The elections are not yet over. We were all hoping that Australia would have a new Prime Minister today. But Australia could not decide. It was not a case of having two high quality candidates it was a case of vote bad or vote worse. Clearly Australia couldn’t decide who was worse so as I type the two major parties are up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Why? because who ever gets in will be at the mercy of the independents. Australia’s political system is, today, at the mercy of five individuals who are not aligned with either the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. These five will basically decide the future of Australia’s Government. So much for democracy.
But is this a bad thing? Bob Katter is one of these independents. He used to be a member of the Coalition between the Liberals and the National Party. He was a minister in the Queensland State Government in 1989. He joined Federal Parliament in 1993. He is seen as a bit of a red-kneck and a lose cannon so to speak. But he is also a strong believer in representing the people that elected him. Being from a regional area he felt the old Howard Government were pushing policies that were destroying the bush, so he quit and became his own man. He has virtually won every election since in a landslide. Whatever the rest of Australia believe, his electorate believe in him and he has been prepared to stand by his principles rather than sell out the people that voted him in. He now finds himself as one of the select the King/Queen makers. How ironic is that?
In an age where people are expected to toe the line and to spout the party line, whether they believe it or not, perhaps what we need now is for the major parties to be held accountable. Do you want Tony Abbott as your leader? A man whon stabbed Malcolm Turnbull in the back to become leader? Malcolm Turnbull is no saint either, having stabbed Brendan Nelson in the back. Julia Gillard did likewise to become leader. She led us all to believe she was the loyal deputy while people like Bill Shorten did the dirty work behind the scenes to get her into the hot-seat. Squeaky clean she was not. There are whispers that Shorten was even prepared to elect Gillard as leader knowing that she would face an up hill battle to be re-elected and thus paving the way for himself to become leader. Did Tony and Julia become the leaders simply because they wanted to serve Australia? Don’t be daft, they were power hungry and sold their souls for the top job. Australian’s saw through both Tony and Julia but unfortunately could not decide which was worse. So now the likes of Bob Katter and Tony Windsor will decide for them. (Just for the record, although Bob Katter is an ex National/Liberall he supports Labor’s National Broadband roll out for the benefits it will provide the bush. In fact all the independents who were ex Coalition members do, so previous party alliance will come to nothing. – http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/coalition-refuses-to-budge-on-broadband-20100823-13ejm.html)
Recently I was criticised in a meeting because I was prepared to speak out about decisions that were being made by a committee I am part of. Readers may recall that I was very against accepting the original deal that was struck between the Big Four Cinemas and our advocacy organisations in regard to cinema captioning. It was a deal that most Deaf and hearing impaired people, throughout Australia, seemed to be very much against. Over 450 people put in public submissions on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website asking that the deal be rejected. But still our advocacy organisations refused to change their approach. To me this is wrong. I was told by one group that speaking out as I did was wrong. “Only two of us in our organisation can publicly comment on issues” said one person, “What you do as a member of your organisation is your business” It was a none to subtle way of telling me I should SHUT UP. Another said that if I must speak out to use a pseudonym. That way what I say cannot come back to the organisation. My view was quite simply that I am on the organisation to represent the views of deaf people and when those people I represent overwhelmingly make a statement it is that view I must represent. Soladarity is one thing but autocratic control by a minority such as a committee is another.
And this is what independents can bring to the table in Government. Because they are not part of the party machine they can dissent and publicly too. In short they can hold whoever gets into power accountable. The problem is that they can also abuse that position. They can hold Australia to ransom for something that they believe is essential and stop important decisions going through. Imagine, for example, if Pauline Hanson won a seat as an independent and controlled the balance of power. Technically she could demand a halt to all Asian immigration in return for allowing the Broadband Bill through Parliament. I have enough faith in people to think that they would tell Pauline to go jump BUT it can mean important decisions that need to be passed will be unnecessarily held up.
So, it is down to the independents. Is this a good thing? Who knows. But for now lets hope that the major parties get the message that the electorate have sent – Not that they believe that Liberal and Labor are equally good, but rather that they could not decide who was the worse deal. Hopefully this will, on its own, make the major parties clean up their act. And pigs might fly but there is no harm in dreaming.