After weeks and weeks of promises and pork barrelling – $50 billion here, $100 million there for promises as diverse as submarines, sports stadiums, paid parental leave and discount tickets at Questacon – the rhetoric has become so repetitious that it’s achieved the opposite effect to that intended – and caused most voters to stop listening.
Yes, short-term amusing beat ups including a ‘fake tradie’ with a $7000 TAG Heuer watch and the possibility that once upon a time Bill may have visited a strip club, might spark a flicker of interest. But for the vast majority of Australians, the election ran out of steam about a month ago. All we are waiting for now, it seems, is the size of the swing to independents and which leader might need to wrangle with the cross benches to form the next government.
But it didn’t have to end like this.
Note to Mr. Turnbull and Mr Shorten: according to comments on YourLifeChoices website, older voters only ever wanted three things:
- Affordable healthcare for all
- A more stable and equitable retirement income system
- More consistent and long-term economic planning
And if we were to modify point two to include ‘a more equitable company and personal tax regime’ and added a fourth point requesting ‘a more equitable and affordable housing market’, then we just may have covered off on the most pressing concerns for the majority of Australian voters, across all generations.
Older voters will have a huge influence in Election 2016, as those aged 50 and over comprise 47 per cent of the voting population. John Howard famously believed that it was older voters who put him in power and they were well rewarded with overly-generous superannuation incentives for this support. So it comes as no surprise that those aged 50 or over are extremely concerned about their retirement prospects and the hope of living a long and dignified life, rather than Age Pension payment to Age Pension payment.
But the time to explore and explain the necessary finer details for all policies is long past. Hopes were elevated when Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister in September 2015, mainly because of his promise on the night he replaced Tony Abbott, declaring
“We need to have in this country, and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face.
Describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those opportunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture.”
And it is fair to say that the high hopes of the majority of Australians have been dashed as tired slogans and facile political jibes have replaced explanation of policy. This is not a party political observation – it seems that ‘we stopped the boats’ and ‘we have a plan for jobs and growth’ are vying with ‘they will kill Medicare’ and ‘we have 100 positive plans’ in a race to the bottom for simplistic slogans.
Sadly, modern Australian politics took a turn for the worse about 10 years ago when fear and negativity became the order of the day. It peaked with ‘Dr. No’, Tony Abbott in 2013 – and won him an election. So now both major parties have made running fear campaigns an art form. What they don’t seem to grasp is that the electorate is actually far smarter than this lazy tactic and more than able to listen to policy detail and evaluate it for themselves. But doing the hard yards of explaining policies, seeking feedback, seeking – God forbid – a workable compromise with the opposition, and crafting moderate legislation really has become a bridge too far.
So if the major parties are whacked over the head on 2 July, they will only have themselves and their profound lack of political courage to blame.
What do you think? Did you turn off a while ago? Do the above policy points accurately reflect your wish list for our next government? Or do you see things differently?