There’s been some discussion in the comments to the previous post about whether it really matters if Abbott becomes PM. Won’t that be a start for fixing the problems in the ALP, from its factions to the corruption they had in NSW to Gillard making promises she can’t keep to their gutless aping of conservative idiocy like mandatory detention?
Well, no. No, it won’t.
Because all of those are things the Liberals – and this current mob of Liberals at that – do as well. Obviously Labor’s anti-refugee policies are nasty and they deserve censure – but the Liberals’ are even worse. The Liberals are riven by factionalism just as much as Labor, and the NSW-style corruption is a factor of the kind of unrestrained power the ALP had there – the kind of power that Campbell Newman is now abusing in Queensland, and – if the polling is right – Abbott would be free to enjoy federally. The best way to minimise big party corruption is with minority government so the government has to negotiate in parliament, rather than behind closed doors. And if anyone thinks the Liberals in power don’t hand out favours to mates and punish anyone who dared stand up to them – again have a good look at Newman and O’Farrell in particular.
(All recent efforts to punish dodgy state Labor governments – NSW, Victoria, Queensland – have led to even dodgier state Liberal governments.)
Gillard’s promise thing is no better or worse than Howard’s “non-core” promises or Abbott’s admission that if it’s not written down, you shouldn’t believe what he says. I think it’s a pretty poor way to campaign, and I don’t vote for parties that do it – but it’s hardly a reason to vote for the Coalition.
So what does happen if you vote LNP to teach ALP a lesson and hopefully get it to reform?
Well, the ALP and the media immediately conclude it didn’t go far-right enough. The dodgiest candidates tend to be in the safest seats, so the party loses such progressive talent that it had and becomes even more of a rabble. They learn that vacuous populism such Abbott’s is the only way to win in Australia and so they start aping it even more (for an example, see Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews’ recent idiotic and costly promise to let juries start making pronouncements on appropriate sentences).
Worse, they learn that they must never ever stand up to News Ltd. Whatever Rupert wants from now on, he gets. (As opposed to if the Liberals lose despite the most partisan media campaign the country’s ever seen – that would be a fantatsic slap in the face for “the king maker” and a massive boon for our democracy.)
Meanwhile, if the Liberals get in, that will be considered confirmation that Australians don’t care about refugees, are happy to let people starve on NewStart, oppose marriage equality, want tax cuts for the rich at the expense of public services. It’ll be carte blanche to get on with further castrating the ABC. They’ll flog off to their mates the NBN we’ve paid for, and when the recent mining investment pays off for the miners, the rest of the country will see little of it because they’ll have repealed the MRRT. Australia will abandon action on climate change and give up on trying to persuade other countries to act (at which point we’ll be in the terrifying position of having to hope that cranks like Monckton and Bolt actually were, against all the odds, right and we can throw whatever we like at the atmosphere with no consequence).
If you want to send the message that you do not care about the poor or refugees, that you want Australia run by News Ltd and all future governments to give it whatever it wants to keep it on-side, that you want us to roll the dice on climate change and you don’t care about equality before the law – then by all means, vote LNP. That’s what your vote will say.
If you want to send the message that Labor’s behaviour has been dodgy and you’re disgusted with it and you want them to actually be a progressive party – then the choice is obvious. Vote for the Greens and preference Labor above the Liberals.
That’s what your vote does. It tells the decision makers which way the electorate wants policy to go. In broad terms – further to the right, to inadequate services for the poor, to cruelty to refugees, to whatever Rupert Murdoch wants; or to the left, towards adequate welfare that doesn’t lock people out of employment, to humane treatment of refugees, to civil liberties.
Please be careful with it.