New Year’s resolutions are easy to make as a part of the bluster of celebrations marking the end of one 12 month period and start of another.
Some are kept. Others are broken. Some people are serious while others could not really care whether their resolution to lose weight, give up smoking, settle down, go on the around the world trip or find that new job are actually delivered.
Babbling about a resolution to others is one way of participating in the carry on that forms a part of farewelling a year.
There is one resolution that we should all make stick for 2017, however, and that involves establishing a degree of respect for the choice people make at the ballot box in the way in which we talk about political debates.
We have seen disparaging remarks made on too many occasions about the politicians elected by people in the Senate. One observer rather patronisingly and in my view offensively referred to the Senate composition as a ‘Star Wars’ cantina.
Those of us that momentarily laugh at the silliness of the analogy are actually encouraging the people who make it to continue on their merry way making light of the way in which voters use their democratic privilege to elect who it is THEY want to the parliament.
I am quite happy to say I voted for six minor parties above the line in the Senate at the last Federal Election. Does that make me Greedo’s cousin five times removed and born with a blaster attached at the hip?
I don’t think so somehow and it is time for commentators to realise that in attacking the personalities of the people that real people – not commentators paid to watch politics – have chosen to represent them actually makes those candidates even stronger.
The fact is that real people with a vote out in the suburbs have elected a Senate with which a government must learn to work and not disparage.
Commentators must also learn to become more comfortable with an environment that makes them work a little harder to understand where the various parties represented in the Senate may fall on issues.
This is obviously easier in a Senate, for example, where the Federal Government of whatever colour has a majority or there is only limited negotiation required because there a few crossbench groupings.
In the case of the current Senate you have the Greens, One Nation, the Nick Xenofon team, the Liberal Democrats and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party that require attention.
This is not so much a Star Wars cantina scenario. These people are not aliens from outer space. They were elected because there were people out there in the right numbers in the relevant State that felt those parties represented a chance to be heard. And that the major parties had switched off.
Let’s be frank. This is not a unique phenomenon. I have seen it elsewhere and it happens for the right reasons.
In the area of professional services a group grew basically out of nowhere many years ago when people working in the area of self-managed superannuation funds felt their specialist needs were not being met by the major professional accounting bodies.
They are now a strong group and a group to be reckoned with because the architects recognised a need that needed to be serviced well. It was a need that could not be ignored.
That group is SMSF Australia and they are now regarded by many as a body of which they should be a member to get ahead in the self-managed superannuation side of financial services.
This is an issue that political parties and advocacy organisations in Australia must confront head on.
Political parties cannot allow themselves the luxury of complacency because others will move quickly to fill a gap. Undermining smaller parties by patronising them and effectively engaging in name calling is unhelpful and will damage the cause of major parties more than they themselves realised.
Political parties must find a way to speak to and for the audience that acknowledges their intelligence and their importance or face a decline in votes and – where relevant – a decline in membership. No organisation is ever too big to fail.
A voter that feels belittled in any way by a conversation being had in public will find a different place to park their vote the next time around. Attacking the political parties they have chosen to represent in the upper house of any parliament in this country is also a sure way of making those parties stronger.
This does not mean you fail to hold people accountable for any abuse of power or resources. There must be a light shone on all circumstances where taxpayers’ funds have been abused. Procedural inefficiencies and things that are plain dumb should be called out. This can be done without using terminology that patronises the voter that put the minor parties where they are and should be today.
Let’s collectively make a New Year’s resolution to elevate the quality of discussion about politics in this country. Tone is everything.
We owe it to the people.
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