By Joe Montero
Make no mistake about it. The Liberal National Party government surviving Saturday’s election is not a good result for Australia.
At the same time, it has provided some important lessons that it would be wise to learn from for a better result in the future.
For all the talk about Australians having cast their voice, the underlying reality is that the electoral system is far from being democratic. It is inherently undemocratic and does not really represent the true collective will of the nation.
It operates through a serious gerrymander that walks away from the principle that the vote of each citizen is equal. On top of this, a complex preferential system is used to manipulate the vote through secondary vote blocks, and turn it into something other than was intended by the voters.
Take this election as a good example. The top end of town came to fear an electoral loss, seeing it as having the potential of working against its sectional interests; worried seriously enough and prepared to go to further lengths than usual, to make sure this didn’t happen.
Using a combination of personal ambition and strategy, Clive Palmers’ United Australia Party came into existence, and Alliance with the Liberal and National parties worked out.
Even with dirty tricks, and the over representation of the nationals relative to their votes, the Coalition received 32.6 percent of the vote, and Labor got 33.8 percent. Add 3.7 percent from the United Australia Party and and 3 pereent from One Nation to the Coalition vote, and 10.1 for the Greens to the Labor vote, and you get 38.7 against 43.9 percent for the other. Aside from this, 23.8 percent decided not to vote.
Palmer’s $50 million war chest was used to buy the election. through an advertising blitz that promised the world, although none of it was ever intended to be delivered.
The electoral system was manipulated, to channel disillusionment within the camp down a dead end, which ended shoring up the government and political parties, against which the disillusionment was directed against in the first place.
Counted into the mix should be the role of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which worked for its supporters to take part in the election campaigning and mobilised its voters through the pulpit.
This organisation does not represent Christianity in Australia. It only represents its most reactionary pole. The ACL was founded in 1995 by John Gagliardi, Rupert Murdoch’s Man, as a vehicle to manipulate the Christian community, and to pressure the political system, into combating existing anti-discrimination law and the move towards marriage equality.
For this election, the ACL campaigned on accusing Labor of wanting to put an end to religious freedom by change the law, to make it illegal to teach the ACL’s “biblical interpretation” of marriage and sexuality, and intending to force all public hospitals to provide abortion.
The ACL base was mobilised for a crusade, and this had a significant impact in some of the targeted electorates.
Rupert Murdoch and his empire, have always been there, backing the manipulation of the electoral system and role of the ACL, using a barrage of lies, to generate and manipulate fear. By this means, a small but sufficient and decisive part of Australia was convinced into submission.
The charge that change will leave the average Australian even worse off was peddled repeatedly. The message was, “You might feel we’ve screwed you. But if you go for the other lot, you’ll be screwed even harder.” This is real context of the slogan, “the Bill you can’t afford.”
Discussion on real issues was avoided by focusing on personalities.
Under the Bill Shorten leadership, Labor did have the courage to promise that the big end of town would have to pay its share towards making Australia a better society.
Despite this, Labor must share some responsibility for its loss.
It failed to answer the challenges. Much more could have been done to link tackling corporate tax evasion and government intervention, to creating jobs and genuine and sustainable economic growth.
At a time when job insecurity continues to rise, many are finding themselves worse off, and when everybody knows the economy is broken, this is necessary. And this must be connected to creating an exiting vision for the future.
Labor did not make a strong enough connection and did not generate a vision that resonated with society, when in recent times, its support base has been becoming increasingly disillusioned.
Only by recruiting many into participation in a political movement, operating from the ground up, can the changes needed be brought about.
This was not the focus. Most of Australia was left out as mere spectators. Only the unions’ Change the Rules Campaign brought about some large-scale involvement. It proved to be not enough.
Some thought that the death of Bob Hawke would provide the sympathy vote. It didn’t work out that way. Hawke was presented through the media, as some kind of saint. He was nothing of the sort.
His government borrowed from Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and brought neoliberalism into Australia. It implemented the Prices and Incomes accord and its subsequent additions, which were supposedly going to bring improved government services, then called the social wage, but were really about reducing the wages share, increasing the profits share and cutting back on government services.
The accords also brought in a form of corporatism, based on an organisational framework of government, big business leaders and top union officials brought in, to police the bringing in of the brave new world, in exchange for a few perks. The process saw a merger between big business and government on a higher level than ever seen before, and this has continued to grow till toady.
Too many saw through the attempt to re-write history, to bring it any benefit to Labor.
Labor was only too happy to confine itself to playing the electoral game for this election, including the “vote for us and we’ll fix it for you” style of operating.
A much better alternative would have been: How can we assist you, to organise yourselves into an unstoppable movement from the ground up, which build’s the capacity of people to participate in realising their own power, and building confidence needed to work together and make a difference?
This is not about castigating the Labor Party, for it is a matter relevant to all those outside it, who want to take on what the Morrison government represents.
While the election reuslt may be a disappointment, it has also provided an opportunity to learn to do better, and build a much more solid foundation for the future.
There is danger too. We are already seeing moves to blame the outcome on Bill Shorten trying to bring about too much change and that there must be a pull back from demanding that the big end of town shoulders a greater burden by paying tax like everyone else. The proponents of this way of thinking say that pragmatism and steering away from big issues should be the course from now on.
What they are really saying is that Labor’s role is to be another Liberal Party. What’s the point in having two of the same? This must be resisted. Australia needs a real alternative.
The return of Scott Morrison to the Lodge means that a price will be paid for failing to put an end to the Morrison government. The implementation of more privilege for a few, the transfer of income upwards, economic stagnation, scapegoating of certain sections of our community, the destruction of jobs and attacks on unions, together with the erosion of democratic rights overall and restriction on the freedom of speech, will rise to a new level.
And it will provide the conditions and therefore opportunity, to get on with the job and build the new political and grass roots movement that Australia needs to have.