Sunday, March 27, 2011

Political Dissent - And the need for it.


Alright, got that out of the way. Now, to the four people still reading may this blog entry cause you to openly discuss the issues you feel are important, and encourage debate in the community.

What do Lawrence Springborg and Stuart Traill have in common? What do Penny Wong and Peter Garrett have in common? What about Malcolm Turnbull and Natasha Stott Despoya?

The differences are obvious, the commonality perhaps not so much.

In the first instance, both of these men spoke out against a direction the party they were involved in had taken. Lawrence only yesterday saying that the Liberal National Coalition had agreed NOT to make changes before the State election and the following week had removed it's leader and replaced him with a 'caretaker' and a Mayor who can't even enter Parliament to speak. His view had not much to do with whether the choice was a good one and everything to do with the fact that a decision had been made at Party level and it was disregarded. In his opinion it is difficult to be involved in a party if the majority ruling is ignored. Essentially, what's the point?

Stuart spoke out, loudly and publicly, against the decision to sell State Assets made by our State Government. This decision is completely against party policy as stated in the policy platform members have to agree to adhere to. Whether of not the decision is necessary or inevitable is irrelevant. The real problem is obviously, how can you have one set of rules for the membership while the leaders of the party quite simply have a completely different set of rules?

Penny Wong is gay. She has never made any secret of that fact, nor has she been particularly vocal about it. It's her private life, why should anyone else be privy to that? Knowing this, why did the Federal Labor Party insist on forcing her to 'toe the party line' when she was questioned by media about her views on Labor policy regarding Same Sex Marriage? Surely she could have been given the opportunity to represent herself on this issue as it's public knowledge that she has a vested interest in the outcome?

Peter Garrett is an environmental advocate. He has written songs protesting the Uranium mining we do in Australia. This is also common knowledge and readily accepted by the Australian public. While he may well be the Minister for the Environment, could it not have been perfectly acceptable for him to make the announcement regarding the Governments Uranium Policy but also state he was not in support of the policy and would continue to advocate against it in the party room? We all understand that majority rules, but shouldn't personal convictions count for something?

Malcolm Turnbull was effectively removed from his position as Opposition Leader based on one single issue. The Carbon Tax. He firmly believes that the Tax is necessary and has always stated that. Why is it so hard to believe that he, like any other politician, would abide by majority decision yet hold his own personal views and stance on the issue, even if the majority did not agree? To the best of my knowledge, he still holds the same opinion.

Natasha was vocal in her opposition to directional changes within the Democrat Party while she was leader. She felt the need for change was required and a return to the original focus should occur in order to keep the party viable. Turns out she was right but at the time she was unceremoniously dumped, in favour of Andrew Bartlett who proceeded to run the party into oblivion.

While I am not advocating mass dissent within political party's I do believe that personal stance should be accepted within the membership of all Australian politics. Forcing people to vocally agree with a policy they very obviously morally oppose is a real issue for the Australian public. How are we supposed to form alliances with political ideals if they are changeable? How do they expect us to trust our politicians if they are forced to tell blatant untruths? Why is is so hard to believe that we are smarter than that?

Every major party in Australia has the same problem, except perhaps the Greens. The ideals and policy platform of that particular party have remained constant for decades. Once upon a time, the same could be said for the ALP and the Liberal and National party's. No longer is that the case.

It has long been argued that the direction of the ALP has been in complete discord to the original foundations of the party. I would argue that the exact same thing can also be said of the Coalition. Neither party have held to any cause in the past decade and both are prone to disorganisation and chaotic messaging. The original National Party was rural based representation. The Liberal Party was white collar representation and the Labor Party was blue collar representation. If those same values were still what carried each party our political landscape would be vastly different.

I have a dream. That my vote in any election matters. That I can have my say within a political party and it will be heard. That the choices facing all Australians are not 'the lessor of two evils' but rather a choice that best represents your own values and beliefs for a better country. That, if the party you vote for does not win, we still have a progressive, idealistic Government in place, just one which has a slightly different focus.

We have been promised change for a long time now and thus far the promise seems an empty one. While our political leaders engage in more tit for tat behaviour, our country is beginning to lose the momentum it gained during the GFC. Is it too much to ask our politicians to be honest? To hold convictions they can publicly state? To make decisions (sometimes tough ones) for the good of the people and not just to win elections? To stop with the popularity contest and start truly representing their constituents?

No. It's not. It's what we, the public deserve. It's what we want and it's starting to be recognised as a real issue. The next step is for us all to remain vocal, or get vocal within the party that used to hold the beliefs and values you yourself hold. Only then can we finally be given a real choice when we walk into the ballot box.

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