25/06/2008 - 22:00

Dot.com political spin

25/06/2008 - 22:00


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Just as political correctness, media spin, and obsessive management of the compressed daily news cycle become the norm, a bit of old-style Western Australia has burst back onto the state's dilapidated political stage.

Dot.com political spin

Just as political correctness, media spin, and obsessive management of the compressed daily news cycle become the norm, a bit of old-style Western Australia has burst back onto the state's dilapidated political stage.

The merger last week of long-time business backers of former deputy Liberal leader, Dan Sullivan, and the Family First Party is set to take a solid slice of the already dwindling support for WA's steadily imploding Liberal Party, led by Troy Buswell.

It must be remembered that Labor only narrowly held power in 2004, by fewer than 1,200 votes over the four closest lower house seats.

It now faces a four-pronged opposition, however splintered.

Firstly there's the Liberals, who many feel will be lucky to win 16 of the 59-member lower house seats at the coming election; or about half that needed to form government.

Next come the rural-based Nationals, who are likely to pick up four seats, with three set to go to Independent Liberals.

And, interestingly, the Nationals have stated and restated that under no circumstances will they join a conservative-oriented coalition.

That means the Alan Carpenter-Jim McGinty do-nothing machine is set to win 36 seats; six more than will be needed to hold power during 2009-12, with the safest of these being parcelled out personally by Mr Carpenter to close buddies.

Propping up the at-times bickering Carpenter-McGinty machine on the left are the Greens.

Next on non-Labor's side is Mr Sullivan's newly merged 'third force', WAFamilyFirstdotcom, followed by the Christian Democratic Party.

We know precisely what will happen if the Carpenter-McGinty machine holds power during 2009-12; it will essentially be what's been happening since 2001.

In other words, very little, apart from lots of secret cabinet decisions that only members of the increasingly influential, largely Labor-manned lobbying sector will gain access to, and for which those lobbyists will charge corporate clients handsomely.

Everything in the Carpenter-McGinty Labor camp is so predictable and thickly overlayed with political correctness, spin, and media management.

What makes the coming, predictable 2009-12 years even more uninspiring is that only the Liberals, among the four-cornered non-Labor line-up, are a possible alternative government this time around; and they're short on farsighted ideas and programs.

Nothing, for instance, is likely to change in administration of the increasingly powerful and secretive lobbying sector, which has basically made parliament an expensive irrelevancy.

Cabinet secrecy would persist under the Liberals. The state's taxation format would remain intact, meaning no bold or innovative initiatives on that horizon.

WA Liberalism has become as dormant and as unimaginative as Carpenter-McGinty led Labor.

Here's what former federal Liberal leader, John Hewson, said of his former party's equally dismal NSW division just days before Mr Sullivan launched WAFamilyFirstdotcom.

He began his published commentary by reminding us that a standout feature of former US president Jimmy Carter was that "he had the air of a man who had never taken any real decisions in his life - they had always taken him.

"That could also be easily said of the recent [Labor and Liberal] political leaders, of both persuasions, in NSW," Dr Hewson continued.

He then focused on the question of NSW's failure to modernise its crucial electricity generation and distribution network, and how the Liberals have failed to clearly state what is desperately required for their state.

In NSW, as in WA, it's a case of the Liberals simply being a pale image of incompetent Labor.

"The [NSW Liberal] opposition has lost a series of elections, the last two of which it should have won, but lost in large measure because it wasn't clear what, if anything, it stood for," Mr Hewson continued.

"Moreover, the betting odds are still very long on the opposition winning next time.

"It's little wonder that the business community remains dismayed by its performance, and reluctant to fund it.

"There are so many issues on which this state is crying out for leadership. The economics, indeed the common sense, of most of these issues is pretty clear cut.

"It's just the short-term, short-sighted politics that gets in the way of sensible, electorally desirable solutions."

Dr Hewson could easily have submitted his article to a Perth newspaper and substituted WA for NSW in the relevant paragraphs.

Which brings us back to Mr Sullivan's WAFamilyFirstdotcom, which has brought his business and other backers together with the former Family First party.

Whatever else one says of the Sullivan and Family First initiative, one cannot claim they've lacked adventure, like WA's two major parties.

The new party has said it will unashamedly back families, seniors and small and family owned businesses. In other words, it's very much in tune with what the Liberal Party highlighted during its formative years, the 1940s and 1950s.

The payroll tax threshold will be lifted from its present $750,000 to $2 million, thereby placing enterprises employing between 35 and 40 workers beyond this tax on job creation and job maintenance.

And the $2 million threshold is to be indexed, meaning it will automatically rise over time.

However, the most dramatic intended shake-up that all the media has overlooked is WAFamilyFirstdotcom's plan to immediately push for changes in the critical area of governance if it gains the balance of power.

WA, like all other Australian states and the federal government, is best described as a ballotocracy. None is a true democracy, where the voters are the determining component.

In ballotocracies, voters only ever get one say every four (three in the case of Canberra) years on how they'd like to be ruled.

And that single say comes in the ballot box on general election day. In other words, it's the politicians asking us to vote for them and trust them for the next three or four years.

After elections, voters can be, and are, ignored; excluded from the law-making process.

That, under WAFamilyFirstdotcom, would end, according to the party.

"We propose the most far-reaching reforms to the state's election system in 100 years," Mr Sullivan said at his party's launch.

"There is a growing sense of frustration that politicians do not listen to the people.

"Too often, they pass laws that the majority of Western Australians do not want. And referendum results, like the one on daylight saving recently, are rejected by our political leaders who arrogantly push their own political agendas.

"It's time to give the people a greater say - a direct say - in the decision-making process."

When further pressed by State Scene Mr Sullivan said: "We would make all referendum results binding on the state government and the parliament until changed by a future referendum.

"We plan developing an effective system of direct democracy enabling Western Australians to initiate their own referendum questions - at present only politicians can initiate a referendum - and to veto bills enacted by politicians that do not have voter support."

In other words, WAFamilyFirstdotcom intends to transform WA politics by adopting modern Swiss-style democratic practice, where voters, not politicians, are the real bosses, something WA Labor attempted to do way back in 1913 under stand-out premier John Scaddan.

Have Messrs Carpenter, McGinty and Buswell ever heard of him?


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