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We are defined by our politics …

By Keith Thomas Davis  

I rarely write about politics in Australia because so many other people from either side of the divide do it so much better, and because it is a subject matter guaranteed to cause in me an ongoing feeling of frustration and, at times, utter bloody amazement.

We have a cobbled together system of governance that combines the adversarial Westminster System with a new crassly copied American presidential way of electing our national leader. We have a debate-less Parliament where the farce of Question Time demolishes any notion of a contest of ideas.

We have a checks and balances system whereby an unruly House of Representatives, largely full of party hacks, is supposed to be kept honest by an unruly Senate, peopled also by dutiful hacks as well as an odd smattering of independent minuscule vote gatherers.

Undoubtedly there are good people in our Parliament from either side of politics, but when you look at the majority of the others, those representatives of the people, you’d have to hope that their mindset does not represent that of the Australian population as a whole.

As an Australian voter I’m well aware that I have absolutely no direct input into who becomes PM, and that the only person I am actually voting for is my local candidate. Each particular party elects its own leader. Half of us seem to have an understanding of that stark truth, but our voices are swamped by the press barons, the political parties themselves, and the commentariat, who at the last election insisted it was a but a choice between Morrison and Shorten. Forget the policy agendas … simply choose your hero and vote accordingly.

We’ve now entered an era in Australian politics where the cult of the hero, where who can prove to be the most authentic liar, where aspirational greed has been weaponised to such an effective suck-in degree, and where economic truth is blithely lied about and subsequently believed in, has left us with the reality that any notion of democracy here has been well and truly dust-binned.

People say that a small minority of undecided voters who cannot think for themselves, unless it concerns the greasing of their own wallet, continually have the final sway-say on which type of government gets elected at the end of each three-year cycle. Perhaps what people say is right.

Political parties represent their bases, and for the last six years we have had governments replete with policy indecision and guided by internally controlled groupthink. The only question of note emanating from Parliament House over the last six years is how finely honed does the assassination knife really need to be to be terminally effective?

It is said that the Westminster system of government has served us well. Really? How does a system, based on the fact that either side will automatically oppose what is proposed from the other side, serve us well?

I really do think it is time that a blast of arctic wind blew cleansingly across the flat plains of both sides of the Australian political landscape. But will that ever really happen? Probably not. It is far too predictable to forecast how the next three years of our politics will play out.

A party that claims to play up to the wish of many Australians to own their own homes will concurrently pursue an industrial relations agenda of casualisation and low pay that will ensure that home ownership remains an impossibility for far too many.

A party that vociferously states that they protect our borders from a tiny number of traumatised genuine refugees who arrive by boat, and who are no threat to anybody, will continue to ignore the number of arrivals at our airports as an inconvenient truth because of their ideological belief in the value of unending growth and jobs. Hypocrisy, demonisation, xenophobia, and inhumanity, will continue to reign supreme.

A party that proudly proclaims the strength of Australian geo-political independence will also automatically kow-tow to any request for Australia to join any newly proposed coalition of the willing. Afghanistan failed. Iraq failed. Ignorable facts when you have a demonstrated ability to not think for yourself and simply do as you are told. Our young people, and our veterans, will continue to pay the price for such short-sighted thinking.

A party that has perfected the technique of being elected without a coherent policy platform in sight will continue to pork barrel the buying of votes and the ongoing wastage of taxpayer dollars into a tiny number of marginal seats.

A party that hardly even pretends to veneer any sort of genuine environmental credential will continue to try to blindside the unstoppable growth of renewable energy, and will continue to promote the agenda of their vested interest donators. There is no satisfaction in knowing that it is a battle that they will ultimately lose, because some of the environmental damage their thinking is causing is permanent.

A party that continually damns and demonises the poor and the disadvantaged as unworthy, will continue to do so because it plays well with their base. At the same time they will continue to pursue policies that protect the rich, fool the middle-class into thinking that their hopes and aspirations are being catered to, and which are guaranteed and planned to keep the poor as a handy and blameworthy ‘other’.

The unemployed will continue to be treated as Newstart Criminals. A jailer type corporation has now been contracted to help corral the unemployed. The scent of Arbeit Mach Frei, Work Sets You Free, now overlays some of our Unemployment Industry institutions. The erosion of our freedoms is not limited to the civil liberties arena … just ask anyone who is unemployed for confirmation.

A party that professes to support the notion of free speech will continue to muzzle the press via intimidation, will continue to muffle the voice of independent thought via the creeping method of de-funding the ABC, and will continue to demonise anyone with a different political ideological bent as some sort of vague threat to national security … you can ask Bill Shorten about how that one feels.

A party, seemingly still guided by a rump of zealots, will continue to install religious proselytisers in our secular schools via the Chaplaincy Program. Indeed, reality, and practice, Australia is a secular nation … just look at the empty church pews. It is right that people should be free to practice the religion of their choice whatever that may be, and a minority of Australians do just that without bothering anyone else, but it is not right that the children of the secular majority should be exposed to religious proselytising against the wishes of their parents.

A party that promises to govern for all Australians will continue to claim a mandate and continue to ignore the wishes of the Australians whose first preference vote last time favoured the opposing group of political parties. Here’s some raw first preference numbers from the AEC …

4,752,160 ALP

3,989,404 LIBERALS

1,482,923 GREENS

642,233 NATIONALS

488,817 PALMER’S MOB

479,836 INDEPENDENTS

438,587 PAULINE’S MOB

I’m well aware that we do not have a First Past the Post electoral system, and that preferences and deals etc are the ultimate deciding factor in our system. Nonetheless, these figures do debunk a couple of currently held Australian political myths.

In a comparative sense of who their first preference is, the majority of Australians do not support the Coalition made up from a union of the Liberal and National parties. The majority of Australians actually support the Non-Coalition made up from a non-union of the ALP and the GREENS.

People say that voters are swinging in huge unstoppable numbers towards Independents and minor parties. Do the first preference figures say that? I don’t think so. The majority of Australians remain Centrist and continue to vote for the GREENS, the ALP, the Liberals, and the Nats. Personally, I wish that they’d drop the Liberals and the Nats, but the figures are what they are.

We seriously need to question a system that allows minor fringe parties, who receive such a small proportion of the first preference vote, to exercise so much power and influence over the policy agendas of the major parties who receive the overwhelming majority of the first preference vote.

I don’t have rose coloured glasses on where the side of politics I support is concerned. The adherence of the ALP to mirroring certain Coalition policies in order to not lose votes, on such matters as border protection and refugees, makes me cringe at times. I understand that these issues are very vexed, and that there is no easy solution in sight, however I do feel that when you disassociate love of fellow man from public policy agenda you’re doing a disservice to both self, and to the well-being of the psyche of the nation.

The ALP and the GREENS are not perfect, and they attract their fair share of criticism, some of which I agree with. However, I think for myself, I’m not a party hack lemming, and I have never supported the notion that one simply has to make a choice between the two of them. I embrace both. They are of one tribe as far as I am concerned. The blend of their general policy agendas is exactly what, in my opinion, Australia needs. It is why I share my vote between them.

Whatever I may think of the coalition between the Liberals and the Nats I will say this for them. They have formed an effective coalition. Despite the fact that the Libs don’t really give a toss about the bush, and that the Nats don’t really give a toss about the cities, their Coalition enables them to get elected, and re-elected. I gnash my teeth at that fact, but I accept that fact as reality.

Somewhere in all of that, in my opinion only, there is a lesson for the ALP and the GREENS. When comparing existing coalitions or existing non-coalitions, the ALP and GREENS combined receive the majority of first preference votes. When you also consider that about 54 of the ALP’s new seats in the 46th Parliament were decided by preference flows, and when you consider from which party the majority of those preferences flowed, you’d have to think that the ongoing internecine warfare and knee-capping that goes on between both parties self-defeats the greater cause of both.

Will an effective coalition ever be formed between the GREENS and the ALP? That’s like asking can you remove a party’s ego from that party’s quest for power. Parties are made up of human beings, and human beings have egos, huge ones in some cases. So only the two parties involved in this matter can provide the answer to that question.

None of which will stop me from voting for them. I believe in social justice. So do they both.

We, as a country, are at least in part defined by our politics. As I mentioned in my opening statement, I feel utterly bloody amazed at what I see unfolding daily in our political arena. It is not a happy amazement.

 

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10 comments

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  1. pierre wilkinson

    “you’d have to think that the ongoing internecine warfare and knee-capping that goes on between both parties self-defeats the greater cause of both”
    so very true, and the COALition MSM continue to stress the relationship as confrontational and extreme

  2. Kaye Lee

    We should be thinking a lot about how we can make a republic voting system that fixes some of our problems and we should not look to the US as to how to do that. We have the chance to start fresh by taking the best of what we see around the world and developing a new system that would actually represent how the people vote and force those we elect to actually work together. I am keen on the idea of a multi-party executive.

  3. Matters Not

    Re:

    Will an effective coalition ever be formed between the GREENS and the ALP?

    Only if it’s deemed necessary after an election and certain individuals can see personal benefit (broadly defined). See the ACT as a classic example.

    While Libs and Nats usually despise each other, they can work together for their mutual benefit both before and after elections – albeit often through clenched teeth.

    On the other hand … there’s the divided ‘progressives’. I think it’s called extreme dumbness.

    Great article by the way. It resonates. As I shake my head.

  4. RomeoCharlie29

    Agree MN, a good article but there is somthing very wrong in a system where a party, the Greens get 1.5 million votes and one seat and Nats get 642 000 and how many seats? Those figures are very instructive and really show just how little the government’s so-called mandate really is.

    I believe the Swiss have an interesting parliamentary system with a multi-party executive and rotating PM. My Swiss friends think it is a superior system.

  5. Keith Thomas Davis

    Interesting comments from everyone. As per usual it makes me think … I wish I’d thought of that one!

    I also think it it ludicrous that a party like the Greens, who sit third in the tally of first preference votes, ends up with such a paltry seat return.

    As for our system as a whole: I’m for the idea of a unity multi-faceted government based proportionally on how the first preference votes flowed. It is based on a system where first preference is all there is. If you get 40% of the first preference, then you get 40% of the seats in Parliament, and you get 40% of the Ministries. No matter who you are, if you get enough first, and only, preferences, then you earn a ticket into, and a seat at, the big show.

    Naturally, a formula would need to be applied as to what minimum number of votes received would be required to qualify one to gain a seat, or even a Ministry. The sight of Pauline, Clive, and thirty six fringe others trying to perch on their tiny percentage of one stool would be a most unedifying sight!

    Of course it means that political parties and individuals have to stand for election on their own legs. No pre-election coalitions. The Liberal, National, Labor, Greens, and all comers and all other parties and stand-alone individuals will have to attract their own percentage of the vote, and from the result will flow the number of seats that they ultimately get.

    None of which will stop all the inevitable horse-trading that will go on after the election … but to be part of the horse-trading you will have to have earned a seat in your own right … and at least it will force all those in the Parliament to negotiate, to compromise, and to nut out agreements. Such a system does not preclude the currently unthinkable … gosh … the Greens might find common cause with the Nats on certain policy issues and the ALP might …. you probably get the drift … consensus is key.

    It also means that policy agendas, refreshingly, will have to be debated and justified, and finally, it would hopefully kill off the silliness of Question Time.

    Does it mean that we will probably get a long run of Centre-Left type governments here in Australia? Probably. Our current first preference votes already foretell that, its what most of us currently want. But the people still remain free to change direction with all that come each new election time.

    It is a system whereby the most marginal winner does not, unlike now, get to take all and walk all over the wishes of everybody else.

    I have no particular problem with parties electing their own leaders. Whoever gains the most seats in Parliament gets to nominate who will be PM & Deputy PM. The Greens would get their fair share of seats and Ministries and would also be exposed to the practicalities and rigour of governance for and of all at the federal level … and that would not be a bad thing for them.

    Like any proposed system the one I like has many tricky problems attached. What on earth would we do about the current system of individual electoral districts madly pork-barrelled by aspiring individual candidates? Do we get rid of the notion of individual seats? And if we do that, how do we ensure that infrastructure dollars and social welfare spending etc are shared equitably across the nation? Methinks a more than cursory glance across the Nordic system might enlighten me a bit there.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Infrastructure decisions should not be made by politicians. Infrastructure Australia should determine the priorities based on cost-benefit and the needs of the nation.

    Having a multi-party executive would make corrupt practices much harder. You can’t just hand over $30 million to Rupert without explaining why. You can’t just appoint your mates without showing why they are the best person for the job. You can’t give out contracts without tender and you can’t label everything secret to avoid scrutiny.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I would also change the seating arrangement in the Houses. The multi-party executive sit in rows in front of the Speaker and the members seating order not be by party. Mix them all in together so we get rid of the stupid jeering. They might then pay more attention to the debate than to their phones?

    I like the Swiss system too.

    “The Swiss Federal Council is a seven-member executive council that heads the federal administration, operating as a combination cabinet and collective presidency. Any Swiss citizen eligible to be a member of the National Council can be elected; candidates do not have to register for the election, or to actually be members of the National Council.

    The largely ceremonial President and Vice President of the Confederation are elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for one-year terms that run concurrently. The President has almost no powers over and above his or her six colleagues, but undertakes representative functions normally performed by a president or prime minister in single-executive systems.”

  8. Terence Mills

    if you reckon our preferential voting system isn’t doing the job, just look at the UK where they have a first past the post system.

    The 2017 General Election in Britain resulted in the Conservative Party winning 42.3% of the vote, The Labour Party won 40.0% of the vote, The Liberal Democrats won 7.4% of the vote.

    So the Conservatives formed government without a majority and some 60% percent o fthe voting public didn’t even want them !

  9. andy56

    the only things i will add are 1/ Labor needs to toughen up. The liberals lie and cheat and get elected. Labor plays by gentlemans’ rules and loses. 2/ The liberals need to spend time in the wilderness to develop cohesive policies. 3/ Australia is screwed because our economy has no direction and we have been extremely lucky with our resources. I will say one thing about luck, it runs out. I just hope the liberals dont screw things up so bad we do become the banana republic. However, everyone now has got on the property bandwagon saying its a good thing prices have stabilised. Shit a brick, thats not the medicine we need.

  10. wobbley

    An independent speaker, 20 questions from the opposition and cross bench, and no Dorothy Dixer questions at all would be a small but good start to make things a little more transparent. As for where we stand as a nation now after the election, I believe we’re on the cliff edge, we either become a fully fledged fascist state and unfortunately will definitely see blood on our streets as a concequence or we stand up collectively to the fascist corporations, polititions and propagandist MSM. They, the main stream media, virtually bent over backwards to lie, and cheat their way to the outcome that was required by their corporate masters

    It’s also a very good reflection of where the country, as a whole is right now, me me me, and fuck you!!!!! It’s time the constituents of this once great Australia grew up and stopped listening to the lying scum who would have us all living in a society where there are workers, the majority of us, soldiers, the fascists favourites and of course the elites or queens if you will. One big happy ant nest.

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