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The Shiny New Toy

By 2353NM

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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  1. Jack Cade

    I have no problem with a mixed parliament. I have voted ALP in every Federal Election since 1972, but I don’t think a two-psrty-dominated parliament does us justice. Since Saturday, the most sensible analysis of what happened was, for me, Tony Windsor’s summation. I thought the Gillard parliament was superb, but for the Neanderthal Abbott. The crossbenchers
    were honest and impartial, and a house full of Windsor’s and Oakeshots would suit me fine. If I had an Independent like that I would have no qualms in switching my vote.
    Better still, I would love proportional representation. The Greens are under-represented, and the Nats grotesquely over-represented.

  2. Peter F

    Jack, I agree with you in everything you say above.

    On the subject of proportional representation: this could be achieved by having fewer electorates with multiple representatives.(say five per electorate) This would reduce the number of votes required to win a seat, with the possibility of a better spread of representation.

    I realise there would need to be regulation to prevent swamping of an electorate by one group.

  3. Matters Not

    Lots of definitions re intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Try this simple example. One rescues the drowning child because it’s the right (good) thing to do (intrinsic motivation).. Or one rescues the drowning child because the hypothetical other will approve of that action (extrinsic motivation).

    Rand et al argued that (overwhelmingly) actions were extrinsically motivated with intrinsic motivation an illusion or at least the result of delusion. It’s all about the self interest – altruism is but a myth. Self-interest is the virtue.

  4. 2353NM

    @Jack Cade & @Peter F

    I agree that the Gillard Government is a great example of minority government working in Australia. The recent Queensland minority government also got stuff done without too many outward drama. New Zealand’s MMP system seems good as well – with the benefit of having stable and longer lived governments in comparison to Australia’s recent past.

    @Matters Not – I’m sorry but there are altruistic people around. From experience, the vast majority of people that volunteer for organisations as diverse as running or coaching the local junior football club, service organisations such as Lions, Meals on Wheels and so on aren’t there for approval from others around them – they are there for the benefits they can bring to their community. (Disclaimer- I have been in various service organisations for most of the past 30 years). As someone with a bit of experience in the area, while you do get a lot out of volunteering, the tangible rewards such as appreciation from others are nowhere near as great as the intrinsic rewards.

  5. wam

    It is tragic but nothing for nothing is the society today. The grab government money and spend or hide it has been around a long time but it is the number two modern convention.

    Conscience is voided by the practical ‘it will be alright in the end’ style of keating through the timely election lying of howard boosted by no challenge by labor and culminating in the atrocious misleading personal attacks on shorten.

    ps Be fair, Cade, the loonies chase the dollar by standing minimally supported candidates(my electorate (a few generic corflutes) in all 150 seats, for the cash generated by the candidate family, friend et al.
    I am not aware of the rate of remuneration to the candidate but my bias says the party takes the major split of the cash, if not all? PHON uses the same tactic, with a greedy twist, and takes it all???

    The nationals only stand a fraction of the greens number and provide support in the electorates chosen.

    As for proportional representation, I was in primary school when Chifley introduced it. The loonies have used it to their benefit to be generally generally over represented for most of this century.

  6. Zathras

    Despite all her influence on right wing politics and libertarianism, Rand spent her last years relying on Social Security and Medicare.
    That may indeed be self-interest but is also reliant on a socialised system – like when private corporations are bailed out by the State and rely on State-funded infrastructure to exist.

    Most voters seem to suffer the same sort of cognitive dissonance – they demand services but aren’t prepared to pay for them or are dissatisfied with their lives but always blame others.

  7. josephus

    Observations after one polling booth closed; hardly a scientific data set, only reflections upon an election :

    Relatively high informal votes probably reflected disillusion rather than incompetence
    Much higher proportion of Greens first preferences this time, as usual not rewarded – instead helped Labor’s count.

    Thus assisted, Labor won the count at that booth.
    Nationally, perception noted that Labor policies were unstated and/or contradictory, eg acknowledging anthropomorphic climate extremes yet quietly promising a large number of fracking wells over an area bigger than the UK.

    Finding that the social cleavage is worsening as Trumpianism advances .
    Party choice partly due to uninterest in seeking out expert information. Schools do not teach how to distinguish valid and invalid arguments/cross check claims/spot marketing tricks.

    The dystopian, dangerous precedent now set is that detailed policies are confusing and unwise, prone to distortions and slogans by opponents. In future expect more Orwellian Newspeak, promise the magic Pudding , offer bribes, make statements such as I Burn for You and I Promise to do what You Want . Or, promise anything in order to be in power.
    Hence the spoilt papers?

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