Friday, June 1, 2012

Parliamentary Hokey Pokey

About two weeks ago, I was so frustrated with the Federal Government that I let loose with a late night post entitled Short & Ranty, a pithy summary of why I think Federal Labor is unspooling.  An awful lot of awful politics has passed in those two weeks, and during this time, we have watched our parliament edge closer to part-soap-opera, part-farce theatre improv. Tears, secret deals, backflips, big money, tricks and a sprint for the door - and that's just the lower house.

The Craig Thomson Distraction is still just that; as more and more is revealed about the HSU, the dodgier the whole saga appears. Is Mr Thomson guilty? The weight of common opinion has him well and truly convicted. I can't get that spelling error out of my mind: the signature on some dockets has Mr Thomson misspelling his own name, by adding a 'p'. That feels significant, but probably isn't.

At some point, the next chapter of Craig Thomson's adventure-mystery series will be revealed, but it won't make a difference at the 2013 Election. The Coalition will probably win, and even if it doesn't, the Thomson Distraction won't be a major factor. The only people who think that Labor can win the next election are Bill Kelty and the Tooth Fairy...unless Tony Abbott unhinges completely, and I don't rule that out.

In other Thomson-related news, Labor MP Ed Husic suggested on Twitter the need for a parliamentary line judge - a reference to the Abbott versus Pyne run to exit the chamber yesterday to ensure that Craig Thomson's surprise vote with the Opposition would be cancelled out. Strange, that of all the issues of conduct around this minority government, the Opposition chose to take a stand on the tainted status of Mr Thomson's vote. 

At the same time, we learn that a record number - over 10% - of eligible Australians are not enrolled to vote. That's 1.5 million Australians that should be enrolled, but aren't.  900,000 of those have never been enrolled. Voting is compulsory - and yet individuals have to take the initiative to register to vote, or they aren't included.*

I'm surprised that number of unenrolled people isn't higher. Who would want any part in a democracy that plays out more like a tv game show than a solemn place where serious men and women decide the future of the nation? Politics - the process, the gravitas, and yes, the politicians - should inspire and lead us. 

Instead of inspiration, we have the parliamentary answer to the Hokey Pokey, for which Tony Abbott must accept responsibility. His bitter reaction to failing to form a government with the Independents has dragged us here.

Australia has sustained economic health despite the GFC, yet it is met with denial and derision by the Opposition, and near silence in the media. Australia is committed to act on Climate Change, yet we're still not sure of the Leader of the Opposition has accepted that Climate Change is real - despite it having been a scientific fact since 1987. There have been about sixty unsuccessful censure motions brought by Mr Abbott, three Speakers in under five years, a new party formed, a party expulsion, a leadership challenge, a former PM on the back benches, members being sin-binned almost's the most exciting game in town.

In the face of this apparent chaos, the Government keeps on governing. Is Bill Kelty right? Will enough Australians forgive Julia Gillard for knifing Kevin Rudd, then changing her mind on the Carbon Tax? This week's Newspoll had both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader with personal Disapproval ratings at a toxic 60%. Surely these numbers suggest an electorate which is disengaging.

And yet, how can you walk away from the privilege of voting? How can you simply allow others to elect your representatives? Does that not nullify your right to complain when the government makes decisions you don't support? Perhaps if those 1,500,000 eligible Aussies had made the effort to register and learn a bit about their candidates, and then - god forbid - actually vote, today's parliament might be something that does inspire us. 

Decisions are made by those who show up.

* In Process Improvement Land, that's a critical weakness, but also a subject for another day. 

1 comment:

  1. I totaly agree if you fail to vote you have no right to complain. we tell that to the USA all the time. there were riots in the streets when bush was reelected... why riot when you could have voted...