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Monday
Feb272012

Making the hard decisions - hard on us.

Perhaps the most concerning thing about today’s ALP leadership spill is the very real assault on democracy. Now I know that’s a cliché that get thrown around a lot and in most cases inaccurately, but hear me out.

Many commentators have pointed out, and quite rightly, that the public don’t get a vote in this leadership ballot. As have most of the people who will get a vote. But what does that say about our system of government? Theoretically, in Australia’s parliamentary psephocracy, we the people are supposed to be represented by our elected members of parliament. One would hope that by definition, our views and wishes would also be represented, however that doesn’t seem to be the case. We’ve seen a majority of the Labor caucus explicitly announce that they will ignore the overwhelming sentiment of the electorate that they prefer Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and Labor leader.

This intention has been largely defended by the media. Whilst I accept that our parliamentary system dictates that parties elect their leaders and that we elect our local representatives, surely the will of the people has to be taken into account. Julia Gillard and her supporters have gone so far as to accuse Kevin Rudd of being “poll-driven”. Doesn’t that simply mean that he reacts and responds to the mood of the electorate? We often heard John Howard condemned as “populist”, as if it was a bad quality for an elected leader. Quite frankly, I have never understood this view that democracy and therefore our right and ability to influence government and policy begins and ends at the ballot box. That view effectively encourages and entitles politicians to break so-called election promises.

It’s almost as if the prevailing belief is that bad governments must be left to their own devices and be allowed to continue on with bad or unpopular policy for the fixed term of a parliament. Apparently, the electorate should just shut-up and put up with it and hope that the damage isn’t too extensive come the next election. I’ve always argued that we get the government we deserve, but apparently we have to keep reliving our mistakes too. Not only do we have a dysfunctional minority government that none of us wanted, but evidently we have to pretend to like it. Julia Gillard says she’ll keep making the “hard decisions” irrespective of the polls, and irrespective of whether we like it or not.

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