Monday, August 23, 2010

Disappointment And Disgust

After months of suggesting that if there was a box for “none of the above” on the ballot paper then it would be likely to win, it seems that is exactly what has happened. At the time of writing, the latest count is showing a likely outcome of 73 seats each for Labor and the Coalition, plus the three existing independents and one Green. Although it appeared that there might be another independent elected in Tasmania, the latest adjudication from the Australian Electoral Commission has awarded the seat of Dennison to Labor. The end result is that it could not possibly be any closer than it is. Although all the polls indicated a tight result, very few people believed that Labor would fail to scrape back in with a slim majority. But that hasn’t happened and instead Labor has seen its grip on government evaporate right before its eyes.

Presumably, the leading lights of Labor will be dissecting this massive failure for years to come, but at this early stage it appears that at least some of them are still in denial. Part strategist Senator Mark Arbib and Campaign Director Karl Bitar are still blaming anybody but themselves. They are still saying that the campaign suffered as a result of the cabinet leaks, and that if Kevin Rudd had remained as Prime Minister the vote against Labor would have been even worse. Of course, these are matters which will be open for debate as there is no way to ever know for sure what might have been. But I believe that they are missing the point.

It is clear that the people of Australia have sent all politicians a very loud message, but many of them are still not hearing it clearly. That message is simply that we expect all of them to do better, and that they cannot take the support of the Australian people for granted or treat us with disdain and contempt. People are still angry about home insulation and school halls, their still worried about immigration and asylum seekers, and they are still angry about what happened to Kevin Rudd. That’s not because of any deep affection for Mr. Rudd, but because dumping him was a blatant attempt to con us all into believing that a new ringmaster would make a difference while still surrounded by the same old clowns. The people of New South Wales especially have seen it all before with a succession of Premiers installed to patch up ailing opinion polls, but delivering nothing more than a series of ex-Premiers.

While Tony Abbott has done an outstanding job of bringing the Coalition to the brink of victory, against all expectations, he too has been sent a message by the people of Australia. While a significant number of voters have turned away from Labor, either in disappointment or disgust, not quite enough of them are prepared to accept Mr. Abbott as a genuine alternative. If the Coalition had been able to offer more than simple slogans based on derogatory attacks against a government which had by its own admission lost its way, perhaps people might have found something to vote FOR, and not just AGAINST. As it is, both the Labor Party and the Coalition still have a long way to go before either of them truly regains the trust of the people.

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