What do Saturday’s byelections really mean?

Democracy should be much more than bump me into parliament
Contributed by Joe Montero

Australia is headed for a bunch of byelections. The outcome is not going to bring in any Earth shattering changes, and much of the commentary to date has focused on trivialities,  working to divert attention form what is really important.

It might have been momentous for those who hope to be bumped into parliament,   has provided some fuel to inflame factional rivalries, particularly within the Liberal Party. The stress level for Pauline Hanson, who has conspicuously taken a holiday and left the scene, has gone up a notch. The only part of real consequence is what impact it may have on the coming federal election. Even this might be limited

As a rule, most of these seats up for context were won in the last election by Labor in the last election and are marginal. The two that are more traditionally Labor (Perth and Freemantle), are not even being challenged by the Liberals. The others only require as small swing to have them fall for the Coalition. Winning them will be no real test of Australia wide public opinion.

Trev Ruthenburg has shot himself in the foot, over lying about his war service medal. He has a good chance of losing Longman, even with One Nation preferences.  Mayo South Australia is a contest between the Centre Alliance and the Liberals. This leaves Braddon in Tasmania. Local issues may well figure highly here. Fisherman and conservationist Craig Garland is standing as an independent, and he has a substantial personal following. Hew could be critical factor in the result.

As the votes are cast on Saturday, the big issues are not going to figure too highly overall.

If Labor comes out on top, it will strengthen Bill Shortens leadership position within the party. If it goes the other way, it is certain that the Turnbull government will try to sell it as an endorsement of its policies, and this will undoubtedly be backed big time, by the major media organisations behind this government.

It is in the context of dishonest politics that these byelections have their greatest importance.

There is a strategic interest in getting rid of the LNP government, which transcends way past the interests of the Labor Party. Anyone wanting an end to the assault on wages, the escalation in corrupt relationships with big business, new cut backs in government services and privatisations and in your face massive handouts of tax payers money to the richest one percent, has an interest in this being brought about.

While considering this, we should remind ourselves, that the essence of power is not in who wins an election,  but in who is in position to make and enforce the decisions. Most of us are not in this position, and this means that democracy is limited. Changing this means achieving the right to participate in collective decision making and action that goes much further than casting a ballot every few years, and playing out in our workplaces, the communities in which we live and other important aspects of our lives, and which determine the economic and social shape of our society.

To move towards this, there there must be a change in the political narrative, actions and policies  to bring about this change. Although there is a long way to go before this can become a reality, it remains important in the here and now.  The need is to set Australia on a course to this end.

The first step is to get rid of the present government. Not just for the sake of getting rid of it. But to provide the best circumstances to go forward.

The reason to participate in the coming byelections and beyond, should be to expose the nature of a government, which is primarily servicing the small percentage enjoying the greatest wealth and power, and to win support and involvement in the building of a social movement that encourages activism,  and gives birth to organisational forms that empower the grass roots. nd what is empowerment, other than democracy

Battling for improving the wages share in the economy, for more caring government, for an end of abuse by some people, and yes, for a sustainable future as well, providing we are conscious of the direction, is part of the road towards his end.


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