The problem with Australian politics


The problems of the current state-of-play in Australian politics are simple.  In fact, the problems are so glaringly obvious I’m surprised someone hasn’t pointed them out sooner.

Actually, scratch that.  I’m not surprised.  In fact, I’m not in the least bit surprised.  You see, the problems with politics in Australia, also relate to the way politics in Australia is covered by the media. Essentially that leaves us with one basic premise: The entire political system in Australia is screwed.

I’m sorry those of you who are members of a political party.  I’m also sorry to those of you who are members of the media... wait a minute... why am I apologising?  None of those people groups read this website... anyway.  The end point is simple.  There are too many muppets on both sides of politics that, really, politics doesn’t have a chance.  Here’s an example:

The $43 Billion broadband network that Kevin07 has vowed to create for Australia.  Let’s examine this for a moment.  At the 2007 Federal election, Kevin07 promised to create a ‘broadband revolution’ by taking tenders from private companies to create a broadband network in Australia. 

Fast forward to April 2009.  The tender process has crashed more wildly than Lindsay Lohan after a big night out.  In essence, there wasn’t a business within 20,000 kilometres that wanted anything to do with it.  So, what does Kevin07 do?  Well, I would guess that his thought process went as follows:

“How DARE they choose to disobey me!  How dare they refuse to invest.  Well, I’ll show them.  Who cares that all the big business leaders have declared this broadband network too expensive and uninvestable.  This is MY time!  I’ll just build it myself!  And I know I just made up a word.”

So, that’s exactly what he’s going to do.  You see, this is a hallmark of Kevin07’s time in office.  As long as he appears to be doing something, anything in fact, he’ll use his mastery of the media to keep the perception alive that he is Australia’s saviour.  The problem is that so many people who flocked to Kevin07 at the last election aren’t Labor fans.  They’re Kevin Rudd fans.  He can do anything in their eyes (reduce an RAAF member to tears and get off scot-free while his backbenchers are forced to attend anger management classes; visit strip clubs and again get off scot-free while his junior ministers get investigated by the AFP and get vilified in public) and his fans are willing to turn a blind eye.

It’s the same thing that’s happening to Brett Stewart at the Manly Sea Eagles.  Sure he was charged with sexual assault, but he’s scored a few tries so everyone thinks he’s a hero again.  Give me a break.

Let’s take a moment now though to examine this $43bn broadband scheme.  Essentially, it means that a fibre optic cable line will be able to be accessed by 90% of Australia’s population.  Now, fibre optics have been around for decades.  Both Labor AND Liberal have squandered its capabilities.  However, that’s beside the point now.  Kevin07 has said that this new broadband network will be in operation by 2020. 

Ten years away.

So, seeing as I know nothing about business, let’s forget examining it from a business case, and look at it from a technological case... which I also know nothing about. 


Let’s cast our minds back 10 years.  Fibre optics was as prevalent as it was today, and cost exactly the same.  However, a technology that really didn’t exist was wireless broadband.  Let’s hop in the Delorean with Doc Brown and go back to 2009 where wireless is the hottest technology going around.  People are abandoning broadband in droves because of the freedom that wireless offers.  Hell, I’m even writing this sitting at a cafe in Kirribilli!  There’s no way I could be surfing the net if all there was to use was fibre optics.

Now, the big criticism of wireless is that it isn’t fast enough.  Well, seeing as 10 years ago it didn’t even exist and today I can download a 350mb video in 2 hours (via wireless) I think it’s come pretty far pretty damn quickly.  And that’s just in the last 5 years!  Give wireless another 10 years and who knows how good it will be?  I predict that it will be faster than a speeding bullet.

The days of sitting down at your desk with a big fat PC are drawing to a close.  The future is in laptops, PDAs, iPhones etc.  Portable technologies are what everyone wants.  Think about that in ten years when you have high speed access at your home because of this new fibre optic network but also have just as fast access at your local cafe on wireless.  Only this wireless speed won’t have cost $43 billion.

Ok, that’s just one example but surely other people have thought of this too?  I know the media have but, you know what?  None of them care.  None of them have even bothered to question the implications of this scheme.  Instead they still hark on about Costello’s leadership ambitions.  Kevin07’s quest for a seat on the UN Security council.  Kevin07’s plane outburst.  Global warming. Etc...

The problem with politics in Australia is that the media now provide incredibly little accountability, and neither side of politics are interested in keeping each other accountable either.  Look at the way the Liberals have opposed every piece of legislation that Labor has put forward this year.  Have they even once offered an alternative policy?  I think not.  All they do is oppose and frankly... that’s a little boring.

Surely the job of opposition is to provide an alternative government’s perspective?  Surely that means making recommendations on policy.  Adding amendments.  Coming up with decent rationales on why massive stimulus packages aren’t fixing the problem.  I don’t have a problem with them opposing legislation, but please, come up with an idea of your own at least!

The issue here is that neither side of politics is interested in coming up with good ideas.  When the Government hands down a policy, they refuse to acknowledge that it could be improved in any way shape or form.  When the opposition opposes, they refuse to acknowledge that perhaps some of the legislation may be worthwhile in any way shape or form.  One side is so focussed on staying in Government at all costs, while the other is focussed on getting into Government at all costs.

The big elephant in the room here though is the media.  These days the media are as soft as butter.  When Roxon and Swan (two of the worst Ministers of all time) handed down their alcopops tax, for the second time round, the media actually asked some tough questions at the subsequent press conference.  So, let’s examine this.  Here’s what Swan had to say at the press conference:

“Mr Turnbull and the Liberals have been negative, they’ve been obstructionist, and I think that is demonstrated by their failure to support such a sensible public health measure.”

Whoa!  Hold on a minute you idiot.  Swan basically had a go at the Liberals for his entire speech and didn’t mention once that it was Steve Fielding who held the deciding vote.  Let’s see how the media responded:

JOURNALIST:     Aren’t you the one playing politics?  I mean, you’ve put your legislation up – and it’s not just the Opposition, it’s Steve Fielding as well – they’ve knocked you back.  Why don’t you just accept the numbers?  But instead, you come here to attribute health…they’re not (inaudible) interested in health, and you’re going to put up exactly the same thing again in a different form.  It’s you who are playing politics.

Now that’s more like it!  Good question from the journalist there.  How does Swan respond?

TREASURER:       Not at all.  The Government is determined to govern.  This is unfinished business from the last Budget.   And what we are now seeing from the Opposition is an Opposition stance which is entirely negative.  Nothing the Government says that it will do is now supported by this Opposition.  I went through the list – alcopops, National Broadband Network, economic stimulus, school modernisation – the list goes on and on.  The Government is determined to pass its legislation.

Pfffft.  What a terrible response.  On message, and refusing to answer the question.  Clearly he has no understanding of the issues and has his speaking notes to continually read from.  Man... I really hate Wayne Swan... ok, back to the topic.  Let’s see what happened next.

JOURNALIST:     But the other key figure is Steve Fielding.  Are you, if you genuinely want to get this legislation through, are you offering him anything fresh on his demands?

TREASURER:       Steve Fielding’s vote only becomes important here directly because the Liberal Party have opposed this measure in total.  That’s why Steve Fielding’s vote is important.  The Minister has dealt extensively with the minor parties here.  The Government has put enormous resources behind prevention and measures to do with teenage binge drinking, but the key blocking negative factor here is Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party Opposition.

JOURNALIST:     But he had pointed to what is an anomaly in the advertising legislation.

TREASURER:       Well, he has an agenda there.  The Government has put forward positive proposals.  But when this Bill goes back to the Senate we would like to see the support of the Liberal Party and the minor parties in the Senate.

JOURNALIST:     But why does he have a right to have a position but the Opposition doesn’t, in your eyes?

TREASURER:       Bear this in mind: we are in the middle of a global recession.  It’s vital in these circumstances that the Government has the capacity to pass its program, and we are determined to pass our program.

Haha! Swan is getting hammered!  The media seem to be doing their job.  But hold your horses... fast forward to the evening news bulletins.  How many of those questions do you think were mentioned in the evening reports?






The media decided that the most important things to show were not that the Government was being supremely arrogant about a tax that had zero effect on binge drinking.  A tax that the Liberals had already said “We’ll introduce new legislation to let you keep the revenue already collected” to which Labor said “No” then re-introduced it as their own idea anyway.  A tax that Steve Fielding shot down and now Labor is reintroducing it without any intention of acquiescing to his negotiating position.  Need I go on?

The media coverage of the issue was softer than Homer Simpson’s belly.  Absurdly lame.  What is the answer to this?  I don’t know.  Is it because they lean towards Labor?  Well, I’d say they are more sympathetic to Labor, but all the journalists I know deny it flatly...

Is it because they’re incompetent?  Probably.  In my eyes there is only one really good TV journalist going around who manages to keep both sides of politics accountable.  That man is Tony Jones.

He is the best in the business, however... he’s not SO good that he should be as far ahead of the rest of the pack as he is.  I think it’s time the media lifted their game and decided that they have a responsibility to report things honestly, and to keep our politicians accountable.  Sadly too many of them just seem to keep going through the motions reporting lame stories in a lazy manner.

However, there could be a solution – and that is to completely reinvent question time.  How I hear you ask?  Well, stay tuned, because that will be my next column... whenever I actually get around to writing it.

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