WILLIAM BRIGGS And So Unto Dust …

Amid all the hand-wringing, wailing and gnashing of teeth in the aftermath of the election, it might be wise to reflect on some possibly painful little truths pertaining to the process and indeed legitimacy of the entire electoral system.

The electorate have long been expressing a general disdain, bordering on disgust at the dominant political parties. They recognise that even if there was a political will, little if anything could be done to fix the broken mess that we call parliamentarism in this century. The media rallied heroically this time. They worked diligently to reassure us that there were real differences and that the process really mattered. However, the informal vote averaged across electorates at around 7 per cent. Had the vote not been compulsory then the turnout would probably have been in line with other ‘great democracies’ with around 50 per cent of voters seeing no relevance. The real question, or at least one of the questions that will not be asked, is why this is so?

The parties are fractured and factionalised beyond the point of redemption. Brave faces are then put on, at campaign time, to show us all that everything in the garden is rosy, but the point is that nobody believes it. The people, so poorly led, are accused of moving to the right. They are not. The entire political structure is heading in that direction.

It remains a fact that economic issues drive political measures. Conservative or ALP ‘policies’ regardless of how they are dressed up will not alter the fact that the crisis in the global economy determines what happens here on the ground. The people instinctively know this to be the truth and the daily realities of life inform them that this is so.

This will make life rather tricky for the political class in this country. The ‘big’ questions, be they social, environmental or philosophical, are presented as left or right issues. This is a nonsense to anyone trying to scratch out a living anywhere. The big issues are just that – big issues that are more often class-based than party-based. The future of the traditional party system is bleak, if not existentially challenged.

Shorten’s ‘vision’ and his ‘fair-go’ mantra read well. Had they been implemented then some of the crisis facing the Australian people might have been, ameliorated, in the short term at least. As it happens we will never know. The global economy is not in the best of health. Shorten, at least, did not have to renegotiate his ‘vision’ to suit the economic realities of next year or the one after. Promises, therefore were not broken. That chalice will be passed to Shorten’s heir.

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Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. He has been, variously, a teacher, journalist and political activist.

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