Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Abandon hope, all citizens who enter the red portal

Last Saturday, Wauchope Uniting Church hosted a seminar on climate change. We thought of this as being a community service, as most of the information on the topic is filtered through the lens of Sydney shock jocks, and the dominant local force in politics, the National Party. We decided to provide a less ‘in your face’ lens, in the form of Rev. Dr David Reichardt, ecotheologist, Mr Harry Creamer, the President of Climate Change Australia, Hastings branch, and Mr Steve Lockhart, eco builder and the coordinator of Climate Change Australia, Hastings branch. David presented the climate change slideshow developed by Al Gore, Harry spoke about why carbon pricing helped reduce emissions, and Steve spoke about how individuals could reduce their own emissions.

Our seminar went very well, despite my qualms about the potential impact on the church community, who are not all climate change believers. We had a good roll up from the congregation, the wider Presbytery, and a few from the community. There were a number of comments that we thought showed the seminar was a success. The first was that the local speakers were invited to present their stuff to other community groups. This is indeed a positive outcome. The second measure of success is that David Reichardt suggestion that action on climate change was like an insurance policy, where it was better to be prepared than unprepared for potential disaster, hit a chord with some of our more skeptically minded attendees. They could see the sense of this and it seems to have given them a new attitude towards climate change action.

In the course of the seminar, I became aware that the National Party was holding their annual conference over this past weekend. The National Party website is normally somewhere that I have no wish to go. But given we were talking about climate change, and given they were meeting, I ventured into this foreign territory and typed “National Party Australia annual conference” into Google. I thought I would see what they had to say on the topic.

At first I thought I was at the wrong site. A great big red banner appeared, urging me to Say No! and help stop the carbon tax. I was invited to give cash, sign a petition and find out more. Where was I? Instead of the National Party website, here I was, lost in cyberspace with a fiery red portal, inviting me to enter. It was a risk, it was anonymous, it was dangerously bright red in colour, and may have been beckoning me downward to hell.

I initially couldn’t work out what to do. Did I have to actually give money, sign a petition or get information to get beyond the blood-curdlingly colored portal? I finally notice a little black arrow beneath the red banner, saying ‘skip’ in microscopic letters. I duly entered. It was only then I found myself where I initially expected to be - the National Party website.

The National Party had decided to broadcast their conference live, which I understand is a first for a political party. When I read their news, I wondered why they had bothered. It reminded me of the Monty Python skit where old blokes reminiscing about their childhoods tried to present the most negative picture possible.

What I found is that they seem to hate Julia Gillard with a passion. As for climate change, it is clearly a Labor lie forced onto an unsuspecting public who need to be properly educated as to the dual evils of believing in climate change or a carbon tax. I also learned that Julia Gillard scurried from the parliament with her ministers in a convoy of incompetence, that desperate Labor had resorted to making up good news, that the Gillard government was incompetent, and that the Coalition was traveling to NZ to inspect apples. And the dairy industry was threatened by the carbon tax, which would ruin them. Unlike the free regulation of the industry introduced by the Coalition when in Government, of course.

To sum up, the National Party believe that:

The Gillard government has not heeded the warnings from the people a year ago. It has descended into a leaderless rabble, and the arrogance, waste, mismanagement and incompetence continues. Now it is mired in the smell of corruption.

I tried their policy link. They do have some, and some are not bad, as they want regional Australia to get a fair share and a fair go. But every page also had a diatribe against the Labor Party. Why not just state the policy? Many were Coalition Policies, and they indeed have a climate change policy. And the link failed when I tried to read the Border policy.

I also discovered that
The Nationals support and encourage greater participation by women in all aspects of the Party. The Party recognises that in order for our nation to achieve its full economic, social and political potential, women must have equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process. The Nationals are dedicated to making our democracy as inclusive as possible.

Mmmmmm. Must be why the local Member always ignores me and addresses John when we write to him. And why he failed to welcome me – and many other women – to the electorate. Good thing the Nationals are in favour of equality or who knows what would have happened?

I decided to succumb and went back to the portal and clicked on more information. I discovered that the carbon tax would not help the environment, and would effectively bankrupt rural Australia. I then wondered what the Liberal Party had to say.

Their site was more comprehensive, and lacked a red portal. I was struck, however, by just how negative this site was. Going from bad to worse - 365 days of Australia's worst ever government, screamed a large black banner. It also solicited comments from readers on Labor's waste. The Greens leader Bob Brown, and the independants who allowed Labor to form government were in the photos on the banner. I discovered the Labor Green carbon tax was the biggest most punitive tax in the world. A large claim, I thought - and actually dead wrong as the UK has a price of 16 pounds a tonne, rising to 30 pounds by 2020.

There was even a separate hyperlink labelled 'Labor's failure.' I bit, and clicked on it.

I found: 'Labor. It's a mess." What followed was a lengthy diatribe on Julia Gillard. I found if I clicked on other categories, labelled things like 'National Security', every one started with a large headline that trashed the Labor party. Nation Security stated that Labor failed to protect Australia's borders. Kevin Rudd has allowed Labor states to ruin the health budget (note to Tony - time to update this part of the website). Nurses were worse off under Julia's award. And unlike Labor, the Liberal party support parental choice in education.

Why am I telling you all of this, I hear you cry. It is simply because I am so sick of the negative political crap that comes our way in waves. What happened to positives? Why has our alleged adversarial political system become no more than dumping buckets of negative comments that bag everything that the other side does?

Research has clearly showed that the more people are bombarded by negative influences, the more negative they feel. While the leader of the Opposition might believe that such negativity will get him elected, he runs the risk of inheriting a population who are fearful, inefficient and sick, as research also shows that positive influences result in happier, healthier, more creative and longer lived people.

Perhaps bad news really does sell papers and win elections.Perhaps this is why it is happening so frequently now. But I for one am really tired of it.

I don't want to read article after article on why Labor sucks when I am searching for policies. Coaliton, just tell me what you are intending to do without bagging the other side. I resent that you go on and on and have nothing good to say about any other party or politician. I am appalled when you tell lies. I resent it when you make me depressed.

I am sure that living in negativity must be bad for the politicians who do this also. I also think that the Coalition has missed the boat in regard to the new paradigm that is Australian Federal politics.

In an analysis by Parker & Partners, Australia’s bipartisan public affairs specialist, they suggested that the Labor Government needed to change the normal modus operandi of playing the politics ahead of policy. They suggested that the hung parliament could well produce ministers that should be better politicians – not better at spin, but better at negotiation, consensus building and making a strong public case for their policies.

The Independant member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, was inspirational in his vision of the possibilities of shared government, and a parliament that worked togeether for the betterment of Asutralia. Sadly, this vision and enthusiam has not been played out, and not only has the traditonal parliamentary adversarial system continued, but it has become a negative policy of opposing everything that the Governmment does, rather than a true critique of government policy.

Policies that are comprised of the two words "I oppose" are not adequate. They are not visionary, they do not consider the future or the common good.

Michael Pearce, Melbourne lawyer (http://w/opinion/politics/should-the-alp-labour-on-or-is-the-party-over-20110410-1d9ba.html#ixzz1WVg2LlR9) suggests that:
The shrinking domain of genuine debate goes a long way to explaining the poverty of contemporary politics. We seem to have settled into a political routine in which the party in power implements the economic policies of the federal Treasury and the party in opposition opposes them. This produces many paradoxes: a Liberal-National government introduced the GST - a great big new tax on everything, if ever there was one. A Labor government proposes a market-based solution to climate change while the Liberal-National opposition proposes massive government subsidies instead.

This sort of politics has largely displaced political philosophy from the contest for votes. When Gillard was asked recently to explain her political philosophy, she could only say that she believed in the value of a good education and the dignity of work. The Liberal Party's main pitch at the last federal election was to stop the waste and stop the boats.

We definitely need to find new ways of doing politics. Is it too late to recapture the vision and encourage all of our elected parliamentarians to make policy with the future in mind? Rather than just bagging out the other side, is it too much to ask that our politicians to work together for the greater good? Surely we need to encourage qualities like wisdom, humbleness, a passion for service, truthfulness, vision, true listening, problem solving and compassion in our leaders. And healthy, thoughtful debate, and co-operation in large issues such as climate change, refugees, health and education.

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