If you believed any of the comments on Twitter most days you’d be under the impression that if the gosh-darn people of Australia had just voted for the right political party last time, we wouldn’t have been in the predicament we are.
And yet, history paints a different story.
Under a supposedly fiscally conservative government many years ago, with Howard as PM and Costello as Treasurer, the brainiac idea of handing mothers a pile of cash was born. “Have one for your country” was the tagline, as I recall. In Geraldton, indigenous girls as young as 14 presented at the hospital to give birth and receive their windfall, extended family in tow. The communities are still reaping the impact of so many unwanted and ultimately neglected children added to their ranks. How a conservative government ever thought it was the job of some public servants to so heavily influence the makeup of society’s fundamental building block, the family, is beyond me.
Years later, our first openly atheist PM Gillard failed to do anything with regard to same sex marriage. Not a peep. Same under Rudd. Many in the gay community felt betrayed by her. And to add insult to injury, her opinion was echoed by the openly lesbian MP Penny Wong. The hypocrisy was not forgotten years later when Australia eventually got same sex marriage under the supposedly more conservative counterparts, the Liberal party.
WA was run in a fiscally conservative manner for some years under a left leaning Labor government, and yet found itself buried in debt following years of the so called financially conservative Liberal party.
What’s my point?
Political parties don’t seem to do what’s written on the label. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. When they do, they’re blamed for all the ills of the world. When they don’t, they’re mocked as hypocrites.
Which is actually good news.
Whether we are actively engaged in the political scene or not, it’s clear that it’s the interpreted expectations of a society that ultimately drive decisions in our community. Artists, the media, the blokes chatting at the pub, all play a part in influencing what is expected by the public servants we elect.
Thinking that if your team had gotten power last time everything would have been better is probably a mistake. By all means vote for the people and policies you support. But don’t underestimate your ability to influence the policies of whichever party is in power.