Friday, August 20, 2010

The end game - is a minority government likely?

The election campaign is now at end game.

This election was Labor's to lose rather than Abbott's to win, and it looks like Labor may have just about blown it.  The basic problem with playing politics is that a clear majority of people don't like it.

We haven't seen any leadership on fundamental issues of great concern and importance; such as moving Australia towards a sustainable and vibrant economy for future generations to enjoy.

A summary of the political tactics in play follows:

  • Focus on Abbott and his negatives - viz:
  • Attempt to scare people about the prospects of Abbott as Prime Minister.  There is some validity to this as Abbott's belief that climate change somehow isn't happening is real worry (remember the bushfires?) and he has flagged big cuts to education and the public sector.  This is similar to John Howard's "please don't kick me by registering a protest vote" line in 2007.
  • Keep blaming the Greens for Penny Wong's failure to get a price on carbon.  They really have to get over this - they did not negotiate with the Greens on either the ETS or an interim carbon tax, their politically strategy to wedge the Liberals backfired when Turnbull was deposed as leader and Abbott took over.  Kevin Rudd then backed down when he should have called a double dissolution history
  • Try and shift the focus from Rudd's fall from grace - Labor even had him campaigning in the seat of Melbourne in atttempt to stop Adam Bandt winning it for the Greens.
  • Keep on hammering Labor about the demise of Kevin Rudd, and attack Julia Gillard as one of the perpetrators of his demise
  • Grab the media by any means possible - Abbott's "I am not sleeping until the election" tactic has been quite effective here.  There is lots of media coverage about this, despite the fact that Abbott dashing around in frenzy visiting police stations (law & order) and other random locations is essentially meaningless.
  • Attack the credibility of the Labor government across a number or topics - including asylum seekers (even though they share identical policies) , the economy (even though Labor steered Australia through the  GFC), and Julia Gillard's bona fides.

The Greens
  • Keep the focus on positive policies - such as tacking climate change, reducing taxes for small business. This is difficult with a huge proportion of media attention focused on who will win out of Tony and Julia and who will from government.
  • Convince people that a green vote counts - and try and counter attempts by both major parties to "scare supporters back into the fold".  This is of particular importance to the Greens in the Senate and the seat of Melbourne.
  • Present the Greens as a positive influence in the senate if they end up with the balance of power.
  • Avoid getting sucked into discussion on preferences.  For the future, I think the Greens should adopt a policy of reforming the voting system to eliminate (or at least reduce the effect of) preference deals.
In summary, for the major parties, the election has devolved to a "he said - she said" and "we are right - you are wrong" game devoid of any real substance.

Interestingly, several newspaper editorials and articles today have made similar points. 
It seems our style of western democracy has spun itself into a silly game where long term planning and strategic outcomes get lost in a babble of inane "campaigning".  A minority government is a likely outcome that I think would be positive.  It is better that some independents and the Greens have a say and role in government rather than sitting as with the "opposition".  

Adversarial systems often don't deliver outcomes; it is time for our parliament to truly represent the people rather than the fairly narrow interests of political parties and career politicians.

As postscript, here is a video I shot yesterday of a discussion between Nicola Roxon, Bob Brown and Joe Hockey with Jon Faine on ABC 774 radio.

PPS: It is also interesting to note how much we have heard about Abbott and Gillard, and how little we have from other such as:
  • Barnaby Joyce (where are the Nationals?)
  • Almost all Lower House candidates from all parties (except for a few marginal seats)
  • Wilson Tuckey (has he been gagged?)
  • Penny Wong (following her abject failure on climate change policy)
  • Eric Abetz (the shadow minister for logging)
  • Mark Arbib (gone to ground apparently)
  • Peter Garrett (after several train wrecks as a minister)
  • Bronwen Bishop (the silence is deafening).
  • Kim Carr (shouldn't he be spruiking the "cash for clunkers" scheme?)
  • Martin Ferguson (the minister for coal)
It seems that some effort during the campaign actually might go into keeping some of these people off the airwaves, or maybe the media is just not interested in what they have to say?

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