We deserve better, don’t we?

Posted on July 27, 2010 by

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Sitting on a city-bound train from Frankston at around two in the afternoon I overhear this discussion about the Victorian Government’s embattled Myki ticketing system: ‘Let’s hope that doesn’t hamper Labor’s chances of re-election,’ says a brash thirty-something to his partner, ‘I’ve got a hundred bucks riding on them!’

That exchange got me thinking about the rather depressing state of the Australian political landscape. One week into a Federal election campaign and we’ve seen all the expected baby-kissing, school visits and jovial appearances on commercial television, together of course with much talk about ‘moving forward’ and the ever-present threat of a ‘great big new tax’. Normally such posturing could be passed off as par for the course – an unfortunate although necessary underside of democratic elections – but in a political and cultural climate where a cooking show trumps an election debate, where public discussion is more concerned with Julia Gillard’s hair colour than the implications of her proposed policies, where elections are being followed and discussed purely for their profiteering value, surely the question must be asked: do we deserve any better?

The question of just who is to blame for such a poor level of politics is a circular one – are Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard merely responding to the level and degree of interest in national issues? Or are they rather short-changing the electorate with their repetitive and patronising politico-speak that is nauseating for its lack of commitment. Australians of course do deserve better, but I am concerned that such low politics is only nurturing a widespread ambivalence and apathy amongst voters. We only need to look to the nature of the announcements that are becoming characteristic of Gillard’s leadership to see why such might be the case – a ‘border protection’ policy that recognises the tiny numbers of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, but justifies the xenophobic fears held by some in the community; an announcement on climate change that acknowledges the need to act, yet pledges only to develop a ‘community consensus’ through convening a citizens assembly of ‘real Australians’. Such straddling of the fence represents not only poor leadership; it is disrespectful to voters and utterly irresponsible. One could be forgiven for tuning out.

Words – Dylan Bird

Image – SMH

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Posted in: Dylan Bird, Opinion