Contributed by Jim Hayes
As Australia heads to the 2019 Federal election on 18 May, it does not feel like there is much of a campaign going on.
In part this is because of the way big media is presenting it. The style of campaigning is also a big factor.
This is what we’ve got. The Scott Morrison bandwagon offers more of the same and focuses on whipping up John Howard style fear campaigns, although less skillfully and in a more difficult environment. The most effective do far, has been that Labor is going to take money from retirees. Some older Australians not feeling secure about their future have been influenced. Now the effort is to convince us all that we are going to be taxed to the hilt.
The there is the scare about the alternative being bad economic managers. It is old tired stuff, indicating a serious lack of direction, further than business as usual.
Then we have the Clive Palmer circus. This and other tricks to manipulate the seriously flawed electoral system will be used. The best hing the Coalition has going for it is the apparent disintegration of One Nation. This may bring a few who had left back into the fold.
Around it all, there is the deep unpopularity of Scott Morrison and those others lurking within the government’s shadows. This alone should make this election an historic opportunity for Labor, leading it to a landslide victory.
Despite this, Labor is gaining only limited traction. Labor leader Bill Shorten is only a little less unpopular than Scott Morrison.
The latest Ipsos poll confirms it.
Australians remain cynical about political leaders and prone not to trust a word they say. Labor has not been able to put forward a clearly distinctive vision for the future, and it is having an effect.
True. There have been some policy initiatives from Labor, which provide more for ordinary people, and some attacking of the opponents’ policies, as only looking after the big end of town. The trouble is, that this has not been sufficient to shift the distrust in a big enough way to guarantee electoral victory..
Policies are important, but they are not the whole of it. A movement towards any substantial change can only grow, through the active involvement of enough people. The implication is that those who would be political leaders must win the trust in those they wish to lead.
Achieving this, means involving many in direct participation in the process of making the change, and to do this means trusting people, operating openly and with honesty, and not through reliance on wheeling and dealing behind closed doors. Australia has had far too much of this.
Only the with the Unions, through the leadership of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) led Change the Rules Campaign, has there been some effort to involve many. Were it not for this, Labor would be hard pressed getting anywhere at all.
It remains that this election promises some serious consequences. To avoid a headlong rush into greater unfairness and inequality, attempts to sow division within the Australian community, and lower the standard of living of the majority, the first step is to get rid of the Morrison government.
This would provide the best opportunity to change direction, and this is in the best interests of Australia.
Can change be brought about without generating a wave of enthusiasm and large scale involvement, developing into an unstoppable political movement? Can it be brought about without overcoming the rusted in mistrust of most of the population? Can it be happen without doing more than tinkering around the edges and putting forward a serious alternative?
The simple answer to all these questions is no.
Australia suffers because the political centre stage is dominated by those who carry on politics in an elitist way. This means it takes lots of money and the right connections. An arrangement which survives by leaving most people out of the real decision making process and keeping it it in the hands of an elite.
Campaigning is carried out on the basis of ‘I’m more honest than the other bloke. Trust me.’ It’s is not carried out on the basis that ‘I am here to give power to you’ and ‘for you to ensure that I’m here to serve your interests.’
Real change means putting this to rest.
Is not the question of power at the centre of all politics? Who should be making the decisions?
Suggesting that the electorate has the power, because it casts a vote every few years is sophistry. Everyone knows that politicians rarely pay much attention to what those who vote want, and more or less do what they want without consequence to themselves. They are much more concerned with what the rich and powerful wants than anyone else.
When there is growing social and economic uncertainty and perceived needs are not being met, anger against and distrust of politicians rises.
Under Bill Shorten’s leadership, there has been some shift in terms of policy. Promises are being made in regard to an improvement in the provision of services, braking tax cuts on the fabulously rich, and significantly more is being offered to take on the threat of climate change. In terms of policies, Labor presents a more humane position.
People want to be convinced that the promises will materialise. The positives offered are welcome. But they are not enough to provide a clear alternative vision for Australia.
There is too much and focus on personalities, at the expense of detailing core political principles, like, how Australia is going to be made into a fairer society, inside and outside the workplace; put an end to neoliberal economics once and for all; undo the attacks on established democratic rights in recent years; putt and end the inhumane detention of asylum seekers; and above all, build the voice of the broad community, assisting in the building of representative bodies carrying to voice of social sectors, including workers, women, the First Australians, ethnic communities, Farmers and country people, students and youth, Pensioners and the unemployed; and LGTB Australians.
Without doing these things, Labor cannot break out of the distrust, and without winning trust, it cannot realise the potential support that exists.
It has to be said. The Greens go further on political principles. Nevertheless, the hard reality is that they are not going to form government. The answer for Australia at this juncture, is an alliance for progress of Labor, Greens and others, based on core principles and policies and has the intention to deliver.