Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Australian politics is broken

image courtesy of John Spooner and Sydney Morning Herald

All this overblown talk in the media about the irrevocable change in Australian politics because of the Federal election result and hung parliament is frankly bullshit. What we are witnessing is just more of the same broken "corporate" and market-led, two party politics.

The game playing and maneuvering by the three  Independent members- Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott - and the Liberal and Labor parties is just more of the same old style partisan, two party politics that was rejected by the voters. We are seeing three "kingmakers", all associated with the conservative side of politics deciding, on the basis of their own demands, who will govern the country for the next three years.

Andrew Wilkie, the newly elected Independent member for Dennison in Tasmania rightly points out the three Independent are not acting "independently", but are acting as just another party bloc, concerned about protecting vested interests and constituency interests.

The former Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett has written how the "two party" mindset dominates the political process, although it does not reflect the reality of how most people think and vote.

As Jeff Sparrow writes, Australians can expect nothing new whatsoever, regardless of which of the big parties assumes power. Sparrow concludes:
" Under these conditions the discontent we saw at that ballot box is only going to grow"
In the face of all the media excitement and hype, it is clear where this is heading. Despite their best intentions, lofty rhetoric and "ideas for reform" the three former National Independents will form an alliance with the Liberal National Coalition to deliver Government to Tony Abbott.  

Even with the appalling performance of Federal and State Labor Governments over the last three years and the implosion of Federal Labor during 2010, the Liberal-National Coalition vote increased by just 1.4%, less than the increase in the informal vote. They were unable to win enough seats to form a government, yet Tony Abbott now claims he has a mandate to form government, and with the help of these three Independents it will happen. So despite the voters' wishes, they will get a Conservative government.

Here in the West we have the newly elected WA Nationals Member for Forrest claiming that he will be a "real" independent representing a truly independent political party. The claim is laughable. The National Party and its campaign were bankrolled by the mining billionaire Clive Palmer and the National Party in WA is still "glued" to power in a coalition with the Liberals. 

When WA Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls  tried to forge a coalition with the Carpenter Labor Government, after the WA electorate voted for a hung Parliament, his fellow "independent" Nationals opposed their leader and demanded that they join the Liberals in Government. They could not think of existing in power without their Liberal counterparts, delivering power to a Coalition government that is even more incompetent and more pro-business than its appalling Labor predecessor. 

And the WA Royalties for Region Program that the Member for Forrest wants to introduce across Australia has become a form of "pork barreling" through which public funds are diverted from needed social infrastructure and public investment  and distributed to "community" projects and favored priorities in largely Coalition electorates. 

So we have fiberglass cows, horse sculptures, lobster pot sculptures, talking toilets, motorized golf carts and hundred of sporting and recreation facilities. community halls and change rooms being built in Coalition seats across WA. In one town the local sailing club got $5m to build a boating facility, but there was no money for Aboriginal housing, despite a housing crises.

The Royalties for Region program is also using public funds to provide infrastructure that will primarily benefit large corporations, and is putting public funds into private and corporate hands.

The Barnett-Grylls Government has cut Budgets to suit Royalties for Regions. Money cut from government agencies and other austerity measures has paid for a part of the Royalties for Region Program. While the cost of Royalties for Regions has risen to $900m, the Barnett Government has massively increased charges for electricity, gas and water, resulting in serious hardship for people on low and fixed incomes. During the winter months a number of pensioners died because they could not afford to use heating during a major cold spell.

In addition, the Barnett-Grylls Government has overseen major cut backs and freezes in public spending, leading to cuts in public services, and with its privatization agenda, the result has been reductions in the availability of public services and a failure to address major gaps and needs in social infrastructure and human services.

What the so called "Independent" WA Nationals have also overseen is a situation where lowly paid education assistants who work in public schools with young children are denied a reasonable pay rise, while unskilled workers in the Gorgon Project are guaranteed $160k per year. Public squalor, private affluence.

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