This is not some sour grapes whinge from a rusted on Labor or Greens supporter. I’m trying to look dispassionately at some of the problems that have emerged since the election. I’m not even trying to argue that Scott Morrison doesn’t now have a mandate for whatever torture he wants to inflict on the remaining refugees or to reduce company tax or to give all our water to cotton farmers and coal miners no matter how fish die or how many towns have to rely on rainwater.
As for religious freedoms, Mr Morrison has to navigate the tricky path that allows religious institutions to only employ like-minded people but doesn’t give secular organisations the power to do the same. After all, how do you frame a law that says you can sack someone for not believing the same things as the employer, but still give people like Israel Folau the right to tweet whatever he likes without sanction.
The difficulty of politics is that we only get one vote in an election. Perhaps it would make more sense if instead of the whole country voting at once, we did it with a different electorate every week. After all, that would mean that every electorate voted about once every three years and changes in government would be gradual, giving them a chance to adapt, but not allowing them to make great promises before an election only to “suddenly” discover that what they promised just wasn’t possible in the time frame (even though they’d been told this before the election.) Of course, it could be argued that this would lead to lots of pork-paralleling in the electorate facing the election, but that might mean that some of the non-marginal seats actually get something instead of it all going to Corangamite…
Labor has a fundamental dilemma now. Do they abandon a number of their more contentious policies such as the death tax… Oh, wait. That wasn’t one of their policies. That was just a lie. Or as Tim Wilson explained it, some on the Labor side would like to introduce one, so it’s not. On that basis, I guess the sale of the ABC and the abolition of the minimum wage is Liberal policy. Perhaps now that the principal has been established the left could run ads suggesting that what the IPA is proposing is actually Liberal party policy… Actually, it probably will be anyway, now that the election has been held.
Let’s get back to an actual policy here. Let’s take the “retiree tax”, which was even more dishonestly named than the “carbon tax”. For starters, this wasn’t a tax. It was a decision not to refund the money from franking credits to people who couldn’t use it as an offset against their income tax because they didn’t pay income tax. In many cases, this would have been people whose main income was from superannuation because it’s not part of your taxable income. However, if I were the partner of someone on a high income who didn’t work and I just happened to have a large parcel of shares which I purchased by being extra frugal with the housekeeping, then I also would get a similar refund even though my partner’s income was in the top ten percent of earners. Similarly, if I happened to have negatively geared several properties and was just getting by on my partner’s $350,000 a year income, I’d be eligible for the refund.
I think you can see that there’s something wrong with this because well, I’m not having a go, am I? I just sitting at home watching the money roll in and leaving all the work to my partner… Or is that what Scottie means when he says “having a go”? Letting someone else do all the work while you collect the money.
In a democracy, the question for a defeated party is this: Do we keep trying to convince people that we were right or do we accept that people voted it down and change policy? Of course, there’s no single right answer. It’s a question of core beliefs. Labor were happy to argue against the Vietnam war until the public got on board. Similarly, I doubt that The Greens will suddenly embrace Adani just because of the election result. Last week, Labor took a number of policies to the election and they lost. But in the post mortems, it’s worth asking which policies were the result of the electorate rejecting them and which were the result of the electorate actually being ignorant of what the policy actually was. After all, while the Liberals were crying crocodile tears about these poor retirees, nobody pointed out that they were the party who raised the pension age and wanted to raise it even further, yet the election ended up being framed as though Labor were the ones ruining people’s retirement.
There’s always going to be a problem with the fact that a large number of people aren’t politically engaged and make their decision based on things like the Clive Palmer ads or what someone posted on Facebook, so maybe there’s no simple answer. But it would certainly help if the media made sure that at least those paying attention weren’t misled by simple slogans that don’t reflect the reality of policy at all.
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