By Steve Laing
Another government, another coup. Since the final Howard Government of 2004, the last three governments have been characterized by having a different Prime Minister at the start than at the end of each term, and with those in power at the end elected not by popular vote, but by the decision of a very small political class. If evidence was required that we have quietly moved from a democracy to an oligarchy, the jury is now emphatically in.
Commentators note this instability, and suggest solutions that would make it harder to remove sitting Prime Ministers. Labor, the original overthrow experts, changed the way they appointed leaders in an attempt to diffuse the constant, often media-inspired, pressure to change the parties leader to a more popular one. No sooner than Malcolm ousted Tony, the media focus moves to Bill’s popularity with not an iota of embarrassment.
However this entirely misses the point, which is that the general public consistently takes a different view of the leaders and potential candidates, than those within the party who actually make the choice. Moreover, the dialogue that occurs around the times of these transitions as reported in the media can significantly impact public perception of the new leader (though this has been stirred up somewhat by opposition parties looking for weak points on which to attack their rivals).
The reality is that the party based system is very insular, and to a significant degree tyrannical in nature. Dissent and loyalty appear more important that competence, which worryingly means that bad leaders may actually be maintained longer than perhaps they should!
It is very clear that the now deposed Tony Abbott is the example that proves the problems of the system. Clearly elevated beyond his ability, he was unpopular with the electorate from the beginning of his prime ministership, and never recovered. Lauded in sections of the media as Australia’s greatest opposition leader, his hyper aggressive style masked a total lack of foundation with regard to the policies needed to move Australia forward. And in two years, his government has wrought enough damage to put Australia back ten years or more.
For many of us casual observers, it was clear that the LNP were policy lite, but spin heavy coming into election. Yet the mainstream media and our “astute” political commentariat somehow appeared to miss that vital component. In sports, the term is ball watching, more interested in the human drama of the election than analyzing the few policy ideas communicated prior to the election and dissecting them. Tony’s gold plated parental leave scheme was one such nonsense, dumped finally for being too expensive (it was probably, in reality, simply an attempt to try and grab woman’s votes), the impact it would have had on business, particularly small business, would have been extremely disruptive. But nobody seemed willing to think the impact through.
Tony Abbott leaves behind an economy teetering on recession due to his team constantly talking it down, a community where racism has again become mainstream and acceptable, a vastly expensive white elephant broadband scheme that will be obsolete before rollout is complete, a renewable energy industry that is teetering from lack of support, a defunct car industry, a nervous tertiary education system, no concrete plans for tax reform to help rebuild our economy, and no vision for the future post-mining boom. He has stacked the boards of our public institutions with sycophants, blundered into international diplomacy like a bull in a china shop, signed trade deals that we hope will benefit our nation (though with no precise plans as to how), and at vast expense incarcerated for an indefinite period a number of migrants whose only crime was to try and find a better life for themselves and their families, but who now have to endure conditions which we would not only reject for our animals, but indeed have made such a situation palatable for our citizens through propaganda and cover-up.
So can we expect a postmortem for this disastrous political experiment? Who is to blame for putting a person clearly incapable of this vital role into that position (and how are they still allowed to run the country!)? How was an electorate so easily duped into supporting him? Why did the media fail to provide the required due diligence that they claim to provide on our behalf? How can promises made prior to an election be dropped so quickly afterwards with no recourse bar the next election three years hence? And at what point did the electorate hand over the rights to the political parties to decide who should be eligible to become prime minister?
The Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott will not be remembered fondly, but the very least that we, the voting public, the actual employers, should be allowed, is some guarantee that such a situation will never be foist on us again. Until we recognize that our system is no longer a democracy, and do something to ensure that it becomes one again, then it is our fault if we allow our country to be hijacked again. And if any further incentive is needed, just remind yourself of who has quietly positioned themselves to be lurking in the wings . . .
About the author: Steve Laing is politically unaffiliated, but politically astute. A believer in social justice, but also properly regulated free-markets, he believes that the current political system is moribund and broken, and that if it doesn’t get repaired soon, the world will return to a modern feudalism run by capitalist barons (before destroying itself by not addressing climate change…). He believes that features of the current Australian system actually make it well placed to evolve to fix the problem IF people were given an alternative to the current party driven approach, and that using more of the best practice techniques used in business to be innovative and flexible in resolving problems, would result in a more dynamic and prosperous environment for Australians, and through example, thence the rest of the world. He is documenting his thoughts on www.makeourvoiceheard.com where he has so far outlined the problems, and is starting to outline solutions.