AUSTRALIAN VOTERS DILEMMA…
A recent survey of Australians as to their attitude to the United States was undertaken and the results of the survey were interesting to say the least. The survey was undertaken by the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and generally showed that the Australian public has lost confidence in George Bush and his running of the Iraq war. That's really no surprise!
The survey, among other things, showed that 50% of Australians oppose our involvement in Afghanistan, while 64% oppose the war in Iraq. A further 75% of the population believe that our involvement in the "war on terror" puts us at greater risk of being a target.
The dilemma here is that both the Liberals and Labor support our involvement in Afghanistan and, the Liberals will continue to be involved in Iraq notwithstanding that 64% opposed our involvement in the war in Iraq. Labor will not disengage in Iraq but rather reduce the number of the active troops on the ground. Both will continue the "war on terror" despite the fact that 75% of the population believes it makes us a more likely terrorism target.
This of course is only one instance by where the parties differ only marginally, if at all, and other examples come up on a daily basis where the difference between the parties is so small as to be irrelevant. This 2007 election has developed into a "me too" contest whereby the political parties basically admit that their policies and intentions are the same, which in effect makes us a one-party nation.
On the other hand the public can NEVER be assured that the full party intent has been put before them. In other words, what is not being said is probably a lot more important than what is being said. Remember the introduction of the GST. No party got up before an election audience and said they were going to introduce a GST, John Hewson excepted, and look what happened to him.
The next time around John Howard didn't mention the GST, but ultimately we got it. In fact, it was also a bipartisan issue if we remember back to Mr. Keating's "Option 3".
As a further and more recent example, and a probably more important example of what isn't being said is in relation to Iran. Iran could well be the trigger for the next global war and the hawks in the United States are hankering for it. The rest of the world is far more constrained.
But had it not been for a gaff on the part of Kevin Rudd who made the statement that President Ahmadinejad of Iran should be hauled before the Court of International Justice, instead of the International Criminal Court, then we may never have had the statement from the Government that they would not be involved in an attack on Iran by the United States. If someone else attacks Iran we can only presume that that is a different matter.
So what is not said is extremely important.
Hence the development of the concept of the "core promise" that quickly developed into the concept of a "mandate". It was the all-embracing mandate concept that allowed John Howard to take us into Iraq with barely a reference in the Australian Federal Parliament.
The problem for the voter is that by voting for a member of a party the voter can be assured that what their member votes for will be the party view, almost certainly not necessarily that of the electorate. Just consider for a moment the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement legislation. Would anyone in Far North Queensland have voted to totally exclude sugar from the deal? Not likely, but that was the outcome.
The question that naturally follows is who develops party "policy". It is almost certainly not developed in the branches and, in fact, party membership is so small as to be virtually meaningless. Apart from a few good ideas from locals, interest groups drive policy and the interest groups that have the most say are the ones who can provide the most benefit to the party, [and consequently themselves] not necessarily in the best interests of Australia.
In addition, there are countless 'experts' who provide advice to government, and for a backbencher to go against these experts can be politically hazardous to say the least. This is notwithstanding that there are usually equally 'qualified experts' suggesting an alternate approach but their views seldom get much publicity, unless of course they are following the directions of policy or can be used to otherwise raise the profile of an issue. Again exactly who influences the experts is an open question.
So under this system the electorate and the electors play a very minor role.
For example, did the electorate want to sell the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and other such entities, which were really owned by the taxpayer in the first place? Do the public want the provision of water and energy privatised. For the answer to this just look at the rise in your last electricity bill since it has been
The direction by now is already set that "democracies" will have a two-party system. We see this in the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and any other number of democratic countries. Certainly there are other smaller parties and these play a useful role in bringing matters to the public's attention and quite often opening up matters that the Government would rather didn't see the light of day.
The two-party system allows itself of easy management by the lobby groups and this is why we see so many "me too" matters in this as yet pseudo election period. It is also why the major parties attract the majority of private electoral funding.
Independent candidates are an even safer bet for the electorate than the smaller parties. It would indeed be difficult to lobby a large number of Independents and the Independent candidate relies on the support of the electorate thus minimising other influences than the electors. But merely being an Independent of itself is not enough.
The Independent has to be truly independent, has to be of integrity and must be willing to work both in and with the community. Furthermore, it is essential that the views of an Independent be known and the more an Independent publicises his/her views the more credibility that candidate must accrue within the public.
Ultimately, the basic criteria as to who to vote for is… reliability. The question the electorate must ask is can I rely on this person to represent my views to the Parliament, and the answer to that question has already been answered.
If we come to the point when we have a two-party system with the parties policies being ideologically the same, and our daily needs provided by multinational companies, and, it has been shown the Government is incapable of controlling them, we will then find ourselves in a very unenviable position. So now the future of your children's grandchildren is in your hands.
Remember on Election Day 2007… it's your choice!
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