Our democratic system is adversarial by design

Federal election 2022

Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:

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AFTER THE VOTE

Our democratic system is adversarial by design
An early pledge by the new prime minister to change the way politics is conducted is aspirational and seems virtuous, but our democratic system is a contest of ideas and adversarial by design.

Members of the opposition are critical of government, seeing their job to “oppose”. Add to this the media role, progressive or conservative, in portraying politicians and policies in a way that appeals to their reader bases and the tendency of voters to not hold politicians in high regard (just look at the way they treat each other in question time).

Voters have forced a change in the way politics is conducted by turning away from the major parties and their power-hungry factions. Anthony Albanese and other politicians have to catch up.
Tom Fanning, Forest Hill

It’s not about the parties, it’s about the policies
Many people are wondering what message the Liberal Party will take from these election results. Many also hope it will be constructive.

Unfortunately, if Michael Baume’s remarks cited by Chip Le Grand (“Prayer for a second miracle unanswered this time”, The Age, 22/5) are any indication, it seems not.

Baume, a former Liberal senator, is quoted as saying: “The party that will take government will not have been voted for by almost two-thirds of the Australian population.”

But it’s not about the parties, the tribalism and power grabs. It’s about the policies voters have wanted and that some felt sufficiently strongly about that they ran for parliament themselves in the hope for change.

It is time we had politicians who want to work responsively with and for their communities and not just occupy seats while being very well paid. I’m hopeful for a better democracy and policy outcomes after this election.
Heather D’Cruz, Geelong West

Lessons for Labor
In 2013, the Labor Party decided to make Bill Shorten its leader, even though 60 per cent of the ALP’s rank-and-file members voted for Anthony Albanese. They subsequently lost two elections under Shorten’s leadership.

Again in 2021, the Labor Party decided to go against the wishes of the local community and nominated Kristina Keneally over local Tu Le in the NSW electorate of Fowler, which they have now lost.

Given Albanese has won the election, are there lessons here for the ALP about listening to its members and the local communities?
Walter Lee, Ashfield, NSW

There is a palpable sense of change in Australia …
Many commentators are decrying the loss of the “moderate liberals” in this election, but they are faux moderates who have been minimally effective in arresting the momentum of the Liberal Party to the right. Generally their voting record speaks for its self.

They are being replaced by a group of impressive, talented, independent women who will have the capacity to move the Australian political dynamic.

If, indeed, the Liberals pick a hard-right leader to replace Scott Morrison and continue their lurch towards the extreme right, they will be rapidly moving towards irrelevance. There is a palpable sense of change in Australia, a sense that a dangerous slide towards extremism has been arrested, which can only be a good thing.
Bob Malseed, Hawthorn

… with climate action the overriding theme
Australia has voted for change. The overriding and unifying theme of climate action has seen the rise of the independents, the Green vote and the overturn of Liberal seats.

Let’s hope that the post-mortem from all sides of politics paves the way for a forward-looking, bipartisan, progressive approach to important issues, rather than the same old toxic, divisive, point-scoring antics of the past.
Julian Druce, Balaclava

THE FORUM

Negotiating skill needed
On election night we see politicians at their most humble and gracious. Anthony Albanese was humble in victory and Scott Morrison gracious in defeat. Politicians shed their combative style and show their human side.

Your correspondent (“This was a victory for citizen action”, Letters, 23/5) rightly points out that this election was a win for democracy. An election characterised by people power. Now we have a new Labor government that faces massive challenges, not the least of which will be negotiating and compromising with the Greens and independents to ensure it is able to pass legislation.

Many columnists predicted chaos if the crossbenchers held the balance of power. Let’s hope that Anthony Albanese and his team have the skills, strength and commitment to negotiate their way through the issues that voters put at the top of the political agenda – climate change, anti-corruption legislation, reconciliation, social justice and welfare issues.

Not to mention the need to address China’s rising influence in the Indo Pacific region with diplomacy rather than sabre rattling.
Graeme Lechte, Brunswick West

It will be a good balance
Thank you, Australian citizens, for our election outcome. I think it will be an excellent balance of Labor MPs with the input and push of independents and Greens to have a more forceful impact where necessary.

The bonus is going to be a parliament of many more intelligent and vibrant women.

It is great to wake up feeling positive for our young people and the future.
Libby Gillingham, Mornington

Birmingham comments …
Simon Birmingham writes that the comments by Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, the unnecessary same sex marriage plebiscite and debates about the rights of gay students were “unhelpful” (“A swift Liberal comeback is possible”, Comment, 23/5).

No, they were not. They were hateful, hurtful and offensive and were accordingly punished.
Doug Shaw, Sunbury

… wide of the mark
Simon Birmingham opines that a swift Liberal comeback is possible. He lists issues of equality, inclusion respect and climate change that must be addressed but is silent on integrity.

Until he and his colleagues get the message that integrity and the broken promise of a federal anti-corruption body were front and centre in turning voters away from the Coalition there will be no comeback to look forward to.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South

We need him to succeed
There is one question no one is asking: If the Morrison government was so bad that the constituents in places such as Kooyong could not vote for it why didn’t these people just vote Labor? Oh, that’s right, Labor wasn’t good enough either.

The modern direction and values of the Liberal Party were never going to suit these increasingly demanding, wealthy constituents who have nothing in common with your average regional or outer suburban resident.

It’s easy to be obsessively focused on carbon emissions when you don’t have to worry about just getting by. Climate change occupies a different spot on your priority list when you can’t pay the rent.

It can be argued that most inner city electorates are on their way to becoming Green and that the current crop of independents are just part of the transition phase.

Josh Frydenberg, we know you are a good hard-working man who put his all into his job. My heart went out to you standing in that park conceding defeat. And good luck to Anthony Albanese. The country needs his government to succeed.
Sally O’Brien, Benalla

Speaking of reform …
What an amazing group of women it is who have stepped up with others to deliver the nation a break from the division, rancour, personal attack, bitterness and bullying that’s led to the “conflict fatigue” of which Anthony Albanese speaks.

Our new prime minister mentions “parliamentary reform” as being on his agenda. Hopefully this will include drastic overhaul of the shameful conduct of question time in parliament, which in present form will be an unwelcome daily down-dragging reminder of the worst aspects of recent political discourse, instead of exemplifying the kind of transformation the nation is just now daring again to hope for.
Jonathan Lancaster, Camberwell

Vision, not division
Surprisingly, I find myself in agreement with Tim Smith (“Liberals digest wipeout in state”, The Age, 23/5) when he said the Liberals “didn’t really give anyone enough reason” to vote for them, adding that “you have to have a vision”.

That vision needs to extend beyond the narrow, hidebound belief that the Liberal/National consortium belongs in government.

If our species has a future, it has to be a clean energy one that begins now. This is the vision the Greens, “teal” independents and some in the ALP have clearly embraced.

So, Tim Smith is right, prospective governments need to offer a vision rather than division, which was so often the hallmark of our last government.
Alan Whittaker, East Kew

Feeling positive at last
On Saturday night I felt positive about our democracy and our people for the first time in some years.

There was a rejection of the Murdoch media’s agenda, a rejection of our nation only voting for a “strong economy” and nothing else, a rejection of “politics as usual”, a rejection of corruption and environmental vandalism, even a rejection of two old-fashioned parties that have led us into a desperately divided nation.

I hope at the next election we will have more to vote “for” rather than “against” and that those who cannot afford to look beyond what promises mean to them personally will have some financial wriggle room to vote enthusiastically for a vision of nation building that they share in.
Michael Langford, Ivanhoe

Don’t take this for granted
As the dust settles on a remarkable 2022 federal election, two convictions come to mind.

First, we should all be deeply grateful to live in a nation where we are free to simply turn up at a polling booth and with the stroke of a pencil, be able to effectively change a government. That we can do so without being held at gunpoint or being in the presence of a militia and be assured there won’t be looting and rioting the following morning is testimony to the social stability our constitutional foundations have brought about.

Second, a downside of any election is the loss of good people from our chambers. To that end, I do especially grieve the loss of Ken Wyatt, the first Indigenous member to sit in federal cabinet, in Western Australia. He was an extremely thoughtful and measured politician, who was steering a considered path for both restoration and constitutional recognition within Indigenous affairs.

As the heat of campaigning abates and our robust Commonwealth now continues relatively smoothly, we must never indeed take our civil governance for granted.
Peter Waterhouse, Craigieburn

He needs room to move
In an incisive article regarding the expectations placed on Anthony Albanese following his becoming prime minister (“Albanese faces balancing act on expectations”, The Age, 23/5), David Crowe refers to the difficulty Albanese will face in attempting to deliver everything supporters expect.

He says expectations are always too great when progressive parties sweep into office. In quoting from George Orwell’s 1950 final notebook “for a left -wing party in power, its most serious antagonist is always its own propaganda”, he opines that what was true then is true today.

Let’s hope with all the independents trying to quickly make their presence felt, he is given some latitude and time to achieve some of the key expectations.
Bill Pimm, Mentone

Selective memory
It is understandable that Tim Wilson was disappointed to lose the seat of Goldstein but his comments suggest he still doesn’t get it. He was irked that the independent candidate received funds from an organisation committed to action on climate change yet conveniently forgot all the funding the Coalition has long received from the fossil fuel industry and other vested interests.

For years we have wanted climate change action, integrity and the dismantling of the still pervasive impediments to women’s opportunities. On Saturday that was loud and clear. The Coalition can either take note or wither on the vine of its own regressive thinking.
Wendy Varney, Leura, NSW

These two broke the mould
I am very proud to be a supporter of the independent movement in the electorate of Indi – and congratulations to Helen Haines for achieving a significant positive swing at this election. The independent “voice” has now been successful through four federal election cycles (another record).

Cathy McGowan and Helen Haines have broken the mould and have been powerful role models/mentors who have helped to inspire millions of Australian women to find their voice and vote for change.

Australia will be a better place to live from now on.
Reinhard Beissbarth, Beechworth

This is what we expect
The election result is not so much a win for true believers, more a positive sign of optimism for the nation’s future.

More power to the people, less manipulation by factional wheeling and dealing. More emphasis on enshrining shared values in action to achieve a fairer society.

Above all, it shows that most voters expect the government to make more responsible moves to deal with climate change and achieve a more sustainable balance between competing priorities.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Counting the cost
I would love to know the cost to taxpayers of the election campaign. Not just the flights, corflutes, advertising, staff and consultants, but the real cost of time wasted by politicians and staff (way before the election was called) and the subsequent productivity loss.

Maybe if we could increase their productivity, we could justify a pay increase for them, just like those on minimum wage are asked to do.
Lou Piscopo, Ascot Vale

AND ANOTHER THING

The election
Well done to the Liberal Party, it finally found a way to get more women into parliament, congratulations to all.
Sprig Mason, Donald

Credit:

I hope the independents live up to the promises. Australians need them to do so.
Doris LeRoy, Altona

An election result offering some optimism for a 21st century society.
Bill Burns, Bendigo

If the resounding election result discourages future political ads like “there’s a hole in your bucket”, then we’re all winners.
Peter Venn, Bentleigh East

How good are elections.
Angela Mortyn-Sloan, Healesville

Politics
Except for the cartoonists and a few Queenslanders, does Peter Dutton really have a popular following?
Paul Custance, Highett

Josh Frydenberg is a competent and dedicated politician. The Liberal Party ought to parachute him into a safe seat in NSW, where he really belongs and deserves to be.
Michael Nolan, Capel Sound

The members who selected Scott Morrison as leader must do better this time around.
David Wright, Prospect, Tas.

Thank you, Scott Morrison, for your service and leadership during a most difficult time. I did appreciate your efforts.
Dennis Walker, North Melbourne

Looking forward to a Labor government without their traditional “born to rule” leader.
Sarah Bone, Wonthaggi

Furthermore
My thanks go to the journalist who tried to trip up Adam Bandt with a “gotcha” question.
Corrado Tavella, Rosslyn Park, SA

Finally
Let’s hope the town of Biloela is nominated for Australian of the Year. The town’s collective desire and persistence to have the Murugappan family come home exemplifies what Australia is all about.
Greg Tuck, Warragul

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