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.