Policies Not Politics

A wonderful opinion piece in this week’s edition of The Saturday Paper from Anne Summers, lamenting the dearth of considered and well-developed policies in the Australian public discourse, and the rise of too much attention being given to politics and political machinations.

I have to admit to having some sympathy for the position that Summers outlines, noticing since the early part of the current century how little attention is given to conversations about policies in a coherent and considered manner. Far too often public discourse has deteriorated to the place where

In Australia, we voters increasingly have been asked to vote for nouns, not policies. Since the election of Tony Abbott as prime minister we have been ruled by slogans, preferably those that can be expressed in as few words as possible.

Part of the problem I believe is the shortening of political focus to simply the next election or the next opinion poll, rather than a consideration of the long term needs of the Commonwealth of Australia and its constituent parts. We have lost the presence of the great “Statesmen” (for want of a better, gender-neutral term) and now are confronted with the presence of political operatives who are more focussed on the context of partisan politics rather than the needs of government for the well-being of the nation.

But we can’t simply blame the political operatives. As Summers points out in her column

So, does this make us victims? Or, as voters, are we collaborators?

In truth, we are both. We walked into this. But now it is time to walk away. The big question is, can enough of us repudiate this kind of politics, and demand those we send to Canberra devise responsible policies to guide us through these unsettling and, let’s face it, often scary times?

On the (long) eve of another Federal election, and a NSW State election, perhaps it is timely for us to give some consideration to the kind of policies we the voters should be demanding from our political representatives, demanding less attention to the petty partisan politics that seems endemic in our public discourse, and demanding our elected officials be attending to good government for the long term rather than the short term advantage that seems to be all the rage at the moment.