Sunday, July 31, 2011

Grrr, politics - you do my head in!

Well, a political post was inevitable. That little blurb under ‘About me’ says I’m a politics geek. True – I’m interested in public policy and enjoy discussions (not arguments, discussions) and debates, thrashing out issues in a meaningful way. But frankly, ‘politics’ gives me the absolute shits sometimes.

Just look at how it’s talked about by the media and politicians alike, accepting it – promoting it – as a sporting contest. How tragic! How utterly pathetic to see serious policy discussion degenerate into cheap stunts and empty rhetoric, as pollies scramble to kick goals in the polls.

Political parties are driving the political discourse into the ground, well beneath the lowest common denominator. I wonder if they have actually become the lowest common denominator. They should lead and inspire us, setting an example of how people from varying backgrounds and ideologies can work constructively for the common good – isn’t an interest in the common good supposed to be their common trait? Isn’t that a lovely dream? Maybe not for media proprietors.

I know political parties are a necessary evil for the practical functioning of our parliamentary system. But being a necessary evil doesn’t mean it’s necessary that they are evil. Right?

And a parliament without political parties would still bubble over with ambition and power struggles. But there seems to be far more integrity and maturity from independent politicians in recent years – people like Nick Xenophon, Tony Windsor and the late Peter Andren. They sometimes influence power, but never hold it; they have little interest in fortnightly polls and can instead test their policy stance against their values instead. But how many people have even heard of Peter Andren, personally the most inspiring politician from my lifetime?

The parties on the other hand are essentially sporting teams, with polls providing the scoreboard between elections. And they are each out to win at all costs, even if that cost includes good long-term policy. In Australia, Tony Abbott puts significantly more effort into relentlessly campaigning against the carbon tax and shifting opinion against such necessary urgent action on climate change, than engaging in productive efforts to mitigate the fallout of a serious issue that he claims to believe in.

Meanwhile, in the US some Republicans see the looming debt crisis as an irresistible opportunity to damage Barak Obama’s re-election hopes next year, regardless of the impact on the Americans they represent.

Indeed, that’s politics. A robust and effective opposition is imperative to hold the government to account, but when they oppose for oppositions sake they become counter-productive. Again, indulge my idealistic naivety, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a harmonious parliament? One where our elected representatives worked constructively together in the collective interest of us all? Where honest mistakes or reasonable shifts in opinion were accepted for what they are, not used to sink the boot in? There are, no doubt, rarely publicised instances where politicians from different sides do work together. But wouldn’t it be more productive for us all if the general perception of parliament could be of a forum where a constructive contest of ideas fleshes out the best outcome for the nation, rather than one of division and fighting, which are celebrated in those wonderful sporting clichés but do little to progress the debate.

And then there’s the media. The contest between personalities and the struggle for power is far more interesting to them than boring policy analysis. So it comes back to the game. People like Michelle Grattan examine polls and performances, wasting column space on the politics of politics, while Andrew Bolt stirs succeeds by stirring up anger on both sides of the debate and Alan Jones berates ‘Juliar’ Gillard for introducing a carbon tax without a mandate, while he uses his significant profile to push his own agenda. Would he still berate the Prime Minister for policy shifts if he was – stick with me here – actually right and able to convince her, and the rest of us, of it?

The thing is, as much as I dislike the man, Jones has a right to his opinion, even (*gulp*) the right to use it as a rallying call, if he actually believes in the bile he coughs up. I’d be pretty hypocritical to suggest otherwise, I’ve been variously inspired by a range of political activists including, pertinently, Midnight Oil.

After all, the political and policy discussion goes on even when we aren’t voting as the ever-changing climate (not just environmental) shifts around us. So it isn’t unreasonable for a politician or party to alter their policy after an election if circumstances change, and it frustrates the hell outta me that we aren’t mature enough to deal with that in popular political discourse. I just wish it wasn’t based so much on fucking polls!

Seeing I’ve mentioned the Oils, I’ll finish by saying that, yeah, it saddens me to see Peter Garrett stripped of his power and passion by the party machine. I like to think he’s fighting the good fight behind closed doors. Maybe he is making a difference there, although I’d be surprised if it’s very much. Meanwhile, while towing the party line, he can no longer inspire people to stand up for things they believe in, environmental or otherwise, and encourage them to engage in issues the way he did successfully for 25 years with the Oils.

Seeing Mr Garrett spit out party lines does nothing for me, watching clips like this gives me chills.

No comments:

Post a Comment