Saturday, July 9, 2016

Some Thoughts On Australia's 2016 Election

Well I have not read any interesting analysis of Australia's recent election, so I will write something myself...

First thing to say: this boring, meaningless election was completely unecessary. PM Malcolm Turnbull cited his government's inability to pass union-bashing laws as an excuse to call a double dissolution election, but the Governor General should have denied his request. Industrial Relations laws hardly bring the nation to a standstill, so there was no real emergency. Anyway, the Abbott-Turnbull government was barely able to pass ANY laws through the Senate, because they flatly refused to compromise their blinkered neoliberal ideology. And of course the fact that this IR bill was barely even mentioned during the campaign (or since) proves that it was just a pathetic excuse.

Turnbull called the election early because his popularity was sinking steadily ever since he ousted the even less popular Tony Abbott. He should have called an election back then, citing the need for citizens to endorse the change of leader, but (a) he is too arrogant, and (b) his party was badly fractured and he could barely control his cabinet, let alone the country. And now, after barely scraping a win, he faces resignation calls from his own side. Karma?

This is the fate of nearly all Western political leaders today: the longer they stay in power, the less popular they become. The only things that seem able to sustain them are relentless "terror" fear-mongering and wars. So while the Liberals ruthlessly ridiculed the ALP's Rudd-Gillard-Rudd shenanigans, they end up facing the same conundrum. After a few expectant months, voters start to see past the smiling cheerleader's face and realise that nothing is really changing that will be of benefit to their lives. So given an opportunity, they express their disgust.

It was the same thing with the #Brexit vote in the UK, which stunned the world a week before Australians voted. And such expressions of disgust will continue until the major parties abandon their failed neoliberal agenda. It's worth noting that both the Coalition and ALP have seen their percentage share of the vote falling steadily since Gough Whitlam was ousted in 1975. The Reagan-Thatcher neoliberalism which blossomed in the 1980s is now toxic but we're still waiting for something to replace it.

And so we've seen 2016 election results favouring independents and minor parties, including the hate-filled Pauline Hanson team. The Coalition have stoked xenophobia as an excuse for war and then as justification for treating refugees like hardened criminals, so there's more karma when crazed bigots steal seats off them. By the way, only one Australian newspaper editorial backed Labor (Melbourne's Sunday Age). Hanson voters tend to be under-educated and badly informed. Where do you think they get their information?

It's also worth asking why the Greens did not do better in these circumstances. In the early weeks of the campaign, both major parties went to great lengths to attack the Greens, with the usual help from Murdoch and the increasingly right-wing ABC. New leader Richard Di Natale was excluded from all the leaders debates, even though journalists complained they were boring. But I've seen criticism that Di Natale failed to differentiate the Greens from the major parties, and I think there's some truth in that. I manned a Gold Coast booth for the Greens on election day and heard a lot of disenchanted young voters complaining "they are all the same."

I remain hopeful that the Greens can do a lot better. With no signs that media hostility will decrease, social media is the key. It's not enough to tour the country tweeting photos of the happy, smiling people you meet. Creative memes, informational graphics and clever hashtag campaigns are far more likely to interest new voters. But instead of another blistering Youtube speech from Senator Ludlam, for example, the 2016 Greens campaign seemed to get side-tracked with minor announcements. I'd like to see a more relentless focus on the big issues: climate change, corporate power and government transparency.

It's now a week since the election and the votes are still being counted, but any new government is likely to be very unstable and already there's talk that Australians might need to go to the polls again soon. If that's the case, I'd like to urge readers to get involved NOW with the Greens, who are the only party in Australian politics really capable of changing things. At the small booth I manned, for example, there was a 5.99% swing to the Greens. While that wasn't enough to unseat our super-safe Liberal Party MP, it could be the difference between Queensland getting one or two Greens into the Senate. The local Greens candidate confirmed that having somebody there with How-To-Vote-Greens cards makes a noticeable difference to the final results.

So what are you waiting for? Go to greens.org.au and get involved. Otherwise the next election will be just as boring and meaningless as this one was.