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Not much to choose from this election

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So, Julia Gillard has finally called for an election to be held. In a sign of how much Tony Abbott has shifted the centre of Australian politics to the right, Julia Gillard announced to the National Press Club on Thursday that, if elected, it was unlikely that there would be a vote on an Australian republic in her first term.

Surprisingly little choice between the two.

GILLARD probably believes that those people who believe strongly enough in a republic that it may change their vote, and there are many, would never be likely to vote for Tony Abbott. Of course, it helps that Tony Abbott was once the Executive Director of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, the organization run by the pompous and preening David Flint, and which is committed to promoting the royal family, meaningless ceremony, the union jack, royal tours, pretty crowns and keeping Australia firmly back in the 1950s.

As for Gillard, despite it being Labor Party policy to create an Australian republic, she says that the community must build the consensus. In other words, she abrogates any leadership role on the issue. Unless politicians like Gillard put some value on the republic, it will be difficult to get the wider community to commit time to the cause, since most people are not prepared to jump on what they may reasonably believe to be a stationary train. It is, after all, politicians that need to pass a bill to have the referendum that you need before you can have the republic. The ARM has many thousands of supporters and does a great job, and is building all the time, however, we need politicians to say that a republic is a possibility soon and then organizations like the ARM can attract all the many millions who are only prepared to jump aboard when they feel the train is about to depart.

Frankly, in light of her recent comments, I hope she is, but I have serious doubts about whether Julia Gillard is actually a republican. If she doesn't think having an Australian head of state and a truly independent Australian nation is necessary to move the country forward, as is her mantra, spoken at every opportunity in her fingernails on a blackboard voice, you have to wonder whether she has a real vision for this wonderful and beautiful nation of ours.

Here's a challenge: I would like someone to point me to anything positive she has said about an Australian republic since 1999.

The truth is, we have a terrible choice at this year's federal election. On one hand, Labor have shown themselves to be downright incompetent in managing policy as shown via a range of failed initiatives. It is true that Australia did manage to stay out of a recession under their tenure, but the doubt remains after seeing their other stuff-ups as to whether that was by design or good luck. In addition, the political assassination of Kevin Rudd and their marginal seat shenanigans in South Australia shows how uncommitted they are to democracy and how ruthless they are about maintaining their grip on power.

On the other hand, the Liberals are led by someone who is on the odious side of right wing and who has some decidedly odd views in general. The thought of where Australia might be after three years of Tony Abbott is enough to frighten the children at bedtime. Abbott is a risk of Lathamite proportions. As van Onselen says in his excellent article: "I can't tell you the number of times senior Liberals interviewed for John Howard's biography told me stories from cabinet about instances when the former PM had to put an end to a discussion initiated by Abbott because he thought it was too impractical to even contemplate".

Better to hope that the Coalition loses and Abbott is replaced by someone with more moderate and sensible views, which would be almost anyone other than Wilson Tuckey.

As Peter van Onselen said in the Australian today, all this "...leaves the public with the kind of electoral choice that makes you wish voting wasn't compulsory".

I would suggest, strongly, that people look beyond the major parties in casting their vote. In particular, if you are want a republic soon, don't vote for Labor or Liberal.

If you must vote for a political party, the Greens, for one, are strongly committed to a republic, having launched their bill to have a plebiscite on the issue of whether Australia should be a republic in 2009. The major parties, of course, kicked that into touch. The Greens are gaining in support all the time and are probably even money about gaining lower house representation this time around.

If they are too left wing for you, as they are for many, take a look at the Republican Democrats, which is apparently a dead-centre party, except with strong republican credentials as a central part of their manifesto. The chances of them gaining a seat in the lower house is pretty unlikely, though, it must be said.

My advice, however, would be to do some research before August 21 and try to find a decent and responsible independent candidate. At least they won't be beholden to a party machine that has, both have, time and again shown that their primary motivation is not in creating a greater Australia, but is simply about maintaining or gaining power.

It is only by ordinary people turning away from these corrupt party machines, that work to undermine democracy, that we can effect change such that next election our choices are not so meagre, threadbare and disappointing.  
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