Home' Scoop : Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Contents 26 scoop SPRING 2010
To be fair, many of the national papers and
individual state-based columnists provide great
analysis and insight. However, front-page headlines
and commercial TV have the greatest influence
on the typical Australian voter. And they were
atrocious. The ABC was only marginally better.
Q&A is an exception, The 7.30 Report’s not bad,
and the Gruen Nation and the Chaser’s Yes We
Canber ra provided some much needed light relief.
Yet, overall, the focus was on the ‘politics’ and
the politicians, not the policies and vision. There
was more analysis about whether or not to have
a debate than the actual debate itself. And when
a debate did occur, the review was based on who
won, not what was said.
There was little to no demand for coherent
strategy development or the need to explain policy
in reference to a value-driven ag enda or specific
decision-making criteria. Channel Nine won
the populist award by employing Mark Latham
as a ‘journalist’, giving the embittered ex-leader
surprise access to the contestants. This made
for some amusing TV, but really just took the
much-maligned 60 Minutes to the level of Today
Tonight – you know, the guys with the ‘fear, fat,
finance or f**k off ’ approach to content.
I would have thought ‘minor issues’ such as
immigration policy, health and education and a
$46 billion broadband strategy (it’s our money they
are spending, by the way) was more important
than Latham acting the common thug and
surprising Gillard at a press conference. On top of
everything, Nine’s lack of respect for Gillard, as
the leader of country, was appalling. Many at Nine
felt the same: its chief executive David Gyngell
apologised for Latham’s inappropriate conduct.
IT’S NOT ALL
THE MEDIA’S FAULT
The media, of course, will respond to any election-
coverag e criticism by saying “we can’t report what’s
not there”. And I have to agree. Over the past 10
years, I have met and inter viewed many State and
Federal politicians and there is no evidence of a
collective vision for decision-making. I recently
put this to a State Liberal MP: “If I asked five
different politicians what the Liberal Party stood
for, would I get five different answers?” His
Now this is not to say that I think they are
doing a bad job, or that this is any different to
anywhere else. However, it is still terrifying.
Perhaps a common agenda is simply not politically
possible. How sad.
The ramifications are far-reaching. The political
parties only exist in concept, not in reality. Instead,
each party is a loose collection of factions and
individual MPs whose prime purpose is to stay in
power, and create and announce policy as required.
This made the election more about the leaders
and less about parties. It gave new leaders the
opportunity to simply dismiss past mistakes as
belonging to a past leader – even if they happened
to have been the deputy prime minister or even the
minister of a particular portfolio at the time.
I believe this belittles our political system and
that people lose faith in authority and the integrity
of this system if our national leaders fail to act
in accordance with stated principles and values.
If winning is more important than leading and
ser ving their country, how can we expect the man
in the street to be any different?
And what is this teaching our youth about
responsibility? About standing up for what they
believe in? About the importance of making
tough decisions that are right even if they aren’t
popular? Or about making decisions that neg atively
impact on some people, based on the greater
good, because that is the right thing to do? Not
much! In this last election, the extremes were
hilarious. However, the lack of responsibility
On one hand, we had policy on the run, with
both sides making knee-jerk statements about
key issues, such as immigration policy and target
population growth. Meanwhile, public servants
shook their heads and major planning departments
in infrastructure, housing and education, which
base their planning around these very numbers,
were thrown into complete disarray.
On the other hand, we had government by
committee where all responsibility was avoided.
The epitome of this was Gillard’s declaration that
a decision on climate change – until recently “the
greatest moral challenge of our age” – would be
deferred to a citizens’ assembly of 150 comrades.
With the collapse of Communist Russia, it was said
the socialist experiment had failed. So, how about
the democracy experiment? It is still considered by
many to be the perfect political system. All you need
is a pluralistic state of well-educated citizens making
informed decisions based on intelligent media
ser vices. Perfect!
Of course, the reality is different. Democracy
doesn’t always work well. In Europe, several socialist
states have voted in successive populist governments
for decades, providing low taxes and social policy
that’s unsustainable and has left future generations
burdened with trillions in debt. In America, political
interest groups such as the gun, tobacco and military
lobbies, still hold people to ransom.
In South Africa, one has to wonder how long
before the ANC Youth leadership, already publicly
recognising Zimbabwe as a suitable model for the
future, start nationalising the mines and the white-
owned farms. This is democracy in action and we
shouldn’t be complacent – it can go badly wrong.
In Australia, we are luck y with a relatively well-
educated population and shared (superannuation-led)
interest in the economy. But we still need strong
leadership. We still need cohesive, vision-explaining
policy decision-making. And we still need the media
to keep us informed and to stop our political system
turning into the ultimate g ame show.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the third
president of the United States: “God forbid
we should ever be 20 years without such a
rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always,
well-informed. The part which is wrong will be
discontented, in proportion to the importance of
the facts they misconceive.
If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,
it is lethargy, the forer unner of death to the public
liberty. And what country can preser ve its liberties, if
its r ulers are not warned from time to time, that this
people preser ve the spirit of resistance? Let them
take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the
facts, pardon and pacify them.”
“Each party is a loose collection of
factions and individual MPs whose
prime purpose is to stay in power”
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