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MAD doctrine doesn't translate in modern domestic politics

By Rick Brown - posted Wednesday, 5 June 2013

For those of us who have seen it before, the events of last week were a big yawn. Once again, the major parties negotiated a deal to line their pockets at our expense - all for our benefit of course.

The fact that it came unstuck should not have come as a surprise. The key to these deals is that:

  • they are negotiated without our knowledge
  • voted on by the parliament at five minutes to midnight so that we cannot do anything about it, and
  • supported by both the government and the opposition.

The process reminds me of the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, otherwise known as the Cold War.

Back then the prevailing mantra was called MAD - mutually assured destruction.

The assumption was that both the USA and the Soviet Union had so many nuclear missiles that neither side could afford to fire one for fear that they would destroy themselves in the process.

With the pulling down of the Berlin Wall, MAD appeared to die as well.

However it has not.

For politicians it is alive and well. When they want to do something which they know the voters will resent, like putting more of our money into the coffers of their parties or their own bank accounts, they resort to the defence of marching to the same tune.


That way it does not matter what we think. We have to like it or lump it because we cannot do anything about it.

Voters understand exactly what is going on which makes them even more resentful of the process and more contemptuous of politicians and politics.

What last week's events demonstrate is how corrosive the Canberra culture is and how great is the risk that even the most well-grounded politicians and operatives will succumb to it.

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About the Author

Rick Brown is a director of CPI Strategic, which focuses on strategic advice and market analysis. He was an adviser to Howard government ministers Nick Minchin and Kevin Andrews, from 2004 to 2007.

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