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Is It Time We Began To Act Outside The Square?

Paul G. Dellit casts a critical eye over the Australian political landscape.

The majority of the population believes that the current Australian Government is incompetent, its policies are inequitable, and the reformation of these problems improbable. Any group of individuals which has twice endorsed the reptilian-brained Anthony John Abbott as their leader is clearly beyond the reach of reason.

Even the rabidly right wing media now take more than a passing interest in our rabidly right wing PM’s lengthening litany of gaffes and failed attempts at policy formulation. They loved him as Opposition Leader, playing the role of headless horseman flailing about a Government in self-made disarray. He created so much copy for them they could follow the easier path of filling their columns and inking their headlines with distortions – outright lying, their usual stock in trade, taxes the imagination and runs the risk of exposure.

But now the personal-wealth-obsessed right wingers have discovered their headless horseman has no other head to guide his actions beyond the one he has always used. The one fueled by testosterone. The one that has shrunk smaller than a pea now that it is exposed to the ice cold logic of economic management. The manifest inability of the Government to manage the economy has them reaching for the Valium and ordering another bottle of single malt as they watch a Government incapable of escaping its comfort zone, blaming the previous Government for problems to which they themselves have no solutions, and constructing a semantic roller-coaster to verbal the state of the Budget.

Government insiders are blaming the Peta Principal. But it was the PM who chose her for the role, and it is therefore unsurprising that she has the same electoral tin ear and policy naïveté as her boss. What the LNP fail to acknowledge, or perhaps even realize, is that their leader has been promoted beyond the level of his competence – not the Peta Principal, the Peter Principle. (Well, I got there in the end!)

Some optimists within our band of people with social consciences contend or cling to the hope that Bill Shorten is ‘lying doggo’ and will spring to life from his hibernation (19 months and counting) and surprise the Government with volleys of cogent policy proposals and rapid fire responses to any unfavorable critiques. From the little we have seen of Bill Shorten and what we can glean from his path to high office, it seems to this writer that this scenario is optimistic beyond reasonable hope. Bill is as typical a validation of the Peter Principle as is Tony.

Penny Wong is capable of performing the role of Leader of the Opposition, and there are indications that she would grow in stature if given that opportunity. Penny is a Senator and would realistically have to find a seat in the Reps before she could be considered as a replacement for Bill. It is unlikely that that could be achieved before the next election. Tanya Plibersek would also make a great Opposition leader but has not really given any indication of having the driving ambition needed to pursue that office. Sam Dastyari has been sticking his head up above the parapets to some great effect, but has yet to demonstrate the range of capabilities and personal qualities expected of an alternative PM. (Unfortunately, by any measure, Dastyari seems preferable to Shorten.)

So what do our political stars portend? My guess is that the LNP strategy will be to damp down their inequitable right wing ambitions between now and the next election and introduce electorally acceptable Budgets and policies that deal with immediate problems only. They will drag Shorten into a bright spotlight whenever they can and increasingly push him into defensive positions. This will have the advantages for them of exposing Shorten’s inability to provide convincing leadership, in turn devaluing the policies he proposes (as we saw when Gillard was under attack), Tony will be back in his ‘headless horseman’ comfort zone, and the electorate will be diverted by this theatre of the absurd from making a considered judgement about what policy offerings are really in their best long term interest.

The upshot, as I see it is;

• a second term for Tony;

• a Labor Party in political stasis;

• the LNP progressively introducing legislation that increases their ability to legislate by regulation, which is the natural next step towards enabling their inherent impulses to bypass democracy whenever it suits them; and

• an economic system legislated to add wealth to the rich at the expense of the poor.

The intention of this piece is not to propose a solution. That can only be found by those who have in their hands the power to find it and then implement it – the Labor Party. We can sit on our hands, just like the Labor Party has been for the past 19 months, or we can start protesting through whatever channels are available to us that the real enemy of social justice and competent, equitable government in this country is an uninspiring, ineffective Opposition. It might make us feel better to continue to inhabit the square of our own comfort zone, venting our spleen upon the lying, double-dealing, crassly incompetent LNP. But preaching to the converted won’t change anything. Agitating for the self-proclaimed champions of our cause to turn in a credible performance in that role just might.

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28 comments

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  1. flohri1754

    Yep, those alternative Labor policies had better start appearing soon, AND with gusto …..

  2. Kaye Lee

    I so agree. “Political wisdom” would have it that you hold your cards close to the chest and then time your run for the election campaign. I deplore that strategy. It is proposed by marketing people, not reformers.

    Every person elected to parliament is being paid to do a job – come up with the best ways to give us the best society we can have, now and into the future. This idea has been thrown away, sacrificed to personal ambition and reward for donors. Politicians are too scared of electoral backlash to do what is necessary. We ALL know a price on carbon is essential and inevitable. But politicians have decided to make it a factor, not in our best interests, but in their political advancement. We ALL know there is a crisis in displaced people globally, in part due to our actions, but once again, helping them has been discarded for political purposes. We ALL know that corporate greed has created a huge inequity in wealth worldwide but tackling the power of these corporations has proven too difficult for our gutless “leaders”.

    At ALL times our Opposition should be offering alternative suggestions otherwise they are just a waste of space. The obscenely ridiculous practice of a barrage of promises you can’t keep during the few weeks of election campaigns is insulting, with the obvious implication that for most of the time we aren’t worth listening to but we can be lured by baubles to choose the Hollywood parent when the time comes.

  3. Bronte ALLAN

    The obvious choice to vote for who in the next election is “nobody”! Neither the incompetent lying Liberals, nor the equally incompetent & so far not really “viable” alternative of the Labor mob, really does leave us in a quandry. Sadly both “major” party members seem hell bent on “feathering” their own nests, looking after number one, & especially, ensuring that their many generous donors get satisfaction from any decisions etc they make whilst in parliament.The “alternatives” leave us really no-one, as the PUP party is now a shell of what is was expecting to be, the Greens could not muster enough political clout to run a Council election & the rest of the Independents are too diverse in outlook & philosophy to ever be a united party. Bloody great choices we have, between a rock & a hard place!

  4. Andreas Wagner

    According to this recipe, a second Abbott term would end in fascist totalitarianism. Well, we are there half-way already, with the help of Shorten and his bunch of nodders… I wonder, is he still a regular visitor at the american embassy?

  5. Blanik

    Yes, Bronte ALLAN everything you say is true. To me, the answer is to have a party of people who are not professional politicians. They Th PP are the scabs that need to be picked off, starting with Corporal Catholic bill shorten who is dead in the water. But, who to replace him with? I don’t see anybody in the ALP capable of out lying Captain Catholic.

    I decided long ago that the answer is to vote for nobody unless we get a bold group of truly progressive and unprofessional independent politicians who aren’t simply interested in their pension. It happened in Indi, getting rid of that horrid Sophie what’shername and also in Shepparton getting rid of Carmen what’shernameandwhocares in the recent State election. These people can be defeated with independent candidates.

    But sadly I believe that we will see another fascist government next election, unless the Captain is challenged again and that won’t happen as hell call for a double dissolution and too many LNP fascists will lose their seats. There will not be a DD!

  6. saklaing

    Why must the solution be Labor? The reality is that with a strong negotiator at the helm, good government is possible in a hung parliament. Conflict Management shows that teams that avoid Groupthink are more effective, and come up with better solutions, than teams who are all aligned. The current band of muppets displays this superbly. Looking back on the Gillard government objectively, much of the blame for their “mismanagement” was just nonsense whipped up by the LNP, in collusion with a mainstream media who were either already antagonistic, or utterly myopic, managing to dupe an electorate into believing the nonsensical rhetoric that the sky was falling in. Unfortunately, with consumer confidence shattered, it really is beginning to! What the opposition parties need to do is to stop saying “we aren’t the Greens” or “we aren’t Labor”, but to say we will bring our strengths together to fight this neo-con barbarism. What we want is good policy, and a mechanism to properly promote it. The MSM have failed us as much as the LNP have betrayed us.

  7. stephentardrew

    A common theme on AIMN since not long after the election and one that needs to be voiced loudly and clearly.

    Shorten is an uncharismatic wet blanket supply side toady playing on the periphery using a low profile “I don’t exist strategy”.

    Bill who?

    I agree with Kaye you need a clearly defined and cogent policy platform run in the long term to get the type of electoral recognition that builds a solid platform for reform and a foundation that is recognisable by voters. The snooze strategy is non-strategy and down right boring and insipid to the punters.

    If you can’t attack the most incompetent government in the history of this country then you should give up politics.

    I am sick of Listening to the Sound of Silence (with regards to Simon and Garfunkel).

    I am afraid this paradoxical metaphor would simply pass over the somnolent heads of Labor.

  8. Matters Not

    Blanik at 8:07 pm said:

    There will not be a DD!

    One can never be sure. If one is a believer in the reliability of News Poll (51/49) to Labor (I’m not) then a ‘voter friendly’ budget accompanied by the mother of all scare campaigns based on terrorists here, there and everywhere, then Abbott could pull it off. After all he still has the Sun God on his side.

    But based on IPSOS (54/46 or 53/47, depending on professed or historical preference allocation) then a DD would be political suicide. But Abbott is a genuine political пизда. (Excuse the French, I think). Never to be underestimated.

    Abbott is absolutely desperate.

    Expect the unexpected.

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Martin Fergeson, Arbib, Bitar, Howse etc (those backers of Gillard) have shown that the Labor Party has been infiltrated by the neo-cons – and Shorten is too aligned to the far right to object to Abbott and gang’s agenda.

    I fear that like Fergeson, Shorten is a big business stooge.

  10. eli nes

    congratulations paul the prospect of another crash by labor and term 2 for abbutt is very real.
    No amount of rationalisation will erase the sad memory of labor’s capitulation to a liar in 2013 and the party’s tactic of still playing such a dangerous and risky waiting game.

  11. @RosemaryJ36

    How many people would be interested in a New Australia party along the lines which Malcolm Fraser was proposing? Centrist and humane?

  12. Andreas Bimba

    It appears that nearly all those that comment on AIMN can’t bring themselves to the easiest solution of all to Australia’s current predicament – vote for the Australian Greens.

    Christine Milne would make an excellent PM, the Greens could easily form a competent ministry and government, the Greens have integrity, the Greens have published their well considered policies, the Greens are doing their utmost to keep the IPA’s puppet government to account, the Greens have the answers to all of Australia’s current problems and opportunities, they offer hope and a bright future for Australia.

    http://greens.org.au/policy-platform

    The electorate unfortunately still need to be convinced the Greens are the answer but that is probably due to a lack of mass media access, very limited financial resources as well as lacking the long history in government of the major parties. Australia’s awful first past the post voting system for the important lower houses of parliament has also greatly hampered the growth of the Greens. The major parties also have many rusted on voters that just won’t budge regardless of how awful their parties become. Do we need major riots on the streets to trigger a change?

    So where to from here? Any ideas?

  13. Kaye Lee

    Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul has called for eliminating all U.S. foreign aid. They can use the majority of the world’s resources, invade and bomb other countries, and then put up the fence saying tough shit to the rest of the world. Unbelievable.

  14. stephentardrew

    Rand Paul is a prat of the first order. A libertarian elitist quite willing to leave the poor and marginalised to their own fate. Libertarian me first-ism with large doses of Randian dog eat dog social Darwinism. Yet he has a reasonable following of awe struck automatons who cannot think beyond their self-interest. He will not get to be president nevertheless it is scary that this large cohort of right wing fundamentalists have so much influence. Christian Randianism is the ultimate oxymoron and they don’t see the irony.

    It worries me that they will get a foothold in Australia. Another form of economic fascism for the far right to play with. Australians be warned the US seem to be insistent upon exporting the worst aspects of their oligarchic corptocracy. I could see the appeal for the far right Abbott-oh-files.

  15. jimhaz

    [How many people would be interested in a New Australia party along the lines which Malcolm Fraser was proposing?]

    Pretty well no one – too close to the Greens territory.

  16. Blanik

    An essay in February ’15 edition of “The Monthly” written by Tim Flannery and Catriona Wallace called “Power to the People” makes a lot of very good points about a new political party in our land girt by sea.

    Whether it would be acceptable by 41% of the population is very doubtful though.

  17. Harquebus

    Not one person mentioned in this article is fit to lead. Every one has a growth ideology which, is failing and should be obvious to all. We will only get more inequality, environmental destruction and overcrowding from every one of these morons.

  18. mark delmege

    ‘lying doggo’ at first I read ‘lying drongo but that would be a bit too harsh, wouldn’t it?

    Did I mention how WA is on the verge of succession over the GST?

  19. Geoff Andrews

    Harquebus, does Andreas Bimba’s nomination of Christine Milne and the Australian Greens fall into your definition of morons espousing “inequality, environmental destruction and overcrowding” or do you consider them ratbags BECAUSE they don’t toe the Labor and LNP growth fallacy line? (Bipartisan agreement MUST make it a fact, eh?)

    Andreas,
    the Greens aren’t the victim of “first past the post” voting: we have had preferential voting for over 60 years. The Greens have to argue that, rather than put themselves number 1 on the ballot paper, voters should put LNP and Labor last and second last. Preferential voting sifts out the most unpopular candidates leaving the least unpopular candidate as the winner.

  20. Harquebus

    @Geoff Andrews
    In my opinion, the person required to lead us would have to advocate population reduction and economic deflation. We can not shop our way to sustainability and so what if a few billionaires go broke.
    Personally, I do think that the Greens are mostly well meaning but clueless morons who, are more interested in gaining seats than they are about actually saving our world. Jus’ my opinion.

  21. Andreas Bimba

    Geoff, I like your comment regarding the preferential voting system.

    The ‘first past the post’ voting system even with preferential voting hurts smaller parties that have their vote distributed widely, for example the Greens could get 10% of the total of votes cast for all the lower house seats but not win any seats. Only relatively recently have the Greens been able to win a majority (after preference allocation) in a few lower house seats but this has required much effort and the use of very scarce financial resources.

    If the big old parties preference each other which may now become more frequent, then the Greens would really struggle to win a majority in all but a very few seats. Ideally with preferential voting for both upper and lower houses of parliament, if you get 10% of the vote, you get ~10% of the members of each house of parliament. Tasmania already has the Hare-Clark proportional representation system for both houses since 1909.

    http://www.abc.net.au/elections/tas/2006/guide/hareclark.htm

    On Senator Rand Paul, I fear that if the American political system becomes so warped that candidates like Rand Paul or similar ‘dog eat dog social Darwinists’ become President and both houses of the US federal parliament remain fundamentalist Republican controlled and if the US heads further down the plutocratic or corporate feudal path then the US will become very much like Putin’s FSB and oligarch controlled Russia and may even become hostile to the world’s remaining socially liberal democracies. China is also effectively ruled by an emperor with the families of former communists holding much of the nation’s wealth. Two and half super powers are becoming very similar economically and politically but will almost certainly remain hostile competitors.

    The worlds more socially liberal democracies, with Australia hopefully also becoming one again, may need to help each other a lot more to get through these dangerous times. Hopefully Europe and Japan also won’t head much further down the plutocratic path and will strengthen their democracies. Hopefully the American, and even the Russian electorates will eventually see through all the lies and cast away their undemocratic feudal overlords.

  22. Blanik

    “Personally, I do think that the Greens are mostly well meaning but clueless morons who, are more interested in gaining seats than they are about actually saving our world”

    Which makes them no different from either major party we have now.

  23. Ruth L

    My level of sanity could not survive another term of the moron who shouted his way into office.

  24. Jexpat

    @stephentardrew:

    Rand Paul is no Libertarian- he and his father are a couple of fundamentalist grifters that would impose extreme, intrusive and wide ranging “Christian” restrictions, discriminatory and persecutorial laws, via governmental action.

    That’s the opposite of Libertarian policy.

  25. Lee

    “How many people would be interested in a New Australia party along the lines which Malcolm Fraser was proposing? Centrist and humane?”

    There is one. https://www.australianprogressives.org.au/ It’s the only party I’ve seen talking about MMT.

    “I decided long ago that the answer is to vote for nobody unless we get a bold group of truly progressive and unprofessional independent politicians who aren’t simply interested in their pension.”

    Failing to vote sends a clear message to the government that you can be safely ignored, as the 400,000 young people learned after they couldn’t be bothered with the last federal election. The LNP wants to take away their unemployment benefits for 6 months of the year.

  26. Geoff Andrews

    Harquebus,
    The Greens are the only party that comes close to your suggestion that a good leader should advocate against “inequality, environmental destruction and overcrowding”. As for your opinion that “the Greens are mostly well meaning but clueless morons who, are more interested in gaining seats than they are about actually saving our world”……
    I’m hoping that someone senior in the Greens has noted this profundity and and embarked on a campaign to save the world and THEN try to gain some seats. It would certainly distinguish them from every other party!

    Andreas
    You seem to think that we have a “first past the post’ voting system with preferential voting”. This is an oxymoron. Each of the 120 odd electorates for the lower house can only elect one member and thus can only be elected by EITHER “first past the post” system (i.e. each vote is only counted once and the candidate with the highest number wins OR a preferential voting system. The only way a party with 10% of the vote to secure 10% of the seats would be if the electorate elected 10 or more members. In a double dissolution, each state elects 12 senators, so the Greens with 10% of the primary votes may be able to pick up the extra 2% in preferences to elect 2 senators.
    Interestingly, Adam Bandt would have won his seat in the 2013 election using either first past the post or our current system.

  27. Ashley Cook

    Australia’s current predicament has been caused by politicians of both persuasions, i.e. both parties have made Australia dependent on its own finite natural resources at the expense of all manufacturing and have thus been engaged in the process of destroying Australia. As if this is not enough, they have also allowed foreign mining companies to pillage Australia.

    Ordinary Australians should certainly wake up before we become a poverty ridden country.

  28. Andreas Bimba

    @Geoff Andrews, sorry for my late response, I haven’t kept up with this article.

    My description of the current voting system for the Federal House of Representatives as “first past the post with preferencing” – I agree is wrong. I should have written a ‘electoral division (seat) based system with preferencing of votes’. The electoral division or seat based system weakens parties that are not as large as the Liberals or Labor and have widely dispersed voter bases. The narrowly confined Nationals and popular local members like Katter do well however. As I mentioned the Greens however could say get 10% of the votes but win no seats as their votes are relatively widely dispersed apart from recently in the inner cities. Over time the small parties in Australia have been critically weakened by the electoral division or seat based electoral system, the Australian Democrats were an example. A proportional representation system such as that used in Tasmanian state elections avoids this distortion.

    Have a look at this article on the 2015 UK Election results and how unfair it was to UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Greens.

    http://www.cityam.com/215391/general-election-2015-how-parties-would-compare-if-it-were-based-votes-alone

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