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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

politics-as-usual « Previous | |Next »
August 20, 2010

The 2010 election is almost over. The newspapers are coming out with their latest opinion polls, the horse race commentators are making their final call, all the politicians are saying that it is too close to call, and the analysts are saying which marginal seats will be won and lost.

Now is a good time to think about filling the vacuum with what has been noticeably missing-----good progressive policy ideas. We sure need these, especially with a ‘quarry economy’, peak oil and climate change. Empowered as consumers yet disenfranchised as citizens, we confront an ALP that has been hollowed out by the apparatchiks to become a technocratic shell that is unable to deal with substantive policy issues in an effective manner.

The excellent Centre for Policy Development has published an e-book entitled More than Luck: Ideas Australia Needs. The Introduction says:

A stasis has settled over government and opposition in Australia. We need to change the game....the present stasis isn’t simply the product of the people at the top of the political food chain. The current Labor government is a symptom of a broader political system that no longer seems to know or care what issues are important, even crucial, let alone how to begin to address them. A system bogged down in its own cultures...Is...the media... caught up in the logic of old politics which necessitates a straightforward political and popularity contest and an electorate driven by the hip-pocket, and is unable to canvas a more complex narrative? It often seems as if our major parties don’t trust voters to look beyond narrow self-interest – even when opinion polls and research groups tell them otherwise. Rather than focus on what politicians can do to improve people’s lives, the media focuses on personalities. Politics is usually reported as if it were a horse race. Journalism lives for the leadership contest and little else.

The result is that the political world is locked between two mirrors – whichever direction it looks in, it sees infinite images of itself reflected back with less and less clarity. It's akin to living in a fish bowl.

It's hard to disagree with that, isn't it. Has the Canberra Press Gallery started to lift its game as a result of criticism? The Introduction continues:

To begin to map out a new political agenda for Australia requires at least two things. First, we need a conceptual framework in which to think through what is new about the world we live in and what that means. Second, we need to identify and strategise our way around obstacles to change..... If we are to do more than merely rely on luck, we need a viable, hopeful narrative about the future...As many of the old standards of modern life lose their viability — the established print media, abundant fossil fuels, unconstrained economic growth, the availability of an endless environmental sink for pollution by the ‘externalities’ of industrial production — so we need to rethink our conceptual maps and write the story of our new political and economic future.

Again it is hard to a disagree with that. My gut feeling is that we won't get a conceptual framework in which to think through what is new about the world we live in and what that means from the Canberra Press Gallery or from the "politics is everything" apparatchiks in the ALP.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:43 AM | | Comments (4)


Re the comment that the ALP has become a technocratic shell unable to deal with substantive policy issues.

Bernard Keane in Crikey argues that:

Labor, which is further along the path of professionalization than the Liberals, seems full of people who know what they’re supposed to do – manage the media, sell policies, attack their opponents – but not quite why they are doing it and how to do it as if it matters. For these people, most of them too young to remember, and certainly too young to have worked in, a real Labor government, the practice of political tactics is akin to an elaborate but poorly-understood ritual.They know what incantations to utter (taken from that blood-soaked grimoire, Whatever It Takes) and what gestures to makes, but not their purpose or rationale.

Sounds pretty accurate to me. He adds that:
Like Labor, however, an Abbott Government will be playing at governing, unwilling and intellectually unable to tackle the key issues facing Australia, which have been present only in parodic form in the campaign: housing supply, the infrastructure deficit, a two-speed economy and the need to commence decarbonising the Australian economy.

It doesn't look promising does it?

" akin to an elaborate but poorly-understood ritual.."

Sadly the same can be say of much (most?) voters during an election campaign. Polling day has become a short-sighted auction for ALL involved.

That was a very good thread starter. It indicates what we have to do, in a world where someof the cognitive ley lines have been transgressed, to reclaim our election.
So what do do?
What Gary just did, see things as they are and workout their meaning. That's the only precondition for a new start. But it requires mental effort, yet that's the good thing about it.
I haven't thought so much about quite a few ssues so much as the last half dozen days. If it's murky, I have to identify and understand the implications in that also.

sadly true, mars08