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Wednesday 22 June 2016

Theatre of the absurd

Election times are at the business end of politics. This is where the die is cast and the destiny of the country is determined, well at least for the next short while. There is certainly no shortage of political material. The airwaves are full of it. Political ads by all manner of vested interests, daily proclamations by the party leaders, and a never-ending stream of analysis by the political commentators.

With so much around, what few words could I jot, that have not been written in various forms already?

As a 'lay' observer taking a helicopter view of this political battle I have been struck by the sheer theatre of democracy-in-action. A theatre of the absurd! What creative genius could have conjured up the mix of melodrama, chicanery, hypocrisy, dissembling that we have been presented over the past 6 weeks? It has been a dazzling, if depressing, spectacle and it is not yet over. My guess is we are in for an intense climax over the final 10 days.

Of the array of absurdities that we have witnessed consider just these ; -
  • Misleading! 
Perhaps the organisation least expected to do so, the AEC has been misleading voters. Their ad covering the new senate voting rules states that you "must" number 1 to 6 above the line and 1-12 below the line. But this is incorrect, under a "savings provision" any number less than 6 will still be a formal vote, and this applies to votes below the line as well. For details listen to the Ray Hadley Corrects the AEC's Misleading Advertising
  • Dissembling! The politician's lexicon is replete with imaginative expressions used to obfuscate rather than inform.   In Chris Bowen the ALP have a dissembling guru. Not only has he excelled at delivering the largest number of slogans in the shortest time (see Empty Vessels), but repeatedly, and with a straight face, refers to tax increases as "'saves" and wins first prize with this gem; 
“It is true that we have less fiscal contraction over the next four years.” 
He makes it sound like "larger deficits " was a good thing! And the media let him off with just a quiet chuckle instead of a full blown hissy-fit. You know the type of hissy-fit they had when Abbott ate an onion.
  • Hypocrisy! Bill Shorten has repeatedly attacked the coalition's proposed "massive tax cuts to multinationals" forgetting that just a few years ago he advocated the same policy. He advocated a cut in company tax not just for small companies but for such a cut to apply to all companies both large and small. What do you call "someone who acts in contradiction to their stated beliefs"? A hypocrite, or is it simply a politician?

  • Chicanery! Now, just a few weeks before the election, in the face of a very real black hole in their costings,"Labor has now accepted more than $33 billion in Coalition spending cuts that it campaigned against in parliament over the past three years" (see Federal election 2016: Labor locks in $33 billion of cuts.) "Sorry guys we have been playing political games for the past three years. We will now accept those changes." What chutzpah! 
  • Fantasizing! - And then of course there is the last minute scare campaign. the ALP claims "Elect us and we will not privatise Medicare". Good one! Healthcare is important, it will have  impact. The fact that the LNP does not want to privatise Medicare either doesn't matter, simply point to the committee set up to outsource back office functions. Don't worry the detail will be lost, just repeat it and get someone trusted to say it. Sure enough enter Mr Hawke, the venerable older statesman. Mr Hawke, you are dissing your legacy, the ad makes you look like a "silly old bugger!"

  • Dispensing indulgences! Since the election was called not a single day has passed without one party or another offering millions to some special interest group in a marginal electorate. $100m to a stadium here, $250 m for a job scheme there. "Bribing the electorate with their own money" is alive and well. The problem is that our pollies are actually bribing the electorate with borrowed money. Money that our children and grand children will have to repay! Also what about the electorates that are not marginal. They only wish they were, and may vote independent in future elections. 

The above are just some of the absurdities that have been wrought in this election drama. It has been a truly unedifying spectacle, testimony to the adage that you may not like the sausage if you saw how it was made.

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