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Out-of-touch politicians should listen and act

By Greg Cornwell - 26 July 2016 8

Legislative Assembly

The Brexit result in the UK and Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the US have been a warning for Australian politicians, already facing disillusionment from voters in the Federal election which saw 24 percent, almost one quarter, of the constituency not vote for either of the two major Parties.

With Brexit, the Remain team that found while London, which is full of foreigners, supported to stay IN, the rest of the country where most of the English live, did not.  In the US, the Washington political establishment found itself attacked by Trump, an outsider, who appealed to the many disaffected across the country.

Different circumstances perhaps, but the result is the same and for the same reason: the politicians are out of touch with the electorate.

While we bicker about the value of a plebiscite on same sex marriage, there is no indication a significant majority of the population think the issue is important enough to spend $160 million on finding out what we want.  A minority do think differently but it is the politicians who decided upon this expense to satisfy this minority.

Then why don’t our politicians address the death with dignity issue, the right to die, which studies show over 80 percent of people support?  Is it to satisfy the minority or are they out-of-touch like Brexit and Trump?

Could the same lack of connect be found in the failure to address mounting public concern about high immigration and overpopulation?  Or are our politicians beholden to growth at any cost and the demands of big business and unions?

The inconsistencies of the examples demonstrate our parliament makes its own choice about what it will address, not what concerns the electorate.

Too often politicians show they are working in a world divorced from what ordinary people want.  All legislatures are prone to this dangerous and often destructive hubris and, until the developments overseas, have not really been challenged.

Whether or not the events in the UK and the US and our own 24 percent of “other” voters are aberrations remains to be seen, however there is opportunity here in Canberra with a Legislative Assembly election in October for current and aspiring politicians to start listening to the electorate and, more importantly, acting upon the comments received.

Candidates should do more than gain a vote by genuinely seeking constituents’ opinions and then provide feedback to the Party, perhaps challenging pre-conceived prejudices.  The voter too needs to be frank.  No use complaining after the event like many young people in the UK who did not vote at all.

Participatory democracy requires the effort of politician and constituent and has been neglected by both sides.

Complacency has crept into political behaviour, the constituency is taken for granted and political expediency often has become paramount.

It is time the electorate reclaimed the role of arbiter and the politician retained that of its spokesperson, while governing “for all Australians” needs to be in deeds as well as words.

What’s Your opinion?


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8 Responses to
Out-of-touch politicians should listen and act
Mysteryman 10:42 am 01 Aug 16

TuggLife said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

“A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72 per cent of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised…” [June 2014]

“The poll found 64 per cent of respondents support marriage equality…” [March 2016]

If the ACT Libs wanted to route Barr, they could simply campaign on legalising gay marriage in the ACT. Seselja’s Christian right will vote for the Libs whatever, it would wedge the ALP, it would undermine Barr’s claims that the ACT Libs are right wing loonies, and if the Turnbull Government want to overturn it, they will anyway.

Either way, it costs Coe nothing, potentially wins him government, and definitely strips away Greens and ALP votes.

Hanson has said that he has changed his mind and now supports marriage equality. Mark Parton supported it on his radio show. Coe is a young Mormon and opposes it. There are some noticeable divisions there that Labor and The Greens could very easily exploit.

Who cares? Remember how ACT Labor blew a whole stack of cash and wasted months of taxpayer’s time and money passing same sex marriage laws (convenient how they waited until there was a Federal Liberal government to do it – ACT Labor are happy to play politics with an issue the LGBTI demographic hold close to their hearts) only to have them struck down in the High Court? SSM is not a state/territory issue. What the ACT pollies think about it is irrelevant to the job they have here and their (in)ability to do it.

John Moulis 5:22 pm 29 Jul 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

“A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72 per cent of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised…” [June 2014]

“The poll found 64 per cent of respondents support marriage equality…” [March 2016]

If the ACT Libs wanted to route Barr, they could simply campaign on legalising gay marriage in the ACT. Seselja’s Christian right will vote for the Libs whatever, it would wedge the ALP, it would undermine Barr’s claims that the ACT Libs are right wing loonies, and if the Turnbull Government want to overturn it, they will anyway.

Either way, it costs Coe nothing, potentially wins him government, and definitely strips away Greens and ALP votes.

Hanson has said that he has changed his mind and now supports marriage equality. Mark Parton supported it on his radio show. Coe is a young Mormon and opposes it. There are some noticeable divisions there that Labor and The Greens could very easily exploit.

A_Cog 1:26 pm 29 Jul 16

“A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72 per cent of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised…” [June 2014]

“The poll found 64 per cent of respondents support marriage equality…” [March 2016]

If the ACT Libs wanted to route Barr, they could simply campaign on legalising gay marriage in the ACT. Seselja’s Christian right will vote for the Libs whatever, it would wedge the ALP, it would undermine Barr’s claims that the ACT Libs are right wing loonies, and if the Turnbull Government want to overturn it, they will anyway.

Either way, it costs Coe nothing, potentially wins him government, and definitely strips away Greens and ALP votes.

ungruntled 10:58 pm 28 Jul 16

As I see it, one of the main problems is that when they get into government, they vote along Party lines, not according to what the electorate that put them in wants them to, nor according to their concience (that is, of course, assuming that they have one to which they can refer).

UnitedCitzensAustral 6:26 pm 28 Jul 16

Exceptional thought provoking article Greg Cornwell which touches upon some very well presented home truths.

What is “democratic” about an enormous imposition of power on citizens who have no way of knowing what’s going on or taking place, of debating issues or influencing their government in its decisions that impact upon all our lives and futures and our country. “That’s anti democratic”

We need to legislate “Online Direct Democracy to get politicians on board with the idea of a two way conversation with voters. To expect the political elite to go along with the “Online Direct Democracy” program which would represent transparency and accountability by politicians to citizens will not come about without legislating the program as a requirement.

Arthur Davies 4:29 pm 28 Jul 16

All above totally correct.

But in addition there is the issue of poor governance, this has very many people disillusioned, bitter, disengaged etc. They (& I) feel that it doesn’t matter what we say or do, bad decisions are made all too often to favour vested interests, not to favour the community, which is what the assembly is supposed to be there for.

The process of “consultation” is all to frequently a bad joke. You are able to comment on the colour of the paving & maybe an extra tree or too but there is no scope to say the project as a whole is wrong.

The surveys used to back many decisions all too frequently lack academic rigour. There is little attempt to get a genuinely random sample, internet surveys are a classic. google “you tube yes minister leading questions” for a far better explanation in survey design than I could ever write, it has even been used as material for students in at least one university.

Some believe that self govt should be cancelled & we should be seats on the boards of the real estate institutes & the developers associations instead.

A couple of classics are the Dickson redevelopment where some changes were made but no option in the meetings to challenge the project as a whole. along with the tram system where the assembly simply did not do “due diligence” when selecting trams, which they admitted in public meetings was to allow redevelopment & windfall price hikes, transport was a poor second consideration. To the detriment of first home buyers who need lower priced accommodation.

John Hargreaves 6:08 pm 27 Jul 16

Hey Greg! Great piece. I agree with it all. We don’t need a plebiscite to know what people want about same sex marriage or euthanasia. We’ve been around these traps for so long Blind Freddie can tell you what to do. Bring on a vote in the Parliament with people elected to interpret our wishes.

$160 million plus $15 million to support both sides of the argument put by who know who, is just the most expensive cop out in my memory. I remember debating abortion issues in the Assembly when you were Speaker. We just got ono with it!

And… on top of it all, the plebiscite is not binding.

As for the Assembly election in October, I know of a few candidates who are trying to talk/listen to the voting public, but not that many of any persuasion. Kim Fischer, Karl Maftoum, Mark Kulasingham and Deepak Raj Gupta come to mind. You may know some Lib non-sitting candidates who are doing the hard yards but I haven’t seen any yet.

The Assembly deserves respect but it must be earned, not demanded.

Garfield 11:08 am 26 Jul 16

You’ve put together a couple of good thought provoking articles lately Greg. Well done. I for one think the number of votes for non major parties will continue to grow until the majors change the way they do business.

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