The difference between a promise and a ‘promise’

WESTERN Australians once only encountered one kind of election promise – that which was made, then honored.

Another surfaced some years ago, known as a ‘non-core promise’.

Promises politicians refuse to honor are prefixed non-core to diminish their significance.

This attempt to downgrade the word ‘promise’ is seen to be a way of making fibbing more palatable.

The problem voters now face is distinguishing when politicians are making core and non-core promises, between ones that may be honoured and those set to be dishonoured.

Put another way, before elections voters must now discern between when politicians are telling the truth – making core promises – and when they’re telling porkie pies, or making non-core promises.

But last week the Gallop Government devised two more terms. Making a promise is now described as ‘flagging an idea’, while a broken promise has become ‘not a priority issue’.

Early this month, State Scene reminded readers of Dr Gallop’s promise of April 19 2000 to call a referendum during the life of this Parliament over how WA Governors would be chosen, secretly by Premiers, by MPs, or by voters in a statewide ballot.

That prompted One Nation MLC Frank Hough to ask the Government about this democratising step.

“When will the Premier keep his election promise, as quoted in The West Australian of 20 April 2000, to hold a referendum to decide whether he should continue to appoint the Governor or whether the position should be filled as a result of the vote of the people?” Mr Hough asked.

Labor Minister Kim Chance answered for Dr Gallop.

“I thank the member for some notice of this question,” he said.

“In April 2000 the Premier did flag the idea of a new system to elect the Governor.

“However, it was clear that the public believed this was not a priority issue and, as such, the Government has no plans to hold a referendum.”

So, promises are now ‘flagging an idea’, which may or may not be honored.

One wonders why Mr Chance announced that Dr Gallop had broken his word? Why didn’t Dr Gallop do his own dirty work?

But Mr Hough could have drawn attention to another newspaper’s report of Dr Gallop’s April 19 2000 promise, one far more detailed than The West Australian’s.

The Australian newspaper also reported Dr Gallop’s referendum promise on choice of selecting Governors.

“I want to give them (voters) that say, because it is my view they should be able to look at alternatives,” Dr Gallop told The Australian.

“The process currently has no public involvement and no parliamentary involvement.

“It is a secretive, behind-closed-doors process, which is out of tune with the democratic ethos of the 21st century.

“The processes are just as important as the outcomes, and one of the important agendas for modern politics is to reconnect people to the process.

“It may well be that the Governors we have had have done their job adequately, but the process of getting them has not adequately met the desire of our community to be involved.

“The current position is that the government of the day selects the Governor, and that is a pretty political process.

“My view is that the people of Western Australia are sensible enough to chose someone to do the job properly.

“To say that an election politicised the process is to say that the Western Australian people can’t be trusted, and I just done agree with that.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

So what’s changed since April 2000, in just 23 months?

Firstly, Gallop-led Labor is in power with just 37 per cent of the vote, hardly a mandate.

Gaining power with backing of just over one in three voters hasn’t endeared voter choice to Dr Gallop and his team.

Being in power has obviously disinclined them to looking favourably upon voter choice.

Moreover, election 2005 is still nearly three years off.

However, if the views of voters were seen to be so important in April 2000, perhaps Dr Gallop could explain why he’s ignoring rallies before Parliament House numbering several thousands over homo-sexual and lesbian laws?

Those objecting to such changes have expressed their views but continue to be ignored.

Perhaps Dr Gallop can explain why he intended instituting the unannounced – never ‘flagged’ – premium property tax to soak-the-rich?

So what WA now has is:

p an undertaking that’s been visibly and vocally opposed by community groups on homosexual and lesbian laws, but which has been pursued despite vocal opposition;

p moves to introduce a soak-the-rich land tax that was never promised – never ‘flagged’ – before or during the election campaign; and

p a clearly enunciated promise on election of Governors being shamelessly dishonoured.

The 37 per cent Gallop Government has emerged with weird views on what democracy and the word promise means.

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