A national poll has revealed that Australians over 65 are dissatisfied with the state of Australian politics, however, even though they distrust politicians, they still believe in the democratic process.
The Ipsos Poll, conducted by the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA) in conjunction with the Museum of Democracy at Old Parliament House, surveyed over 1200 Australians about their impression of Australian politics. Of the 1200 surveyed, 163 were aged 65 or older. Results of the study showed that older Australians thought the standard of honesty and integrity in our political system was not only low, but also decreasing.
When Australians aged 50 and over were asked to rate the standards of honesty and integrity of elected politicians, 29.3 per cent said they were very low, 40.4 per cent said they were somewhat low and 8.1 per cent said they were somewhat high. No older Australians gave a ‘very high’ rating. And almost half of all respondents aged 65 and over believe the Government runs the country with giving priority to interests of big business over those of the people.
But even though older Australians say they are distrustful of politicians, they are still more likely to be politically engaged.
The results also showed that older Australians are more sceptical of the standard of politics than younger generations. According to Professor of Governance and IGPA Director Mark Evans, this lack of trust boils down to how Aussies view the political decision-making process.
"The evidence suggests that they simply don't like the norms and values of contemporary politics," Professor Evans told SBS. "The politics are too adversarial, self-serving and disconnected from the needs and aspirations of everyday Australians."
Dr Max Halupka, also of the IGPA, believes the short story is that older Australians are confident in democracy, but not in the politicians involved in the system.
"You can feel really quite confident in a democratic process but disenfranchised with the way in which it's utilised," said Dr Halupka.
Paul Versteege from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association claims that the reason for older Australians’ discontent with politics is that it’s all just more of the same.
"It is the feeling when you talk to older people generally, they've seen it all before," Mr Versteege said. "They've seen governments come and go, especially the last two governments have been changing leaders."
Read more at www.governanceinstitute.edu.au
It’s little wonder older Australians are distrustful of our political system. They’ve seen it all before: governments come and go with very little accomplished by the changing of the guard. And looking at the current leadership options on the table, there’s very little to sway a voter one way or another, other than life-long political allegiance.
I mean, it’s even becoming more difficult to spot any significant differences between the two major parties. Just look at Budget 2016/17 for example: the Coalition attacks Labor for proposed policies it says won’t work, then, weeks later, introduces these same policies as its own.
Ripping the rug from under superannuants certainly did nothing to boost the standing of politicians. And taking from those who can least afford it whilst ensuring that the wealthy are well looked after would seem a sure-fire way to pit older Australians against politicians.
The last two governments have had mid-term leadership changes. The current political climate is nothing short of a pantomime. Policy backflips, political infighting and mutiny, MPs leaving politics in disgrace or disgust, name-calling and recurrent scandals over the misuse of taxpayer money – it’s no surprise that Australians see our political system as a bit of a joke. Having a 24-hour media cycle highlighting this behaviour probably doesn’t help either.
I imagine that, as distrustful as we are of politicians, most of them, at some stage, got into the game to make a positive difference. Sadly, though, that optimism is, more often than not, crushed by the weight of the party line and political manoeuvring.
Malcolm Turnbull shows promise and is confident of re-election, but his need to pander to his conservative colleagues is doing his reputation as a fresh leader more harm than good. Bill Shorten sat in the background for a half term allowing Tony Abbott to shoot himself in the foot, which, at the time, may have turned out to be a politically savvy move, but now he has his work cut out for him, because he is up against a leader who, by all accounts, is more popular than his predecessor. In other words, Bill will need all his campaigning experience and political manoeuvring to pull off a win in Election 2016. He certainly put his best foot forward in his Budget 2016/17 rebuff, but can he be counted on to lead the country?
And what of our other options? Well, after its own leadership shake up last year, the Greens are see-sawing between alliances to the two majors, and the Independents are basically seen as a constant source of parliamentary instability.
One could still make an argument for voting Independent, but will that get us to where we need to be? We could justify it by saying it’s good to have outside viewpoints in the Senate to keep the two major parties honest, but when policies don’t make it through to legislation time after time, what is the point of giving a vote to an Independent? It is worth mentioning though, that with solid leadership, more Independent MPs in the House of Representatives and the Senate could be good for keeping the majors in check.
Put simply, there is no clear choice for voters in Election 2016, so we can only hope that, in the next couple of months, we see some promising, progressive proposals that put people in front of big business and the wealthy. Or at least some sign of strength and solidarity that allows us to feel that our country is in good hands.
Until then, buckle up for the Election 2016 campaign roller-coaster, which will undoubtedly be packed with more of the same playground antics, fear-campaigning and political panto. Unless, of course, someone rises above the fray. One can only hope.
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