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What opposition?

By Matt Hurley

It appeared in the beginning that Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s modus operandi was to simply shut up, sit still and watch as Abbott destroyed himself in a flurry of gaffes and illconsidered Captain’s Calls. For the most part it seemed to work; he wasn’t doing much opposing but he didn’t need to with Abbott making such a dill of himself. It was all good. We have since watched Shorten find his voice, and it has been horrific.

I might be terribly wrong, but I thought the idea of the opposition party was to oppose the party in power. Why then have we seen bipartisan support for such treachery as the insidious Data Retention bill, the despicable Border Force act, and now Shorten extolling the virtues of ‘turning back the boats’?

The mistreatment of refugees is distressing in itself, but it demonstrates how inadequate the opposition is if it will be complicit in the Coalition’s blatant human rights’ abuses. It is proof perfect that Australian politics has descended into nothing more than a contemptuous blend of populism and appeasement of sponsors. There obviously exists no long-term vision for this country, just the need to appeal to the lowest common denominator and get over the line.

I have long held that bipartisan politics is unsatisfactory, and its current dire state a manifestation of our collective laziness and insouciance. It has never been clearer that as far as the major parties are concerned, our choice is an illusion.

So, what do we do? Do we allow ourselves to continue to choose between the apparent lesser of two evils? I propose that we take a look at what it is to be a democracy. In its truest sense, democracy is rule by the people. We are a nation of many diverse cultures, attitudes and interests. It therefore stands to reason that our government should reflect our rich diversity, and comprise of varied representatives.

There were a record number of candidates in the 2013 federal election, representing not only the major parties but a plethora of minor parties and independents. Perhaps as a result of increasing dissatisfaction with the major parties, we are seeing an increase in smaller parties and independents holding much of the balance of power. This is a good thing. These smaller parties and independents embody grassroots politics. They have arrived where they are by appealing to the people of their electorate, and they’re on the rise. Could you envision a government made entirely of those who have worked to capture the hearts and minds of their electorate? This, I believe, is democracy.

I would implore you to consider the policies of the many minor parties. There are some very well developed positions on important issues hiding amongst parties developed by people with a passion for democracy. At the very least, let us send a message of dissatisfaction to the major parties by throwing our support behind the little guys, at best hoping for a more accurate representation of the diversity of our nation in government.

Suppose I have not swayed you. Suppose you are a habitual major party voter or just too lazy to look into the minor parties. I despair that there is no reaching you. But if you truly support a major party, you ought to demand better of your representatives, because the exasperation is palpable and the alternatives are waiting side of stage.

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24 comments

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  1. Kate M

    Great article. I think it’s time we brought democracy into the 21st century.

  2. richardw1953

    Sadly, Labor now = Liberal Lite

  3. Keitha Granville

    I agree – in the Senate definitely – but for the foreseeable future there is no chance of independents doing anything in the Reps. The closest we got was with Gillard and the Windsor/Oakeshott deal. What a parliament ! Look at the legislation they got through the house. True compormise on so many fronts. Why this has not been applauded as one of the best parliaments ever . . . .
    Unless we can get a decent number of independents who hold the balance in the Reps, with neither major party having a lead over the other so they HAVE to deal with the little guys, the BETTER move is to clamour for change in the Labor Party. We have no chance with the fascists in power so we just have to ditch them completely – but Labor is salvageable. They used to have a conscience, some still do. We need to resurrect it.

  4. kerri

    ALP = Alternative Liberal Party.
    Great article. I am in total agreement! The big two are encouraging lazy politics!
    No need to talk to your constituents or, heaven forbid, stop and actually think about the ramifications of your position on any given piece of legislation! Just turn up to the party room and do as you are told!
    This needs to change! The whole BS over same sex marriage being “a conscience vote” ? I could not give a rats behind about what my Federal member thinks about same sex marriage! I want my Federal member to represent me and my fellow citizens and vote according to our wishes not his or her personal spiritual beliefs!
    A Parliament without parties would see MPs earning their keep and being forced to communicate with those who put them in Parliament. MPs would have to read the Legislation being proposed and find a way to communicate to their constituents and accept the opinions of said constituents.

  5. Harquebus

    The Labor Party is now a sub branch of the Liberal Party.
    I hope that Trish Corry comes along soon. Should be good.

  6. diannaart

    I was “swayed” years ago – just waiting for the rest of Australia to catch up.

  7. Kizzmett

    @Kerri – you expressed my sentiments! The disparity between MPs and their constituents – on both sides of the political divide – is an utter disgrace. I’ve run out of excuses and patience with ALP. Halving now reviewed their policies – and liking what I read – I will be voting Green next election. No brainer.

    ALP have truly lost their way.

  8. Dadda

    The best outcome in the present circumstances is a hung parliament so that real debate and multi-party agreement can be reached. The voting public seemed to have implicitly understood this (until the last election). There’s no point voting for the LNPALP and expecting reasoned debate and human oriented policy outcomes.

  9. Andreas Bimba

    Labor also persues the neo-liberal economic agenda as strongly as the Liberals and Nationals by supporting the TPP and all the FTA’s even though this has led to the net loss of millions of jobs for Australians in the manufacturing and associated service industries.

    The neo-liberal agenda also comprises plenty of tax deductions that disproportionately benefit the more affluent, privatisations that disadvantage consumers, the extremely lucrative superannuation management industry, the public private partnership infrastructure funding rort, the property price bubble and fat easy profits for the big banks, failure to stimulate the economy through government deficit spending and cuts to government services.

    The Labor Party has been bought by the big end of town and continues to spread the lie that neo-liberalism and totally free trade will create new job opportunities, lower prices to consumers and deliver productivity gains. The clear reality instead is that few new jobs have materialised, much greater unemployment, reduced tax revenue, a loss of entire industry sectors and thousands of businesses, a net reduction of economic capacity and capability and increased prices for imports as the dollar falls. Over investment in the resources industry and especially the doomed fossil fuel industry also represents a squandering of scarce capital.

  10. S.W .Mathers

    Great article, you sum it up very well. Labor are a big disappointment and they give the current LNP mob a good chance to get back in-what a disaster that would be.

  11. kerri

    I seriously wish Labor would sack all of their P.R. People and shun focus groups and all that crap that tells them how to appeal to the wider public! That is the same tactic as Abbott’s LNP is using and so far I have not heard Abbott, Dutton, Bishop/s, Hockey or any of them start a sentence with
    “What the Australian people want…..”
    And finish it with anything I agree with!
    Stop trying to tell us what the spin meisters say we want and bloody well consult and listen!?

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear kerri,

    Labor must consult, listen and ACT on the community recommendations. OMG! Will they have the guts?

    I’m going to Fringe in Melbourne this weekend. (I would go tomorrow but some of us plebs have to scrape a living together when there’s no guaranteed income.)

    At Fringe, I’m going as a committed Australian citizen who appreciates the opportunity that Labor is giving to me, and you all, to listen and voice our concerns on every given sociental, political, environmental and economic issue.

    I intend to have my say at each forum I’m attending. And I’m bringing my daughter with me coz I want her and her peers to learn to take the reigns of keeping Labor and all other political forces to account.

  13. John Kelly

    I too have lamented the race to the bottom. It is basic-instinct politics that searches for the lowest common denominator. I started voting Greens two elections ago because they best represented the way I felt about humanitarian issues. I will continue doing that but, because I want my vote to count, I will give Labor my second preference. This is the dilemma many of us who see the Labor party moving to the right, face. My first preference vote will not result in a Greens candidate winning. Our system devalues our vote unless it supports one of the two major parties.

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    For the short term, I’ll probably do the same as you John Kelly and give my first preference to the worthy Greens and second by sufferance to Labor.

    In the meantime however, we ALL need to be involved in engaging with alternative, progressive and innovative political parties, voices and community groups that will support true progressive political forces that will fill the void behind the dinosaur dumb Labor and dumber LNP.

  15. kerri

    Agreed John Kelly and Jennifer Meyer-Smith. That is how I voted last election but now I may put Labor lower down. Ricky Muir would be a better PM that either Shorten or Abbott!

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Ricky Muir is what I class as one of the sane Indies who we need to reach out to to form a working Alliance between ALL progressive parties, voices and sane Indies.

    That means the Greens, the Australian Progressives, some sane left of centre Labor pollies and sane Indies, not to mention, other progressive community organisations and voices in the community.

    Altogether, we will form the essential Alliance that will reform this archaic and ineffectual representative system in Australia.

  17. mmc1949

    For some time my vote has been “Put Liberal last”. More recently I have added “Put Labor second last.” For some time also, I have been of the opinion that more independents and small parties would be a far better thing than the duopoly, increasingly more of a cartel, that we have at present. The ‘small’ MPs would have to talk to each other and think about issues. If they couldn’t reach agreement and did nothing, that would be a far better thing than going backwards as we are now.
    I will put as many ‘small’ candidates between Greens and Labor as is possible in my electorate, just to get the message across that I want no truck with immoral and inhumane LibLab policies … as Frydenberg goes on to collect his parliamentary perks 🙁

  18. stephentardrew

    Damn this is where we are after all this time Shorten has delivered nothing in fact less than nothing for progressives. I will do everything in my power to avoid voting for the majors. Sellout.

  19. Paula Fairbairn

    The turn back policy in and of itself is not the problem It’s all about what you do after you turn them back. Do you leave them to starve on the high seas? Wreck on the rocks and drown? We cannot take potentially 20 million people, process 20 million people, take care of the health of the volume of people who are on the move in Asia today.

    More than ever we need to be part of Asia as our governments say we are, yet we treat Asia very shabbily as even neighbours let alone best friends.

    If we used our Border Force/immigration in concert with our neighbours to help and co-ordinate our efforts, to carry field hospitals, and food supplies. To provide logistic support to all the navies from each country and to draw them in to UNHCR processing……..ok it may take time ok we start from a low point diplomatically but, given the present starting point (with a border force) its probably the only way to begin.

    Residents of Rote in Indonesia are feeding asylum seekers wrecked there ( after we paid people smugglers) from their own food supplies in defiance of their government. How do we get supplies to them? We need to talk.

  20. diannaart

    What is the Labor Right doing in a progressive party? – couldn’t master Snark 101 of the Liberal Party, or not really far-right enough? Maybe Shorten & his right/lite mates could team up with Turnbull and create the Mostly Right Party which understands there are megabucks to be made in renewable technology.

    If anyone thinks Shorten has understood what climate change is all about, consider this; he understands very well where the best future lies and that is not down a mine shaft.

  21. Lee

    This article needs to be renamed to An Open Letter to Victoria Rollison and Trish Corry.

  22. eli nes

    labor has lost to liars and their lies are now forgotten or have morphed into truths.
    The catholic DLP kept labor out of government for 23 years of my youth with bartholemew augustine santamaria droning still in my ears spouting his anticommunist words to support the lies of menzies. Many of you are unafraid of a repetition of the menzies era but this leader is not a ‘maintenance man letting life wander on whilst he went to the cricket basking in full employment low interest and high white Australia immigration. The rabbutt is vindictive, driven by his church and, like his mentor, violently anti-communist.
    This violence is directed towards labor and the unions.
    The appearance of shorten on sunrise showed a return to beaconsfield quality with a strong common sense decision to stop the boats(some polls showed over 70% support for morrison ‘return the boats when it is safe to do so), with a follow up to expose the other slogans, is the beginning of the end of the rabbutt.
    To do a hurley is to risk the destruction of any safeguard for workers and to entrench these sick men in government.
    ps Mr Lord your ability to vote for the loony greens and have your vote still be counted, unlike the poms, adds value your vote? Do you vote above the line?
    Ha ha ha any twit who wishes to avoid the major party, will need to vote informal and hurray for that.
    pps Keitha it would be marvellous if windsor stood against joyce.
    It is very sad that labor has no opportunity to praise gillard, windsor, oakeschott and swan but because the electorate cannot understand any economic complexity, to do so would give the rabbutt’s slogans a boost and be electoral suicide.

  23. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    diannaart,

    you’ve nailed it. Why don’t wimpy Shorten and Turnbull team up and make another party. They equal each other as poxy fence sitters.

    Paula Fairbairn,

    I totally agree with your call for us to start talking, planning and undertaking the real actions that we can take now just like the good people of Rote in Indonesia.

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