March 28, 2019
by Anne Miller
I’ve met a few politicians and would-be politicians over the years and, with one or two exceptions, I have found most of them to be pretty good people.
No one could ever accuse any of them of being humble or shy. And they certainly don’t lack self-confidence.
But no matter what party they belong to – or don’t – most have a genuine desire to make Australia a better place.
What they argue about, sometimes very loudly, is HOW to achieve that ideal.
That’s what democracy is all about, of course: a contest of ideas.
However, there is a bottom line to all of this.
If you don’t got elected or if your party doesn’t get the majority, you can’t achieve anything.
(Unless, of course, the balance of power is on a knife-edge and everyone’s eggs rest in your basket, but is that truly democracy?)
So back to basics.
The most important thing for any politician – before ideals, before policies – is to get elected.
Sadly, there are a handful of people who only want to achieve this.
Probably because their life before politics wasn’t very exciting or profitable, they believe big dollars will come their way if they win a seat.
Maybe they dream of one day living in a condo by the ocean where they can shoot the breeze …
Fortunately, they are few and far between but they’re often the ones who make the most noise in the media, make the most outlandish statements and thus get the most publicity.
I believe everyone could quickly name a couple of people who fit this description.
However, our better politicians usually have taken a pay cut to become an MP.
They’re not in it for the money because, in reality and compared with what they could earn in private business, they’re not taking home that much.
For their pay, they’re on call 24/7, face grillings by the media, get pilloried on social media if they make the slightest slip-up, threatened by cranks, and are still expected to turn up with a smile and a joke at the opening of a lunchbox in their electorates.
Which brings me to the current kerfuffle over One Nation and preferences for the upcoming Federal Election.
The decision by all parties about where to put One Nation on their How To Vote cards has absolutely nothing to do with One Nation or their policies.
It has nothing to do with whether they like Pauline Hanson or think she’s a dill.
It has nothing to do with Islamophobia, gun control or racist taunts against Asians, Aborigines and Africans.
Pragmatically, the decision is only about beating the other side.
The Labor Party can afford to claim the high moral ground and put One Nation last, even though in reality there are even crazier parties and individuals around who should be put in the cellar in some electorates.
The Liberal Party under its current leadership is trying to shore up the middle ground where most voters live.
Voters scared away by some of the harder conservative positions of recent years – and leadership spills – might be enticed back if they view the Libs again as being in the sensible centre and tough on the far right.
Labor and the Liberals can both loudly denounce One Nation’s policies while counting their votes.
And with almost half the Australian population either being born overseas, or having one parent born overseas, putting a party viewed as anti-immigration last plays well in the city electorates for both of them.
So where does that leave the National Party?
The reality for the Nats is they have to win enough seats to have leverage with the Liberals should the Coalition retain power.
But at the same time, their “base” – struggling for so many reasons – is being wooed by minor parties who make a lot of noise and know which buttons to push.
It’s easy to fear immigrants if your only experience of other faiths and cultures is what you see on TV.
And it’s easy to fear your guns may be taken off you when guns are part of your farming toolbox.
So what does someone like the LNP’s Ken O’Dowd do in Flynn?
He only won by a tiny margin last time over an energetic young candidate fielded by Labor – and Zac Beers is running again this time.
Ken’s electorate is based on mining and farming.
The mine workers are pro-union and more likely to vote Labor.
This means Ken has to talk constantly about opening coal mines and coal-fired power stations to have any hope of attracting their votes.
Farmers want the right to manage their properties as they see fit without government interference.
And they need a helping hand when the inevitable natural disasters sweep through their land.
The fears of “greenies” in the cities who worry about the fate of night parrots mean little if you’re burying cattle because of droughts, fires or floods.
So to Ken, putting Labor and the Greens last is a natural.
Labor because they are the enemy most likely to succeed, and the Greens because few people in rural or regional Queensland have anything but contempt for people they see as city-centric, out-of-touch elites.
But that means One Nation won’t be last.
And it also means that if Zac does well and One Nation candidate Sharon Lohse does well, Ken’s preferences could push Sharon over the line and Flynn would have a One Nation MP.
That prospect didn’t seem to bother Ken too much the other day. He believed she’d be better than Labor …
But that prospect DOES bother me.
One Nation have proven yet again that while talking about caring for Australia and Australians, they really only care about themselves.
Voters should remember two things:
Firstly, your vote does count. Barnaby Joyce admitted the decision in Flynn could come down to just a handful of votes.
Secondly, you don’t have to follow the How To Vote card handed to you by a party volunteer or slotted into your mailbox. Make up your own mind.
Vote 1 for one of the major parties.
If Labor wins Flynn, your MP could have a voice in a new Federal Labor Parliament.
If the LNP wins Flynn, the National Party could push for a greater voice in a Coalition Government.
But if One Nation wins Flynn, the electorate will be represented by a party that is, quite rightly, the laughing stock of the nation.
And unless they hold the balance of power, a party that can do just about nothing for you, either.