Mandy Vanstone is off and running in the New Year with a whinge about… whingeing.
“Australians used to joke about whingeing Poms but I fear we have adopted that rather unattractive trait as our own. True enough the federal Parliament, indeed most of the parliaments, did not cover themselves in glory in 2012. I am not defending that.
It is just interesting that so many people who are happy to put the boot into parliamentarians do not appear to have tried to excel in their own work. We have a new class of people who appear quite happy to just be critical of others for not meeting the excellence bar.
Yes, it’s the old “Parliament is a disgrace” gambit, and no, Mandy doesn’t ascribe blame. She just has a whinge that the parliament is a joke. By parliament” she means Question Time.
But the truth comes out in her statement: “I am not defending that.”
Why would Mandy feel she owns some of the responsibility for the goings on in QT? She’s not a parliamentarian anymore, so it can’t be that.
But Mandy is still a Liberal, and it’s the Liberals who have gone out of their way to wreck QT and this parliament. No wonder she feels it necessary to – almost – apologize.
Pointless points of order (most of which are struck down); defiance of the Speaker resulting in record numbers of ejected members; heckling and all the rest of it are all played out to a bored Press Gallery, sitting in their reserved box seats like so many indolent Roman patricians, who maintain the fiction that QT is the most important gauge of governance… why?
Because they can. They have the privilege of the ringside seat, so they flog it for all it’s worth. What’s important – and pointedly, exclusive – to them, is what rates in parliamentary and political coverage.
So it’s all QT’s fault that the nation has turned into one whingeing, seething mass of dummy-spitters, says Mandy.
Wrong. It’s the trash-talk about everything – the economy, industrial relations, retail sales, and yes, parliament – that does it.
It is self-evident that a government concerned with re-election, running the country, keeping the economy on an even keel and passing its legislation through the parliament, would NOT wish to trash-talk its own efforts to maintain peace, order and good government (Can-Do Campbell, with his notable “Queensland is the new Greece” ejaculation, being the exception that proves the rule).
So who is doing all the wrecking?
It’s the side of politics that never has anything good to say, that puts out the message to do nothing – sit on your money – until they get into power, that makes up outright lies about the effect of the Carbon Tax, that threatens continuous elections just to restore us back to “Australia, circa 2007”, that says interest rates are always too low or too high, that tells us no matter how good this month’s figures are that next month’s will be the worst on record, that introduces scandal, smear and outright abuse of the Courts in shady efforts to alter the numbers in their favour, that plays with the lives of boat people just to score political points… in short, the side of politics that never stops whingeing and moaning… they are the ones to blame for the depths to which our nation has sunk.
Once upon a time there may have been a point to it. There was a chance that if they could king hit the government early, convince the independent members to switch sides or express “No Confidence” in the government, we might have had to go back to the people (who elected the hung parliament, after all) and sort it all out. That option expired by about mid 2011.
After that it was just a mindless pursuit of bad polls for the government so that their captive journo mates could write up the next election as a lay-down misere. If the result was so certain then there’s no need to talk about government policy because the government won’t be around long enough to carry it out. There would be no need to talk about Opposition policy because Oppositions don’t “do” policy until the campaign. With no need to consider either government or Opposition policy, we could get down to The Vibe, such an easy ride for all concerned.
- Writing about The Vibe means you can just spew out whatever comes first into your empty head and pass it off as critical analysis.
- Writing about The Vibe means you can run the next election endlessly, day after day, week after week, quoting the same polling numbers each time, saying there’s no hope for the Prime Minister.
- Writing about The Vibe means you can fill columns with you personal political biases, your likes and dislikes, and get it into the newspapers.
- Writing about The Vibe permits you to dismiss the government and to treat the Opposition as the government-in-waiting, or even the co-government, even though the Opposition has never won a substantive vote or passed a serious motion in the House for the entire time since 2010.
- Writing about the vibe means you can then blame the government for all this, or at worst, not have to blame the Opposition.
Unfortunately, writing about The Vibe has a downside for it purveyors. Your readers lose faith in you, they stop buying your newspaper, you go broke. As for the wrecker-politicians, their approval ratings tank to almost unprecedented levels. The Economy sags due to low confidence levels. The nation stagnates.
The critical 5% of punters who make up the difference between a vibrant economy and one in the doldrums are too miserable to get out of bed in the morning – Mandy uses this exact “Get out of bed scenario”. They don’t go shopping, or get to work. What should have been an optimistic, energetic place to live becomes a dull ache somewhere in the backs of people’s minds.
Funnily enough, I agree with Mandy, at least half agree with her.
There does need to be a resurgence of confidence and a cessation of whingeing. But it has to come from a recognition of the causes of the nation’s ennui. Australia needs to get a grip on itself and recognize that its salvation is in its own hands.
Confidence is highly under-rated as an economic output. We talk of prices and supply, taxation and industrial relations, market forces and government stimulus, but rarely do we consider confidence as anything more than some kind of waffly feel-good/feel-bad indicator, a product of an economy.
Confidence is not just a product of an economy, it is also equally its driving force. None of the other indicators matter unless the punters have enough confidence to literally get out of bed in the morning and believe their efforts will make a difference, and that their participation in the economy and society will benefit them, their families and ultimately, their society.
When conservative politicians continually trash-talk the economy for no good reason other than political advantage, a spike in the polls, a quip they can make about Pink Batts on Q&A, and when this results in too many people taking them at their word and staying in bed, the consequences can be serious indeed. We’re seeing that now.
A media that’s suffering decline seeks to spread its own misery to the rest of the country. Conservative – Liberal and National in particular – politicians continue a bad habit of negativity whose chance of success expired years ago. Economists, congenitally conditioned to never saying “Bet the house on this” take the easy option and tell their clients and readers, “Put you money under the bed, and then lie in that bed and stay put.” Here’s why: no economist ever got sued for advising their client to be cautious, even stupidly cautious.
Our economy is among the best in the world, our dollar is a reserve currency, our life style is rated No. 1, our debt is low, interest rates, taxes and unemployment ditto, we are on the Security Council doing good work around the world, our Treasurer wins prizes for his accomplishments, our Prime Minister is lauded all over as a Boadecia-like figure in the cause of women’s rights, big initiatives – the NDIS, Health and Education reforms, the NBN, anti-tobacco measures and many more – are either in train, or planned in a professional manner with proper consultation and hard bargaining… yet we are told we may as well stay in bed because Craig Thomson looks like he may have used hookers ten years ago, or the PM had a shoe malfunction, or her arse is too big.
The commentators are continually wrong about almost everything. Their predictions are laughable, and their errors are grievous. The government will fall, Rudd will come back, the states will never agree, the money can’t be found.
It’s not just Question Time or the parliament. It’s a national malaise, infectious and malignant, spread by political and business forces that have a vested political interest in maintaining their cosy pasts, to the detriment of their own present and future self-interests.
Working an extra hour and a half a day – Mandy’s suggestion – should not be the cause of recovery from this illness, it should be the result of it. But it can only become a reality if the conservative political forces that have so far been spreading it start helping to clean it up.
And to do that we first have to face the reality of where this disease is coming from, keep the carriers and spreaders of it from office, and drive a stake through the cesspits they have in place of human hearts.