If I Had My Own Political Party

I did the ABC election compass the other night, the survey that takes account of your responses to 30 questions and comes up with a calculated average that pinpoints your position on the political spectrum. Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself smack in the middle – left of the Libs and right of Labor. I daresay that pretty much sums up most Australians.

Thing is, this is one of those cases where an average turns out to be completely wrong. I would say that most of my political views are somewhere between the Greens and Labor – I’m environmentally Green, industrially Labor, but I also want to see fiscal responsibility and ministerial competence.

So, my approach to voting over the last twenty years has been a tad complicated. I always put the Greens first – I don’t want them to win, but I want them to have a say in the legislation I most care about.

After that, I’ve had to choose between Liberal and Labor – the parties likely to form government. Federally, I’ve always gone Labor, although sometimes with gritted teeth.

My problem with both main parties comes down to competence and a lack of genuine attachment to principle. They both tend to be made up of career politicians these days – people who go from university via the Young Libs/Labor into party back room roles and ultimately into parliament without ever having done anything but politics.

They know the system like the backs of their hands, but they know nothing about running a business, or building something, or helping a human being, or understanding the way the planet works, and their personal views are expressed only in the party manifesto.

They care only about power and will say or do anything to achieve it.

Even worse, to get preselection in one of the main parties, you have to do deals. That effectively means that any candidate for Labor or the Coalition is so compromised by the deals they’ve been obliged to make, they don’t have an inch to move policy-wise.

The best example of this was Malcolm Turnbull. He might have been one of our greatest Prime Ministers but he did a deal with the Devil (the Liberal religious right) and consequently was unable to mobilise any sort of policy program to engage the centrist sensibilities of most Australians.

He could have outstayed Menzies if he’d governed as the vast majority expected and wanted him to but was too emasculated by the deal to deliver on his tremendous promise.

So who are we left with?

The minor parties tend to be radical idiots, or fiscal idiots, or just plain idiots. Some of them (especially the One Nation Party) seem to be in politics mainly to make money from the votes they receive, or donations, or insisting that candidates pay ridiculous sums for endorsement and electoral paraphernalia. I daresay there are some talented, principled people among the minor parties/unaligned individuals, but I don’t know who they are.

The thing is, NONE of these people – major party or independent – properly represent me and my politics, so it’s really hard to vote for any of them.

Which got me thinking – what do I want from a politician or party?

Let’s focus on my perfect politician.

He or she, first of all, needs to be honest. The thing that most presses my buttons is corruption in public office. I’d make the penalty for that comparable with murder to both dissuade such behaviour, and to show my complete disgust for people who rip off those who elect them.

Next, I expect a requisite minimum intelligence, and worldliness. They don’t have to be formally educated but they must be savvy and capable of understanding/articulating the issues.

Next, I expect them to have achieved something outside politics. I am so sick of apparatchiks and party animals being raised up to the parliament despite never having actually done anything beyond learn the party ropes. For example, there are hundreds of lawyers in Australian politics, but how many have actually run a law firm or even made partner?

In my party I’d make a rule that no-one was allowed to stand for parliament until they’d reached the age of 40, or had been given special dispensation for having done something really impressive in their personal or professional life. That would get rid of the careerists who are the greatest blight on our political system.

Finally, they would have to be demonstrably passionate about standing for parliament, both in terms of the policies they wish to pursue and the contribution they want to make to a principled public life.

So what about the party?

I’m not interested in right or left – what I’m interested in is principle and competence. Members should be allowed to vote in accordance with their own convictions, but must be accountable to their constituency for their actions.

Party policy should be guided by only a small number of principles along the following lines:

• All people are equal under the rule of law and have equal opportunity to make the most of their lives.
• All people are free to live untrammelled by any rules except for those designed to protect the rights and happiness of others.
• We will endeavour always to help those less fortunate (including people from other countries) while also endorsing the right of all Australians to be as successful as they desire and merit.
• No individual or corporation will be allowed to do business in Australia without paying their proper share of tax.
• We have a profound responsibility to preserve Australia (and the earth) in its best possible shape for the future.
• We will make no policy unsupported by evidence, especially scientific evidence.
• We have a profound responsibility to promote knowledge and explore the universe.

That’s probably enough. If there was a party that espoused those ideals and only allowed individuals as described above to stand, they’d have my vote like a shot.

And plenty of others I’d reckon.

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