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CONVENTIONAL POLITICAL WISDOM August 30, 2004

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Hugh MacKay and Sol Lebovic were on the 7.30 Report representing the qualitative and quantitative strands of Australian thought and voting behavior. Hugh, in particular, was expounding the normal tedium, based on long experience I do not have, that the election will be decided as all elections always are on narrow self interest. A similar view is adopted by Louise Dodson in the SMH.

However, the issue of the need at the last resort, for example when the nation is committed to war, for truth and trust has not run seriously before. And perhaps it will run as the background program, the DOS program, crossing political boundaries. At least in my view the issue of truth in government is a transcendent political issue that certainly requires institutional and other measures, even if these were practical they would never be enough.

Significantly John Howard, in my judgment, has failed this test. He must go. And so should any other Prime Minister, regardless of party, who fails to honor the trust inherent in the office. In this judgment, I am supported by Andrew Wilkie:

“John Howard knows the game is now up. He’s called the election at a time when the latest poll puts the liberals well behind Labor in two party support because he’s so desperate to avoid further damaging parliamentary scrutiny of his long track record of dishonesty. Australians are about to participate in the most important federal election in our nation’s political history, Mr Wilkie said today.

By voting out John Howard, we can save our withering democracy, our values, our civil rights and our sovereignty as a nation from further erosion, Mr Wilkie said. By voting Howard into oblivion we’ll be able to start restoring truth, integrity and accountability to our political system. On John Howard’s watch it has become routine for our politicians to lie. Plus, we’ve seen a systematic erosion of civil liberties under the guise of anti-terrorism. We’ve seen more than enough evidence that our federal civil service, intelligence agencies and even our armed forces have been politicised by Howard to support his obsession with Iraq.”

Andrew Wilkie further comments

“Parliament will close on August 31st, meaning there will be no session of the House of Representatives before the election. This follows new allegations on the Children Overboard affair which were expected to be raised in parliament this week. Although the Senate will still be able to establish a Senate inquiry, Howard will not be facing direct questions on his duplicity.

And if that isn’t enough, Howard has let Australia down badly on national security, Mr Wilkie said. On his watch, the risk of terrorism has increased, as has the likelihood of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Plus he has virtually withdrawn Australia from the United Nations and managed to get many of our regional neighbours offside. Howard isn’t tough on national security, he’s incompetent.”

Notwithstanding these opinions, Howard is not yet finished and may yet be returned to government. And yet, regardless of how biased you think these comments are, Howard’s position is not looking strong going into the front end of the formal and official election campaign. On that basis the truth and trust issue has has already damaged him, if it has not yet sunk him. Curiously, perhaps paradoxically, his position now is somewhat like the refugees adrift in the ocean on an unseaworthy craft. Perhaps the Tampa may appear over the horizon and save him.

What will be the issue that will clench the marginal electorate swingers? We might expect both parties to mount highly targeted advertising campaigns directed at the marginal electors, who may return the complement by turning the remote down and leaving their decision to last moment.

With the truth and trust issue running in the background, and with the six week campaign, I suspect that conventional political wisdom could go haywire. We are, I believe, in unknown territory.

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