Front and centre

25 September 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Despite any grand illusions of fully informed democracies and whatnot, choosing a political party is often as sophisticated as picking a football team. The choice usually comes down to one of three things – breeding, bandwagons or buddies.

Just like Collingwood supporters are bred black-and-white (or should that be spawned black-and-white?), many a first-time voter has ticked Liberal because of their parents.

Even worse is the dreaded bandwagon trophy-hunter, who, captivated by the fickle nature of electoral/premiership success, identifies with Labor or, in a footy sense, Hawthorn.

And then there’s the Greens, who – despite all your friends claiming them as a political ‘second team’ – never really get anywhere. Just like the Western Bulldogs.

Indeed, picking a party can be a tough business, especially for those whose views of politics are shaped by nightly news sound bites or newspaper headlines.

Call it a lack of engagement if you want, but it has led to the devolution of the Australian political system. Instead of focusing on the policies of parties, people are founding their vote on an American-style presidential race.

The personality is king and can be evidenced by the posturing of our leaders in the media.

Take, for example, Kevin Rudd’s attempts to circumvent the popular view that he is a bookish nerd. Controversial – and supposedly leaked – stories of strip joints, sucked sauce bottles and obscene language have only strengthened his image with the Australian people.

Then there’s Malcolm Turnbull. The Silvertail expends a lot of energy painting himself as an everyman when clearly he is just another merchant banker from the shores of North Sydney (rhyming slang very much intended).

But can voters really be blamed for basing their choice on how much they like a bloke, when the parties make their philosophies so damn hard to penetrate?

A quick look at the websites of the two major parties doesn’t make the picture much clearer.

Both have a ‘we believe’ or ‘we value’ section that are so similar, they might as well have been carbon copied from each other with the words ‘freedom’ and ‘welfare’ as interchangeable key terms.

This political party predictability has been compounded by the raft of policies shelved by the Rudd Government for fear of alienating voters.

Front and centre of these backdowns is the Government’s highly controversial Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which has been watered down as much as  the beer you quaff down at half time.

The Australian electorate just doesn’t have much of a choice anymore.

Both parties have become so centrist, any notions of a viable right or left alternative have been thrown out the window. All we have left are two blokes trying to be something they’re not.

And here lies the exception to the political party/football team rule:

While footy sides are chosen for life, political parties are simply picked for an election.

Tom Cowie is a final year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University, and sadly, a Bombers supporter.  This piece has also been posted as his blog, stop making sense.