Whole trees have been felled in what media like to refer to as the “protest vote”, though a bit like privatisation - the Voldemort of the Energy debate (HAHA!) - it is rare for them to consider it might be ‘party business’ that is the problem? Often, it will be discussed how both Liberal and Labor are attracting less members and why is this so? But not actually the crux of the issue that maybe people are just sick of Political Parties. The Borg like slavish devotion to policy for political purposes, in most cases is not actually for the good of an electorate?
Party Business vs Policy
Look at GetUp! For example. Contrary to popular belief flogged by the Liberal National Coalition, they do not slavishly support Labor or Greens, think back to the Rudd Gillard days and you will see that, funny how we didn’t see the Coalition whining about them then LOL! Anyhow, I personally think GetUp! have so many members and get so much support because people don’t actually support the entity slavishly as such, more, people support their campaigns. Certain campaigns they run are more popular than others, the point is that people will rally behind the cause.
Pretty much, GetUp! is popular with so many in this social media age because you can get behind something you believe in, Saving the Reef, Protecting Medicare, Making Big Business pay tax etc., without having to buy into the other campaigns you may not agree with.
This is something Political Parties don’t do.
Political Parties have their little group of elite decide the direction of the party, then expect all their members (and the rest of the population) to support them slavishly, regardless of whether you agree or not. Yes, I know the ALP have their national conference and debate what policy will be, though that still locks in ALL members, MP’s, Senators etc. after policy is decided.
You only have to have belonged to any other community group like a P&C to see how untenable that it is. You will never get a group of people in a P&C being onboard 100% of the time on 100% of decisions made. Yet, we are expected to believe every single person in Government is fully onboard with every decision their party makes? People are not that stupid, I mean, it defies reason, which means we see these politicians rabbiting a particular line and can smell the bullshit.
Seriously! Unless your talking about your favourite sporting team, who ever believes that that many people all stridently believe the same thing?
Disunity is Death, well, not really…
Political types and media constantly remind us that “Disunity is Death”. They also almost exclusively report on two political parties only and we are expected to believe that the whole nation, an educated nation with access to a lot of information courtesy of the interwebz all believe in only TWO strains of thought, so that is the only choice you have for so-called ‘Good Government’? Really?! How is that realistic? Eryk Bagshaw wrote a good piece, 'We might wake up and find the peasants are revolting': Elites diagnose our political disease, in relation to the recent gabfest diagnosing the "world's political disorders", lamenting voter choices and the so-called 'Protest Vote" breaching 25%, yet again, no mention of maybe the problem is the actually political 'parties' and the focus on themselves, not so much voters?
A political party should be a group of ‘like-minded’ people, not slavish following. What is wrong with a particular MP respecting the wishes of the majority of the group, but dissenting in a particular policy issue as not believing that is the best policy for their particular electorate? That is realistic. People would understand that. I know it is ‘easy’ to just report on two parties, or focus on 1 or 2 policies, but electorates in this nation are very different, with a variety of issues that important to them and that should be represented by their MP or in the case of Senators, the focus of the State.
MP’s are elected to represent an ‘electorate’, NOT a particular party.
The ‘feral’ Senate
It is not just the Lower House, look at the Senate? The Government and political commentators are always bemoaning the fact that the Senate is ‘unworkable’, ‘rogue’, you name it… Some of the cross benchers annoy me too with their lame agendas, though, as someone who likes Democracy, I cop it, as for most of them, there are large segments of our society who also support their agenda, so they deserve to have a voice, regardless of whether I personally think their voice is batshit crazy.
Maybe the Government and media should also consider we like to take an each way bet, that we don’t like putting too much power into one body of Government who is really only in power because:
- It is either their turn (ie the other mob have been in long enough)
- They had the most attractive bogan slogan at the time
- Or the one I hate most, the party that scared the population shitless – regardless of validity of threat - so punters automatically play it safe and stick with the devil they know.
I live in Queensland. We are familiar with a unicameral Government and when you get the likes of a Joh Bjelke-Petersen, you get a dictatorship with no oversight. For those too young to remember him, they had the recent experience of Campbell Newman who was like a kid in a lolly shop, with no upper house to stop, or at least question, any decisions or changes to law made. When you have a monopoly in the media, like we do in Queensland, it is made worse, as there is not the media scrutiny either. This is dangerous and may give great outcomes to that particular political party and their mates, not so good for Joe Blow & Jill Dill at home trusting them to govern for the best of all in the state?
In my opinion, the biggest problem with the Senate is that we vote for them at the same time as the Lower House, therefore, most punters have no idea who these candidates are and there is next to no focus on them. If the Senate was to be a different vote, media would have to focus on candidates, we would learn more about them and maybe make better decisions as to who is going to represent our states and territories?
The other problem with the Senate is also losing good Senators (like Louise Pratt a few years ago) or gaining shit Senators (the list would be too long to mention examples) because of bloody ‘Party Business’, ie some Union/Business Organisation big wig or Political Party heavy weight being rewarded a top spot on the senate form for a party? How much talent has been lost or over looked because the focus on a Senate spot in a party is reward for supporting the party, not for, you know, maybe being a good candidate to actually fulfil the role of a Senator?
Party business is expensive – for us and them
What is most annoying about this slavish devotion to political business is how much it costs us and the politicians themselves.
Taxpayers pay more in electoral funding to the large political parties. We pay squillions for them to find a dodgy reason – one lousy excuse of a meeting - to travel around the nation (and in some cases overseas) to attend fundraisers for their political parties or suck up to donors. It would be so much cheaper for us if they have just one window a year, sort of like the sporting teams do for recruiting, to get all that stuff out of the way, on the parties dime of course.
Taking Party Business out of day to day government would also allow the politicians themselves to have a better work life balance. They could then focus on actual Government work when they are in Canberra. Katharine Murphy recently wrote a very good piece in Meanjin* called “The Political Life is no Life at All” which illustrated how exhausting the life of politican can be. For those that actually do take the job seriously, I can see how hard the lifestyle for a politican can be, though having said that, they are remunerated very well for the job they do, given more assistance than the average high level manager on a similar salary would get and to be quite frank, it is a ‘choice’ they make, just like others in similar positions in other industries.
My main point being though, if you took time and effort our members of Government put into ‘party business’ out of the equation, or at least limit it as I have suggested, this would actually benefit the work life balance of the MP’s, Senators – and their staff – as well?
Spinning the party business turd into gold
‘Party Business’ is just too prevalent in our Government and to our detriment. We only need to look at the stupid plebiscite policy by the Coalition so Tony Abbott could shore up ‘party’ support to keep the top job. Hell, most of the most odious policies Malcolm Turnbull has kept from Abbott’s time in the top job are so he could shore up that support too? How is that ‘good’ government? That is not deciding a policy on the basis of what will benefit the nation? That is just party bullshit to keep your job, then trying to spin that bullshit into gold to sell to punters?
How often have you heard a political commentator, or politician for that matter state, “It is a good policy, we just didn’t sell it well enough”, ummm actually, if something is a good policy, you don’t need to “sell it”? If a policy is more complicated, then yes, you may need to ‘explain’ it better to the public, but maybe crediting them with the ability to understand more than just a bogan slogan might help huh?
For some reason, media seem to accept ‘party business’ as being legit too? For the life of me I don’t understand why? They know for a fact that a certain MP may be screeching utter crap just to sprout the party line and they don’t call it out? They also see a politician spending money to make one half an hour visit to a kindy or hospital somewhere, just to make their ‘party business’ in that location legit and therefore paid for by us the taxpayer, instead of the party. Again, they should be calling this out for the abuse of taxpayer funds, not to mention waste of time when they are on our wage, but instead, accept this as business as usual, so nothing to see here?
Imagine how long you would last in any other Industry doing that ‘party business’ shit on the bosses time and the shareholders dime just to shore up your own job?
Secret party business
Look at a recent piece Sean Parnell wrote in the Australian, Turnbull’s meetings ‘should be classed as secret Lib business’, in a nutshell, Turnbull tried to knock back an FOI request for what he got up to on his first day of PM after rolling Abbott, he gave the old ‘security’ line for knocking it back. On appeal the Information Commissioner decided that nope, no need for it to be confidential, so now Turnbull is wasting taxpayer fund on solicitors to still fight it (bit like old mate Brandis and his diary – don’t taxpayers love pollies wasting OUR money stopping US from knowing what they do on OUR behalf ARGH!) and is reasoning that meetings held with cabinet ministers should be deemed “Liberal Party business”?
Yeah… No! If you are a cabinet minister meeting the PM, well, unless it is Saturday arvo when Parliament is not sitting, sitting in someone’s backyard having a beer & a snag, it is “Government” business and we have a right a to know. What is more germane here though is, why the hell should ‘party business’ be considered a sacred site in the first place when it comes to Government? I don’t know about you, but if I want to chat about my ‘club’ I have to do it at lunchtime or outside work? Anything I do in my worktime is at the behest of who pays me?
Call me a dreamer, but I honestly believe that if political parties stopped playing so many political games all with the focus of ‘party business’ being the ultimate priority, not us, the voters, more punters might be attracted to them?
If we had faith that the person we elected actually was working in our best interest, not the interest of their party we might also be more forgiving of minor transgressions (which are human) or the money we spend on them to enable them to the job of representing us?
Sticking like glue to a particular political party and ALL their policies come hell or high water, just so the other mob don’t get in is beyond childish. You can support a political party without slavishly agreeing to it? Don’t you still love your family, even though you may not agree with every decision every family member makes?
Maybe a bit more ‘reality’ and a lot less ‘party business’ might be more conducive to better Adult Government, healthier Politicians themselves and less sceptical voters?
Then again, I'm just a punter, so obviously not as important as 'party business' :(
PS. Party faithful don't scream at me. We can still be friends without me loving the same team you support ;-)
*Meanjin is a quarterly publication, both online and in a lovely published book format that I highly recommend you spending your hard earned on if your subscription budget can afford it. If you like longer reads with more substance to them on a variety of topics, but always well written, you should check it out https://meanjin.com.au/
Let’s have some fun!
I used the expensive marriage equality opinion poll in the above, better known as the dodgy non binding plebescite 😉 Give me your best examples of Government policy that benefits Party Business more than Australian voters interest in the comment area below?
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