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A passion or the power?

By Don Allan - posted Friday, 27 August 2010

Sadly, the job of finding people to enter politics with good ideas, common sense and the passion to put them into practice, is getting harder. Indeed, the only experience many politicians have today has been gained from working either as union officials and/or as political staffers. However, they have one thing in common: a passion for power.

As a result, governments increasingly comprise intelligent ideologists without any real life experience who, with others of the same mind, think their ideas are best. While not questioning their intelligence I wonder, do they have the commonsense that people gain from real life experience that is necessary to be a politician?

That politicians with a passion for power are not noted for their commonsense has been demonstrated by three Labor politicians, Senator the Hon Mark Arbib, the Hon Bill Shorten MP and Senator David Feeney.


Even though an election was due in the near future these three men, on the flimsy excuse that the Government had lost its way, carried out the political assassination of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with the assistance of his deputy The Hon Julia Gillard. (A question: does the appellation Honourable serve any useful purpose in politics today?)

And so it was that Julia Gillard duly became PM. In an effort to establish her legitimacy as Prime Minister, she called an early election for August 21 to try and persuade voters that the government had again found its way.

One of the big promises of her election campaign under the inane slogan “Moving Forward” was a National Broadband Network that she said most Australians wanted. By any measure that statement is questionable. Then speculating that Labor’s previous economic forecasts would come true, she made a string of promises that even a genie would find hard to fulfil.

She promised to spend billions of dollars building new medical facilities and provide doctors and nurses to staff them (perhaps she has a genie who will conjure up the latter?) and made myriad other promises. One can only say that, using promises of previous Prime Ministers as a guide, much of what she promised is unlikely to happen. And much as she says she supports climate change she has not promised an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to help combat climate change - the great moral challenge of our time.

Well the election has taken place without a clear winner emerging. And while early results indicate a hung parliament, because the Coalition has gained more first preference votes than Labor, Tony Abbott would seem to be the logical choice as Prime Minister.

But regardless of the final result, voters have made it clear that whoever becomes Prime Minister, the style of government must change. The government will need to become more consultative because its future will rest on the Greens MP and, at this stage, the three, possibly four, Independent MPs elected.


The hung parliament also raises another question. Apart from a change in the style of government does the voting system need to change and become more democratic? Can Australia really claim to be truly democratic when it discriminates in favour of the big parties against small parties and/or individuals? This discrimination takes the form that small parties and Independents will not receive public funding unless at the last election they managed to get 4 per cent of the valid vote.

This decision was made in parliament in 1984 at which time the major parties suggested the decision would protect the democratic process. In fact what it did was exclude small parties and Independents - notwithstanding their success in this election - from the democratic process.

As for the election itself, the largest number ever of informal votes tells the sad story of many voters increasingly disillusioned with the big parties but not persuaded to vote for the policies of minor parties. In part, this disillusionment arises because parties have ditched real consultation on policy with the community in favour of ideas presented behind the scenes by powerful non-elected officials and/or ideologues.

However, confident of the rightness of their ideas and policies, and although all the political indicators showed that many voters disagreed with them, they continued to treat voters as if like Pavlov’s dogs they would respond on command to vote for particular candidates.

Like many others I suspect that whether a Prime Minister is male or female is of little consequence. It is of little consequence to me because in the coalmining community where I was born about 400 yards from the pithead more years ago than I care to remember, mothers in most families were prime minister, treasurer, as well as minister for health, education, finance, sport and every other ministry. Mine was not industrial relations minister only because of the fact that my father was a trade union leader.

And while my progress from pithead in Scotland to Australia was not the same as Gillard’s progress from Welsh seaside town to Prime Minister, like many others long interested in politics being Prime Minister was never my intention. Nonetheless I wish her well.

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About the Author

Don Allan, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

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