A few C-words about politics

Dust storm image by Aristocrats-hat /

As the dust settles after the huge dust storm that was the 2015 Queensland election, allow me to help rub some metaphorical liniment into the bruised egos and wallets of those who backed the wrong team.

We talked about Compassion over the festive season, and how we could all try a bit harder. A few wise people wrote to me at the time and suggested that first you have to give yourself a break. But this week I felt an unlikely pang of compassion for Tony A, under siege from his own party and the media. Just imagine how he might have felt going into the Press Club on the Monday after Queensland voters turned on the LNP. The PM has a thick hide, obviously, but I imagine he might have had to do some meditation or yoga or at least take a Valium before he fronted the media pack. While it seems clear that the LNP’s narrow defeat in Queensland, with the Premier losing his seat, was all about that government’s arrogance and can-do-ism, inevitably Tony Abbott got the blame.

In typical style, the PM did not refer to the Queensland election in his prepared comments for the Press Club, although some of his detractors rode that particular elephant into the room. You could hear the knives being sharpened from up here in the mountains. A backbencher got a run on Radio National this week saying he had texted the PM to say he no longer had his support. Whether the inexplicable decision to bestow a knighthood on Prince Phillip was the last straw or whether they’ve been keeping a list, we’ll never know. Whatever, I felt a bit sorry for the man. Being PM is an impossible 24/7 job that creates the kind of stress you and I would not want to know about.

(“What did Tony Abbott ever do for us?” I hear you say). True, the Abbott government seems to care less about people who struggle financially; the ones to whom a $7 co-payment is a big deal. This (Federal) government scores low on Compassion, as did the former LNP (Queensland Government), which apparently thought it could do what it liked and no-one would take it personally, or be able to do anything about it. Wrong.

The C-word I’d most like to introduce into contemporary politics is an old-fashioned one – Civility. ‘After you’, and ‘if it’s not too much trouble’, and ‘how has your day been?’. It costs nothing be civil with one another, but from my observations of political life here or in Canberra over the past 20 years or so, there is too much of the ‘us and them’ and ‘let’s get ‘em’. If you’re an Opposition Labor MP you have to vote along party lines, which means you disagree with everything the incumbent government has to say and ditto for the LNP when Labor is in power.

On that basis, the Queensland Parliament will be a shackled institution. The former Premier of Queensland would have us believe that hung parliaments are bad. But just why are they bad? Why not call it Consensus government? Imagine a Queensland parliament with 30 Labor members, 20 Libs, 10 Nats, 10 Greens, 14 independents and five ratbag parties to give us a bit of a giggle and keep the bastards honest. Select the most intelligent and fair-minded member as Speaker and we would indeed live in interesting times, when pollies would have to talk to one another to come up with policies that they can all agree upon.

Corruption is a C-word often associated with politics and politicians. The Honourable Tony Fitzgerald, who presided over a Royal Commission in the 1980s, warned people in the election lead-up that the State was at risk of being “sucked into another vortex of mismanagement and ultimately serious corruption”.

Now we’ll never know just how close we were to returning to the Joh days, when the Premier would pat media chooks on the head and say: “don’t you worry about that.”

Well pardon me for saying, but I do worry, about that and a whole lot of this and that. If we want a better State and a better country, we have to get involved.

Communism and Capitalism are both C-words, but they need to move aside and usher in a new era of Co-operation, Consensus and/or Compromise if we are to move on and rebuild a great country.

As an intriguing article in The Monthly suggests, we can open up the process to Citizen Politicians, formulating good policy in chat rooms on behalf of the people.

Authors Tim Flannery and Catriona Wallace used some of the research you might have read here last week to make their case about the numbers of Australians who did not vote in the 2010 election and the disengagement of the 18-25 generation.

As Flannery and Wallace observed, the internet and social media are making it harder for politicians of any flavour to hide their faults. I might add that sophisticated digital photography plays its part, catching pollies in unguarded moments (Campbell with his tongue out, winking Tony, that bad hair day (Labor Opposition?) fella.

The Monthly’s essayists reckon we can harness the power of the internet and create a new democracy. They imagine a time when you can join an online forum to craft policy in areas of special interest to you.

If you are a retired school teacher, yours might be a valid voice on education policy. If I may extrapolate; a triple-certificated nurse with 30 years’ experience could possibly know a thing or two about running hospitals; an ex-journalist with a strong sense of community could advise government on how to get on with business without overly engaging the media.

I was intrigued by how many successful Labor candidates interviewed on Saturday night said they had been conducting grassroots campaigns and had not been in the conventional media at all. The Courier-Mail (Brisbane tabloid), backed the wrong horse entirely and might now have to review how it addresses its readers, half of whom paid them no mind.

We have the technology sitting on our desks at home and in the office to devolve political policy to the people. We might not like some of what we hear – the right might want to re-introduce the death penalty, outlaw abortion, ban gay marriage and lock drug lord bikies up longer than the average bad bastard. Or the lefties who might want to leave coal in the ground, except for when we’re making steel at home and manufacturing (electric) cars, re-hiring all the coal workers for the proliferating wind and solar farms and green car factories.

As former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery says, near the end of a thought-provoking read, politics is the last of our great institutions that has not yet been transformed by the internet.

“What’s more risky?” asks Flannery. “Continuing with an increasingly unstable political system that delivers governments with ever more power and ever less authority (ed: Credibility), or trying something very new that permits the will of a well-educated populace to become manifest?”


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John Wightman
John Wightman
February 6, 2015 11:42 am

That is your best one yet, Bob. Thank you


February 6, 2015 12:01 pm

um, correction; and don’t believe everything an LNP or Lib says about Labor; eg that in Labor you MUST vote a certain way. Don’t believe that Unions are evil and extremely wealthy. Don’t believe that giving preferences leads to chaos. It was encouraging that the man with signs on every corner had one of the biggest swings away from him in Qld. That’s our Minister for de-environment.