What if you could choose the government?

Posted on August 16, 2010 by

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Election campaigns are times of heightened political argument and acrimony. Differences of culture and opinion are deepened and widened by the continuous tussle for ideological supremacy. Negativity soars; co-operation drains away; suspicion and mistrust spread like rumours.

At times like these, we tend to focus on winners and losers. When a shift of a few percentage points in the polls is overwhelmingly (although not statistically) significant, as it represents a radical change to the course the country will take over the next three years, the future seems to split into two possible states: the safety of winning or the danger of losing. I think this war mentality can distort our understanding of what’s really at play, and I’d like to try reframing the election in a different way.

This is an exercise in perspective.

Take a moment to consider what you think each party stands for. Try to judge them by their founding principles rather than their recent behaviour (see below if you’re having trouble). Then ask yourself:

If you could allocate every seat in Parliament, how would you do it?

Take away the stress and the fear and the uncertainty of a looming election, and take away the need to win pitched seat-by-seat contests in order to wrest the country from the claws of the Enemy. If you could choose, how would you make up the government of Australia?

Would you assign every seat to your favourite party? Would you give one party a majority in the lower house but a minority in the Senate, or would you give an independent the balance of power?

Would you continue the domination of the two major parties, or clear them out and stack the whole place with Sex Party candidates?

If you’re a Greens supporter, would you give them a majority? Or do you agree with the common claim that they’re not fit to govern, only to push from the side?

Would you elect a local independent in every seat? Now there would be a citizens’ assembly!

Leave an answer or just think it over, but consider the fundamental question: how strongly do you support the competition of ideas, when some of them are ideas you oppose?

Afterword

These days, it can be difficult to remember what the parties are supposed to stand for, outside the day-to-day news cycle of political dogfighting and leadership brawls. (In some cases, it was never very clear; is Labor basically a workers party or a social progressive party? Do the Nationals have a defined platform beyond supporting regional communities?) So here’s a very quick run-down of the kinds of core values the parties traditionally represent, to get you thinking in terms of ideologies rather than current leaders and policies.

Liberal

  • Small government.
  • Individual freedom.
  • Reducing constraints on businesses such as regulation and taxation.
  • The creation of wealth through free enterprise.
  • Labor

    • A strong role for government as the representative of all Australians.
    • A fair society.
    • Advocating for employees.
    • Nationals

      • Security and prosperity of regional communities.
      • Advocating for regional Australians.
      • Greens

        • Environmentalism and conservation.
        • Grassroots democracy.
        • Social justice.
        • Peace.
        • Australian Sex Party

          • Anti-censorship.
          • Equal rights for all.
          • Personal freedoms (e.g. drug legalisation and easier access to abortions).
          • Words – Fraser Allison

            Image – kevin.j

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            Posted in: Fraser Allison, Q&A