A pox on both your houses

As the hostilities resume on Capital Hill, it is probably time to consider some of the ramifications of the May 2022 Federal Election.

As discussed by Katherine Murphy in The Guardian, the Liberal Party rout in affluent suburban areas of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth speaks volumes on the topic of former Prime Ministers Abbott and Morrison pushing the Liberal Party away from the ‘broad church’ of Menzies toward a far more conservative view of the world espoused by the likes of the fundamentalist Christians. However those that follow the ALP’s light on the hill should also be looking for some illumination towards the future. A government that two thirds of the population actually chose to ignore with their first preference isn’t that popular either. The vote split almost evenly between the Coalition, Labor and a diverse group of ‘others’.

While we could go into the positives and negatives of preferential voting versus first past the post or some other election system, that’s a discussion for another day. Suffice to say that any voting system has built in flaws and not everyone will get the result they want all the time. One good thing about the Australian system is it is highly unlikely that any disaffected candidate with delusions of political victory will be inciting people to storm our Capital Hill any time soon.

The Greens and independents that were elected in the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago have an opportunity to fundamentally change the way Australia is governed. For example, Greens Leader Adam Bandt has held the seat of Melbourne since 2010, Independent Andrew Wilkie has represented part of Tasmania since 2010, Bob Katter has won the Far North Queensland seat of Kennedy for 10 elections and Indi in Victoria has been held by Independents since 2013. If the ‘non-aligned’ (to either of the ALP or the Coalition) do their job and represent their community, it seems they are usually trusted to retain their job.

It seems that a considerable number of people voted for a non-aligned political candidate out of desperation. Really it is a similar process to trying a new product or service in the community because you have lost faith in the existing providers. The first time you are rather hesitant that the new product will provide the same level of service or enjoyment as the familiar product. Sometimes the new product will be perceived to suit your needs better, so you stay with it. Others will have a differing view and revert to the comfort they perceive they are missing, in this case with the major political parties.

That’s a problem for both the ALP and Liberal Party. Both of them are disliked more than they are liked. While Prime Minister Albanese said all the right things on election night, he will have to deal with Parliamentarians that are not wedded to his party-political machine and, in theory at least, will look to guidance from members of their communities rather than what ALP, Liberal or National Party headquarters tells them to think or say. He may have to implement a choice that is not entirely of his or the ALP’s preference. Despite a nominal majority in the House of Representatives, the Government will have to negotiate to get legislation passed in the Senate.

Those with far more resources than we have will examine the entrails of the election result for some time into the future. It is highly likely if they are honest, that the entrails will tell the major political parties that neither of them are trusted by the vast majority of Australians. A lot of that is to do with the lies, obstruction and bias displayed by various members of both the ALP and Coalition, together with the blatant pork barrelling (AKA funnelling money to either buy votes or favour political mates) that has been evident in Australian politics for far longer than the reign of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

It’s time to turn the heat down. Humans are born with two ears and one mouth; the appendages should be used with the same ratio. Rather than shouty press conferences where everything is related back to the failure of ‘the other side’ to govern properly — even if the alleged failure was over a decade ago, front up, explain the issue, explain what the proposed solution is after seeking guidance from those that probably do have a clue as, like pandemic specialists, they are experts in their field. By definition, Parliamentarians cannot have expert knowledge of everything they are asked to implement. If the media don’t like the lack of the 15 second sound grab or a detailed explanation why something is now a bit different to the original plan — well that’s their problem, not ours.

Albanese and Opposition Leader Dutton will have their work cut out to convince Australians that they do address the concerns of Australians in the same vein as the ‘teal’ independents, the Greens or One Nation. However, the demonstration of that proof is the only way for the major political parties (including the Nationals, who suffered a swing against them in most of their seats without losing any) to regain the confidence and faith of the Australian public. It may take decades for the third of Australia that voted for someone other than the representative of the Coalition or the ALP to consider returning to the fold.

This ABC article discusses the policies that the Albanese ALP Government took to the election and broadly they are in alignment with the publicly available policies of the non-aligned MPs and Senators. In a lot of cases, any differences are small. If Albanese can implement his policies with assistance when needed by some of the ‘others’, he will be able to demonstrate that he (and by implication the ALP) does do what it says it will.

Despite the majority, it wouldn’t hurt Albanese to bring the parliament on the journey and invite them all to participate in the process of legislation preparation. If the non-aligned or even the Coalition get some of the credit for some of the good decisions, it demonstrates the ALP is actually governing for all Australians. You also have to own the decision to take credit for the implementation.

Of course, sections of the media will point to ‘disfunction’ and ‘crisis’ should there be public discussions around policy positions and preparation, just as they did when Gillard was Prime Minister. Depending on Dutton's ability to manage his Coalition, there may be outbursts of illogic such as LNP Senator Canavan’s petulant outburst on the Sunday after the election to SkyNews where he claimed the election loss was the fault of the moderate Liberals choosing not to put their respective heads in the sand and ignore community expectations regarding energy, climate change and culture.

In the meantime, none of us can expect any government to change the world overnight. Whitlam and Rudd both tried that, and it didn’t end well. Albanese has a history of building consensus and getting results, so rather than scream from the rooftops that your particular policy or action isn’t done inside the next 100 days, calm down and wait. Albanese isn’t the new Messiah and he can’t please everyone. But if he can demonstrate major political parties and good governance don’t have to be mutually exclusive, a lot more people will go into the polling booth in three years’ time without the virtual pegs on their nose.

What do you think?

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Michael Taylor

14/06/2022

Interesting times ahead. 


wam

15/06/2022

casual observations led me to think the LNP con artists lost control of the teal seats (many, many months) before, during and after the elections. Only one of the extremists worked a con which extended their effort from 2019. The others were bleah same as before. Labor could not compete in the media races and were missing in the flood chatter. But they have 3 years to shine.

I have two politicians and add 2 monkeys; how many politicians are there?