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Tag Archives: Labor Party

Forget Coal, Joel And The Latest Poll: Elections Are Won With Maslow

Now I know that many of you will have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, but for those who’ve never seen it, it looks something like this:

The basic idea is that one needs to meet the needs at the bottom before one aspires to the needs at the top. In order to demonstrate this, I’ll use a fictitious account of a young, homeless woman called Grace.

Grace is on the street and hungry when a man approaches her and tells her that he has a spare room and food and he hates to see anyone like this. While Grace is suspicious of his motives, sleeping rough isn’t safe either so she goes back to his house where she is fed and shown a room where she can sleep. With most of her physiological needs met, she barricades the door to make herself feel safe and gets some sleep.

After a few days, she comes to accept that the man has no ulterior motive and that she can come and go as she pleases and he is no threat to her. He gives her jobs to do so that she doesn’t feel like she’s relying on his charity. However, she feels no sense of belonging.

One day, on the way to the grocery store, she sees a guy rummaging through the bin looking for food. She approaches him and offers him some money so that he can buy food. He stands and looks her in the eye. He is strikingly good-looking. He tells her that his name is Pedro and that he has no need of her money because it perpetuates a capitalist system which is destroying the planet and that he prefers to scrounge for the wasted food and to live in the streets because that places less pressure on the planet.

Ok, I could go on for several pages with the love story that develops and how Grace is attracted to Pedro and all her dilemmas about whether she can leave her comfortable room to fulfil the next rung of needs: Love and Belonging. And how her decision to turn her back on the charity of the other man gives her Self-Esteem and that she rises above her need for food and shelter.

However, I’m not going to do that for three reasons: 1. I’d just be writing another sexist story about how a woman keeps getting saved by men. 2. It doesn’t fit with Maslow’s concept and 3. This is really more about elections and the story is just a vehicle for a lot of silly stereotypes that are so prevalent in the media.

I’m not suggesting that the Man is the government and that Pedro is The Greens, but I am suggesting that Grace is the electorate.

And this brings me quite neatly to the problem with how polls are used, viewed, analysed, and in the end quite meaningless unless we get to vote on things much more frequently. In the end, people are most focused on their immediate needs so they’ll vote for the party that appeals to their needs at the lower end of the hierarchy. This is why a fear campaign works well at times. And a party can scoop up some votes with the next step on the hierarchy with a sense of Love and Belonging. “As Australians…”

Before one allows something as important as battling climate change to affect one’s vote, one usually has to be high up on the hierarchy of needs. Consequently, Joel Fitzgibbon is appealing to those in his electorate who feel their jobs are threatened by any action, even though inaction won’t save their jobs in the long term.

When we start to look at the next election in terms of Grace, we can clearly see that it’s not that she objects to Pedro’s ideas about helping save the planet; it’s just that her more immediate needs are being met by the man who took her in. And so it is with the current Coalition government: they’ve taken a lot of people in.

But when looking forward to the next election, the question needs to be asked, does the electorate feel a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude to Scott Morrison and his merry men, or does it – like Grace – just feel that they’re better than sleeping on the streets. While the electorate may not embrace the extreme Pedro, it’s not because they don’t want to help save the planet. It’s just that they don’t want to put their own needs at risk. And any political party that can make them feel like it’s not threatening those needs can make the electorate aspire to feeling self-esteem and to do their bit for the world.

This is not just true of climate change. There are a whole range of issues where the polls tell us that the electorate would be behind a whole range of changes – take the marriage equality vote as an example – but we’re made to view them as risky by those opposing the particular change. In the case of renewable energy, we used to be told that people were against it because it was more expensive. Now that the costs are down, we’re told that it’s because it doesn’t deliver “base-load power” when the sun doesn’t blow and the wind doesn’t shine, or whatever that slogan is. What happens when batteries make that argument irrelevant? Well, I can just hear the PM telling us: “Isn’t it worth paying a few cents more for your power to keep coal-miners employed?”

Snigger at that if you think I’m being ridiculous, but remember that this is the government that had Dan Tehan tell us that the vaccine rollout “wasn’t a race”. Why not? Well, because the Melbourne Cup is a race, so…

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Will you Lean on me or are you an indi-bloody-vidual?

The recent election highlighted to me something as a nation we are not talking about. It is also something that our leaders on the left are not talking about, yet they should be.

This election, the right wing of politics supported by the media were successful in creating a divide. This divide is not just about rich versus poor, or big business versus the worker. This divide is about the underlying constructs of the very essence of everything that has underpinned us as a nation since Gough Whitlam broke 23 years of conservative rule – progressive reform achieved through the power of democratic socialism.

This divide is about how we are choosing to see ourselves as a society – or if we see ourselves instead as segments of individuals and not as a society at all. This divide is now markedly between Liberalism, Libertarianism and conservatism and right wing populism which is underpinned by the Individualism of the right versus the more collective Socialism, Environmentalism and Democratic Socialism of the left.

I say this is markedly because not only have the Liberals returned to power, but also we have seen the rise of more minor parties and Independents who espouse Individualism as their central tenet win more and more seats.

In addition, we have seen the media promote (including paid promotion) and encourage the voices of those who espouse Individualism and interrupt (up to more than 30 times in a half hour segment) to suppress those who espouse democratic socialism. The interest in individualism and breaking the two party system is also reflected as a central theme in comments across various social media platforms, including newspaper forums.

I see the rise of individualism in Australia in two distinct areas. The first is the decision-making process and democratic representation to develop and pass the legislation, which shapes us. The second is individualism as the central tenet of the ideology of the majority of seats in our current parliament.

Decision-making and democratic representation

With regards to parliamentary decision-making and democratic representation, we have seen a rise in discussions about breaking the two party system. An excitement and a peaking of interest in how it is better to see individual voices in parliament trade off for their vote with other individual voices and creating blocs of these voices to pass legislation; rather than the collective decision making process of a major party, based on their collective values and ideology.

The worrying theme about the rise in these discussions is voters who advocate this; do not seem to care what the individual or minor party stands for. As long as they are an Independent, or a minor/micro party, that is what matters. The fact that these people or parties are not a collective or a part of a major party appears to be the most appealing aspect for many voters.

There is a plethora of voices shouting loudly about how we need to destroy the two-party system, but there is only a modicum….no… a complete absence of any argument about why we need to destroy a system that has delivered us many successful reforms over many years. The focus is that the two-party system is a failure, whilst ignoring the successes.

As a supporter of Labor, I am not even going to talk about the extensive list of successful Labor Party reforms that have shaped our country under the two-party system. Instead, I am going to use as an example, the only progressive reform the Liberals have ever had in my lifetime – Gun Reform.

When pockets of the nation are excited about the fact that a person is an Independent, or a micro party, rather than how these people or parties may vote on an important issue such as freedom of gun ownership laws, it is a concern. These anti-two party system voters appear to have a care factor of zero about the values or ideology, which will underpin decision making on this matter.

Do we risk ice-fuelled junkies running through the streets playing real life Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in the name of individual freedom?

Is Individual freedom more important than the protection of the rest of society?

Is ideology that insignificant and major parties so abhorrent that we take this risk with a protest vote? A protest vote in which many participants cannot articulate what they are actually protesting about?

Within the two-party system, the major parties have a particular ideology and party platform that underpins them. This platform, informs voters about how their values align with many, many areas of policy. The challenge for major parties is to actively promote their central values – their ideology which underpins how as a collective they will make decisions.

To be fair, Labor did push this extensively during the campaign with their 100 positive policies, however, I feel this was significantly absent during the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years. The Liberals in my view failed spectacularly in this area with their 2013 pamphlet, which was upgraded to a plan for a plan in 2016.

Could this be attributed to Labor’s failure to win the election, but success in the number of seats won? Could this be attributed to the Liberal’s success in winning the election, but failure in number of seats lost?

Is ambiguity now so 2013? To restore true belief in the major parties’ platforms, the major parties must wear their values on their sleeves and promote their liberal/conservative agenda or their democratic socialist one, or in the case of the minor/major Greens party – get back to pushing environmental reform. The parties need to set their agenda to purely focus on attracting true believers to their causes.

There is a growing tide of people desiring the annihilation of the collective structures that underpin the decision making of a party platform and the two-party system. These people argue that bringing forth a sporadic cacophony of decision-makers is a more ‘democratic’ option. The people who advocate this appear to have no interest on how these individuals or parties will vote on issues, which are not a part of their single issue-focused or populist agenda.

Paul Keating is remembered and revered for his wit and quips. However, I truly believe he was able to be outstanding during his time, as both major parties were at true odds with each other in terms of ideology and Keating was able to harness this as a true battle of ideas between left and right.

I also believe that Shorten is definitely on the right path with his latest reforms more left of the spectrum than the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years and he is also wearing democratic socialism on his sleeve. Time will tell where he goes with this.

If Turnbull is threatened by the rise of the Independents and minor parties – he must do the same. However, this will mean he will need to admit what he actually does believe in. This will be his greatest challenge yet.

With a sparodic cacophony of decision-makers, confusion will continue to reign until values and ideology once again trump populism (no pun intended).

Individualism as a central tenet and the risk to progressive reform

Individualism permeating as a result of seats won, is also a testament to the rise of Individualism in Australia. Individualism is a central tenet of Liberalism, liberal-conservativism, libertarianism, neo-conservatism and right wing populism and even to an extent, the populist-centrists that are currently making up the majority of parliamentarians and senators as the result of the democratic vote that was cast at our recent election.

The successful reforms of the two party system, are all underpinned by collectivism/socialism and utilitarianism. That is where the greater needs of society, the protection and security of society, the moral good of society as the outcome, outweighs the desires or freedoms of the individual.

With the rise of individualism, there is a risk of all of our existing progressive reforms being weakened or even destroyed. The underpinning construct of individualism is that everyone is born equal and everyone has the same opportunities in life. Essentially, your life is what you make of it. Your individual rights are more important than the needs of society as a whole; even if this means to the detriment of large groups of people in society (ie no taxes to pay for another person’s health care, but rather a user pays system).

This is why the Liberal party see going without any Newstart payments for six months as an incentive and not a punishment. They see the individual as inherently lazy. They use this to stigmatise the individual, to cut payments even further, or to push an even more punitive agenda on the unemployed.

They do not see it that as a Government, they have failed to provide enough employment for everyone. They believe that the free market will just sort it out and everyone has the same opportunity to ‘make a go of it.’ We saw this with Turnbull’s push for everyone to aspire to be an innovative entrepreneur rather than a common worker. If you can’t get a job – just go and create an App you lazy bastard!

Individualists and free-marketeers such as Turnbull do not value the security, protection and harmony that collective or socialist welfare measures bring the nation as a whole. Instead, they see it as the dragging down of society, where the haves need to prop up the have-nots.

Individualism values the freedom of the individual over the harmony and security of a group as a whole. The danger of this ideology, is it has the power to destroy the very fabric of everything that has shaped our society over a long period of time and everything we are still yet trying to achieve.

Our awards and collective bargaining system, our superannuation system, our right to welfare (although needs huge improvements!) the NDIS, Gonski and even national infrastructure such as the NBN to name a few.

We saw individualism peak at its boldest during the Howard years. With its ugly head raised under Work Choices, workers had no choices. Funding for Universities were tied to the abolishment of collective agreements and Howard tried his hardest to use his authority to force Individual agreements on employees in this sector.

Individualism with its ugly head raised, allowed any worker to be sacked for any reason, with no recourse. Individualism with its ugly head raised allowed the more highly ranked workers adept and confident to bargain for a decent individual wage, with unskilled workers with low self-effacy in individual wage bargaining, left with the scraps and told to take it or leave it. Most employees had protection measures stripped, annual leave loading abolished, penalty rates removed and gazetted public holidays removed and some had every single protection measure removed.

For those who want to fight against a rise of Individualism and its ugly head being raised again, the question is “How do we as a collective create a more powerful message that individualism is damaging to our society, before many who are advocating the return of individualism learn the hard way how ugly it really is, along with a second bout for the rest of us?”

The agenda setting of the media makes pushing this narrative even harder. We should also note the power of the media, including the National Broadcaster, in setting an agenda to undermine our nation’s socialist based health care system. They used their innate power by reiterating and reinforcing the political terminology of the right “Mediscare.”

The right used Mediscare, to divert voters away from their intention to weaken and destroy Medicare as a classic Joh Bjelke Petersen “Don’t you worry about that” moment.

The power of the media in this instance was used to reinforce the notion of Individualism and that it is not important for us to stand together as a collective and fight to ensure that all Australians have access to healthcare. In fact, many respected and powerful journalists actually tittered and giggled when communicating to voters the word “Mediscare.” Because you know, socialist healthcare and people being more vulnerable to late diagnosis and death is a bit of a joke.

I hope if a young person does not have the money to access health care and is diagnosed with cervical cancer too late; these journalists will have the decency to wipe the smirk off their faces, when reporting on such stories that will occur now in our future.

Narrative shapes society and I am definitely not a fan of the narrative I see playing out, at this present point in time. When narrative is put to music, it turns into songs and lyrics. I see the election and the post election music as a mash-up of these two songs.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong (I’m an Individual)
And I’ll be your friend (You can’t fool me)
I’ll help you carry on (an Indi-bloody-vidual)
For it won’t be long (You can’t fool me)
‘Til I’m gonna need (A genuine original)
Somebody to lean on (You can’t fool me)

The question is, if both songs were on your playlist – which one would you turn up?

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Where is Labor?

The despair at the inaction of Labor is growing louder. The groups they are supposed to represent are under attack and all we hear is endless support for Tony Abbott’s warmongering.

Labor have been gifted a first year of Abbott government that has been so bad that they should be seizing the opportunity to reshape themselves as a viable alternative but all we hear is “our policies will be revealed in good time before the next election and they will be fully costed” or “we aren’t the government”.

A quick look at the last few days news stories provide endless material that, for some unknown reason, Labor seems too ineffective to capitalise on.

Our Prime Minister for Women has delivered a budget which modelling shows that the worst hit – by far – will be women in low-income households.

Just as Tony Abbott releases one of his ‘earnest and sincere’ videos saying that his government’s main motivations in future will be “protecting the vulnerable”, it might be opportune to point out that analysis, conducted by the Australia Institute, shows women in the poorest 20 per cent of households will be $2566 worse off in 2017 as a result of the budget. Women in the wealthiest 20 per cent of households will be only $77 worse off on average in 2017.

Or perhaps, as our Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs jets off on his long-awaited trip to Arnhem Land, it might be worth mentioning the report in the SMH saying

Tony Abbott’s takeover of indigenous affairs is in “disarray“, public service insiders allege, with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the “doldrums”.

Senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department’s Indigenous Affairs Group have based themselves in Canberra’s dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.”

Now would be a good time to remind people of how much Tony Abbott has cut from the Indigenous Affairs budget and how many services are closing.

“For decades the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) has been providing legal aid in the remote town of Nhulunbuy, on the northern tip of Arnhem Land, as well as in the nearby community of Yirrkala and surrounding outstations.

But the agency is set to close its doors in Nhulunbuy at the end of the year, in anticipation of severe budget cuts, and is seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister during his visit.”

With the revelations from ICAC proving just how endemic corruption is in our political system, now would be a good time to push for a Federal ICAC.

As Errol Brandt points out at nofibs

“there is a deafening roar from social media calling for the establishment of a federal ICAC. Not because the public wants cheap entertainment, but because the revelations in NSW confirm what many have long suspected: entrenched unethical and illegal behaviour is festering in our the nation’s political shadowlands.”

Does anyone believe Bill Shorten when he says

“I think we’ve all been shocked at the revelations that have come out in NSW ICAC… I don’t believe the same case has yet existed to demonstrate these problems are prevalent in the national political debate in Australia.”

Rob Oakeshott certainly thinks otherwise as he calls for reform in the area of political donations.

“THE rules are simple: fight the bastards, bankroll the other side of politics, cause them damage until they learn to ignore treasury and finance advice and start listening instead to that grubby leveller in politics – money.

Whether it’s tax or carbon or gaming, this is the policy inertia of Australia today. Money is beating our long-term standard of living to death. It has sent many necessary policy reforms to the doghouse, and it keeps many others on the short chain.

Our key decisions for the future of Australia are now being outsourced at a level never before seen. Parliamentary democracy is going through its own sort of privatisation….”

Oakeshott points out the undue influence that wealthy people exert on political decisions which are no longer made in the best interests of the people. This is underlined by Gina Rinehart’s latest call for assistance as iron ore prices fall. Rather than facing business risk like the rest of us, she wants the government to change the rules to increase her profits.

“Mrs Rinehart singled out red tape, approvals and burdens as addressable bureaucratic policies.

“Each one of these adds costs and makes it harder to compete successfully, risking Australian jobs and revenue,” Mrs Rinehart told The Australian. “The government needs to better recognise this and world conditions, including various falling commodity prices and the contraction in jobs in Australia’s ­mining and related industries – and urgently cut bureaucratic ­burdens.”

The government needs to act to help reduce the costs placed on Australian miners, who are disadvantaged against international competition, Mrs Rinehart said.

Mrs Rinehart has previously warned that Africa is a much cheaper investment option, with workers willing to take jobs for $2 per day.

It was estimated at the time that while Mrs Rinehart was talking about pay rates for African workers, she was earning $600 a second.”

Andrew Wilkie is also angry at the influence of vested interests with Barnaby Joyce promoting the interests of his mates.

“The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is reportedly set to exempt Saudi Arabia from the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which would be the first step in undoing the modest animal welfare reforms of the last parliament.

“This is the government saying loud and clear to overseas markets: `we don’t care how you slaughter our animals’,’’ Mr Wilkie said. “This will have horrendous consequences for Australian animals that will be sent overseas to cruel and shocking deaths with the blessing of the Australian Government. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Australian Government is a pack of sadists who seem to get some sort of unholy thrill out of knowingly promoting animal cruelty.

Barnaby Joyce in particular is beholden to money and his mates in that tiny part of the red-meat industry which exports livestock. But even there he is incompetent because the only way to ensure the red-meat industry is commercially sustainable over the long term, and have broad public support, is to end the cruelty.”

As Tony Abbott woos the Chinese in search of a Free Trade Agreement, someone should warn him that they are likely to impose tariffs on our exports as they move to an ETS.

“Just two months after Australia trashed its carbon price because it was “too high” and would “trash the economy”, China has flagged that its planned carbon trading scheme will cover 40 per cent of its economy and be worth up to $65 billion.”

Tony Abbott keeps telling us that repealing taxes will create jobs but, on so many fronts, his actions show little regard for creating employment.

The main public sector union is demanding urgent talks with the Australian Taxation Office over a proposal to move outsourced backroom functions to Asia.

The CPSU says it is “deeply concerned” after revelations that a giant multinational contractor wants to take ATO work to the Philippines and that Health Department work has been going to India for years.

Support for mining and agriculture will do little to help as, at its peak, the mining sector employed less than 2 per cent of the workforce, and agriculture, forestry and fishing employs about 3 per cent.

Withdrawing support for the car industry will see a huge number of job losses with even more for South Australia if the government chooses to buy Japanese submarines to replace the Collins class fleet.

But at present, the only policy the government has to tackle unemployment is lowering wage rates by, for example, getting rid of penalty rates and introducing low junior wages.

As Paul Malone points out

“The conventional response that our tradeable services will compete successfully on the world stage, significantly adding to our export income and keeping large numbers of our population employed, is laughable. If we can sell architecture services via the net, so can lower paid Indians.

The currently much vaunted sale of education services is in reality an immigration marketing program, where many students study here in the hope that they can win the right to live and work here.”

While our students become increasingly concerned about changes that will see them saddled with huge debts, Scott Morrison is busy announcing a new type of visa that will allow foreign students to come and study diploma courses at private colleges like the one Frances Abbott attends which has benefited from a great deal of favourable government legislation since they gave her a scholarship.

‘The number of international students seeking to study in Australia continues to rebound positively, with an increase of over 27% in the number of visas granted to offshore applicants in the 2013/2014 programme year,’ he pointed out.

‘Extending SVP arrangements will help capitalise on these trends, reducing red tape and helping to attract further students from overseas,’ he added.

Invitations to participate will be sent to eligible providers in the second half of 2014. The government proposes to implement this extension by early 2015, under the stewardship of Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.”

Even though small business is a huge employer, they too have been attacked by the Abbott budget. It seems only billionaires and global corporations rate a mention nowadays.

“The Coalition has scrapped the tax concessions linked to the mining tax, including the company loss carry-back provision, which allowed loss-making businesses to claim back tax they’d paid in previous profitable years. Also cut were accelerated depreciation allowances or asset write-offs.

“The Coalition have said that they would be small business-friendly, they understand we are the backbone of the economy, that we employ a lot of people – all those sorts of things – and they would do anything they could to make sure our lives were easy enough so we could run our business, and they’ve done the opposite with this decision,” said Peter Strong, the executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA).”

While Abbott talks of growth, he seems to have little idea of how to achieve it and is actually working against measures to reduce inequality.

“The federal budget took active steps towards increasing inequality and that sits in stark contrast to the discussions held at the G20 and now the L20 meetings. Youth unemployment is a critical issue for the Australian economy but has largely been ignored in favour of a crackdown on ‘dole bludgers’ and ‘welfare queens’.

There is a clear disconnect between our federal government and the L20, who are promoting a return to more inclusive growth, which benefits workers across the income distribution. The L20’s focus is long overdue — the national income share from wages has been declining for decades — but it’s a message that has clearly fallen on deaf ears in Australia.”

Abbott tells us that we must be innovative but at the same time cuts funding to research and ignores the advice of scientists, much to the chagrine of our chief scientist Ian Chubb.

“In the space of a fortnight we were encouraged to be advocates for science and then rebuked for “whinging” by a minister who in the same breath claimed to be on our side. That came as something of a shock.

Much has been said and written about how Australia punches above our weight in research and innovation in the past and present. We have in no way reached our capacity. We need long-term research funding, clear translational mechanisms and strong links with business. We need more blue sky research, not less, and we need to figure out smarter ways of funding and translating it.

Most of all, scientists need allies in parliament, and increasingly it appears we have none. Acknowledging that isn’t being a “precious petal”, and it’s not whingeing. These are big-picture issues, these are long-term issues, these are dreams and ideas about what we think our country can do and how we can bring it into the future.”

These are just a few of the stories from the last few days yet the nation, including the Labor Party, have been mesmerised by talk of terrorism even though there is no discernible threat other than “tens” of angry young men who our police force already seem to be watching.

If Shorten cannot man up and start presenting some credible alternatives to the disaster that is our current government then I am very fearful for our future.

Disclosure of my political affiliations

Photo: captionit

Photo: captionit

A few weeks ago I wrote about the formation of a new party called The Australian Arts Party in an interview with one of its founders. So far it has 268 foundation members and needs to reach 500 to register.

I have since become one of the founding members.

I mention this because – every now and then – some troll will jump on the comments and tell us that we’re all a mob of Labor party stooges, and that the ALP are “complete morons” and total incompetents. After one such commentator had told me that the Labor Party were the biggest mob of idiots in the history of the world, I suggested to one that I may not – in fact – have voted ALP, he immediately assumed that I’d voted for The Greens and told me that they were even worse. For a moment I considered asking how The Greens could be worse than the biggest mob of idiots of all time. Then I considered telling him that I had – at one time – considered standing for the National Party. In the end, I decided that neither logic nor the truth would have any effect so I resorted to strategy of dealing with trolls by being more ridiculous than they are. I simply pointed out what a terrible job Joe Hockey was doing as Opposition Leader. For a person who argues by engaging in abuse and simply ignoring the facts, it frustrates them beyond belief when someone else does the same.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of The Greens. If I were, I would have resigned in protest when they joined with the Coaltion to block the ETS in Labor’s first term.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the Labor Party. If I were, I would have resigned in protest at their race to the bottom on Asylum Seekers.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the Liberal Party. If I were, I would have never resigned in protest because I’m sure I could justify whatever they did, because hey, whatever if it takes to become Government. And so what if you torture the odd person, Sri Lanka, times are tough and when the going gets tough, we give you a couple of boats so that you can round up anyone attempting to leave. After all isn’t the country that a potential refugee is attempting to leave the best placed to decide if they’re really fleeing persecuction or not.

I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the National Party, because I can use coherent sentences and use words such as “spurious” and “lickspittle”.

But I am – potentially – a member of the Arts Party.

Yes, I’m sure that many of you will argue that there are more important things than the Arts, and that we should be more concerned about other things. That’s part of the reason I’ve paid my $20 to be a founding member. Politicians and others frequently decide that there are more important things than the Arts. We’ll cut the Arts but not Defence. Schools will run a Physics class for four people, but decide that the numbers are too low in Music with fourteen.

So I could have joined a party with more important causes on its mind. I could have joined that party supporting motorists that just elected a Senator. What’s it’s name. Motorists United Together Enthusiastically. Or MUTE, as their newly elected Senator seems to be.

But I didn’t. I decided that the Arts was more worthy of a voice than all the other small parties that seem to be influencing government decisions, like the Shooter Party in NSW.

An easy life

GreensProtest How easy my life would be if I were a Greens supporter. I’m not saying this in a sarcastic way. I’m deadly honest. Life would be so much easier if I just gave up on Labor and became a Green instead.

Think of all the challenging conversations I could avoid if I chose not to debate a topic, and instead just stuck with the same argument, the same opinion, no matter how situations changed around me. Imagine if I no longer had to worry about pesky policy challenges like how on earth revenue could be found to fund my ideas. Or if my answer to everything was ‘more tax’ regardless of how the electorate and the business community would respond?

As someone in my early 30’s on the left of the political spectrum, I would no doubt be far more hipster and fashionable if I did hold up a green triangle whenever politics was mentioned. I could get up on my high horse and never get down. I could demand one outcome and refuse to consider all others. I could cry when I wanted to show how much I care, and the argument would be over and I would feel I had won. I could accuse everyone else of being heartless. Of being evil. Of being a sell-out to political reality. I could be a sell out to political reality. Even better, I could become a professional complainer and even take a little bit of anticipated joy out of the prospect of an Abbott government, because it would give me more reason to complain, more reason to stamp my feet, more reason to take to the streets in protest. Protests are fun! And when people asked me what the Greens policies were, I could send them to a web address where dollars and cents aren’t mentioned, like a wish list for Santa, and then I could expertly draw the subject back the asylum seekers, gay marriage and the environment whenever I felt the conversation was moving elsewhere.

When the nasty bad bad man Kevin Rudd dared to suggest an alternative to an asylum seeker policy which has seen over 1,000 people drown at sea, I could refuse to acknowledge anyone has drowned. I could argue that we should encourage anyone who has enough money to pay for a seat on an old leaky boat to make the treacherous journey to Australia if that’s what they want, and damn the people who don’t have a cent to even think about making this decision. I could say any policy which wavers even fractionally from my ideal situation – where there is no limit to the number of asylum seekers either drowning or being resettled in Australia – is evil and unconscionable. And when people try to talk about these other policy suggestions, and the outcomes of these policies, and even mention the word drowning, I could get angry, confrontational and upset, then go on a protest march to make myself feel morally superior. When Tony Abbott suggests an unworkable policy that is far worse than that suggested by Labor, I could whine even louder that this is a race to the bottom, but refrain completely from actually talking about the problem, and practical solutions to fix it. And I could commit to my plan to attack Labor as the worst of the worst, while ignoring the alternative problem of an Abbott led government and what this outcome would do to the country in many policy areas, not just my favourite one.

If I didn’t get the climate emissions reduction policy I wanted, I could completely withdraw from the debate and sit on my hands while someone else fought it out on by behalf. And if I did manage to get my policy onto the government’s agenda, I wouldn’t dare stand next to the Labor party and help them to sell it to the electorate. No, that sort of ugly political contest would be way below me if I were a Green.

Of course, in this easy world where I’m a Green, I wouldn’t care about industrial relations. I would pretend not to notice that an Abbott government, given the chance, would completely destroy unions and the workers rights they fight for. As a Green, I could remove myself from the messiness of having to fight for nation building reform, like the NBN, Paid Maternity Leave, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the National Plan for School Improvement. Of course I’d privately relish the outcomes of these policies, if they were successfully implemented, but I would never get my hands dirty actually supporting the Labor party to pass these reforms. And I’d avoid sounding like a hack by actually praising the Labor party for transforming their ideas into reality. That would take far too much of my time and effort away from talking about the environment, gay marriage and asylum seekers.

No, if I were a Green, I could have it all. I could argue for every ideal I wanted without ever having to actually fight for anything to be done. I could hold my nose and vote for Labor and say I preferenced them second to last and oh how high and mighty that would make me feel. Or I could do a donkey vote and laugh and laugh about it with my friends, while we toast democracy and the amazing opportunity it gives us. I could keep my idealism in tact, without actually having to reason with a voter who disagrees with me to sell a policy. I could be the world’s most annoying back-seat-driver when it came to the Labor party – telling them how to run government when I’d had no experience doing such a thing. I could be pure. I could pretend factionalism didn’t exist in the Greens, and that their grubby purpose isn’t in fact to replace the Labor Party as the left-wing alternative. I could opt-out of any debate I didn’t want to have. I could take no pleasure and no pain from what happens to the government that I will never belong to. I could be an activist instead of a political realist. I could chain my identity to the brand of a party that never has to make a tough decision. I could be above it all.

But of course, if I took the easy path, what on earth would I achieve? I might be young but I’ve learnt enough to know that nothing worthwhile was ever easy. Hence why I’ll stick with Labor.

 

The Scourge of the Swing Voter

mandate Happy Australia Day! Last night I went to the inaugural Adelaide Wonk Drinks. It was, as promised, heaps good. I had my very first offline Twitter argument, which was interesting. This particular argument reminded me why I would prefer to debate a die-hard right-winger than an ‘undecided voter’. At least the right-wingers know what they want and understand immediately what I want, and we can disagree to our hearts’ delight. But an undecided swing voter who seems to be tempted to use his valuable democratic right to deliver an informal vote is, in my opinion a very frustrating person. What would the people of Syria think?

The reasoning that this particular undecided voter gave for his indecision was an assortment of arguments that I think can fairly be filed under the heading of there’s no discernable difference between Labor and the Liberal National Party. I guess it really depends who is doing the discerning. And if you’re just assessing your individual life experience under either party, instead of looking at the way their policies affect society as a whole, then I would argue that you’re evaluating the parties’ differences through a far too narrow, short-term view.

The idea that we’re just as well off or just as badly off under either party is quite a trendy response to politics of late. It’s the same attitude that most of the mainstream media seems to hold – politicians can’t be trusted and the outcomes of their policies are not so different that they’re worth analysing or even discussing – a pox on both your houses. In my view this is a load of bollocks. I can’t help but notice that those who propagate the notion that the parties are no different from each other are also the ones who enjoy patronising the views of anyone who they view to be ‘rusted on’. To support and campaign for a political party these days seems to be akin to being viewed as a ‘fanatic’. Or as my sparring partner said last night ‘a barracker’. I was told that people like me, who obviously support one party passionately over another, are acting as if the Labor party is a football club. I am in fact a one-eyed supporter of a football club and so I find this suggestion particularly irritating. I am very passionate about my football club and my politics, but my support of the Port Adelaide Football Club and my support of the Labor Party are too entirely different beasts.

The choice of which football club I support was made at a young age. Choice is probably the wrong word here. I inherited the club from my father, who inherited it from his father. I was ‘rusted on’ to the club from birth. But choice is the most important word when it comes to supporting a political party. Because that’s what politics is all about – one option versus another. To say that both choices are the same is blatantly untrue. If you’re trying to find similarities between the Labor Party and the Liberal National Party, sure, you’ll find many. You’ll also find times (not so many recently) when decisions are made jointly by the government and the opposition in a bi-partisan approach. But ultimately, the entire reason that there are two major parties in Australia is because one is progressive and one is right-wing. Those who think they are being smug and clever, or winning some award for cynicism by proclaiming that both parties have come so close to the middle that there is no longer daylight between them, need to take a closer look. And they need to consider their own values and ideas in relation to the policy agenda of each party.

As an example, let’s use the policy area of the environment. As a progressive voter and a supporter of action to reduce the catastrophic effects of climate change, I will support the major party which is most likely to implement policies that align with these values. Many will argue that the Greens are a better choice in this policy area, and that may be true. But ultimately, a Greens voter still needs to choose between Labor and the LNP when assigning preferences, even if it is just the decision as to who gets the last number on the ballot paper. Since the last election, the Labor Party has implemented a Carbon Price. There are many voters who think this policy didn’t go far enough, and that’s a valid argument to have. But when choosing between the policy of Labor – action on climate change – and the policy of Abbott’s Liberal National Party – scrapping the Carbon Price – it’s blatantly obvious that the two parties are poles apart and my choice is an easy one to make. My adversary, the undecided voter, was really overreaching on this topic. He said that he wants action on Climate Change too, but whatever Tony Abbott says, as Prime Minister he won’t be able to repeal the Carbon Price, so it ultimately doesn’t matter who you vote for. Really? Is this not like saying ‘I like apples, and I don’t like bananas, but this banana doesn’t really taste like a banana so it doesn’t matter if I eat a banana instead of an apple’. This is nonsensical.

And what about the topic of redistribution of wealth, something else I am very passionate about. When I am assessing the effect Labor’s policies will have on social and economic equality in Australia, versus the LNP’s policies, it’s obvious to me which party is offering the outcome that most closely aligns with my values. For example, the Mining Tax is an important reform designed to share the wealth from the natural resources that we all own. The Labor party introduced this policy, the LNP have vowed to scrap it. It’s probably a good time to also mention that I don’t consider middle class welfare to be a policy of wealth redistribution. Wealth distribution maybe, but not redistribution.

Another policy area that is important to me is education. Access for all to quality education is vital for social equity. The Gonski policy proposals more closely align with my ideals in the area of education policy than anything I’ve ever heard the Liberals say on the topic. But does this really surprise anyone? The very definition of being right-wing means that you prefer ‘small government’ over ‘big government’, and small government invariably means cuts to government funding for education, health and welfare.

The attitude ‘there is no difference between them’ has resulted in a lot of angry Queensland and Victorian voters. It’s a bit late now to remind them that a protest vote against the Labor party will help deliver a conservative alternative. A lot of Queenslanders and Victorians who voted for their right wing party now appear shocked that these right wing governments are executing a right wing agenda. Cuts to education funding, cuts to public service jobs in the area of health; slash and burn, and Newman’s version of austerity, not stimulus. But can you really blame Newman and Baillieu for doing what they were given a mandate to do? If the voters were too uninformed to understand the policy agenda of conservative governments, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. This is a really tough way to learn that the two parties are not the same, and that the outcomes of their policies are completely different.

It might sound trendy and intellectual to deny the very simple concept of choice between two opposing sets of political principles. It might seem simplistic for me to say that my choice between Labor and Liberal National is an easy one based on which platform best aligns to my vision for the country. But I really do find the choice incredibly simple. This does not mean that I barrack for the Labor Party. It does not mean that I think that everything the party does is perfect (as many things the party does are clearly far from perfect). It doesn’t mean that I agree with every single policy that the party develops, nor does it mean that I blindly support everything that Labor members say. I’m not a mouthpiece for the Labor Party. I have not been brainwashed to adopt their ideas and policies from some propaganda machine. But I make a considered choice between two different options. The Labor Party is just a vessel for me to get the Australia I want, not the other way around. Going back to the football club example – I was a Port Supporter before I ever watched a game of football. But I was a progressive before I chose a political party to support.

By Victoria Rollison

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