticise. The work of a parent is different from the work of an aunty or uncle. I think it’s time the media stops the childish, simplistic narrative of ‘majors bad, minors/indies good’, to better educate the electorate exactly what they’re voting for, no matter who they are.

The absolutely worst thing that can happen to the reputation of cool aunties and fun-loving uncles (or in some cases, racist aunties and the gun-loving uncles) is that they’re given the responsibilities of a parent. For example, if Xenophon’s lower-house MP, Rebekha Sharkie, is responsible for making-or-breaking key policy outcomes, such as protections to Medicare, climate change policy, school funding, corporate tax cuts, penalty-rates, trade deals, the continuation of paid-parental leave, industry-protection, funding to childcare rebates and any manner of real world situations which actually impact on the every-day lives of the Australian people, no amount of stunt-making and Teflon coverage by the media is going to protect NXT from the scrutiny they should have had before the election.

I met many Xenophon voters and volunteers throughout the course of the campaign in South Australia and without fail, the majority of them justified their support of Xenophon with a statement such as ‘he’s keeping the bastards honest’, ‘the majors are corrupt’ and so on and so forth. But when you dig a little deeper, there is very little policy behind this supporter base, very little detail about what exactly the Xenophon candidates stand for, and no unity in their positions. Most of them have little to no idea how Xenophon himself voted in the previous two terms because, frankly, they don’t seem to care.

Taking a position is dangerous. Aunties don’t have to force their nieces to brush their teeth. Remember what happened to the Democrats when they sided with the Liberals to bring in a GST? What sort of backlash could Xenophon expect by being a policy king-maker, when his reputation is for ‘doing politics differently’, which in his case, mostly means ‘flying under the radar of scrutiny and getting away with doing whatever he feels like at that moment’. We already know his voters are disillusioned with the traditional business of politics because that’s why they voted for his party. What happens when that disillusionment is directed at the real-world decisions his party will now be forced to take a position on? What happens when voters realise Pauline Hanson isn’t going to be able to arrange a racist-Royal-Commission into Islam or that her climate-change-denial doesn’t stop Australia taking action against climate change? It’s all fun and games until aunty and uncle have to disappoint the kids.

The next three years are going to be fascinating to watch. There has never been a more exciting time to be scrutinising independents and minor parties! As I’ve said many times since Saturday afternoon: PASS THE POPCORN.

28 comments

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  1. clarelhdm

    Dear Victoria, people aren’t just voting FOR the cool Aunties and Uncles, they are NOT voting for the bad Mothers and Fathers. It is apparent that the two party system is cracking, people want their voices heard and if Mum and Dad won’t listen, well, they’ll find someone who will. For example, recent polling showed that some 80% of Australians want those on Manus and Nauru brought to Australia, processed here and allowed to settle if found to be refugees. Over 80%. But neither Mum nor Dad is listening. There are many many more issues that fare the same. If the status quo fails, then it will fall.

  2. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    I’ll tell you why I don’t want Mum or Dad running the country, is that both of them are so pig-headed they generally make a total arse of it. What we need is Mum AND Dad running the country, with some help from Auntie Susan and Uncle Norman, and ideally cousin Kenneth too. We need to stop the groupthink that dogs both Labor and the LNP.

    Your analogy perfectly shows the problem with the system. It is divisive. I want good decisions, not “decisive” ones.

  3. James Moylan

    Oh dear. Poor stupid misguided voters?

    What a load of condescending and belittling claptrap.
    You compare a voter with a child?
    Then tap us all on the wrist for failing to grasp the importance of our actions?
    How dare we be concerned with unimportant issues such as the continued existence of our planet and the wellbeing of future generations?
    Your hubris is both astonishing and insulting.

  4. kerri

    So Victoria you would rather people vote LNP than Green??
    Xenophon tried desperately to expose the shenanigans of Alan Joyce with QANTAS and neither side supported him?
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/xenophon-attacks-qantas-management/story-fn3dxity-1226120794255
    We need independants as the party faithful rarely do any research preferring to hide in their offices during argument only to return to the chamber and vote on party lines as they have been told to!
    Give me variety any day. It makes the big knobs work harder and earn their keep!
    Besides this mixed chamber will soon draw out Turnbull’s short temper and doubtful suitability as PM.
    Sometimes it takes a good aunty to question a parent on where they may be failing without realising it.

  5. Phil

    Bit savage there James Moylan, bit savage. Victoria didn’t attack you did she?

    I think Victoria’s article makes a number of quite reasonable propositions – perhaps her use of the parenting analogy upset some readers here, but so what, that is no basis for James’s personal attack on the writer.

  6. Athena

    “Bit savage there James Moylan, bit savage. Victoria didn’t attack you did she?”

    Stick around, Phil. You’ll see that Victoria has a recurring theme. We all have to vote for the ALP. We’re not allowed to be fed up with them and vote for anyone else.

    I agree 100% with James’ observations.

  7. king1394

    I quite like Victoria’s analogy. Of course, like all analogies it represents and illustrates a problem by relating it to something quite different that we might have a better chance of understanding.
    One reason I find it difficult to vote for minor parties nowadays is the very thing Victoria is talking about. These small parties, including the Greens, never have to stand or fall on the outcomes of their policies. Where they line up well enough with a major party, they can claim they have made a contribution, or their suggested modifications have been accepted and integrated into legislation. But equally they can stand back and say ‘we would never do that’. They can appeal to our emotions without having to take responsibility.

  8. Athena

    “They can appeal to our emotions without having to take responsibility.”

    That isn’t true. The Democrats assured Australians that they would not support the introduction of a GST. They went back on their word and lost voters. It was all downhill from there. Contrast that with the numerous Liberal Party lies in the last three years. That hasn’t hurt them much at all.

  9. Dan Rowden

    Athena,

    The Democrats assured Australians that they would not support the introduction of a GST. They went back on their word and lost voters.

    Can you provide evidence for this? I have a feeling it belongs in the category of things that aren’t true.

  10. Athena

    Thanks Dan, yes actually they said they didn’t support GST on food. The Democrats party leaders denied that their support of the GST killed off the party (although Andrew Bartlett admitted otherwise) but numerous Democrats voters claimed they stopped voting for them as a result of the GST. I’ve come across former Democrat members who claimed they ceased being members due to the GST. One of the concerns raised at the time was that a GST hits the poorest people the hardest. Meg Lees was still denying that years later. That concern has been shown to be true. Consumption taxes do hit the poorest people hardest.

  11. The AIM Network

    They originally said they wouldn’t support a GST if it included food, and they “publicly stated that they liked neither the Liberal (GST) tax package nor the Labor package”.

    So I guess they didn’t say “they would not support the introduction of a GST” as there were a few riders in it.

  12. totaram

    “So I guess they didn’t say “they would not support the introduction of a GST” as there were a few riders in it.”

    Too true, but the riders are all forgotten. ” There will not be a carbon tax……” Does no one remember?

    I suppose it is all a learning process for the electorate, not to fall for these simple memes. I have serious doubts that they will learn quickly enough to avoid the problems that face us. ALL parties now use the “framing” techniques that George Lakoff has studied. It is just the neo-liberals who were the first to use them. Progressives always believed that just facts and logic would win in the end. The neo-liberals seized on these techniques because they knew that they did not have facts and logic on their side. They needed to win at any cost and by any means. Progressives have learned, to their cost, that these techniques do win. People are just people and cannot act against their natures. And, in the end, if that is all we have, the human race is doomed. Not in my lifetime, fortunately, but certainly in the future beyond it. Who knows, once people become aware of these techniques, they may rise above them. I see some evidence that the Goebbels technique of telling a big lie and repeating it often, is not working so well any more. We live in hope.

  13. keerti

    one thing that none of you seem to realise is that the Greens for put forward a budget which was fully costed by the parliamentry budget office. Yes they haven’t had it tested in “real life”, but it is valid nonetheless. And takes care of the environment far better than the two (temporaily) major parties. A very necessary thing if you want to have a lasting economy! Personally I always prefered my uncles and aunties to my parents, who like the lieberal party, were child abusers

  14. cornlegend

    “Dear Victoria, people aren’t just voting FOR the cool Aunties and Uncles, they are NOT voting for the bad Mothers and Fathers”
    I haven’t got a problem with uncles and aunties getting elected, in fact I think it is a pretty good thing and gives people a voice.
    What does annoy me is the same people who want ‘uncle and aunty” to come stay squeal like stuck pigs when some do.
    Now, “Auntie Pauline” comes to stay and brings a couple of her offspring and there aren’t just column inches but column yards of people wanting her to go back home. Uncle Derryn came too and a few more that the family don’t hear from much, but there were enough nephews and nieces that wanted there visit that they came.
    At this moment in Queensland 146,854 wanted Aunt Paulines visit while 118,821 wanted Auntie Green to come stay.In Victoria Uncle Derryn has so far got 127,027 invites.
    Some want to be a bit more selective and only want their personal favourite uncle and aunt to come, but in a large family they were the minority and are now trying to shout down their siblings

  15. cornlegend

    Actually, Aunty Green who wants Daddy Bill to invite her to the party should look at some of the reasons why he didn’t .
    In fact, Uncle Dicky didn’t attack uncle LNP much and even had the Party campaign launch in Grayndler Albos, seat
    In NSW Aunty “Greens spent up big in Grayndler, Sydney and the north coast seat of Richmond, devoting nearly one third of the party’s statewide campaign budget” trying to get rid of Albo and Tanya Plibersek
    Aunty Greens got a few more invites this time but “Greens recovered slightly from their poor 2013 vote, receiving 9.9% of national vote – a swing of 1.3%. This result is still 2% worse than what the party achieved in 2010”
    Overall the invites were down “In the Senate the Greens performed poorly. On current figures the party is on track for its worst Senate result since 2004. The party has already lost a Senate seat in South Australia and there is a chance the party could lose two additional senators, in Tasmania and Western Australia where the Greens saw swings against them.”
    Some have questioned Uncle Dickies tactics
    “Christine Cunningham, the national co-convenor of the Australian Greens in 2013 and 2014, said: “In a world desperate for change and hope, we offered a centrist position summed up in a vague slogan.

    “We can continue to be led by a nice-guy, mainstream footy-playing doctor and negotiate incremental change … Or maybe as a party of really smart, but often too-privileged-to-quite-get-it members, we should take a long hard look at ourselves and make some radical changes.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/05/without-some-serious-soul-searching-the-greens-will-never-move-beyond-the-10-plateau?CMP=share_btn_tw

  16. metadatalata

    Victoria, it seems that you are suggesting that rather than staying with parents that constantly abuse you and lie to you, do things that have bad consequences for the future of you and your siblings and their environment, we should just suck it up and vote like sheep?
    Sorry, but I believe in a better outcome for Australia and the world. The Greens (and possibly other minor parties?) have fully costed policies on all major issues and unlike Mum and Dad, they are not stooges for vested interests, mainly their own personal gain once their political employment ends.
    I just don’t understand your motivation for writing a piece like this. I thought you were better than that.

  17. cornlegend

    metadatalata
    obviously the kids have spoken and overall, they prefer mum and dad and the occasional visit from an uncle and aunt

  18. Athena

    “obviously the kids have spoken and overall, they prefer mum and dad and the occasional visit from an uncle and aunt”

    So obviously that justifies all kids, even those who are being abused, staying with their parents.

    Stockholm Syndrome appears to have reached epidemic proportions.

  19. diannaart

    There are laws regarding neglectful parents; in such cases aunties, uncles, grandma and grandpa often have to help out.

    Condescending analogy as well.

  20. cornlegend

    “So obviously that justifies all kids, even those who are being abused, staying with their parents.”
    Obviously, the kids voters} chose to stay with mum and dad
    Whether I like the outcome or not, they’ve spoken and we need to live with it, and “the occasional visit from an uncle and aunt” who I’m certain would point out any abuses if necessary. They do have a poor record of getting themselves in a position to act though

    Dianaart
    “Condescending analogy as well”
    staying with the flavour of the story, quite willing to put it in a political perspective if that pleases you

  21. Athena

    “Whether I like the outcome or not, they’ve spoken and we need to live with it, and “the occasional visit from an uncle and aunt” who I’m certain would point out any abuses if necessary.”

    Anyone who works with abused kids will tell you that other adults, even when they are aware of the abuse, sometimes don’t actually do anything about it. When my ex-husband and his siblings told the aunts and uncles of their father’s abuse, they weren’t believed.

    It’s interesting that when the author is putting down everyone else for not voting for your beloved ALP we just need to live with the outcome. But you saw fit to travel the countryside and hand out your own unauthorised how to vote cards before the election. You obviously weren’t prepared to let the votes fall where they may when you thought you had a chance of your party winning.

  22. cornlegend

    Athena
    This was a political anology
    Of course in the real world I have a great concern for abused and homeless kids and as I have said elsewhere an involvement in both a youth refuge and a homeless shelter
    ” You obviously weren’t prepared to let the votes fall where they may when you thought you had a chance of your party winning.”

    That was prior to the election and of course I tried, but, the voters have spoken .I may not like the outcome but I can’t change it.
    I see somewhere you worked on handing out HTVs, you also may not like the fact your lot didn’t do better, but the outcome is almost on us
    Actually, I didn’t hand out “unauthorised” HTVs, friends did and I helped them with costs. I personally did not hand out 1 single unauthorised HTV

  23. Athena

    @Cornlegend
    What you are endorsing then, since this is only a political analogy, is that when we’re being screwed we should stick with mum and dad. You do realise that’s what most Liberal voters are actually doing, right?

    I handed out htv cards for GetUp. They were based on issues, and whilst they were intended to keep the Libs out of government, they didn’t promote one party. They named three parties that had the best policies on issues considered important to the electorate.

    I stand corrected. You were knowingly and willingly an accessory to handing out unauthorised htv cards.

    “I may not like the outcome but I can’t change it.”

    Neither can Victoria. So what was the point of this article?

  24. cornlegend

    Athena
    “So what was the point of this article?”
    Ask Victoria
    “I stand corrected. You were knowingly and willingly an accessory to handing out unauthorised htv cards.”
    No, I was assisting friends in achieving their objective. I actually was in a different State when most of their activities were undertaken 😀
    AND it is against ALP policy and rules, so I would never do that 😀
    “What you are endorsing then, since this is only a political analogy, is that when we’re being screwed we should stick with mum and dad. You do realise that’s what most Liberal voters are actually doing, right?”
    I am saying, the people have spoken and their is a strong possibility we will have an LNP government for 3 more years.
    Like it or not, the people have spoken
    What do you suggest armed revolution?

  25. Athena

    Michael Danby gave his preferences to the Liberal Party and now not only looks like losing his seat of Melbourne Ports to the Liberal Party, but it could turn out to be the seat that gives the LNP to govern in their own right. I’ll look forward to Victoria writing about that instead of showing her amazing lack of sensitivity for the kids who have been abused by their parents, and even killed when those who should have known better but sent them back to abusive parents.

  26. mark

    Whilst fathers dominate their sons and mothers their daughters,nothing will change.mark

  27. Deanna Jones

    What a thoroughly conservative, white western take on family relations.

  28. Athena

    Bwahahaha Deanna. How true!

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