Politics As Quackery

Moneyball This, Mr. Beane

Politics in Australia is detestable. It’s pretty detestable in many parts of the world so even wasting one’s breath about it is nauseating, but the problem with politics is that it is the problem that won’t go away. The rise of the political class makes you wonder if we’re even going about it the right way. After all, if the point of politics is a career, much like a profession like Medicine or Law, then it’s already anti-democratic. It means not anybody can run for office and get in. Of course we find the system is rigged so most anybody can’t gate crash the important discussions that set policy.

It takes years and years of toiling in the system and inching one’s way up the greasy pole. That’s how all of them get there, and woe betide the blowfly who does manage to stumble into the room.

The reason I mention this is because Ricky Muir – he of the roo poo throwing – gets a really bad press. There’s no way Ricky Muir is going to get good press because just as Pauline Hanson before him, he is an unpolished media performer with nary an education worth squat. His opinions (and yes he’s entitled to have them even in office) are ill-informed and ill-formed by most standards. But the problem is, what exactly are these standards? They’re standards created by the expectation of media performance. The media would say it’s the standard we as the people demand, but on some level I’m very sceptical about this. For the most part,  I would be interested in Mr.Muir’s opinions should he care to express them coherently.

What makes it worse is that our basis for comparison is the long list of politicians we see every day. On ay given week during rating season we’re shown the idiotic media spin competition that is ‘Q&A’ where political hacks take a swing at gently lobbed questions from a neutered audience. We make bad infotainment out of these things and we think proper discussion has taken place. The fact of the matter is months upon months of episodes of ‘Q&A’ failed uncover what exactly the Coalition had in mind when it came to power, prior to the election. This would suggest we should really disabuse ourselves of this idiotic notion that the media is here to contribute to our democracy when in fact we can point at season upon season of ‘Q&A’ as vivid proof it does no such thing.

Truth of the matter is, we don’t have any way of assessing how ‘good’/effective these politicians are at doing their jobs. We have no basis for comparison, no tangible way of measuring efficacy, no way of knowing anything. It is like we’re watching actors in an improvised avant garde play with no discernible script or direction – but we think we know what a good performance or a bad performance is on the basis of having watched lots of these performances by other actors. What passes for talent might be no different from things that get actresses cast on the basis of their ‘fuckability’. Hence, Ricky Muir presents us with an unique opportunity to find out just what is the replacement level politician. The day Ricky Muir starts looking polished we’ll know one thing for sure, anybody can be in politics, and what these politicians do is no great shakes at all.

I’m not writing this to defend Mr. Muir – who sounds just stupid enough to vote with Palmer United to repeal the Carbon Tax and the Mining Tax, but to point out just how abstracted our expectations have become for politicians. We’re displeased by the blowfly who got into to parliament because he’s no better than the yobbo down at the shopping mall. But we’re equally displeased with the politicians who give good media performances as they dismantle what is important to us in our democracy. It seems to me that we’d better start getting our priorities straight.

Kevin Rudd was a polished media performer but he turned out to be a chaotic Prime Minister who lost support from his own party within a term. Julia Gillard was nowhere near as good a media performer, and somehow let the single-minded fatuous Tony Abbott beat her about the head with broken promises. We put it down to the ALP not being able to communicate their message, but maybe there was something even deeper wrong with us, the electorate. After all, we voted in Tony Abbott and his  ideologically unhinged Coalition. Clearly there’s something deeply wrong with the way we’re picking our politicians. Otherwise we wouldn’t be beset with the feeling that we’re not being given real choices when we stand in the ballot booth at every election.

Lobbyists Are Frontrunners

Imagine you could listen to the legislation passing before anybody and talk to people passing the legislation before anybody, and could tell them you represent a block of the economy that is x% of the economy and you could wield influence. Then you have ordinary citizen Joe and Josephine Blogs with their one vote and the ability to go visit their MP and have whinge about the $5 fluctuation in some Centrelink payment. realistically speaking, who do you think is going to influence the course of democracy more? Now imagine a whole bunch of these lobbyists traveling in packs and invading Parliament House to pitch their positions. It wouldn’t be long before what they’re asking for passes for policy – because we certainly know that Liberal Party can’t seem to formulate ideas on their own – and ends up hurting the majority to help the few.

The Lobbyists aren’t only corporate lobbies. The ACTU and the trade union movement that funds and backs the ALP is essentially a lobby as well – ad Julia Gillard’s great loyalty to them saw to it that they had special access to the highest elected office in the land. When some of these union bosses turn out to be like the people who ran the Health Services Union (like Craig Thomson), it’s hard to take the line that the Labor Party is somehow here for the greater good. The credibility gap essentially killed Gillard’s tenure as Prime Minister; and by the same token, the closeness of Tony Abbott to his corporate supporters essentially sinks Abbott’s credibility.

Still, it has been going on for many a year and it will go on for many a year more, so we probably should just get used to it, but all the same, one of the most anti-democratic forces in this country are the lobbyists. It’s just amazing to see a government that gleefully gives in to the lobbyists at every turn.


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