Friday, December 28, 2012

Groundhog Day: Greens Tone Down Policies (again)

I'm using the Groundhog Day reference, because ladies and gentleman, we have been here before.

The Australian Greens party on the even of an election year have announced that they are cutting some of their more controversial policy points, with the hypothesised hope of attracting environmentally-minded upper middle class voters, at least according to the pundits.

The Eastern and Northern Suburbs are awash with would-be Green voters, if only they would drop that silly death taxes policy, for instance.

Well, you're in luck, and so are your heir apparents.

Wealth redistribution for one is no longer a worry, as the Greens somewhat 'Ruddify' themselves once again - akin to what Kevin Rudd did with the Labor Party, and personally becoming known as 'Howard Lite'.

Wait, once again, I hear you ask? Let's skip back to 2007:

"Gone are calls for the regulated supply of "social drugs" such as ecstasy and the "controlled availability" of cannabis." ~ Herald Sun, Greens tone down policies, April 13 2007

What a punchy line! The Greens no longer pity druggos. Glory be.

I guess Paul Howes can no longer lob a handful of sod at them for that one; maybe someone should have told him that before he wrote that that was their policy just this year.

Still, they'll have to come out and say they love football and pies if they want to be really friends with Paul Howes.

But I don't see that happening. No one is friends with Paul Howes.

Fast forward to the present, and the tone is the same, albeit within different policy areas; they're no longer calling for the abolition of the 30% health insurance refund, a Commonwealth funding freeze on private schools, and the aforementioned death duties are all history as far as the Greens are concerned.

Hallelujah! They've come out of the political wilderness, no?

The main point that these have been areas that detractors of the Greens target on a fairly regular basis, and it would serve their popularity well to take away some of the cannon fodder from their detractors.

All the points of grief that you would expect from the two big political powers, as well as radio shock jocks; that some secret cloaked force is coming to steal your wares and threatening your way of life.

The Labor Party (who deadly ironically need the support of the Greens to govern) have labeled them as 'extremists' and some have even gone so far to say that they threaten democracy in Australia.

So apparently back in 2007, in must have been the generalised assumption that the Greens supported a free-for-all on illicit drugs that prompted a party policy backdown.

They're seemingly trivial changes, and have some have suggested that they are merely a coat of paint to dress the Greens up as more brown than Greens, despite the Greens having their policies costed by Treasury.

Even though their leader, Christine Milne, wants to keep that a juicy secret.

Although, things do go walking out from Treasury every-so-often without explanation.

It would be a cynical suggestion perhaps to say it's all about fishing for votes, and it's not at all unusual for political parties to change their shopfront to appeal to voters, or heaven forbid, to other political parties for the sake of gaining government - think carbon tax.

Besides backflipping on the carbon tax, Labor has also been forced to abandon its feel-good asylum seeker policy, and its patch up job of offshore processing was a spectacular failure which has now led to reanimating policy from the Howard era.

So changes from window dressing, to fundamental policy areas, is not at all unusual. Political parties shouldn't be rigid structures that cannot bend with changes - if they were, we'd be living inside a dictatorial-type state where no matter what party we voted for, nothing would change.

Hang on a minute... isn't that what we already have? No, of course not, how facetious of me.

But it does lead me to my next point.

Obviously the Greens have saw fit to once again turn the dial down on some big policy areas that were causing them some grief in the popularity race, and to broaden their appeal with more educated voters, or at least voters that listen to talkback radio.

Educated? Talkback radio? Ehh...

I wouldn't want to say the Greens are simply making changes for the sake of popularity; there's plenty of pundits that have said that already, and I would only be adding to the same chorus line.

It could be a minute factor in the grand scheme of things, but there is a nagging feeling that the Greens have grown large enough to now justify jettisoning some of their more unpopular and militant standpoints.

And it's actually somewhat refreshing to have an Australian political party talking about policy of all things.

How unusual these days. It really is rare for a party to talk about anything but themselves or how bad the other mob are and how we'd all be doomed to eternal hellfire for not voting for them.

A party saying something about policies? It could only be something worthy of the Twilight Zone.

But I digress.

On the political scale of left and right, Labor are now where the Liberals were 20-something years ago.

Now, the Greens are where Labor were 20-something years ago.

Perhaps a leopard can indeed change his spots.

No wonder everyone is so cynical.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dawn of An Election Year

So 2012 is drawing to a close.

Obama was returned as expected to the White House, and the social democrats of the left worldwide mostly held to power.

Although, cracks are appearing. The US has its cartoonish-named 'fiscal cliff' and the Eurozone is still the hopeless basket case that it was at the dawn of the Global Financial Crisis.

Here in Australia, retail has slumped, and true unemployment is closer to 9% than the quoted 4.5-5% by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, according to Roy Morgan, which is a very well respected organisation.

Our interest rates are at GFC levels, and even mining investment has slowed.

There are those in the Labor ranks that think it might be best to abandon the idea of a Budget surplus next year, given the financial headwinds, and perhaps recession we were meant to have during the GFC, rise to meet us.

Of course, being a Federal Election year, that won't go down well. Labor will sell the kitchen sink and grandma's dentures to reach that magical surplus that they always promised, the prized pig of Australian politics.

The surplus number though is largely just a psychological gloating point for any political party, and has no real impact or standing on the true economy.

The Liberals may spout that government should be ran like a family budget, but nothing could be further from the truth - if it were ran like a family budget, the government would be neck-deep in mortgage repayments, electricity bills, and silly consumer debt.

Joe Hockey for one likes that line, and it might appeal to Howard's Battlers, but it has no real basis in the real world.

Additionally, this year saw a very grubby year inside Parliament, with smear campaigns coming thick and fast, from James Ashby who was paid $50,000 in government hush money, to a shifty ex-boyfriend of Julia Gillard's who may or may not have played a role in setting up a dirty union slush fund.

All in all, the year played out as if the media, government and opposition were in election mode. Everyone was waiting for the government to be toppled, and despite the Liberals' miserable attempts, that did not come to pass.

Well put on your hats lovelies, because next year is an election year - a circus act and a spectacle worthy of rolling over and hibernating until the sad sorry mess is finally over.

Although if you do that, you might wake up to Tony Abbott in the morning praying a few rosaries.

It's hard to get one's head wrangled around this maze of bastardised intrigue.

The average person on the street already knows politicians cannot be trusted, and so they hold little interest - if they could become privy to the full extent of the circus, they would surely stop watching Home & Away, and tune into Parliament instead.

They will have little choice next year, with election coverage set to be somewhat more fervent than in previous years.

Gillard vs. Abbott makes for a good rumble, and the two trade bloody blows; a good blood sport for the media, but not good news for the manners and decorum that politicians should adhere to.

Next year will also see a hoard of young people join the voting public ranks for the first time, which will be interesting, given that few, if any teenagers today have any idea about Australian politics.

They probably will think "hey, didn't we just vote Obama in?" - no, intrepid young person, despite what the Foxtel box and Kanye West tell you, you do not in fact live in America.

So as this year draws to a close, and the booze-filled office parties get into swing, the holiday road fatality statistics roll in, and you're stuffing the last possible gram of pudding into your bloated stomach, just keep in mind next year is an election year.