Political drought a systemic failure

Australians have lost faith in their political system and the men and women that fill it

ABBOTT isn’t the problem. Newman isn’t either. In fact even the Gillard-Rudd circus wasn’t the problem then, and whatever hollow “leader” the system dishes up next won’t be the problem either.

So what is the problem? What's gone wrong with Australian politics?

Some people blame the electorate - evidenced by Queenslanders' goldfish-like memory lapse on Saturday when they voted for a person who doesn’t know the GST rate and has no plan for the State. That said, the problem isn’t there either.

The real problem is that Australians have lost faith in their political system and the men and women that fill it. We no longer feel represented.

Our wants, needs and opinions don’t fit into one of two boxes that make up the two-party system on polling day. We’ve moved on from that model and are more fragmented than ever. Just look at how we consume media as an example.

Thank god we’re threatened with fines if we don’t show up to vote, because otherwise the turnout at the last federal election - or the recent Victorian or Queensland elections - would have been very quiet indeed.

The current line-up up of uninspiring 'looney tunes' represent a political class which is not engaged with their electorates, who rarely inspire us with their proactive beliefs and who end up populating governments which shrivel from challenges in favour of safe electoral strategies fuelled by popularity polls.

However the core of the issue is, we've been lied to.

And that’s where the momentum in the vote-swinging we’ve seen comes from. When pollies lie, it not only discounts any faith or hope voters had in exercising ‘their democratic right’, but undermines the whole democratic system. Modern media gives real-time transparency now that leaves no room to hide. So we ask, what’s the point?

Volatile governments and an all-round deterioration in quality politics these past 10 years might be matched to the lack of cultural respect that the vitriolic social media world breeds. Its farcical nature sees movements for good such as #illridewithyou surface following the Sydney siege, albeit for just a week. But hatred, contempt and slander live on as faceless people fill these anti-social streams with their spiteful opinions and attack anyone who doesn’t agree.

While no one can deny the power of social media, will we ever see a politician consistently use it well?

This is something that John Howard, Paul Keating and Bob Hawke had the pleasure of not having to deal with. These three men floated the dollar, created Medicare, superannuation and instigated the GST, despite fierce opposition and without regard to a social media backlash. They truly understood their game, played it well and were effective - for better or worse, they were leaders.

With this looming void in play, we now see another party being launched in Australia: The Country Party. This was created to fill the vacancy that some think the Nationals left long ago when they got into bed with the Liberals. And while Aussies love their splinter groups - and I dare say have more political and representational groups per capita than any other country in the world - the reason the Mailler brothers have created this party highlights the core issue of a loss of political faith.

It's inescapable: Australians have lost faith in their political system and the men and women that fill it.

Individuals and groups are failing to connect with politicians enough to leverage desired change. Sadly it seems this underlying dissatisfaction won’t disappear when leaders or government change. I think it’s here for good.

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FarmOnline
Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
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READER COMMENTS

Fred
3/02/2015 4:24:08 AM

I agree that the Australian political system is in a state of turmoil we need to start at the local level - which in some communities is dominated by inept and self seeking general managers with weak mayors. That is also evident on a larger scale at a federal and state level.
Qlander
3/02/2015 5:42:31 AM

Queensland just meant to give the NLP a bit of a slap and remind them who's boss. Unfortunately they under estimated their power and now the NLP is lying on the pavement bleeding from the ears. A lot of the problem is the blatant pork barrelling of marginal seats - now everybody wants to be marginal.
Marais
3/02/2015 7:28:17 AM

Sam, as a Qld voter, I can assure you there was no "goldfish-like memory lapse" in this State on Saturday. Rather, the result was a collective reaction to an arrogant government with woeful communication skills. Campbell Newman turning up to a press conference & refusing to answer questions from the press in the days preceding the election, was just one example of the "we don't have to explain ourselves" attitude. There were & are, too many people in tall buildings in Brisbane making decisions without thinking how they might really impact the electorate beyond the south-east corner.
Joy
3/02/2015 8:21:21 AM

Hello Sam, Agree. I look at our crop of politicians and say - would I have these as my friend? Are their ethics and character of high quality? Would they place the good of their country even their electorate before their party? Would I trust my family's/community's well being in their hands? There are very very few I would have at my dinner table. We are very lacking in politicians who say what they mean and mean what they say. Thank you
X Ag Socialist
3/02/2015 8:31:33 AM

Sam you and all who think the people get Australian elections wrong are consigned to political irrelevance .
angry australian
3/02/2015 8:59:07 AM

The problem is far too many politicians with no life skills on both sides of parliament, at all levels, state and federal. No Mick Youngs, no Doug Anthonys, no Wilson Tuckeys, no common sense. Too often the resume reads "Uni, BA or LLB, adviser to the Howard etc etc Govt or adviser to Minister A, before being awarded a safe seat where they sprout rubbish parrot like and that's the right wing of politics. On the left it reads Uni, law degree, organiser for XXXX Union, adviser to local ALP member, safe seat, same outcome as the Libs. Issues that affect us aren't understood by these people.
angry australian
3/02/2015 9:18:10 AM

Let me add that the majority of our politicians have never had to find the money to make a wages cheque, never had to put their cojones on the line for a business and are looked after by the political machine even when the fail. How many of the MP's dumped in the recent Qld or Vic elections will seek employment that will open their eyes to the way the rest of the nation lives? How many will get directorships, in business or charities? Or government boards like the MDBA? Our 2 major political parties now no longer represent the Australian way of life, probably indicates why people are ambivalent.
goldfish
3/02/2015 9:21:19 AM

For me its the toeing the party line nonsense which creates disillusionment for voters. For example I have no confidence in the notion of a free market and no faith in anyone who spruiks it (I don't think I'm alone). Whilst this charade continues u can bet the major political parties represent the vested interests and not the citizens of Australia. People are not fools and know when they are being lied to. If parties don't listen to the people, do we have an effective democracy? not in my book
new broom
3/02/2015 12:48:25 PM

People are largely ignorant and wish to remain so. Over fed and over funded by governments throwing money at problems that arise because of poor parenting and a lazy entitled attitude. Eventually, the cost of this thinking will be felt like Greece. Borrowing money will never work and we will become another victim of the attitude that the world owes us a living. The only people willing to enter politics will be union hacks and people who would otherwise be unemployed. Idiocy seems to be on the rise.
IanJH
3/02/2015 1:37:15 PM

I have to agree entirely with Sam, once you had politicians you either loved (rarely) or loathed (remember Gough?), however either way there was some intention to actually improve the nation. Now, we have the "professional" politician who tells the biggest lies to get into power and then never follows through with any sane policy when actually in power, all for political expediency (and the big superannuation payout). We vote one out and his clone is voted in, just belonging to a different party.
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Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.

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