Now that the election is over it is time for a bit of reflection. Logistics behind the operation of this site mean this article is not a who won what and why; rather we’ll be looking at why a number of the smaller parties seem to have punched above their weight, and some possible reasons for their ‘popularity’.
In recent years there has been a rise in the number and support of niche parties from the far right to the far left. Maybe part of the reason for the fracturing of the ALP/Coalition duopoly can be found in psychology. Psychologists will tell you there are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Briefly, intrinsic motivation is when you achieve something for yourself and feel good about your efforts, whether it be helping an old lady across the street, losing 20kg, dancing or singing by yourself (just because you can), teaching yourself how to play the guitar or some other achievement that you feel benefits you. Extrinsic motivation is where there is an external influence to your achievement. As an example, if you go out next Saturday and buy the latest model 70 inch TV with all the acronyms the salespeople and advertising tell you are important you will probably have a sense of joy and happiness. It could be short-lived when someone you know buys the 80 inch TV next Sunday.
Psychologists and common sense tell us if the TV purchase was a reaction to some other event in your life, the ‘high’ inherent in your purchase of your new TV will disappear rapidly when you realise that someone else has a brighter shiner newer toy than you do. This link goes into more detail of the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Australia seems to have moved away from a world where we did know and look after our neighbours while expecting no other return that the ‘inner glow’ from doing the right thing. In a lot of cases, we are now a society where the GLX specified ute is a better buy than the GL specified version purely to tell the world you can afford the extra “X” on the tailgate and what it represents. In other words, we have moved from intrinsic motivation to extrinsic motivation.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has had a chequered lifecycle. Its publicity will tell you that they represent ‘the Aussie battler’ who wants a ‘fair go’ against the ‘perils’ of first Asian, and more recently Middle Eastern immigrants, alterations to the tax system to make it ‘fair’, and for things to be basically as they were at some halcyon point in the past. United Australia Party (and Palmer’s United Party two elections ago) has a similar list of policies.
Like Trump in the USA, both Hanson and Palmer are appealing to the disaffected that believe that neither of the major party groupings understands their needs. Minor parties such as One Nation and United Australia exist on the premise that they will ‘fix’ everything provided they are elected, just as the new shiny toy (the new TV or the higher specification vehicle) will ‘fix’ people’s social or emotional problems.
But they won’t.
At times in the past 25 years, One Nation has ‘spoken’ to a significant minority across Australia and has at times been rewarded with some success. However, it generally hasn’t matched the coverage of its stunts in and around Parliament with the delivery of core promises. In the 2019 election, One Nation has a competitor in the United Australia Party, led by Clive Palmer. Despite his record last time he was in Parliament and less than stellar reputation for looking after staff at the Townsville Nickel Refinery or unit owners at what was once the Hyatt Coolum, United Australia Party is also appealing to the ‘Aussie battler’ demographic that wants a fair go against the perils of immigrants and so on. Palmer has sunk millions into Trumpian advertising that he will ’Make Australia Great’ in bright yellow over what at times seems the majority of billboards across Australia (and you also have to ask if Palmer’s advertising expense in the lead up to last weekend’s elections was purely altruistic).
Most democracies in the world operate with a number of different parties that form a coalition to govern. We’ve written about this before and the basic point is still there. The greater the diversity of people in the government, the more representative the government is of the people they govern.
The danger is that a small, vocal demographic is continually shopping its vote for extrinsic motivation. As Trump found in the 2018 ‘mid-term’ elections in the USA, those that haven’t had the promised ‘hit’ of satisfaction because their specific perceived need had not been met will move their vote to the next group that promises instant and ongoing gratification. Hanson’s One Nation is facing the same problem as Trump, having continually promised what it can’t deliver, so those looking for someone else to fix their unique problem will look elsewhere (perhaps United Australia, maybe Australian Conservatives or even some group further to the right).
The victors of the election held last weekend have a job ahead of them. Not only do they have a number of practical and political decisions to make, but they also have to manage the politicians voted into Parliament to provide extrinsic motivation to their supporters. Maybe the way forward is for the incoming government to have a conversation with Australia about motivation and pointing out that intrinsic motivation creates a far better society than one that has an expectation that 25 million of us will get our perceived individual problems fixed NOW.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword.
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