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 …
488,817 PALMER’S MOB
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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