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Pseudo-democracy, pseudo-concern, and pseudo-campaign fatigue

By James Moylan

Our Prime Minister is going to call an election in about two weeks time. We are not in an ‘election campaign’ but an election is in prospect.

Apparently the major difference between being in an ‘election campaign’ and being ‘two weeks before an election campaign is announced’ is that in the former instance all the campaigning expenses are paid for by the taxpayer up front, and in the latter instance we all have to pay for it after the election. (But of course this only applies to the big political parties. Everyone else has to pay their own way and also pay the government $4000.00 each just for the right to be able to get involved).

Yet as far as the two big media conglomerates are concerned there is no discernible difference. Both ‘two weeks before an election campaign is announced’ and all the way through an ‘election campaign’ everyone will still be paying them lots and lots of our money for advertising.

So, like everyone else, I have recently seen plenty of government advertising. But somehow, try as I might, I can’t recall exactly what the advertisements were all about. Their actual content escapes me. Something like: ‘Be nice to everyone.’ ‘The government loves you.’ Or ‘Kittens are fluffy.’ Or something like that. Also it’s obvious that the tenor of the mainstream press has also changed radically. Where just a few days ago most of the MSM at least kept up pretence of neutrality: now it seems that the knives are out and flashing. We are being warned of destruction and distress regardless of who we intend to vote for.

Apparently the plans of the Labor Party will bankrupt the country, lead to a doubling of electricity prices, cause mass unemployment, and we will all end up living in a squalid sexualised communist slum instead of in a proud, rich, Christian, capitalist, country.

Apparently the plans of the LNP will enslave the citizenry in an endless cycle of eight day weeks full of ten hour days of being chained to a workplace chair in open-plan factory while surrounded by a sterile wasteland of coal mines and prisons where once there was an environment.

Yet, paradoxically, all of this seems to be the outcome of smaller differences in policy than at the last election. It is apparent that at each election we are being provided with ever fewer choices between ever less desirable options.

So far in this electoral cycle the largest single policy contrast between the two major parties revolves around their response to climate change. The Labor Party has entirely ditched the idea of taking any sort of meaningful action but will now instead embrace the same sort of solution that the LNP had intended to propose (until the Labor plan was announced of course). Labor have now decided to introduce a ‘carbon trading system’ where there will only be a very low symbolic price set for emitting pollution. It will make us all feel so much better. They may even retire a few of our dirtiest brown coal electricity generation plants if this will win them a few more votes. It is either this or ‘more of the same’.

So once again our ‘representative democracy’ serves the interests of the very few despite the wishes of the many. Our mainstream press will entirely ignore that this year our coal exports will release around 836 million tons of CO2. (To put that figure in perspective, Germany’s CO2 emissions in 2011 were just 807 million tons). Nobody will ask if we want to close down all of the coal mines in Australia and so make an actual impact upon the possible health of our planet. Nobody will even mention the possibility that we might slow down our exports of coal. These options are simply not available. The decision has already been made on our behalf.

Even the Greens will cop out entirely by saying they will not allow any ‘new’ mines (even as the opportunity for increased exports of coal diminish). And our fossil fuel exporters will be more than happy with that. As long as they get to continue to export vast amounts of coal without any curb on these exports even being considered then they are likely to remain ecstatic. So while a vote for the Greens will do absolutely nothing to reduce global warming it will likely be more than enough to salve the conscience of many environmentally inclined voters. It’s a win-win situation for the politicians and the corporations. Of course everybody else, and the planet, loses. But that hardly matters as long as the politicians and their corporate backers can continue with business as usual.

In the same manner the cosy political/press partnership in our country also assists our politicians in ignoring virtually anything else that the citizenry wants in favour of providing only those outcomes that best suit our political and our corporate rulers. The really difficult questions are addressed by simply not consulting with us at all.

Nobody gets a say on whether or not private companies should pay their executives obscene amounts of their shareholders money.

Nobody gets a say on the rules which allow the rich people to use the stock exchange as a casino.

Nobody gets a say on what sort of retirement our politicians should enjoy.

Nobody get a say on whether or not we should pay private schools to teach the children of the rich.

Nobody gets a say on whether or not multinational corporations get to enjoy tax breaks, or whether or not is should be legal for rich people and corporations to have secret offshore bank accounts, or whether or not we go to war, or subsidise private health insurance, or legalise gay marriage, or legalise the use of cannabis, or teach evangelical Christianity in our schools, or publicly underwrite the risks our banks take, or allow foreign corporations to buy up our farmland, factories, and housing stock, or regarding any particularly important decision.

In the last twenty years our ‘two-party’ system has slowly morphed into a front for collusion of vested interests who are happy to let us discuss only a few very limited issues and totally ignore the public interest and opinion when it comes to any matter that might impact upon their interests. Today in our country no individual politician is in a position to offer the citizenry a choice regarding any of these big picture questions. This is because the two big political parties simply work out what they want to see happen and then inform their politicians what they can and cannot do and say. The big political parties (and so their backers) collude to dictate what questions can and cannot be asked as well as what answers will be considered acceptable. In the unlikely situation where a difficult question is accidentally asked then it is ignored or dismissed as representing something that is simply impossible. In our modern political system you cannot vote for change: just different versions of ‘steady as she goes’.

The definitions of ‘democracy’ that I discovered when I searched online were all pretty much the same. The Google machine told me that ‘democracy’ is ‘government by the people: a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.’

If this definition is at all accurate then we need to either revisit the definition of ‘democracy’ or find another name for what we are doing in Australia.



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  1. Steve Laing

    Entirely true. Until we rid ourselves of political parties, then the slow spiral towards feudalism will continue.

  2. Kaye Lee

    “exercised directly by them OR by their elected agents under a free electoral system”

    We continue to elect people who are unfit for office, lots of them. WE let our democracy wither on the vine of apathy.

  3. Peter

    What a lot of tosh! How many captains does a ship have?

  4. Miriam English

    I wonder if the Labor party’s policy is actually somewhat different from what they’re saying. With Murdoch as the unelected minister of propaganda they must be careful what the say, lest they give Murdoch more levers to pull. I’m certain this is true of the Greens.

    Imagine if the Greens were, by some miracle, elected. I think they would pull all subsidies for fossil fuels and invest it in renewable energy instead. Just ripping subsidies out would be enough to make that house of cards fall and many fossil fuel ventures would immediately collapse. We would quickly see many coal-powered stations close and a speedy transition to renewable sources. Also, many mines would become uneconomic without being propped up by corrupt government support.

    I hope some of this is true of Labor too, but we can’t really know until after the election because of the distorting effect of Murdoch.

    As I’ve said many times, if Labor wins this election Murdoch should have his toys taken away from him. He is far too great a threat to our country to be allowed all that power. Nationalise all his media under anti-monopoly laws then sell them off to smaller companies with firm ownership rules in place so this can never happen again. And boot the LNP stooges who are perverting the ABC and to a lesser extent the SBS and put legislation in place to secure independent funding for them that is impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to tamper with.

  5. David

    Miriam I share your musings. While I do same…what chance, if the polls next 2 weeks dive steeply for Turnbull and the Govt, he doesn’t call the election for the 2nd July, but bats on till say October to try and make up lost ground?

  6. Sean Stinson

    Psephocracy ‎(noun)

    1.Government by ballot-elected representatives; representative democracy. Often contrasted with democracy, with which it is unfavourably compared for its lack of demotic participation in the political process outside of elections.

  7. th lion

    just remember most of the Mining Royalties goes back into to pay for the miners infrastructure , of roads ports railways and other such things!

  8. jane

    “just remember most of the Mining Royalties goes back into to pay for the miners infrastructure , of roads ports railways and other such things!”

    And we, the owners of the stuff the miners are busily digging up, get bugger all.

  9. JeffJL

    “Yet, paradoxically, all of this seems to be the outcome of smaller differences in policy than at the last election.”

    I call bullshit on this. At the last election there was almost no difference between the parties on their spoken (and written policies), of course the LNP just changed their policies after taking first place. There are huge differences in the policies of the parties. Yes parties like the Greens and Hunters and Shooters have bigger differences but there are still huge differences between the LNP and Labor.

    The ETS is a politically achievable policy (much better than an ideal, but unachievable one because it is likely to happen). Labor have regional processing not regional detention (to deny the pull factor is to deny reality). Banking Royal Commission. 30 minute cities, OK this is the same. CSIRO. Budget priorities.

    If you cannot see the differences perhaps you are looking from too far away.

  10. metadatalata

    I also call bullshit on James Moylan’s understanding of policies. It seems like he is unfamiliar with Greens policies on environmental and energy issues.

    “If this definition (of democracy) is at all accurate then we need to either revisit the definition of ‘democracy’ or find another name for what we are doing in Australia”.

    I agree that the world needs to change the way countries are governed as it seems that politicians the world over can not be trusted to serve their constituents in a way that improves their lives and protects the planet for future generations.

    But we can vote at this election to kick out LNP completely and vote for either Greens or independents that have put forward policies that will certainly go much further than either Labor or LNP to change business as usual in politics. Australia needs better governance and it is in our hands at this election time to make a difference.

  11. Miriam English

    I think I have a good slogan for the opposition parties in this upcoming election:

    The only thing you can trust the LNP to do is to change all their policies if elected.

    Okay, it isn’t a mere three words, but the truth and the threat are already proved to be real, as is the inability to actually do much at all.
    This is pithier, but misses some of the nuances of the first:

    You can trust the LNP to lie about their policies.

    Of course it could be trimmed down but chopping the last 3 words, but then it just sounds like a party line and a mere insult. It risks just falling into the background noise of dirt politics which I think people are starting to ignore.
    On the other hand,

    The LNP can’t be trusted.

    is short and hints at their history of lies and attacks on Australian society. It is dirt politics, which I don’t like and I think people are getting tired of, but it does acknowledge that Australians vote governments out, not in. It gives a damn good reason not to vote the bastards in: you don’t know what they’ll actually change their mind about after the election, but you know it won’t be good.

  12. win jeavons

    I didn’t think it was possible to be a genuine Christian while proud and/or rich. My father the parson used to say that the early followers of Jesus were communists ( with a small c) so NOT capitalists .

  13. King1394

    I prefer someone to run under a Party banner if they are aligned with the views of that grouping. If you get rid of Parties, you will end up with a lot of representatives who will band together as being of like minds anyway. When they stand as Liberal/National/Labor/Green etc, you have a stronger idea of their philosophy. In Council elections I have been surprised and disappointed to find that someone I’ve voted for as an Independent is actually a political party member. It should be compulsory for people to declare any political party affiliation if standing for election.

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good on you, James Moylan.

    The two-party system is outdated. There’s an appetite for Change brewing and the old Lib/Lab flipflop duopoly is on the nose.

    I will dance on the grave of the LNP but for Labor, I give them a word of advice. Broaden your horizons and form a working Alliance with the Greens, Progressive upcoming parties and sane Independents. Otherwise, Labor is dead in the water too.

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