Tag Archives: election

Australian #politics – the bad, the bad and the ugly

rip 2016On Saturday, July 1, 2016, Australia voted in a double dissolution election [for House of Representatives and Senate at the same time], but five days later we still don’t know which party will govern.

Nevertheless, we can safely say that Malcolm Turnbull has lost. If the Liberals remain in power, Turnbull may remain as Prime Minister, but his effectiveness will be severely compromised, as will his legacy.

So how did Malcolm Turnbull, one of the most respected and admired politicians in recent history, manage to lose his appeal in such a spectacular fashion?

The answer, I believe, is very simple, Malcolm was not allowed to be Malcolm and voters punished the party for it. To understand this, it’s important to understand the right wing, conservative, faceless, faction heavy weights of the Liberal party. They :

  1. loved Tony Abbott,
  2. hated Malcolm Turnbull [they still do]
  3. had to acknowledge that Tony Abbott was almost universally hated by voters,
  4. had to acknowledge that Malcolm Turnbull was liked and respected by voters on both sides of the Liberal/Labor divide

[confession: I liked him too and I’m a Labor voter],

Taking points 3 and 4 into consideration, it eventually became obvious that the party would suffer a landslide loss if Abbott stayed as Prime Minister. Worse still, only the hated Malcolm Turnbull would have any traction with voters. So after much gnashing of teeth, the conservatives gave in and offered Turnbull a deal: they would support his coup against Tony Abbott, but only if he [Turnbull] continued to toe the party line established by Abbott.

In hindsight, this seems rather crazy until you consider that the right wing has never had any time for Climate Change, or marriage equality or even that pesky NBN. So they were prepared to use the Turnbull popularity with the electorate but without all that small ‘l’ liberal nonsense.

What is less clear is why Malcolm Turnbull and his supporters accepted such a backhanded and hamstrung endorsement.

My personal guess is that Turnbull et al., must have seen the writing on the wall and grabbed what they could, believing [probably accurately] that he would never have a better chance of becoming Prime Minister.

So Malcolm and the conservatives struck a deal and for a while, the strategy appeared to work. Liberal popularity in the polls went up as Malcolm rode a wave of public hope.

We believed in Malcolm. Wasn’t he the man who lost the leadership of the Liberal party because he stuck to his principles on climate change? What greater sacrifice could a politician make? And wasn’t he also the man who openly supported gay marriage? And in a way, despite selling out on the full glory of the NBN, he at least managed to stop Abbott from scuttling it completely.

So Malcolm was our hero, and we believed that finally we would get a government that most of the country could swing behind. He might be a Liberal, but he was a good Liberal. Maybe even another Menzies [arguably the ‘best’ Prime Minister in Australia’s political history].

But then the winds of change began to blow a little cold. Week followed week and nothing we’d hoped for eventuated. Nothing on Climate Change. Nothing on marriage equality. Nothing on Refugees. Nothing on anything that any of us plebs actually cared about. What was going on?

In time, some of us began to think that Malcolm was playing a long game. Yes, he was under the conservative thumb now, but after the next election he’d be so successful that the conservatives would have to crawl back into their holes and finally, finally Malcolm could be himself.

I truly believe this was a part of the PM’s strategy when he called a double dissolution on an issue that no one seemed to care about, including him.

The trouble with this strategy was that Malcolm’s popularity declined in direct proportion to the release of policy after policy that favoured the big end of town while asking us to accept all the sacrifices required to balance the budget [at some point in the future].

Australians pride themselves on giving everyone a ‘fair go’, and we’ll happily dig deep to help those laid low by disaster [witness the 30 plus million dollars raised by public donations after the Black Saturday bushfires here in Victoria]. But Australians also have a history of distrusting the super rich and the big end of town. If the Liberals had offered genuine support to small business, we might well have tightened our belts and got on with it, but they offered incentives to companies and corporations that did not need the help. And they were going to pay for it by making us do without.

That major miscalculation was rooted in the conservative concept of the ‘trickle down’ effect. In essence, it means that if government supports big business, big business will generate growth which will lead to jobs which will lead to greater prosperity for all.

Sadly, most people in the Western world have now had first hand experience of the trickle down effect and they know it doesn’t work. So when Malcolm and the rest of the Liberals bleated about jobs and growth, we weren’t listening. Added to this disinterest was a great disappointment – we’d had such high hopes for Malcolm and he hadn’t lived up to our expectations. Malcolm wasn’t Malcolm. Had he changed his mind about all the things we thought he cared about? Or had he sold us out just to be PM?

I think we might still have voted for Malcolm if not for the brilliant campaign run by Bill Shorten. I personally dislike the man and can’t see myself trusting someone who stabbed two Labor Prime Ministers in the back in order to be given the job of opposition leader. Nevertheless, despite all expectations to the contrary, Bill Shorten ran an inspired campaign. He picked up on all the disenchantment of ordinary voters – including their fears for Medicare – and hammered them home.

In the final analysis, however, Shorten’s campaign would not have been as effective if the right wing conservatives had allowed Malcolm to be Malcolm. Instead, they muzzled the goose that might have laid their golden egg, and now they’re spinning all sorts of ‘reasons’ to explain its failure to deliver.

I feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull because I can understand his desperation to finally wear the mantle of PM. But the truth is, when he sold out to the conservative right, he lost the perceived integrity that made him popular in the first place, and with that, he lost the very thing he wanted most – validation.

In my last post I talked about the disaffection of Western voters, and how this might lead to a change in how we ‘do’ democracy but in the meantime, we are protesting about the lack of integrity of our politicians in the only way we can – by kicking them out. This, too, is democracy.

cheers

Meeks

 

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The end of Representational #Democracy?

People tend to talk about our Western systems of government as ‘democracies’, but the reality is that they are only representational democracies.

Why ‘only’?

Because the original Greek definition of democracy was one man, one vote. Of course by that definition, neither slaves nor women could vote, but it was still a pretty amazing concept in a world of Kings, Emperors, Warlords and other hierarchical and dictatorial forms of government. When a civic decision had to be made, everyone would crowd into the plaza and vote with a show of hands. Simple. Direct. And non-scalable. Imagine how big a plaza you’d need for even a small country like say Hungary.

By the time some of the countries of Western Europe decided to give this democray thing a go, they’d already figured out that one man, one vote simply couldn’t work, not for big places like England and France. So they invented a system that allowed their citizens to choose between just a few people for the right to vote. The person who ended up being chosen at the grassroots level would then go up to parliament and vote on their behalf. This is the basis of representational democracy – one person voting in the name of lots of people.

Now representational democracy was a great invention in its time, but the reality has never lived up to the hype because all those representatives ended up being funnelled into parties. Then factions within those parties would compete amongst themselves. Eventually, one person would gain enough power to represent not only the whole faction but also the party. This leader would then go head to head with the leader of the opposing faction until one of them won. Eventually, the leader who won would get to represent and make decisions for…all of us:

we the governed

 

Forgive me for this child’s view of politics, but sometimes we have to remember what’s real and what is merely an aspiration. At the moment, the kind of democracy that gives each man and woman a vote that actually matters is still just a pipe-dream.

Or is it?

During the lead up to the recent Australian election, many of the political pundits mentioned that a massive proportion of eligible young voters were not registering to vote. [In Australia, voting is compulsory and anyone 18 and over is supposed to register their name on the electoral roll].

Were these young people merely apathetic? Just not interested in politics? Not interested in politics as we know it? Other?

At 63 I can hardly speak for the young, but as someone who lives on the internet, I can make a few educated guesses:

  1. I don’t think the young are disinterested in politics at all
  2. I think they are merely disinterested in the traditional form of politics taken for granted in the West.

Now let me make a few guesses as to why:

  1. change.org
  2. Facebook [and Tumblr and Twitter and…and….etc]

What does social media have to do with politics? And disaffected youth? Everything.

Todays 18 year olds have grown up having a direct say in the issues they care about – via Facebook et al., and organisations such as change.org and getup [amongs others]. On these platforms, groups form almost organically and as the groups grow, they gain a voice, a voice that is being heard by pollsters and politicians alike. The major parties may deny that they take any notice of online petitions, but no institution is large enough to withstand the fury of a self-righteous group.

So the young have found a platform and those in control are paying attention, and this is happening in real time, day after day. Why on earth would these young voices care about an election that happens only once every 3 – 4 years and does NOT reflect their views?

Make no mistake, in a representational democracy, only voting blocks actually matter. Individual votes matter hardly at all. For example, here in Warrandyte, we are part of the Jaga Jaga electoral area. Jaga Jaga is never mentioned in post election commentary because it is a safe Labor seat, and has been for a very long. Thus, no matter how I vote, my vote has no effect on the outcome of the election because it would take a massive change to turn Jaga Jaga into a swinging electorate. And swinging electorates are the only ones that can really change the final outcome of the election.

So for young people living in Warrandyte who do NOT believe in Labor’s values, voting is essentially pointless, and exactly the same thing applies to Labor voters in a safe Liberal electorate. Yet all these young people have had a taste of what true democracy could be like.

They have made their voices heard on social media and that is the kind of system they want: one person, one vote and each vote counts.

We do not yet have the technology to make online voting, issue by issue, a reality. The internet is simply not secure enough, not yet, but it will be, and when it is, I believe representational democracy will change. It will have to. Brexit and Trump and the [possibility] of a hung parliament here in Australia guarantee it.

We who are governed want to have a say in how we are governed. We want democracy.

cheers

Meeks


The end of an era – interesting times indeed

Just watched KRudd’s concession speech online, and the thing that struck me was that he looked as if he had been planning this all along. 

I’m no political pundit, but I’ve wondered for a while what kind of deal the Caucus struck with Kevin Rudd – and Ken Shorten. Now I think I know. I believe that stepping down after the election was on the cards all along. I think that’s how the coup was structured – let KRudd leave in his own time, with his head held high, in exchange for his ability to save Labor from complete and utter defeat.

Well, he did that. Labor is leaner than before, but it is not demoralized. This gives me hope that new Labor will be better than the old. And I fervently hope new Labor will learn the lessons of the past six years – there are some things you just can’t do, not without consequences. 

On the subject of hope, the Daughter and I were talking about who the next Labor leader will be. Obviously Ken Shorten is a contender. Perhaps that’s the deal he struck for his about-face at the last leadership spill. The trouble with Ken Shorten is that he has no charisma.

Is charisma important? God yes. A political party is as much about its ‘faces’ as its policies, and young people like the Daughter go ‘Ken who?’

But if you mention Penny Wong, their faces light up. Not just because she’s a woman. Not just because she’s ‘ethnic’. Not just because she’s gay. But because Penny Wong has charisma as well as integrity. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a female PM who’s young, Chinese and proudly gay? Wouldn’t that say something amazing about how far Australia has come?

Who knows, maybe by the time the next election rolls around we can start being proud of our political system, and our politicians again. I hope so.

Good night all!

Meeks


Meeka Votes

Like most Australians I am politics weary. I want it over with… but despite that, I still care.

1. I would like to punish Labor for backstabbing 1 AND 2. Those machinations revolt me, but

2. I believe Kevin07 deserves a chance to finish what he began. He, like Gough Whitlam, has a vision for the big things. Sadly that vision makes him a bad ‘politician’. But if the NBN, Kyoto and The Apology are all we get out of his two terms of office then that is still a damn good legacy.

3. I hate Tony Abbott. I hate his he-man wannabe posturing. To me that is just vanity, the kind of vanity that makes football stars believe they can do no wrong, especially to women. Not saying Abbott would ever rape anyone. Just saying his posturing appeals to a certain kind of attitude I hate. It may make him come across as an ‘every man’ kind of guy but he certainly doesn’t come across as the ‘every’ man this woman likes.

4. I hate the Greens too. They played politics with Climate Change, and much of what we have, or don’t have six years down the track is thanks to their stupidity and holier-than-thou posturing.

5. I hate the spin. I hate the spin so much I start to feel physically nauseous when I hear politicians start parroting whatever crap the spin doctors think will win hearts and minds. “We will send back the boats”. “We will buy up fishing boats.” Puleeze… Does anyone in Australia really believe the Indonesians are just going to roll over and accept this kind of bullshit?

6. I actually believe this period of hung parliament/independent influence has been a good thing – not in every detail, but as an exercise in co-operation. At best, every ruling party will have just over 50% of the first preference vote. No matter how you play with the numbers, that means an awful lot of people don’t agree with their policies. So forcing parties and independents to co-operate allows more of the voting public to get what they want. The standout exception to this was the Liberal Party. They voted against anything and everything, even the things they originally voted for.

7. I believe the role of government should be similar to a not-for-profit. The benefits from taxation should be plowed back into the country to create more wealth and well-being for people. Yet the stated aim of Liberal governments is to create a surplus while supporting business so business will support people. To me this is like putting money in the bank while allowing your kids to go barefoot in winter.

8. And last but not least, Julian Assange and Wikileaks are heroes of mine. The Big Brother mentality triggered by 9/11 is not that different to the anti-communist hysteria that swept the world during the McCarthy era in the US [1950’s]. Destroying people, and their rights, – because you fear some bogey man – is a cure far worse than the disease. Sadly that is what is happening now in this new century. I have to support the few madmen who say this is wrong.

For all those reasons I voted for Labor in the House of Representatives, and Wikileaks in the Senate.

Some people may agree with my reasons, but vehemently disagree with my choices. Others may agree with my choices, but for completely different reasons. Yet more may disagree with absolutely everything I’ve written.

That’s okay. Debate is the single most important benefit of a democracy. All I ask is that any debate that happens here on Meeka’s Mind be reasoned, and respectful of others. Please argue your point with as much passion as you want, but do not try to win that argument by putting others down. That’s just not on, and those kinds of comments will be deleted.

cheers

Meeks


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