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The Coalition’s worst Newspoll a decade should make it clear. Our brand of self-serving politics is now beyond our tolerance.
As far as politics goes, what do we have happening in our country right now?
The short answer: nothing. The circus that has been Australian politics in the past week (following an embarrassing trend of the last five or so years) has been yet more evidence that we are facing a complete dearth of leaders willing to stand for anything except themselves.
Among all the backstabbing and infighting and polls number-crunching, precious little is actually being achieved by our politicians.
I live in the Stonnington municipality, and on this first day under the Prime Ministership of “ScoMo”, I looked through the week’s mail to find a promotional pamphlet for a candidate running for State Parliament. Her tagline was, “The Real Deal”.
The awfully innocuous pamphlet provided almost nothing in terms of policy. There were only a few very brief dot points about community safety, schools, public transport and hospitals – which seems more like a bare minimum mandate for any state government. Absent in the material was any indication of how these topics may be addressed by the candidate.
From what I could tell, what was really being communicated in the pamphlet was the fact the candidate was a very highly educated doctor and “family woman” with a husband and four kids. Also emphasised was the fact she comes from a family who, quite far from being new arrivals to Australia, have been here for “almost 100 years”.
The information provided was about who she is, not what she would actually be standing for.
Rather than a section addressing what a vote for her would be a vote in favour of, there was a list titled: “Vote for someone” with three dot points: “You can trust; Who knows the issues; Who can get the job done”.
Apparently, that trust should be based on what she herself represents, as a highly educated white woman with a husband and kids whose family have been here for a long time.
This is a good example of what our politics is now: the art of speaking without substance while looking as familiar and innocuous as possible.
If you don’t know what I mean, perhaps watch Morrison’s post-leadership spill speech. There’s only one policy matter he dares to broach, and that’s the current drought affecting NSW (a topic likely to receive bipartisan support).
With what we know on his views on climate change policy and fossil fuels, it’s doubtful there will be any suggestion of the links between increased drought risk and climate change.
Considering the National Energy Guarantee was quashed by Morrison’s own party due largely to the emissions reductions targets therein (a target that was actually widely criticised as being inadequate), it is even more unlikely.
In fact, the NEG was cited as the reason for the leadership spill, yet another absurd aspect of the spill spectacle given that the man behind the failed NEG – Josh Frydenberg – has now become Deputy Leader and Treasurer of the party.
As is now being asked by several commentators: if the NEG was the last straw for Turnbull’s government, why was the architect of that very policy voted in as Deputy Leader a couple days later?
What’s being made painfully clear here is that none of this drama and nonsense has anything to do with policy – and we all know it.
As an imperfect, but nonetheless interesting, measure of this, some three days after ScoMo’s first public address, it has only attracted 34,000 views on YouTube.
Out of a population of 24.13 million, just 34,000 people were interested enough to go online and watch the full speech given by the most powerful person in the country.
In contrast, Greens leader Richard Di Natale’s passionate speech delivered to Parliament the day before – which labelled the leadership crisis a national embarrassment and cited a list of real issues far more deserving of the nation’s attention – has had 1.3 million views on Facebook so far.
We shouldn’t be too surprised, considering Australians are increasingly vocal in their disgust of our politicians.
Should we blame personality politics, where elections are expensive popularity contests that tend to play too much on people’s own, mostly subconscious, biases?
Or do we blame the proliferation of opinion polls and the damage our polling obsession wreaks on policy-making?
Malcolm Turnbull went from promisingly popular to yet another cautionary tale because he tried to maintain his own popularity and please everyone in the short-term.
So those saying the polls are to blame may not be far off. Perhaps we should shift the questions to the fact we are ceaselessly polling members of the public in the first place.
It’s important that voters can judge who they want leading the country based on outcomes over a period of time across the issues they care about. Perhaps we could then base our judgements and preferences on actual long-term results, not just the rhetoric that sounds good, delivered by someone who (to each of us personally) looks good.
Yet with our current system and with the revolving door of leaders, five Prime Ministers in the last five years alone, this has become impossible.
Australians are supremely tired of indulging blatant career politicians, and are refusing to treat their finely-calculated, poll-conscious speeches as anything but the same hot air we’ve all heard so many times before.
What we need is genuine and effective leadership; leaders who give a damn about something other than their careers. As Di Natale hints at, Australians are sick of self-centred leaders and are hungry for someone who will actually lead, particularly as we face a long list of serious and urgent issues we need to address.
The infighting between Rudd and Gillard was no doubt a grotesque spectacle. But our reactions to the circus that is our political system have since become less “awe and disgust” and more a “Cirque de So What?”
It’s not hard to see why political apathy now reigns, but my hope – vain as it sounds in the context we find ourselves in – is for this last melodrama to spark constructive anger at what is a truly gross misuse of power, and prompt the public to demand a lot more from those claiming to represent us.