There was a certain politeness about Waleed Aly’s critique of our political system in his article this week, “Politics: the ugly game where the melee rules”. It was a politeness that the system, and those who exploit it, don’t deserve.
The historian and moralist, Lord Acton (1834-1902) is given the credit for the much quoted, “All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I find this a more appropriate reference than Waleed’s allusion to the AFL and ARL melee. Yes, football teams have a governing body to regulate imbalances in the game and keep it interesting for the followers. Politics doesn’t, unless the regulator is we the people, who only get to pass judgement once every three years.
But if I have read Waleed correctly, the essence of his article was short term political gain trumping the national interest, a position that should rate above a sporting analogy.
Though, perhaps because our collective mentality is so compromised these days by some of the most pathetic analogies that come out of the mouths of our politicians, aligning sport with a breakdown in our political system is probably considered reasonable.
Neither of the two major parties subscribes to the national interest unless it somehow flies parallel to their own. And nothing exemplifies this more than the issue of asylum seekers.
The Liberal party hit upon a winner with John Howard sensing and playing to the national mood with the Tampa affair back in 2001. It was never in the national interest to refuse to help destitute people seeking asylum. But he did it anyway.
The decision he made on the Tampa was very much in the interest of his party winning the next election. That’s why that he acted the way he did. And suddenly we learned that wedging was the new political game in town.
The Labor Party led by Kim Beazley was just a couple of months away from putting a deeply unpopular government out to pasture when suddenly everything went pear-shaped. They got wedged between what they knew to be the right thing to do and politics of the lowest common denominator.
That issue has dogged them ever since and even though Kevin Rudd made a serious attempt to neutralise the matter in 2013, the unrelenting pressure applied by the Liberals made him lock step. He had succumbed to the wedge.
Ironically, Labor was punished for its weakness, when it was the Coalition who had lost their moral compass and sold their conscience to the devil.
Fast forward to today and the same sleazy, immoral, opportunistic lock step is being displayed by Bill Shorten. He is choosing the practical in favour of the principle; the idea being to avoid the wedge at all costs.
Labor is a little over twelve months from winning office and Shorten wants the party to adopt the Liberals policy of turning back the boats; the same pragmatic, morally corrupting election winning position Kevin Rudd tried to adopt in 2013.
In doing so, he is simply taking care of business, a business that has no heart, no soul, just a ‘winning at all costs’ approach that is endemic within our political system and for which there is no alternative.
Morality has been abandoned.
Only the Greens have the moral fibre to stand defiantly against the tide. Yet they too are playing to a base they know abhors the hypocrisy, the absence of compassion.
The Greens are well aware that their current support base is likely to ensure at least one senator per state in a half senate election and two per state in a double dissolution. By adopting the moral high ground, they will achieve that and maintain their relevance.
It’s not just the boats policy that is subject to the wedge. Shorten fired off his own attempt at a wedge this week announcing a 50% renewable energy policy by 2030. Take that, Liberals! Neither leader nor party has the national interest at heart. The Coalition govern to stay in government and have shown their willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve that end.
Both leaders have forsaken their morality and the values they so hypocritically espouse.
Waleed says we have to trust them “to sacrifice cynical political opportunities for something greater.” He adds, “Right now, that trust seems thoroughly naive.” To say it seems thoroughly naive is putting it far too mildly. We have been seduced by the dark side.
They (both parties) have betrayed us, themselves and the very foundation upon which our country has prospered for so long. Neither has a conscience anymore. The Liberals lost theirs with Tampa. Labor will officially lose theirs this weekend.
We should no longer trust them to do anything. They lie, they cheat and when we are not looking, they laugh at us. Is that what we want? Is that what we have allowed our selfish, miserable selves to accept?
Democracy has become a standing joke among the elite, the super-rich, and the one percent. They now control governments in a way few of us recognise let alone understand. Their message is clear: This is the new world order. Get use to it.
“All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”