In the olden days – perhaps 40 or 50 years ago – the parties representing the “two sides of politics” could go into an election campaign appealing to the views of “men and women of Australia” or “the man in the street” (when citizens were usually happy to concede that “man” was a generic term) or “ordinary people of good will”. Not so now.
These days, Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten and their deputies do not dare to speak for the “ordinary citizen” because they know full well that you and I can go up the street and ask a few fellow citizens their opinion about “politics” and by this time we all know what the overwhelming response will be. It seems that only those wanting the help of the over-endowed, publicly-funded Labor and Liberal-National public relations firms will stoutly deny that both sides are a complete shambles. For them it is only the “other side”. Turnbull and Shorten are cunning enough to know that between them they, with their mates and female colleagues, have so manipulated the parliamentary dimension of public governance that there is not much we humble voters can do about the resultant electoral shambles except cast our ballot. Both party leaders, as self-proclaimed “democrats” and “republicans” (!), continue to speak with the lisp of aristocratic inheritance, presuming they will have to divide the spoils of Government between themselves. Nurturing Justice denies and repudiates that presumption outright.
What Australia needs is genuine political parties, not publicly funded public relations firms that send rubbish into our letter boxes come election time. We need associations of committed citizens who have learned the difference between public policy development and the rhetoric of fear-mongering hard-sell. We need party cadres who know how to ask the inconvenient questions of themselves, of their own policies, as much as of their opponents and their polices. We need political parties willing to patiently work away at forming comprehensive policies for public justice for the common good in the long term.
Last time, Australian citizens voted in the belief that Mr Abbott’s excessive and abusive attacks upon the former Labor Prime Ministers (particularly PM Gillard but the vitriol toward PM Rudd was not far behind) coincided in some way or other with our overall national political frustrations. Surely, so many thought, surely such anger and venom by the Opposition Leader presaged a new day of better public governance when he became PM! He is a product of a Catholic public schooling after all! But having attained the Treasury Benches, Mr Abbott and, since his ignominious departure, Mr Turnbull, have failed to give any coherent explanation of their public policy agenda other than telling us that things will always be worse under Labor. And the “ordinary voter” knows that the Liberal Coalition is riven with internal discord just as Labor was. The successive Labor Governments were destabilised with Rudd-versus-Gillard-versus-Rudd tensions and intrigues and likewise we have continued to witness the bitter struggles between the Turnbullites and the Abottites.
And the last thing both aspiring “statesmen” – Turnbull and Shorten – will want to be asked during the, as yet unannounced, election campaign is this: what is your party doing to ensure that your party becomes a genuine political party, as it once aspired to be? There are other inconvenient questions to be asked as well – we will consider some of these in future posts. At the moment however, before the election is actually called, the momentum from both of these parliamentary leaders is all about media massaging to deflect voter attention away from the shambolic nature of their “side” to highlight some issue that they say confirms “their” failures not “ours”.