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WIN NOW; WORRY LATER April 29, 2010

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.

Ross Gittins at The Sydney Morning Herald is not happy that politicians are accommodating public opinion and not fixing problems.

Implicitly he suggesting that manufacture of public opinion and solving problems with political accountability are out of joint. He has undoubtedly hit on a real problem, but problem be solved by referring to objective data?

Rudd is wholly dominated so it seems by opinion polling among the critical voting segments that determine electoral outcomes. Arguably this a rational and pragmatic political approach in which the whole point of the political game is to be electorally successful.

The fundamental problem in the pragmatic public policy approach is its inherent myopia. Failure to address long term patterns are likely to produce long term consequences. The failure to address the real social and other problems, related to hospitals and prisons, is to deligitimize democratic government.


Once it was suggested that Global Warming was a “moral challenge”:

At Crikey, Bernard Keans explains the Government’s electoral tactics.

We have to see what happens on 6 May, but my sense is, with the impact of the new media, these kind of political tactics may prove to be counter productive. Although, I should note it was a television debate that kicked the Liberal Democrats along in terms of the polls (which perhaps cannot be converted into seats).

The suggestion is being made in Britain for a coalition of the major parties – so much for the two party system. I doubt that would happen. Parties lose their identity. Something of the sort is happening here. It seems to me that parties should be presenting a platform of public policies, mindful that some are matters of principle. Crikey comments and cast aspersions of both major parties and their leaders. Here is the comment from Crikey:

The national political marketplace is being offered two competing products this year. A box full of Rudd Tricks or an Abbott’s Energy Bar.

But there’s another comparison that many consumers are likely to make, albeit with a product that’s no longer on the shelves because it had reached its use-by date. The Howard Consistency Pack.

John Howard was a mixture of many things — ideologue, pragmatist, loyalist, social conservative — but unlike the two products on sale now, he always remained true to his USP (unique selling proposition). He stuck to his guns on the issues that defined him and his government.

Now, in the choice between a box of tricks and an energy bar, it’s becoming clear that almost nothing matters but spin. Spin about health, about climate change, about population and, today, about smoking.

There may be plenty of policy options on the shelves in the politics aisle, but in the end they all turn out to have the same basic ingredient. Unhealthy doses of spin.

Gary at Public Opinion is on the case, and notes in particular:

Isn’t this burial of the ETS an example of what Rudd once accused the Coalition of—“political cowardice . . . an absolute failure of leadership an absolute failure of logic.” Isn’t this yet another example of political expediency (“clearing the decks”) by Rudd Labor?

It cannot even bring itself to defend its own policies on climate change in an election, nor is it willing to see things through. They will go ahead with the internet filter though. The progressive side of Rudd Labor continues to weaken whilst the authoritarian side strengthens.

Richard Ackland identifies the problem not in the spinning of the polls but the Senate, an undemocratic institution that made the Australian Federation politically palliable to the then distant and small colonies. He writes:

The Rudd people have been thoroughly spooked by the Senate, aka ”unrepresentative swill” (Paul Keating), ”dinosaurs” (Gough Whitlam) and other choice epithets besides.

Anything contentious – which in the opposition’s eyes is just about everything – is being shelved, dodged or sunk, either because there was never much belief in it in the first place or in the hope one day nirvana will arrive and the government will have a majority in the red chamber.

The house of review has been transformed into a house of obstruction. We should not be diddled into the belief the Senate somehow is more or even equally representative than the House of Representatives.

There is far more to this story than is recounted in this piece, including above the line voting and the abandonment of non-general election half Senate elections. Good intentions, perhaps, has made a bad situation worse, and these arose from the abandonment of policy of abolishing the Senate or democratically reforming it.

There is a counter argument to all this to the effect that the Rudd Government has chalked up some real achievements over the past two years or so. One example, which I noticed is that they seemed to have introduced a “Charter of Rights and Responsibilities” for Pensioners, so that idea has legal force at the Federal level. Ken Parish, among others suggests that democratic government is the art of the possible, which usually means controlling the narrative through the refractive prism of the excitable mass media, such as ABC Online.



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