With a near dead heat in the race to form government, why does there have to be only one winner? Why can’t we all be winners drawing on the strengths of all our politicians, not just half of them?
The recriminations and point scoring which have erupted since election day highlight everything that is wrong with the Australian political system.
Polling confirms that the factor alienating many Australian voters is that neither side has been willing to confront the really big challenges facing our society and our future. For example, climate change constitutes the biggest single threat to humanity in history, particularly to Australia as the driest continent on Earth. We know that Malcolm Turnbull would like to tackle it but is constrained by the right wing of the LNP. The ALP has made some effort to do so with new policies, but these are far from what is required, and no doubt equally constrained by union pressure. As Turnbull said in 2010: ‘Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen.’ Just so, nothing has changed, with neither leader prepared to stand up and be counted for fear of internal party recriminations and vested interest backlash.
We are also staring down the barrel of an unstable global economic system. Globalisation and technological advances are drastically changing prospects for jobs in the future. Global population growth, resource depletion and the displacement of millions of people around the world are placing massive pressures on national borders which is not going to be solved with knee-jerk paranoia about “stopping the boats”. Degradation of ecosystems everywhere is diminishing the viability of the planet for human habitation. Water and food supplies for a global population of 7 billion are already marginal, let alone to meet the demands of the extra billions that are projected over coming decades.
These challenges are far greater than our political incumbency seem capable of grasping, requiring a fundamental restructuring of our society and economy. Whilst a daunting task, this is where our real opportunities for innovation, jobs and growth lie in the 21st Century, not in timidly trying to reboot the old 20th Century status quo.
We are facing threats and opportunities far greater than those posed by World War II when political parties buried their differences in the public interest and formed a government of national unity.
Why couldn’t the governor general now invite the leader who ends up with most seats to form a government of national unity to deal with these really big challenges. Challenges which cannot be avoided whoever takes office? A Cabinet formed from the best talent in the forthcoming parliament irrespective of political affiliation would be a fitting response to the current situation.
What is the alternative? More and more of the same avoidance of critical issues, pointscoring and scaremongering rather than facing the realities being left to our children and grandchildren. This will happen whether Shorten or Turnbull get enough seats to form a majority government in their own right.
To paraphrase Churchill: ‘We will do the right thing, but only after we have tried everything else.’ The election has demonstrated as never before that the political class have tried everything else and failed abjectly to address the real issues. The electorate is fed up with an adversarial party political system and corruption of the public interest by vested interest money.
How might it all happen? Both political leaders are decent men with a passion to achieve the best for Australia. Both need to see that they could do far more for the country working together than working against each other.
The election dead heat provides a circuit breaker to develop a new style of politics which will really act in the public interest. As a starting point, the governor general could ask both leaders jointly to discuss with him the costs and benefits of a government of national unity. It would seem reasonable for the leader who has the most votes to be Prime Minister and the leader who has nearly the same votes to be his deputy. And there should be a place for minor party talent in Cabinet.
Then perhaps they could stop the interminable political blame-game and start working in the long-term interests of the country. At last we might see a government dealing with the issues that will really shape our future. Issues which go far beyond right or left wing ideologies.
Ian Dunlop and Bob Douglas