Allan Takes Aim Blog

ACT Opinions

Posted on: 4 October 2012

Bribery: a big tool in election campaigns

A question: how many of the policies used by ACT Labor, Liberal and Greens in their campaign launches for the ACT election do you remember? I ask because, since launching their campaigns, they have launched more policies than you can poke a stick at. So again I ask: How many of these policies do you remember? I haven’t done a count but I suspect they outstrip the number of policies used at the start of the campaign.

That said, it might be said also, that calling them policies is drawing a very long bow as the word bribe seems to fit some of them better. So beware: experience should tell us that believing a policy will fix a problem often makes the problem worse than it was pre the policy.

I posit also that in elections, bribes often seem a better word to describe policy. Indeed so many bribes have been offered in this campaign as to describe Canberra as the capital of ‘”Hope and Money.”

Indeed the bribes are so good they remind me of the song “The Mountains of Mourne” composed as a lament for Irish labourers who moved to London in search of wealth and a better life: “Sure they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley nor wheat, but there’s gangs of them digging for gold in the street.” Alas the reality was a different. One hopes that not too many ACT voters will be lamenting the difference between bribes and reality after this election.

And the same applies to the word promise. In my view the word promise should be re-defined. Once upon a time, a promise was like a sacred vow. Breaking a promise could lead to people being exiled. Sadly, the word “promise” has lost its meaning and in many cases today has become a convenient and insincere expression used by politicians lacking honesty, integrity and moral strength.

This can be seen when, buffeted by the wind of criticism they think might affect their standing in the polls, their moral strength gets blown away like gossamer. Suddenly they forswear their original promises and replace them with promises they say are better. Little wonder voters are increasingly sceptical of politicians.

Unfortunately too, political parties today have as many rituals as churches, which no doubt accounts for the ‘broad church’ phrase that party hierarchies use to cover up serious internal divisions.

Money, lots of it, also features prominently in these post campaign launch policies. However, Labor having held the reins of Government for many years and responsible (I use that word in the sense of managing) should be in a better position to know if the money to run the policies is available without the need to increase taxes. If it isn’t, then for the next four years and beyond, not only will every voter’s tax burden increase significantly it will show Labor as a poor money manager.

When questioned about the cost of their policies no doubt the Liberals will say that, because they didn’t have access to the books they were at a disadvantage in assessing the cost of policies but, in the interests of all Canberrans, they drew on expert advice from people used to managing money responsibly.

So which party will voters elect? Will they re-elect Labor a party that might tax them to death to meet its policy commitments or a Liberal Party that says it is a good money manager.

But let me not forget the Greens which claims to be the ACT’s third party. Unfortunately, except for their accidental MLA Caroline Le Couteur, a founding member of Australian Ethical Investments, a company that as a director she helped grow into a major company now listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, the Greens have little experience of business management. They may have academic qualifications bur it takes business experience to invest and manage the tax dollars we contribute to the operation of essential community and social services.

As I watch the progress of the election on television memories surge back to my school days and the squabbles that erupted between classmates during which they indulged in venomous tit for tat. This ACT election reminds me of those squabbles. The only difference; the squabbles of my school days had short lifespans while the ACT election tit for tat continues.

I feel also that the myth of federal issues not affecting local elections is dead. My feeling is based on the results of the recent Northern Territory and State election because, despite the Greens supporting Prime Minister Julia Gillard in her battle with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, their vote dropped. I rather think the drop was due to their preventing Labor from implementing its policies, a situation that has been repeated in the ACT.

As I speak to voters I get the impression this situation could be resolved by the election on Saturday, 20th October.


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