Anything But Labor, Anything But Liberal
I started writing this article and it was all about who you should vote for at the election in a weeks time on the 7th of September. I even created a how to vote card that showed how you should number your candidates if you wanted to vote like me. Not really as arrogant as it sounds considering that every political party in the country is presumptuous enough to do the very same thing. But I have completely rewritten this article because I realized that there was a more pressing matter to discuss than simply how you should number your ballot.
Now this article is about the parlous state of the media and our political system.
I am so sick of the mainstream media. Every time I open a newspaper or turn on the TV I am disgusted with the bias. I am not talking about the bias of News Corporation against Kevin Rudd. Nope, Kevin Rudd deserves as much crap as Rupert Murdoch can heap on him. No I am referring to the fact that if you turn on any television station and pick up any newspaper in the country, you would think that there are only 2 candidates in this election. Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. In actual fact there are thousands of candidates in this election, spread out over dozens of political parties. It is so infuriating that these smaller parties get no attention in the election campaign. The parties that do not come from or represent the established political class.
The average voter is being hoodwinked. It is on such a grand scale it borders on conspiracy. The average voter thinks that the important result on the 7th of September is who becomes Prime Minister and nothing could be further from the truth. With Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd both trying as hard as possible to adopt a small target strategy it really couldn't matter less if this election sees us with a Labor or Liberal Prime Minister. They spend the whole campaign manufacturing fake reasons why they are diametrically opposed to one another. They bang on about how this is the most important election for a generation. Never has so much been at stake they tell us. Yet look at what they actually do rather than what they say. One decides he is going to be a prick to refugees so the other one has to be a bigger one. One doesn't believe in man made global warming so apparently neither does the other. One will get the budget back into surplus so the other has to do it sooner. One-upmanship in political discourse is not being creative about the problems that beset us, it is a race to the bottom. Liberal and Labor are two heads on the same dragon arguing about which one blows the most smoke and it matters very little which dragon head speaks from which side of the House of Representatives.
What actually matters is that some of the good people who are standing for high office at this election actually make it to Parliament where they will have a podium from which to be creative about some of the problems we face in this country and advocate for some of the groups in society that don't get adequate representation in Parliament.
I am not sure whether or not the rest of the country is as mad about the appalling bias of the mainstream media as I am. From the conversations I have with people I know, I would say that the majority of Australians understand very little about how elections work and consequently have very little understanding that this media bias even exists. What I can say is that the majority of Australians know that something is amiss. The vast majority of Australians have an uncomfortable feeling that perhaps something is rotten in the state of Australia. A study commissioned by the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University has shown that there is a diminishing level of confidence among Australian voters in the Australian political system. Australians have never had much trust in their politicians and for this trust to be declining even further is not a good omen for things to come. Results of the survey (which you can read here) show that nearly three quarters of Australians reported having little or no confidence in TV and in the Press more broadly. Despite the stated rationale for removing Julia Gillard from office, that supposedly the electorate had stopped listening to Gillard, the survey also shows that little over a third of survey respondents are paying little or no attention to the 2013 election campaign, showing a marked increase in voter malaise compared to previous elections. So nice fail there Kevin Rudd. 58% of respondents said that the quality of political leadership at a federal level was noticeably worse now than it has usually been in the past. Plainly Australians are disenchanted with their politicians.
Yet somehow the myth that you are wasting your vote if you vote for the Greens or another minor party seems to persist despite the fact that these parties are full of real alternatives to the established career politicians. There is some funny psychology going on here that seems to cloud the way people think when deciding how they will vote. The accepted wisdom is that Australians love an underdog. This, I think, is not actually true. Australians love winners, but with an important caveat. Australians love winners but they hate arrogance and laziness. So in Australian politics you have to be a winner, but you have to avoid the appearance of being too cocksure and you have to look like you worked hard to be there. If Australians actually hated underdogs they would vote for Clive Palmer, The Greens, Bob Katter, Wikileaks or one of the many independent candidates that run for high office at every election. Australia, if you like an underdog as much as you say you do you would vote Christine Milne to be your Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd, no matter how many times he says it, is not an underdog. Kevin Rudd is a part of the establishment. He is part of the problem.
That Australians like winners is the problem here. People want to vote for the candidate that is most likely to win. They want to back the winning horse. They want to get a feel good buzz on election night hearing their candidate give the victory speech. If I had a dollar for every time I have ever heard anybody say "I would vote for a minor party but what is the point? They won't win", I would be a hundredaire. What people mean when they say this is that the very purpose of voting is to vote for the winning candidate. Ask yourself this, why are Sportsbet so confident that Tony Abbott will become Prime Minister that they are willing to pay out on all bets of a Coalition victory? Gambling odds have proven for many years to be an amazingly accurate indicator of electoral victory but why is it the case? It can only be the case if people vote with the same mentality of a punter going to the TAB to put some money down on the next Prime Minister. How else can betting odds so accurately predict election results? If I put money on the election tomorrow I would certainly put it on Tony Abbott, but I have no intention of voting for the man. Yet here we are with half the country betting that Tony Abbott will win the election and Sportsbet being certain that this means that these people will also vote for Tony Abbott. The Federal Election is not like the Melbourne Cup you fools!
I personally will be voting in the seat of Hasluck. If you live in the Shire of Kalamunda, the City of Gosnells, the City of Swan or the Shire of Mundaring you will be voting in the seat of Hasluck also. Lets look at the candidates. The ballot paper on the right is what your ballot paper will look like if you are voting in Hasluck. It shows all 8 candidates that you can choose from and the order in which I will preference them from 1 to 8.
Our preferential style of voting is very powerful. Your ballot paper is like a love letter to Canberra. You tell the political elite more than just who should become Prime Minister. With the Presidential style of election campaigning these days there is no doubt that average voters misunderstand exactly what they are doing when they number the boxes. Our elections are an opportunity for every Australian to tell the highest echelons of the public service and our political elites what we think of their performance. So this article is not about telling you who should be Prime Minister, this article is all about telling you how to compose your love letter to Canberra. If yours will be a break up letter, let me help you compose it.
Let me explain something important. Your vote in the House of Representatives does two things and they are quite separate.
1: The way you number your green ballot decides who should become Prime Minister. If you put a lower number next to the Coalition Candidate than you put for the Labor candidate then you are voting for Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister. If you put a lower vote next to Labor Candidate you are voting for Kevin Rudd to be Prime Minister. This is the case whether you vote them first and second or last and second last.
2: The second thing you do with your ballot paper, and really this applies to both the Green House of Reps ballot paper and the huge white Senate ballot paper, is to send a message to the elites about how you want to see the country managed. Seriously. Vote for the Greens and your Greens candidate might not make it in to Parliament but the politicians will notice who gets votes. They pay attention to that stuff. In fact that is the only way anybody has ever been able to get the attention of a politician.
If there was a third thing I could add it would be that your vote can express to Canberra your overall level of satisfaction with the way the country is being governed. This is what I am doing with my vote in 2013. Telling the Liberal and Labor parties that I think it fucking stinks. The first thing you might notice is that I have put the Liberal candidate, Ken Wyatt, at number 8. This is despite the fact that I almost certainly have more personal beliefs in common with Ken Wyatt than I do with anybody from the Australian Christians or the Family First Party, but he has to go to the bottom of the list because a vote for him is a vote for Tony Abbott which is a vote of satisfaction in the status quot.
Our Parliament is now a dead place where new ideas for the country are no longer properly discussed. I have no doubt in my mind that Tony Abbott believes many of the worst things that Pauline Hanson and Rise Up believe only Pauline Hanson and Rise Up will get into Parliament and actually SAY the things they believe. And when they do I can blog about how I disagree with them. So can you. The Greens and other parties can get up in Parliament and disagree with them. Free speech can have a turn in Parliament and we can deal with the bad speech with some good speech.
Parliament is a pendulum that always finds balance. If far right wingers make it into Parliament, far left wingers will make it in there also and there will be balance. The only difference is that we will have a place where fewer people are bound by a Party Political discipline and we REALLY discuss important issues in Parliament rather than on blogs and Facebook.
The role of Islam in Australian is currently something nobody wants to discuss. Tony Abbott is happy to blow on dog whistles, intimating that perhaps he is Islamaphobic, but never says anything you can grab onto and refute. Lets talk about it and work out what it all means. Lets have some racists in the Parliament. Racist ideas don't go away because you prevent them being discussed.
All minor parties and independents, no matter how heinous, preferenced before ALP and Coalition. Express your dissatisfaction in the system and remember that if you hate one of the talking heads more than the other all that matters is the who gets a lower number