And so we have a Government
Unlike most people I know, I’m not sighing “at last”. I think this has possibly been the best thing to happen to Australian politics in many years, as I indicated in my last post.
I caught as much of the press conferences today as I could, even though I’ve been avoiding as much of the speculation and teeth gnashing in the News Limited press as possible over the last three weeks – they shit me beyond belief and have since the early 2000s.
It seems to me that what ultimately decided two of the independents, and what separated them from the third, was vision. And I don’t mean vision of the two major parties; for the most part, that is still seriously lacking.
Bob Katter, love him, is a man of principle and I respect him for that, no less so for his decision today. My family are rather bemused by the fact that I have a soft spot for Katter. They say he is as mad as a cut snake, and he is, but he’s our cut snake, and a lot of the time he actually makes a lot of sense. Katter’s heart is with his constituents. He’s seen their hearts ripped out by deregulation and neglect of regional areas and he does whatever he can to represent their interests. Unfortunately, he is focused on their present situation and past hurt, and cannot see beyond the horizon of his own electorate and, sometimes, old ways of dealing with situations in a world that keeps changing.
Jason Wilson, on twitter today, said “There’s a moral in all of this somewhere. Why do metro media people find RARA parliamentarians so inscrutable?” He’s right. We need to try and understand where people like Katter and his constituents are coming from, really listen to them, and take them seriously. We don’t have to always agree, and there maybe better ways of finding solutions to the problems they face, but ultimately they’re our problems too and we need to listen. As one of the independents said, rural and regional Australians are not a majority and they are never going to be. That doesn’t mean, however, that their interests should be ridden over roughshod. The independents are right, rural people have been screwed over by the party that is supposed to represent their interests.
As the media is the main way in which we encounter each other in the public sphere now, the media has a duty to try and honestly listen and represent rural and regional views and not just those that fit with their own agenda. (The collected disapproval of the press at Oakeshott and Windsor’s press conference was almost palpable. Very disappointing, but not at all surprising.)
Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor have vision. It shows in their push for parliamentary reforms and in the influence that the NBN and cuts to education had on their decisions today. Fast reliable internet and a high quality universal education system are not just policies to be bought, sold, and bargained with. They have the potential to help keep Australia prosperous and equitable into the future. But there’s a rub. For them to do so, the services need to be just as good in regional and rural areas as they are in the latte belts dotted along the south eastern seaboard. These independents can also see beyond what is good for their own constituents to what they believe is good for Australia. Much as we want members of parliament who can represent us, we need people who can also work for the good of others beyond their electorates.
The two independents are canny too. They knew when they fronted the media today that they had one shot to get their message across and they gave it their best shot, talking about the reasons for their decisions for almost an hour before uttering the one sentence that the present media were waiting to hear. Good on them. All three of them have also, so far, maintained their integrity, promising only not to block supply or support scurrilous no confidence votes, and maintaining the right to represent their constituents or follow their conscience on all other matters.
My only hope is that some of the vision of these men carries over into the operation of the parliament in the long term. It will be good to have a government that can’t take things or people for granted and ignore large sections of the population in order to pander to those in marginal electorates to secure votes.
And yes, it means that people (like me, for instance) in the latte belts who desperately want to see change in some areas might find that it doesn’t happen as fast or as easily as we might want it to, or that we might have to think of new ways to achieve what we want that take equity across regions seriously, but so be it.