By Peter McCarthy
The way our democracy has evolved to this point in time has led to much angst, and it’s hardly surprising. Sometimes it seems representation of the voters has given way to a higher(?) ideal that the voter is unaware of, while at other times it seems more a case of blatant self-interest.
Two parties are guilty in the first situation. The messages have not been clearly articulated to the voterss, which seemed to happen with the Gillard Government and is increasingly noticeable with the Greens. The second is, of course, lazy voters who expect democracy to sort itself out without them lifting a finger. (The horrible “not my job” syndrome).
In the Gillard Government, mischievous folk within the party suddenly decided, assisted by a hyperactive Opposition Leader and some media folk with a vested interest, that the PM was solely responsible for delivering “the message”, seemingly unaware that politics is a team sport. Hearing Cabinet Ministers publicly complaining about the message not getting through seemed to reflect more about the Minister than on the PM. Exactly what they thought their job was is anyone’s guess.
On the Greens side of the ledger, once upon a time they used to aim to educate the voters as to how things could be done more thoughtfully. That seems to have given way to a more strident and demanding delivery where we seem to be under attack for not agreeing with them automatically. A self-righteous group with a quasi religious approach who prefer to pass judgment rather than encourage and educate. I prefer their old way.
But lazy voters are the main culprit in my view. Pollies are but normal citizens with perhaps a higher tolerance for dealing with whiners, and as normal people, they will be looking to their own interests as well as (hopefully) the voter’s. With a modicum of guidance it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep them on the straight and narrow. But like raising kids, if you leave it too long before you start to discipline, the road back can be very rocky indeed.
Up until now we have been a tad too lenient. Sure, we expect some low level bending of the rules, like Cabcharge fiddling and “away from home” living expenses, but things have gone way further than that to a more corporate level of corruption. It’s becoming institutionalized. More than that, there doesn’t appear to be any understanding of what corruption is these days. Tony had to ring up Bill Heffernan to get guidance on accepting a personal cheque for 5 grand. As it turns out, Bill actually recognized the obvious but what happens when Bill gets called to that great big parliament house in the sky? He is getting on a bit. Heaven help us if Tony becomes the Oracle of ethical behavior.
Things like negative gearing are clearly being rorted and to such a degree that even senior Liberals are embarrassed by the level of unfairness. Sure, that is ‘representing’ some voters, but it’s a very small section and low income tax payers are footing the bill for this government handout. Needless to say, voters are becoming more aware of this anomaly and they are not especially impressed by the generosity that isn’t extended to those on lower incomes.
Protection of banks is getting some attention too. Creating a low level inquiry in the shadow of an election AFTER your opponent has flagged the problem, looks very dodgy especially when chaps like Eric Abetz say a Royal Commission is a bad idea because some bankers may be publicly embarrassed. Surely that’s the whole point? A suspicious voter looking back at 22 broken promises from the incumbent government could be forgiven for thinking this examination of the banks could be the first promise thrown under the bus as befell the Gonski promise.
As a final test of gullibility we are expected to believe that the current government that ripped hundreds of jobs out of the Tax Department, is going to put them back to tackle tax minimisation via off shoring at the same time as the PM has off shore companies himself. It doesn’t really matter if Malcolm is a straight shooter or not. It comes down to perceptions and trust. Can a friendly smile and obvious comfort in social situations, overcome the more voter-hostile Liberal Party as a whole?
At the start of the campaign the approach was steady as she goes but that lead has all but disappeared and the panic button has been pressed. If the shrillness of Scott Morrison is any guide the Party is feeling the pressure and if Sco Mo keeps channeling Barnaby, the election is too far away to be saved.
As it stands, all the Liberal Party has going for it is ‘Malcolm the Likeable’. If Sco Mo takes center stage, or Mathias keeps irritating with his tired old slogan, or indeed if voters decide that Malcolm is a nice bloke but realise he is driven by the party and not the traditional Liberal way of the other way around, then it’s game over.
The current push by Dutton is interesting to observe. The party must know Malcolm is their only chance, but at least one faction is working towards a defeat. They pretty much have to. A strong win for MT (not looking likely) spells the end for the hardliners but a loss gives them an outside chance of continuing to live in the fantasy world where voters can be ignored.
That would be encouraging for the hard right but a tragedy for traditional Liberal values. Worse case scenario for the Party? A one seat win or being forced to be a Minority Government. A split decision means more chaos and does anyone think they can predict the outcome of a war between the realists and the Abbott faction?
That most probably outcome would be decided by how many hardliners get voted back in. At this point in time it seems pretty hard to pick.