Allan Takes Aim Blog

Lessons to learn before election

Posted on: 20 October 2011


First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 18 October 2011

Andrew Bolt is not alone at being thought politically biased. From time to time I’m accused that when writing about Members of the ACT Legislative Assembly not only am I biased but insulting. This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black because often the language of the accusers would shame the devil.  

For example, in a recent letter I was accused of showing Liberal bias because, in a column on disability, I used the name of the Liberal MLA who had expressed the views of many people connected with disability but had not mentioned the name of the Minister responsible for the disability portfolio.

But the annoying thing about the letter was less the accusation of bias than that its language was of a kind that had a copy of the letter been sent to the editor it would never have graced the Letters to the Editor page in The Chronicle. 

I hope you don’t get the idea that I’m afraid of being insulted. Not only do I expect to be insulted I encourage people to express their views as strongly as they can. However, they should remember it is possible to be polite even when expressing strong views. Indeed I think strong views have a better chance of being accepted when expressed politely. Of course people might have different ideas on what is or is not polite but I doubt the difference would be great.

However, political bias is in a category of its own: how does one decide what is political bias? The fact is: arguments about political bias have so many twists and turns they can, and often do, go on forever without the issue ever being resolved. In a way, of course, this describes the political process itself, be it Federal, State or Territory.

Canberra voters should note that if the current Federal Government runs its full term then the next election voters in Canberra will face is the Territory election next October. Some people might also think that voters who have moved to Canberra from say Brisbane or Perth might find it difficult to adjust to Canberra’s election issues. I doubt that’s the case. I venture to suggest the election issues in Canberra are little different to the issues in Brisbane or Perth.

Indeed I think most voters see elections as a case of déjà vu. The only thing new voters might possibly find different are the candidates. But current voters might also find it difficult because it is becoming increasingly difficult to see the difference in the parties because, as one listens to candidates spruiking policies all their statements sound like echoes of the policies of opposing candidates.

Unfortunately these policy echoes can have the unintended consequence of giving some voters minor headaches. And while this is unfortunate more unfortunately these minor headaches can become raging headaches that require medication to cure or ameliorate. Worse still, depending on who gets elected, the raging headaches can become so severe they lead to depression that might require ongoing psychiatrist treatment.

I mention these problems not only to inform Canberra’s new voters but also to inform current Canberra voters that all should start preparing for the headaches they might experience next October. While hopefully this might not be their experience and more in hope than expectation perhaps the major parties have learned their lesson.

Labor’s lesson: workers have deserted it because it has ditched the principles that once attracted them and replaced them with the goal of simply acquiring power. The Liberals lesson: Liberals who once were attracted to the party’s philosophy have ditched it because acquisition of power has become its goal. The Greens are slightly different: they are still a party of apprentice social engineers and yet to convince voters they are a party with a future.  

However, the main problem for all parties is that a sufficient number of voters do not trust them to govern responsibly. Indeed, voters think parties have become clubs for academics, lawyers, union officials, political apparatchiks and social theorists who treat voters as if they can’t think for themselves. Come next October they might be forced to realise they have made a mistake.

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