Friday, October 12, 2012

Why federal politics is getting worse but will get better

Why is Australian federal politics so bad at the moment?

Many years ago I read an article on the Palestinian-Israeli issue that asked why that terrible situation remains perpetually mired in a downward spiral of armed conflict. The provocative answer put forward was simple: no-one has won. After years of conflict, no-one has lost. No one has overcome. No-one has been defeated. And there's nothing like swallowing the bitter pill of defeat to make one side submit to the power (if not legitimacy) of the other. It's a dark thesis. And a damning insight into the true nature of humanity.

In Australian federal politics at the moment, the only thing that seems certain about it's grubby state of affairs is that it can't possibly get any worse. But of course it can and it will. Because no-one has won. No-one won the last election. No-one has been defeated. And after 2 years of conflict, no-one has lost either. It's like we're still in campaign mode. No-one has overcome. And no-one has been made to swallow the bitter pill of defeat. Power doesn't reside with one side; neither does legitimacy. For us, a hung parliament is only a recipe for unceasing and ever-more degrading conflict.

But that's where the similarities end. Our parliament might be plumbing new depths - but at least our leaders aren't using machine guns, tanks, pipe-bombs or ripcords. Our problems are incomparable to the destructive force of that conflict on the other side of the world. Where real 'barrages' and real 'withering attacks' only really destroy.

Now words too can be destructive, of course - but not only destructive. Whereas the conflict in the middle-east seems without end, in a year or so our leaders will order writs for another election. And they'll draw ink, not blood, in doing so. Then one side will win. The other will lose. One will enjoy the sweet taste of victory, the other the bitterness of defeat. And that's when Australian federal politics will get better.
Because someone has won.

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