Nothing looks more desperate than a politician in full panic mode. But that’s what the Australian public has had to endure during this federal election campaign.
The Coalition Government has been spooked by polling and voter feedback that many of its sitting members are in serious danger of being ousted by independents. What could be worse for the major party club than having to cede some power to independents?
There was the unedifying spectacle a couple of weeks ago of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, claiming that independent candidates are a threat to Australia’s security.
What a pathetic affront to the democratic right for citizens to stand for election in any form they choose, and for voters to make their own choices. And what of the PM’s claim, anyway, that majority governments are better managers of national security? We’ve seen successive military failures in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there’s the gifting of the Port of Darwin by the Northern Territory government to a Chinese company on a 99-year lease. All Mr Morrison could say at the time was, “They didn’t tell us about it.”
If that’s the best response he can give, then clearly we need independents in parliament to ventilate and question these failures of majority government.
The most prominent Liberal to be in danger from a so-called “teal” independent is Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, holder of the blue ribbon, inner-Melbourne seat of Kooyong. The media have reported internal party polling which puts Mr Frydenberg on 43%, and if that holds on election day it could allow paediatric neurologist Monique Ryan to snatch the seat on preferences. The bookies can’t separate the two either.
Other seats held by the Coalition and in danger from independents include Goldstein in Victoria, and Mackellar and Wentworth in New South Wales.
The reality is that majority government hasn’t worked to great effect, nationally or at state level, and voters have wised up. Federally, we’ve had largely majority governments for the past 50 years and what is the result? Health services on the brink of collapse; an aged care system that is, frankly, a national disgrace; a housing crisis that has governments paralysed; and now cost of living out of control.
Yes, it’s become a cliché, but the quote attributed to Einstein, that ”Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” applies here:voters, in increasing numbers, just won’t buy the “majority is better” mantra because what they see with their own eyes that it is not what it’s cracked up to be.
Just look at the popularity and success of Clark independent in the federal parliament, Andrew Wilkie. He’s won four elections on the trot, increasing his vote at each turn. At every campaign the major parties try to scare us by saying that Clark voters suffer when they elect an independent, but the public don’t buy it.
My, and I think Mr Wilkie’s, experience is that voters want politicians who work hard, listen, and stick to their convictions. That’s what Mr Wilkie does, and I have no doubt he’ll be easily retuned for a fifth term.
That’s the real lesson for the major parties. Scaring people is cringe-worthy and disrespectful; many voters may not take much interest in politics but they know when they’re being taken for mugs. If they turn to independents it’s not a mistake, it’s because the major parties do not give them what they want: empathy, integrity and honesty.
If the major parties worried more about their constituents and less about themselves, they just may do a little better. Until then, more strength to the independents.