Nearly a year since the last federal election, Alex Gunther responds to how the party machines have damaged the Australian democratic system.
I could think of no better way of throwing away your individual freedom than joining a political party.
Democracy is all about freedom of choice. Freedom to elect the people you want to be in office and who abide by majority rule. What real freedom of choice do you get in the Australian democratic system, where we have our two choices for the Prime Ministership, both of whom know nothing about policy, offer only three to four word sound bytes and have an unrealistic obsession with ‘ordinary’ and ‘average’ Australians.
Frankly, it's a joke.
Last night we saw Senator John Faulkner, the elder statesman of the Labor Party, speak at the Wran Lecture about how Labor has become to obsessed with focus groups and has lost it's ground activists and abandoned its rank and file party members. Polling even suggests that the Labor Party is beginning to lose its appeal to younger voters — it's gotten that bad that even the Coalition is starting to catch up to them!
There's a reason Senator Faulkner is a statesman for Labor, he's correct and anyone with sense agrees with him. All you see at the protest rallies these days are signs with the Australian Greens and GetUp. The Labor Party is so used to spin that it's even fooled itself into believing that they can drag the rest of Australia with it and its downright disgusting policies.
Then, over at Camp Liberal, we've got frontbenchers publicly saying they want each other's jobs. Leadership struggles, the shadow treasury, backbenchers getting bored — you name it, it's happening over at Grotto of Malcontent. We have Malcolm Turnbull again coming out revealing how stupid this 'direct action' climate policy. We get all this rigmarole about 'party unity' then another backlash because he missed some parliamentary divisions. Turnbull is, of course, the outsider; unlike the majority of the Liberal Party, he is really a liberal and actually represents well thought out and established positions on policy. What Camp Liberal don't understand is that they're touting a name that they don't even represent — they would be better off renaming the party The Conservatives, like the equivalent UK party, rather than living under the misnomer of being called "Liberal".
No surprise that the actions of the parties represent their behaviour on the floor of the parliament. Last week I was conned by the ABC into thinking I was watching Parliamentary Question time. What I turned on was a bitchy alternative version of Play School — since when did those leftists over in government broadcasting start screening that?
With plain packaged cigarettes on the agenda, rather than talking about the value of this policy to the future of society, we had the Health Minister offering the one liners of University politics: "Cut the habit, Mr Abbott!" I mean, come on! Really?
Meanwhile, Tony's in his own world, wondering what new four word soundbyte he could use to turn into a campaign for an election — an election he wouldn't be calling for if he wasn't ahead in the polling, which despite its accuracy is only a 1,000 person sample of a 14 million person nation-wide electorate. To say the Labor Party is the only party that is poll obsessed is ridiculous.
Is this really what we pay our taxes for? To give six figure salaries to people who can only spit out embarrassing gestures straight from University politics 101? Or even make a retort of ‘meow’? This betrayal of trust by the political class is vastly, underwhelmingly, unsatisfactory.
Lindsay Tanner pointed this out brilliantly in his book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy. Shame Tanner resigned — he was one of the few Ministers in the last government who actually had a clue about what was going on.
Bob Katter put it brilliantly the other day, the best analysis of the 2010 federal election yet: people are sick and tired of Labor and Liberal/National — people desperately turned to the Greens, while our country spiralled down the path of its first hung parliament in 70 years.
Then we had this business of the Marrickville Greens Council wanting to boycott the nation of Israel. Forgive my pro-Israel nature but since when did local councils direct any sort of foreign policy or trade embargoes? Give me a break.
Democracy is under attack from these ‘parties’, these groups that are guaranteed a vote at our elections. We are forced to vote, we are forced to allocate preferences, and the only way you can escape is by voting informal. The parties shovel their terrible advertising, that plagues our TV screens, in these horrendous six week campaigns — there is no policy, just slogans, catchy memes and the occasional election jingle.
There's a reason Labor expels their members if they vote against them, there's a reason the Liberals disown you if you speak out against their policy. They enjoy this extremely strict party discipline, they don't like their own pointing out the flaws in their policy. It's got nothing to do with what the individual has to offer, just what the party can enforce.
Abolish compulsory voting and bring in non-preferential voting. The freedom of choice is there, the parties no longer have a grip on the community. It will be on them to a) get you to vote then b) get you to vote for their party. No more backroom preference deals, no more slogans — more policy, more direction, more democracy.
Until then, throw these parties where they have thrown our nature of democracy, in the bin.