Soon after the 2013 election I was greatly perturbed by the many “just get over it” comments that my writing evoked.
In the aftermath of any election there is a period of analysis when the media, the winner, the loser and political commentators voice an opinion on the result. I wrote written three pieces. ‘Why Labor Lost’, ‘Two Weeks with Tony’, and ‘Afterthoughts of an Abbott Victory’.
Some blog commentary interpreted the pieces as sour grapes. They were wrong. More important to me is the existence of, and the standard and maintenance of the democracy we live in.
I certainly never thought Labor would win and I said so. What however appalled me (and still does) was the flippant approach to policies that will have an enormous influence on the future of my children’s children. Specifically they were the environment, education and the NBN. The Coalition has shown scant regard for either since.
That aside, the fact is that our democracy – our political system – has been in decline, even decay for many years. Now because I am of the left it does not mean I cannot present an objective view on this matter. My belief in the democratic system allows it.
In one of my posts immediately after the election I said that:
“It would appear that a large portion of eligible voters no longer have any interest, or confidence in the institution of our parliament, or politics in general for that matter and have succumbed to Abbott’s negativity and Labor’s infighting. One can hardly blame them given the events of the past three years. It has done great damage to our democracy.”
A Facebook friend at the time, Metta Behavana commented:
“I am not so sure about your apathy thesis, John. Those who did not take part in the election by failing to register or by voting informal are possibly making a valid comment on the whole process. I would not venture an opinion on their motivations without more access to their voting intentions. Perhaps they were the vaunted “wipe-out” factor. If they had voted perhaps they were convinced enough of the decadence and corruption of politics to take it out on the then-government, seeing them as the most visible target of their disdain. On the other hand, perhaps they are a socially aware cohort who actually made a very sophisticated decision. They may be of the opinion parliament is a closed shop, run by Christian religious conservatives on both sides, an empowerment mechanism for monarchism and post-colonial hegemony, the plaything of corporations and secretive ‘think-tanks’. Listening to the scripted ventriloquist’s dummy Tony Abbott has become, the dark secret world he is invoking, their decision to avoid the whole process may seem naive, but it is not apathetic.”
On reflection, she made a good point.
As it turned out the 2013 election was the worst in my memory. On the one hand we had a party with a public perception of dysfunction although the reality was that it passed 585 bills – 87% supported by the opposition – and was never defeated on the floor. It took to the election some excellent policy reforms.
On the other hand, the LNP who never saw the government as legitimate brought very little policy to the table choosing instead to piggy back Labor’s and relied on the unpopularity of the government to secure victory.
From all this the public were the losers. There was no debate on the best way forward for Australia’s future. There was no exchange of ideas or credentials for government. It was an election devoid of intellectual integrity, discourse, ideals and honesty.
Despite an education system that educates our citizens to a higher level than most countries we seem to have sunk into an abyss of accepting mediocrity and popularism.
Engaging and challenging the electorate to become involved in the process cannot be achieved with ongoing unconstructiveness, pithy leadership and bullshit rhetoric. The trivialising of important issues and immature contemptuous loathing of individuals, personal gender attacks and the emphasising of distortions like we have a spending problem, not a revenue one. And the relegation of truth to obscurity as though it no longer matters.
Barry Jones during the last election said:
“There is an exaggerated emphasis on ‘gotcha!’ moments – Tony Abbott and his suppository, Kevin Rudd and the make-up lady, moronic candidates in swinging seats. In the last months of Julia Gillard’s period as prime minister, in two separate incidents, sandwiches (vegemite and salami as it happens) were thrown at her at schools, for reasons which have never been clarified. The incidents became big news stories, so much so that they crowded out major announcements about the Gonski reforms that she was planning to make”.
“Often politicians acquiesce in the trivialising, for example Kevin Rudd and his availability for selfies, Tony Abbott gyrating at a boot-camp, and his ‘dad moments’.”
A democracy should grow with the advancement that comes with an ever-increasing standard of education and should demand more. Otherwise it is doomed to a level of democracy that never prospers or flourishes for the betterment of society.
Our system is one in which politicians set the yardstick instead of one in which excellence is demanded by the people.
Democracy can only be advanced in three ways.
Firstly, by way of better, more competent politicians who contribute virtuous standards of behaviour and ethics. Who see politics as a noble endeavour. Who believe in better debate that does not cave into simple moronic answers to complex problems but acquiesces sophisticated solutions instead. By taking long-term approaches to problems. By increasing involvement of a wide range of people and skills in their parties. By enthusiastically trying other ways of doing politics. Including a concession that no one party has an ownership of ideas.
Secondly, and I hesitate to say this, that the media should take on the responsibility of persuading people that they deserve better. This can only be done with balanced reporting. Not with sensationalised unbelievable, exaggerated bullshit that is designed to sell newspapers but instead contributes to their decreasing circulation. In other words, we have to be rid of the Murdoch factor.
My hesitation was because the probability is that a more civil and enlightened social media detached from its current anger might in the future take on this responsibility. This means blogs like this one.
Thirdly, a better democracy can come from a better informed citizenry. One which can evaluate policy and understand ideological differences because he/she has been educated to do so by way of a comprehensive political syllabus in our schools. We have to teach our kids the function of democracy and how politics works from differing political perspectives.
Politics determines what happens in almost every function of our lives yet people know little about how it works or affects them.
Winston Churchill once said:
“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
And that’s where the struggle begins. Otherwise we get what we deserve. My party’s loss in 2013 was not sour grapes on my part because at least it has taken the first small steps toward a true democratisation of itself.
Now of course people will say I am full of naive idealism. So be it, but I am hoping that this election might see a less combatant campaign that will at least address the fundamental requirements of a vigorous but profoundly transparent democracy.
My thought for the day
Ask yourself: Does the democracy we have make you feel good about your country?
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