If you listened to Labor MP, Jackie Trad, and her smug commentary on Saturday night, you would think that Queensland voters are in love with the Labor Party.
But she’s wrong.
Queenslanders are not in love with the Labor Party. They did not run down to the ballot box jumping for joy at the prospect of electing a new Labor government that looks pretty much the same as the old one that they blasted out of office less than three years ago.
In fact, apart from the paid up membership of the ALP, most would be despairing at the fact that about one in three Labor candidates on Saturday have already been rejected by Queenslanders voting out state or federal Labor governments since 2012. And some of them have even been given the big heave-ho twice in that time.
Given the pain the electorate has inflicted on Labor in the very recent past, and the fact that we now have a bunch of re-treads back in power, no one should make the bold assumption that the new Labor government is going to fare better than the last.
And lest anyone think that this piece is some sort of pro-Liberal propaganda, think again.
The electorate hates the Liberals with just as much passion as it hates their political opponents.
The big difference between the Queensland election in 2015 and the Queensland election in 2012 is that the Liberals were in power this time around. That’s it. End of story.
This result has nothing to do with policy because the election was not a contest of ideas. It was nothing more than a popularity vote. And when the judges hate ‘em all, it’s no surprise that they take their anger out on whoever wears the crown.
On the ‘mainstream’ issues, you can’t tell the major parties apart. Both Liberal and Labor have sold off assets. Both Liberal and Labor have increased debt. Both Liberal and Labor have sacked public servants. Neither of them seem to have any idea that doesn’t include more government red tape and interference in the lives of ordinary Australians.
And when it comes to social policy, the Greens push it, the Labor Party enacts it and the Liberals make it mainstream. All three of these parties are dancing to the same ugly tune.
And if voters can’t tell the difference between the major parties, neither can the media.
As proof, Channel Nine has just given Malcolm Turnbull and Tanya Plibersek the boot from the Today show’s regular Friday political segment. Why? Because they never disagreed.
It’s bad politics and bad tele too.
So whether it be at the state level or federally, Australians are not voting the opposition in. In a fit of frustration, electors are making the only decision they can. Vote whoever is in power out and then deal with the rubbish that comes in next time around. That’s why the swings are getting bigger. That’s why the results are increasingly erratic.
And that is the only message of importance that has come out of recent elections in this nation.
And it’s also why it will make no difference whether the Liberal Party keeps Abbott or turfs him overboard.
Voters will take their baseball bats to whoever is left standing because they are protesting against the entire system. It’s a confidence crisis.
There are five good reasons why voters feel this way.
Firstly, there’s the outright lies. Remember when Gillard told us that there’d be no carbon tax? Remember how Abbott promised not to cut the ABC?
Whether you are for or against the carbon tax or the ABC, it doesn’t really matter. Trust is eroded in the tsunami of semantics that follows every broken promise. In fact, the distrust has become so contagious that it literally crosses from one level of government to another and trumps any attempt at honesty. For instance, at least the LNP told the Queensland public up front that they planned to ‘lease’ assets before the election. Last time round the Labor Party kept it secret. But any brownie points the LNP might have won for being honest were more than lost in an environment where cynical voters are sick of being burnt.
So lesson one from Queensland is that all parties, for their own sake, need to keep their promises. And, in the long run, it would be better to forego power if it means keeping them. Of course, this lesson has not been learnt at all. Both Liberal and Labor ruled out deals with the minor parties last week. This week they are courting Katter and independent MP, Peter Wellington. It won’t go down well.
The second reason voters are unhappy relates to the issue of asset sales. By and large, Australians don’t like the idea of public-owned companies being flogged off. Especially when the buyer is some wealthy, foreign hedge fund with plans to make a motza by charging Australians more for the use of infrastructure that their taxes have already paid for.
The problem is that governments have all sorts of assets that have nothing to do with governance or service provision. Who in their right mind thinks that the government should have its own media empire? Ok, we know the answer to that: Stalin, the Greens and Labor.
So the second lesson is that there is a careful case to be made for selling some ‘assets’. Like the ABC. And any other government-owned entity that exists only to push an ideological agenda. I understand that Labor would prefer to sell Qantas than the ABC. Fair enough. But if the Liberals are going to go down the asset sale path, they might as well offload the organisation that is funded to promote the ALP and the Greens and let it compete in a free market. And they should keep the services that keep the people happy.
The third reason relates to the constant attempt to occupy the mythical ‘middle ground’. Everyone thinks that they are in the middle. And when they see the politicians they support cede their middle ground to try and win support from other people who are most certainly not in the same ‘middle’ as them, they don’t like it. Trying to win the middle ground is the same thing as trying to please everyone. You can’t do it. In the end, everyone is unhappy.
In fact, the elusive goal of winning the middle ground only leads political parties to do dumb things.
A real doozy was Kevin Rudd’s backflip on homosexual marriage. It worked real well for the Greens in the ‘middle’. They kept voting Green. Meanwhile the traditional Labor tradie living in the Western suburbs was left mystified. Here was a ‘pro-working class’ PM going all new age while Bob the Builder was concerned about paying off a house and feeding the missus and the kids.
And we all know that Tony Abbott thinks climate change is crap. In fact, about a nanosecond after he made that statement, conservative voters piled on the pressure to see him replace Malcolm Turnbull. They agreed with Abbott: climate change is crap. And then they got a leader who talks about spending billions on direct action measures to deal with climate change.
This whole idea was based around the idea of winning the middle ground. But all it did was make Abbott look stupid. Conservatives can’t fathom why Abbott even contemplated spending such a vast amount of money on a fraud that he had already admitted was crap. And the people who believe in climate change with a religious fervour were never going to fall for it. It only led to derision on all sides. And no new votes.
Thus lesson three is clear. Don’t worry about winning over the opposition with half-baked attempts to seize the ‘middle’. Stick to your guns and keep your supporters happy instead. Unfortunately, the Greens are probably the only party in Australia that understands this truth. They don’t care about offending those that hate them, which is most of Australia. But, day in and day out, they stand up for the loonies. That’s why they keep their vote. That’s why they have been politically successful. But both Labor and the Liberals simply look stupid when they try and win over the loony vote. And their supporters get miffed in the process.
The fourth reason voters are unhappy is probably the biggest one of all. The cause of this crisis is the fact that politics has now become a career, instead of the process by which ideas about the national direction and interest are debated.
It’s controlled by two big cartels that are about as useful as a self-licking ice cream. They exist for the system. And the system exists for them. And they churn out cardboard cut-outs that will do anything to maintain the monopoly held by the red team and the blue team.
In this environment, it’s hard to blame Australians for being apathetic. Why should they be excited about politics? All they are being asked to do is choose between a bunch of suited monkeys; to back one or another narcissistic publicity-seeker who has lied, stabbed and cheated his or her way to the top. Ethics, ideals, values and ideas are nowhere to be seen in the major party machine. The only activity is the constant scrambling as those within climb the greasy pole.
These cardboard cut-outs have only one order: toe the party line. And they are instilled with only one belief: do whatever it takes to win.
Ironically, this is the notion that Australians are rejecting. When your only ethic is that you will dump whatever ethics you have for a vote, then don’t be surprised at blunt rejection in the ballot box.
The Labor Party’s leadership woes proved this point. Twice.
Gillard and Rudd weren’t knifed in the back because of poor policy (notwithstanding the fact that the policies they pushed were terrible). They were done over because of the polls. No one campaigned to have them removed when they did something stupid. But they all stampeded when the latest survey rolled in.
And the subsequent games of musical chairs did not address the issues of substance. All it did was prove to the public that self-interest was more important than national interest to those running the country.
And it looks increasingly likely that this sorry old saga is about to be played out with Abbott as well. It won’t work. Especially if Malcolm Turnbull is voted leader again. The conservative base hates him because he should be in the Labor Party.
Lesson four is that political parties need to return to their roots. They need to stand for the values that led to their creation in the first place. Hey, some voters might reject them because they don’t support those values. But at least they will respect them for being true to themselves. And, more importantly, it will keep the base, increase stability and reduce the massive swings. It will create an opportunity to build a government based on a coherent political ideology, rather than pork-barrelling in the ‘swing’ seats. And if the parties haven’t noticed it yet, every seat is now a swing seat: there’s not enough money to buy your way into government anymore anyway.
The only thing that has saved the major parties is the fact that the minors are, for the most part, even less competent than them. Australians hate what the Greens stand for. They have disaster written all over them. And on the conservative side, the big recent efforts have revolved around cult-like personalities who show the same disregard for principle in order to chase popularity.
That’s why they failed.
However, one thing is clear. If a minor party or new party can get its act together, it will find itself on fertile ground. But in order to do so, it will need to address the issues that the majors are too afraid to touch.
And this is the fifth reason voters are swinging wildly from side to side. The major parties have become so politically-correct that no one has any confidence that they will be able to tackle the prickly issues, let alone acknowledge that they even exist. And the biggest unaddressed issue of them all is the growth of Islam in Australia.
A clear message that this growth will be reversed, coupled with policies that recognise the central importance of the basic building block of society – the traditional family unit – will see Australians flock to support any outfit with the courage, commitment and cohesion to follow through on its message.
Let’s hope that happens. Australia is in desperate need of an organisation that is prepared to learn this fifth and final lesson.
As you may know, serial litigant and Anti-Free Speech activist Gary Burns is using legal terrorism to shut down this website. He’s lodged a huge volume of complaints with the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board. In each case, I could be fined up to $100,000 and forced to apologise for my beliefs. If I don’t, I could be jailed for contempt.
You can read more about the abusive behaviour of Gary Burns and this entire saga here.
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