Allan Takes Aim Blog

Media should help the political battlers

Posted on: 22 August 2012

First my apologies for an accidental deletion. The above article, published The Chronicle, August 14, was deleted accidentally today

Will some of them be led like lambs led to the slaughter at the ACT Election on Saturday 20 October or will some of them turn out to be lions who will roar in the political den known as the ACT Legislative Assembly? No prizes for guessing that I’m talking about new candidates for the next ACT election even though I subscribe to the view that history supports the former rather than the latter proposition.

Some people I’ve spoken to also think ‘gluttons for punishment’ better describes them but, be they lambs, lions or gluttons, these Small Party (I prefer small party to minor party because, relatively speaking, membership of the so called major parties is small) are the face of democracy at its best. This can be seen during the campaign as they canvass voters, hoping to impress a sufficient number of them with their ideas and the thought that that they are people of honesty, integrity and common sense and so worthy of their vote.

Sadly, and more likely than not, that most Canberrans will never get to know the ideas of the small parties and Independents. This is not surprising because as I know to my own cost, trying to disseminate political information is a very expensive exercise. Unfortunately, as small parties and Independents usually have little money and unlike the major parties, no public funding base, they must use their own resources.

If only to show the difference major party candidates say voting for Small Party candidates or Independents is a vote wasted. They laugh at the suggestion and laugh even louder that the latter have the gall to suggest otherwise. Let me add that, over the many years I’ve been involved in politics, I have met many wannabe politicians who laughed at the thought but now wish they hadn’t. (A brief digression and a question: How many current members of the various Australian parliaments used their own resources to get elected?)

The fact is that the cost of election campaigning has become so expensive that the only ideas voters are likely to hear or read will not necessarily be the best ideas. Indeed the only ideas they are likely to hear will get will be those of the major parties or wealthy individuals of influence not directly involved in politics, who use political parties to pursue their interests. This is not to suggest that the interests of the latter are necessarily inimical to the interests of Canberra.

Nevertheless many people think the current funding process less than democratic. Indeed it could be argued that not only is it the antithesis of democracy but, to some degree, similar in respect to the system used by totalitarian regimes – say something often enough and people will eventually come to believe it. Sadly, we know to our cost that freedom of speech became a victim of this system.

To some degree this is what is happening today in election campaigns, because only parties with money or access to people or businesses with money get the same the same message delivered time and time again. And just to make sure, the parties then set out the message in a plethora of pamphlets and booklets that are then delivered to voters. As a further backup newspaper and TV adverts carry the message as do Facebook and Twitter, both of which are vehicles for mass messaging.

Unfortunately, commercial electronic media also seem to favour the message of one party and, more often than not, so do their executives and journalists to the extent they become propagandists for a party or particular interests. And if only to make sure the message gets through many executives and journalists in publicly owned television and radio outlets also seem to do the same.

Most readers will know the phrase ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware in this case the buyers bring voters who, to avoid buying possible pigs in pokes from major parties and business interests should be made aware of the policies developed by Small Parties and Independents because, after voting, it is too late to become aware. When, and if this happens we can then lay claim to being a truly participatory democracy.


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