Both sides promising a “kinder, gentler” politics.
Both sides promising to “fix cost-of-living” pressures.
Both sides rolling out their families to prove they are, well, members of families and focused on families.
Yet Australia’s reality is a long way from the political party perceptions weaved in Election 2013.
On the “kinder, gentler” rhetoric, neither side of politics have delivered. Both Prime Ministerial candidates spent time over the past three years undermining their workplace, and undermining your Australian Parliament. In a quest to be someone, rather than do something, they delivered anything but the “kinder, gentler” rhetoric they talk about, and the track record of both suggests it is mere words.
On the “cost-of-living” rhetoric, both major political parties fail to tell you what you probably don’t want to hear, and that is “cost-of-living” is now rising slower than at any point in the past 25 years.
This fact goes unchallenged, as it strips bare their same rhetoric of appealing to your “aspirational battler, working families of Australia, ladder of opportunity” self. With all the bills coming in, it might feel right, and politics certainly is about perceptions.
But in reality, it is not right. It is a lie of a debate. And neither side is likely to really fix something that doesn’t exist as a real problem, other than massage some language to stroke your perception.
And on the “I care about families – look - here is mine!” symbolism, I struggle to see this as the stuff of any Father of the Year Awards. Instead, I see both sides of politics over-reaching, and exposing family members to potentially very big falls as a consequence.
The message I get from this “showdown of the daughters” is that politics now comes before family, rather than family before politics.
And rest assured, I know. Two elections ago, I made this same mistake. I ran a very successful campaign ad with my daughter in it, with her saying “vote one daddy”. I have regretted it ever since. It felt like a breach of the bond between father and daughter, and exposed my own weakness of heart to just win the contest on my own terms.
Not that any of the above really matters. What does matter, though, is that all this puff crowds out the debate Australia has to have.
How is Australia going to deliver reform to improve our standard-of-living? This is the real debate for our children. I haven’t heard it mentioned once in the past 30 days of campaigning.
The key indicator for our kids is not cost-of-living. It is standard-of-living.
There is a difference. A big difference. Please find out the difference, and understand the difference. Your kids will thank you later.
Our future standard of living is not being maximised because of the politics of today.
Scared, or scarred, from the inevitable reformers’ backlash, both major parties have retreated to stale, safe, irrelevant messages and perceptions. Things like the symbolism of family, things like a flyer or two saying we understand cost of living pressure and will do all we can to help. Oh and yes, of course we’ll behave more nicely in Parliament!
But for your kids’ future, for the really best standard of living for Australia we can possibly chase, the debates and messages and policy offerings to date have so far been largely uninspired.
We still don’t know who is going to deal with Australia’s underlying structural deficit and how.
We don’t have a clear inter-generational strategy, and still don’t know who will best deal with Australia’s rapidly ageing population and how.
Importantly, and where I failed to get the big parties fired up, is who exactly is going to deliver on the urgency of comprehensive tax reform, and explain to Australia that we have four taxes doing 90% of the work. So why do we have 125 taxes in our country?
Who is going to get into a Commonwealth-State negotiation on reducing this sheer number of taxes, even if it does mean a tax, like the GST, may have its base or rate changed as part of a genuine negotiation with the states?
Who is going to put in place even better student pathways through secondary, vocational and tertiary education, and break down the false barriers between all three?
Who is going to stop the arguing, and actually get on with dealing with the very real, and urgent issue of congestion in telecommunications, and replace the dodgy copper network with the deepest fibre possible?
Who is going to explain and build unity in population and multicultural policy, rather than use both as cheap points of division?
Who is going to explain and lead on the nexus of energy, food and landscape, and the difficult unanswered global challenge of producing twice as much food with half the arable land and half the environmental damage?
Who is going to tackle the uncomfortable topic of childhood, and indeed adult, obesity – and push the uncomfortable truth that we need more people moving more often, and eating more nutritional food?
Well, days from 2013 election day, and the answers are difficult on most of these.
Our political system, key interest groups and media, no longer seem to be able to “ground the debate” and bring it back to what really matters. Instead, it’s all now just one big beauty pageant promising ‘world peace’ with a wave of the hand to how it’s actually achieved.
So who to vote for? I can’t answer that for you. But I can answer the related question of “how to vote”?
On this, I offer three suggestions.
First, the big Senate ticket.
Take your time and fill in every single box below the line. Don’t give up your vote easily, even if morning soccer kick-off is soon, or the bank is close to closing. All reports are suggesting there is some unusual preference deals in the Senate in Election 2013, so voting above the line may have you voting for someone you absolutely didn’t want. Therefore, take the extra minute or two and fill in every box. You absolutely own your whole vote if you do.
Second, on the lower house ticket, don’t just think about who you like.
Think about who you don’t like and work backwards. In my electorate, for example, we have the Citizens Electoral Council. They want a new money and finance system for the world. They think the Syrian crisis is some British conspiracy, and they think the Queen of England is involved in some international money/power conspiracy. They will be winning my cookie prize this Saturday and will be last on my ticket, and I will work back from there.
Compulsory preferential voting is not about who you put down first. It is about the order you fill in the entire ticket. Working backwards is, in many ways, a more logical way of responding to the voting system we’ve got. If in doubt, try it.
And thirdly, my top vote will go to the candidate who I think has the character and the policies that focus most closely on Australia’s standard-of -living.
A focus on the long-term for Australia. A focus on my children’s future, not mine.
It is hard this election, but I am honoured to live in a country where at least I have a choice. As tough a choice as it is this time around.
Good luck to all candidates. Good luck to all voters.
Vote for Australia’s Standard-of-Living First. Nothing else matters.