Allan Takes Aim Blog

All politics are local

Posted on: 5 March 2010


Published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 23 Feb 2009

Occasionally I’ll get an e-mail telling me I should write only about local rather than federal politics. But all politics are local: ACT Senators Humphries and Lundy and Federal MPs Annette Elllis and Bob McMullan are local politicians. Indeed some people say they are more important than the Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Perhaps they are; but that’s an argument for another day. But that they are important is true because as members of the party of government they have the capacity to influence policy that affects us all.

ACT voters, of course, won’t need to decide until October 2012 about who to elect to the Assembly but later this year they will need to decide who they want to represent them in the next Federal Parliament.

Both Senator Humphries and Senator Lundy will contest the next election and both seem likely to be re-elected although I expect Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds and her running mate Hannah Parrish will put up a strong fight. I wish them well. At the same time I expect a number of minor parties and Independents will take on the challenge of trying to take the House of Representatives seats of Canberra and Fraser from Labor.

Non Labor candidates, even high profile ones, will find taking these seats a daunting challenge because retiring MPs Annette Ellis and Bob McMullan have done a good job. And while I would like to see a wider representation of political thought in parliament, history suggests Labor will retain both seats. Indeed, that twice in the past forty years a Liberal was elected not only shows the saying “the exception proves the rule” is true, it also suggests that ACT voters are voters of habit and pay little attention to the qualities of alternative candidates or the policies of parties other than Labor.

One might think important qualifications for prospective MPs or Senators would be that they could demonstrate to voters their history of being interested in the activities and problems of the constituency in which they are standing and also say how they would expand the former and tackle the latter.

While most minor party and Independent candidates are likely to have these qualifications, unfortunately, and increasingly in the major parties, such qualifications today now play a subservient role to the aims and ambitions of party faction leaders, who wield considerable influence in party hierarchies. More and more, the wishes of local party members are being disregarded, with candidates chosen for their celebrity status even if they have no particular knowledge of a constituency.

Examples can be found in both major parties. However, one of the most egregious occurred in 2004 when Labor forced Peter Garret, failed Nuclear Disarmament Party candidate in 1990 and former leader of rock group “Midnight Oil” on Kingsford Smith Labor as its candidate. ((Now Minister for the Environment, Heritage is also the man who said when asked after his failure with the NDP would he stand again, was reported as saying: “I would but I would only want to do it if a whole lot of people wanted me to do it, because it’s a dog’s life surrounded by hypocrites and drunks.” ) Have the hypocrites and drunks gone?

Will a similar thing happen in the ACT before the coming Federal election? As Senator Humphries and Lundy have participated successfully and actively in their constituencies, only foolish faction leaders would want to remove them. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about House of Representative candidates.

In scenes would shame the secretiveness of the conclave of cardinals that elects the Pope, the secular cardinals (faction leaders) of the political parties are already in conclave deciding who they want as candidates.

This secretiveness gives rise to rumours about possible candidates. With all parties having right, left or centre factions, rumour also runs rife as to the base of the candidates support.

So who will be candidates for Fraser and Canberra? I don’t know. But I do know that, at the last ACT election, I interviewed Labor and Liberal candidates and candidates from minor parties and Independents who, I think, would make good federal representatives. I hope we see some of their names on the ballot paper.

The Chronicle for Canberra Community News. Published every Tuesday

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2 Responses to "All politics are local"

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