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The vision thing

By Bryden Spurling - posted Wednesday, 16 February 2011

With Federal Parliament back from its holiday recess, it’s a good time to think about what we might wish to see from politics in 2011.

The Australian political landscape has been through the tumble dryer over the last few years, turned upside down and every which way.

A long-run Prime Minister dramatically thrown out by a new contender, who himself went on to experience the highs and lows of politics in less than a single electoral cycle.


And it doesn’t stop there. After knifing their own man, the Labor Party only barely dodged an ignominious bullet at last year’s federal election by cobbling together a rare minority government.

So this year is likely to see plenty of grist for the media mill, long hours of negotiations for parliamentary staffers, and grand high-stakes theatre for political junkies.

But what about the Australian people at large? Why might they be in a punishing mood for both sides of the political spectrum?

Politics and government are rarely held in high regard. There are many reasons for this and it is too convenient by half to place the blame solely on the collective shoulders of politicians and bureaucrats.

But it has to be said that there is something uninspiring about Australian politics. And that is corrosive to public belief in government.

It’s generally not kosher to criticise the founders of a country but frankly, the designers of Australia’s system of government let us down.


For one, in setting the federal electoral cycle at a short three years, they made it difficult for future governments to step out of campaign mode.

The English geographer Sir Halford Mackinder once noted that except in times of war, democracies are terrible at thinking strategically. If you’re going to hold elections every three years, you’re going to find out just exactly what Sir Halford meant.

Second, in striving to preserve the sovereignty of the states, Australia’s founders created a country that is vastly over-governed in the modern age.

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About the Author

Bryden Spurling is a former advisor to Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, and to Australia's Chief Scientist.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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