Contributed by Jim Hayes
The Liberal Party won the Tasmanian election on the weekend, taking more than half of the vote. The charge that the election was bought with corporate money has a lot going for it. The extent of bankrolling that occurred during this election is unprecedented in Tasmania, and it allowed the print and electronic media to be saturated by a wall of propaganda based on untruths. Other voices were effectively locked out.
In this case, the front runner was the poker machine industry, fearing that it would lose a profitable milch cow. Labor had promised to make Tasmania the first state to get rid of poker machines.
The interference of corporate money on Australia’s political institutions and processes nationally and across all states and territories, is a serious matter that needs to be resolved. This is undemocratic, acting as a form of censorship and gives an overpowering voices to a very powerful and wealthy elite.
Even with this, Labor gained 5.5 percent of votes and the Liberals lost 3.3 percent. But given the existence of the Turnbull government and widespread opposition to policies that favour corporate interests, the government should have lost the vote easily.
The mistake was to put poker machines on centre stage and neglect the real concerns of most Tasmanians, who obviously felt left out in big numbers. They are concerned about such things as their economic security, jobs, a future for their kids, fairness and many other issues. When political parties and politicians do not pay enough attention to these things, they come across as remote and uncaring.
By failing here, Labor made itself vulnerable.
The Greens also had some big problems. They too put too many of their eggs on the poker machine basket. Even without this, they were going to have some difficulties, because it was always in thew cards that a section of the support base they have built up in resent times was going to rally to keep the Liberals out and vote Labor for this reason, rather than because of new found support for the party.
Relying on positive media profile as the way to win an election is not the way to go. The media is highly monopolised and supports those that serve the corporate world. Only in special circumstances and if the party is prepared to break with principle and betray its base, will it win the patronage of the monopoly media.
There is an answer to this, and this lies in being prepared to listen, genuinely take up concerns, organise at the grass roots, not just during election campaigns, but on an ongoing basis to empower communities to assert their interests and act to make a difference. There is far too little of this.
Understanding what happened is important. It shows what needs to be done to bring about positive change.