The Wentworth by-election has been dominating the news for weeks, as if it’s the be all and end all of everything. In truth, it is far from this. It has attracted unusual attention, because this was the seat of recently deposed prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, and it may even be lost to the Liberal Party.
There is a certain importance in that the Morrison government may lose its one seat majority, and this will add to the considerable factional warfare and instability already existing.
From this point of view, the loss of the seat to the Liberal Party would be the best outcome for Australia. It will help pave the way for the downfall of the government, and this is something Australia seriously needs at this juncture.
Even this, is a short-term need. More important is where we are heading to. In a way, all the attention over Wentworth, has mostly turned away from this and set within boundaries around personalities and relative trivialities. A vision to where Australia should be heading is missing.
The field of 16 candidates is a statement on the state of Australian politics today. Disillusionment with political institutions traditional parties and politicians in general continues to grow.
Australia needs an alternative answer to the neoliberal economics, the lack of compassion for others and erosion of democratic rights that have been the hallmarks of government for far too long. In this, there is a desire for something different.
A big part of the reason for the limitation of the coverage, is the narrow scope for debate provided by the highly monopolised media in Australia. In Murdoch land there is little scope for new progressive ideas. This is something that really needs to be sorted out.
Far too many politicians have been sucked into the game and are too afraid to stray from the script. When sticking to the script promises personal rewards, it provides little comfort for everyone else. This is not an environment that easily generates leadership with the courage to forge a new direction.
Australia needs to build a vision, which is of a society that strives to build equality and empowers people.
This means building democracy. Not merely in terms of everyone being allowed to cast a ballot every few years. But a society where everyone has a voice in every aspect of life. It means an effective voice in the workplaces and neighbourhoods in which we live and an inclusive media. The decisions are no longer left in the boardrooms of big corporations. This is a society where everyone is properly rewarded for their contribution and all have freedom from poverty, adequate housing, equal, affordable and first rate health and education, which are the means for a decent life and to participate in meeting our individual and collective needs.
It means building political power from below in a real operating sense and not just in words.
At Wentworth, there is a silence on all of this.