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Democracy Isn’t The Problem, Ignorance Is!

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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10 comments

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  1. Jean

    I don’t know where to start in saying thank you! I totally agree with your sentiments. Both my husband and I, anguish over this exact question of where to start? Do we try to educate those who don’t understand? Are they capable of ever understanding? How could we make them listen, let alone explain, that they have voted for the party that will give them small tax breaks, while at the top of the town (sorry couldn’t resist!) those who earn huge salaries will get equally huge tax breaks? Wouldn’t they like to see Newstart increased? The environment managed responsibly? I whirl around just shaking my head in disbelief that people have voted against their best interests.

    Queensland should be the biggest supporters of The Greens in the whole country – haven’t they got the most in the way of amazing vegetation to be cared for?

    The Liberal National Party have told barefaced lies – and have not had them in the headlines! Barely a comment. Bill Shorten made a mistake with a superannuation question – and it made the news every day until the election – and probably again today with the announcement of the new Cabinet. The bias was, and is, amazing.

    I am most surprised at the reporting however. I thought a journalist would be responsible for keeping the country up to date with the latest news – but it seems this is no longer the case. The biggest role the media played during the election build up, was to put some credibility to the lies! Those voters who read and believe without checking, really can’t be blamed totally, but how do you beat this? Telling bigger lies isn’t the answer! Somehow the media has to be called out!

  2. New England Cocky

    I agree that the preferred ignorance of Australian voters is the major difficulty in Australian politics which is the underlying reason that we have a preferential voting system.

    However, the strategy raised on another thread of nominating the candidates for the 2022 election ASAP AFTER an election loss in seats held by the opponents has great merit IMHO.

    Aspiring candidates would then expect three years of campaigning, getting to know the electorate and the desires of the Australian voters, be available for party political training in the skills necessary for effective representation of the electorate when in Parliament, and becoming familiar with the factional system in both major political parties.

    Why, they may even contribute to the debate about proposed policies and give feed back from their electorates rather than the present small “focus groups” returning dubious opinions from a too narrow base.

    Would the unelected political hacks who control pre-selection support such a “radical change”? Unlikely, unless they could see greater influence accruing to themselves rather tha the good of the Australian voters and the nation.

  3. David Bruce

    Politics, like marketing, is all about perceptions. The Australian electorate has been subjected to a prolonged fear campaign, initiated, I believe, by Abbort. Murdoch played his part by repetition and now I see all the news headlines contain the words, SHOCK, SHOCKING, NEW SHOCK, MORE SHOCKING or worse!

    Australians are suspicious of political promises and proposed policies for good reason. As they say, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    Morrison gets away with it because he “fesses up” promptly, after the lies unravel.

    Now I hope the Morrison government will have the same problems Julia Gillard had in getting legislation through the parliament. Her government achieved a lot for Australia and the Australian education system. The legislation was carefully negotiated through the two houses and despite Labor having a minority, Australians had an Australian Government.

    Good luck to the new Labor leadership team. I hope they can be a more formidable opposition than we have seen in the past.

    I will be pleasantly surprised if the new Australian Government can deliver better outcomes for Australia and Australians than the previous LNP disasters we experienced.

  4. Keitha Granville

    Good plan NEC, I like that idea. It would also solve any issues about ineligibility as they’d have 3 years to get sorted. No surprises minutes before a poll leaving makes on the ballot that are incorrect – does anyone else wonder if that made any difference at all ?

    Not sure if anything will ever be done about the media, a nice thought.

  5. Paul Davis

    Interesting article Rossleigh. Two comments.

    Firstly in response to “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? ” Your reasoned response ignores the fact that every political party is made up of politicians. Yes, some are altuistic community and nation focused but many are not, they are people who have a strong desire to exercise power over their fellows. As others have commented on these pages, many politicians display what are very negative and potentially dangerous mental health problems, ie they are sociopathic or psychopathic to some degree. These would-be dictators want power, the how, the why, the policies etc are irrelevant. If Labor is run by a cadre similar to the LNP then they will ditch anything unpopular to get votes and regain government.

    Secondly, totally unrelated, like all who subscribe to the ABC Weekend Reads, my weekly email was written by that doyen of non partisan journalism Virginia Trioli who cried a river about being constantly trolled by nasty lefties saying that she gave the LNP a free ride and badgered Labor in her interviewing during the campaign. Quelle horreur. Anyway, she linked to a story by her good mate Annabel Crabb, who had some cautionary advice for Mr Morrison. You remember Annabel? She was the commentator who on election night leapt to her feet cheering when Antony Green called the result for the LNP.

  6. RomeoCharlie29

    Paul Davis, did Annabel Crabb leap to her feet cheering when Antony Green called it for the LNP? I watched the ABC coverage from beginning to end and I don’t recall that. Annabelle is far too professional to make such a display, for either party, moreover I do not think she would be cheering a result which will almost certainly result in further attacks on the ABC’s funding and political coverage. However if there is video evidence of your claim I will stand corrected.

  7. jack

    You can’t have a compulsory voting system and yet still expect the majority of voters to have a reasonable level of policy knowledge from the parties. Ignorance is expected(and bliss).

    There are vast numbers of Australians that will always vote ALP if they ‘work with their hands’ or LNP if they ‘work with their head’

  8. New England Cocky

    @jack: “There are vast numbers of Australians that will always vote ALP if they ‘work with their hands’ or LNP if they ‘work with their head’”

    Uhm ….. I think if you research the evidence you will find that voters who work with their heads” tend to vote Labor or Greens because they have had sufficient education, intelligence and thinking skills to analyse the political propaganda spewed out by too many parasitic publicity scribblers attached to the Prim Monster’s office and form an opinion based on research other than gossip.

  9. jack

    @NEC, Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon the main reason why the ALP lost. They forgot to connect with their traditional voting base that work with their hands and instead tried to appeal to the left of centre voters that work with their head. Most of which would vote Green over ALP

  10. Wayne Turner

    Sadly we are NOT a democracy,and have NOT been for a long while. We are really a mediaocracy. With a Main Stream Media owned by too few,and whichever major party and leader panders/cuts a deal with Murdoch usually wins the federal election.

    As they usually are.The MSM were the promotional wing of the Coalition,for this election.It was NEVER a fair CONtest.

    The mediaocracy continues…

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