Everyone has an opinion about the outcome of last Saturday's election. I think the The Guardian
has it about right in its editorial
(23 Aug 10):
No doubt something will be bodged up, but in the longer term Australia needs political renewal. A choice between one party that persists in throwing away its advantages and another that persists in ignoring critical issues is not much of a choice.
There were and are other choices.
In this election, neither the Labor Party nor the Liberals told us where they would lead Australia and what to them is good, civil and a healthy society. They spoke of a sound economy but say little of the purposes it should serve. The parties had just one goal — to not loose. There was been little courage, no brave ideals. Ms Gillard says we should not be afraid of the future, but her party behaves fearfully, fuelling frustration and resentment from the haves and the have nots alike.
Chaos and collapse do not loom because neither Labor nor the Coalition won outright. We need not panic. Better to take a deep breath and relax a little. The 24-hour news cycle asks that all is rushed, but Australia will not be harmed by a few weeks of careful government-building. Quite the opposite.
Political theorist Tim Soutphommasane concludes
22 Aug 10) that if Labor is forced into opposition, it "would be punishment for a term of wasted opportunities and political incompetence." It wasn't so much failure as a government that brought Labor down, but it's political
incompetence.The Coalition has been politically better more astute, but would it make a good government? I think not.
The Age observes
that the three rural independents, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, form "a conservative constituency that has become deeply alienated from the Coalition parties [and] adhere to a kind of agrarian socialism that typified the Nationals when they were known as the Country Party." That's no bad thing. It may, curiously, give them some sympathy with the Greens who are deeply concerned to preserve Australia's farmlands and food growing capacity.
Of the 4.9 per cent swing against Labor, the Coalition got only 1.4 per cent. The Greens got the rest. The Greens have been brilliant in their election achievements, because they have good ideas. Will the new government learn from those ideas?
In the election, the ALP primary vote fell from 43.4 per cent to 38.5, down by nearly half a million. Yet the Coalition vote went up by just 1.4 per cent. More than half a million extra votes went to the Greens. The election result is a move to the left
, not the right, yet both major parties had moved to the right in their policies.
Richard Denniss, Director of the Australia Institute
is right to find
24 Aug 10) that the election result, "is actually quite simple to interpret. Australia's voters do not think that either the ALP or the Coalition deserve a mandate to form a government in their own right." The ALP and the Coalition have paid the price for lack of courage on big issues.
"One explanation for the election being so boring, and so unsuccessful for both the ALP and the Coalition,"Dennis says, "is that the so-called major parties were determined to talk about minor issues."
Australia is blessed with honest and hard-working politicians, but we are cursed with a moribund parliamentary system that hides from big issues such as climate change, population and income distribution. Some of the best debaters in the country have been trained to "stay on message" whenever a microphone can be seen, rather than speak like humans. It's banal.
It's also offensive. And the voters have returned the compliment.
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