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Fragile power: voters in revolt

By Everald Compton - posted Monday, 4 August 2014

As my long-term readers will have noted, I spend much of my leisure time doing as much reading as I can, and I find it to be a most pleasant and rewarding life experience.

I tend to concentrate on books relating to history, politics, economics, religion and ethics, together with good novel to end the day.

A fascinating discovery of my greying years has been a realisation that no matter what subject a book is about, it has as an inevitable background the exercise of power irrespective of whether it is political, military, financial, spiritual, family or the influence that lovers exert on one another.


So, the use and abuse of power is a huge facet of humanity that intrigues me constantly and often sends a shudder down my spine when I contemplate its excesses.

Clearly, there is no way that I can cover all aspects of power in one article, so I will concentrate on political power for the moment.

The holding of power in politics is a very temporary thing. It constantly moves from one person to another and the loyalty on which it is based is always fragile.

Added to the fleeting reality of power is the fact that a politician needs access to a considerable amount of money in order to win power, but often finds that money flows only to where power is or is likely to be. So he or she has to create an illusion of power as they realise that money a politician receives from loyal friends is just breadcrumbs under the table. Many an MP has found that his friends have given money to an opponent because they think that person will win and they want to have a link to the power that a winner will exercise.

Right now in Canberra, power does not seem lie with the Prime Minister. It appears to rest with a rabble of fickle Senators who switch their loyalties freely and vote on whims. Quite extraordinarily, a significant block of those Senators are controlled by a leader who is not in the Senate and who won his seat in the House of Representatives by less than 100 votes. Yet, the media flock to him because they believe that he has the power, at least temporarily to run the country and therefore their readers will want to stay in close touch with him.

There have been many times previously that Prime Ministers have had to handle a hostile Senate, but have nevertheless been able to manage the problem. But, we now have a situation where our current Prime Minister could be witnessing a dilution of his political power. He will be very aware of the fact that he won the leadership of his Party by just one vote, and he will be keeping a close eye on those of his MPs who hold marginal seats, as they will switch loyalties very quickly if they feel in danger of losing their seats.


So, power in Canberra is always very fluid, as Kevin Rudd discovered in 2010 when he totally lost his power in a matter of hours. It had dissolved without him being aware of it.

This brings us to a consideration of the power that voters have.

Right now, it is an undeniable fact that voters are utterly disillusioned by politics and politicians more so than any time in my life. They are disgusted with the antics that they see in Parliament whenever it sits, and most have little sympathy for the Prime Minister as they remember his three years of extreme negativity in the Gillard years when he constantly promised reforms that he would introduce when he won power. For a wide range of reasons, this reformation has not happened.

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This article was first published in Everald@Large.

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About the Author

Everald Compton is Chairman of The Longevity Forum, a not for profit entity which is implementing The Blueprint for an Ageing Australia. He was a Founding Director of National Seniors Australia and served as its Chairman for 25 years. Subsequently , he was Chairman for three years of the Federal Government's Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing.

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