And off we go again. Doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was handing out how-to-vote pamphlets in the Boorowa Schoolyard in 2007, not much more than ten minutes since I was doing the same at Gunning in 2004, and yet, here we go again, another election campaign. Already the silliness has begun. As the announcement was made Tony Abbott said Gillard was running to the polls before she had established her leadership credentials. Had she postponed until October it would have been because she was running scared of facing the people. Abbott also said “this election is not about glib slogans”, repeating it so often it became a glib slogan (like “big new tax”). And he said that “I expect this to be a filthy campaign from the Labor Party”, showing once again that what is said in an election campaign stays in an election campaign, with Tony obviously having no memory at all of Liberal election campaigns of the last 14 years.
It’s a looking glass world in an election campaign where words splinter, break, lose all connection with ordinary meanings in the everyday world. Where phrases are chosen from focus groups and repeated more often than a certain advert for spectacles, Julia Gillard of course with “looking forward” and “hard work”, and Tony Abbott with whatever glib slogans his focus groups throw up, probably something about pink batts and the simple lie about debt levels forcing up interest rates. There will be glib references to recent history, but nothing with a time depth of more than a few weeks (Rudd’s overthrow referred to but not that of Malcolm Turnbull), and certainly nothing from the Liberals about the consequences of 11 years of Howard government, or from Labor about their abject failure on climate change.
All of it, for five long weeks (or one long week five times) will have the feel of being in a preschool with small children clamoring for glittering prizes, all the time calling out “Pick me miss, pick me, I’ve been good, they were the naughty ones, pick me.” And jolting the arm of their neighbour to make them spill something or knock something over. Remember the old saying “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, said by Churchill, no great democrat himself, and usually used when a government has done something appalling and wants to blame the voters for it. Well, how about “Democracy, the best system of all except for true democracy”?
The current democracy we have, corporate controlled, media-driven, spin-doctor and focus-group inspired really isn’t much of an attempt at democracy. We need a true democracy where facts are checked, journalists pursue real stories, political advertising is limited and must be truthful. One where politicians really debate the issues, not present sound grabs, and one where they say what they really think, really intend. One where a platform is a genuine prescription for action, not one that can be negated by non-core promises or changed circumstances. And one where the health of the environment is first on the list of things to do, not last, where not putting a price on carbon is a political death wish, not some kind of populist race to the bottom.
Don’t want much, do I? What do you want from an election campaign?