Agreeing to disagree - governing Australia

With both the Labour Party Conference and the COAG meetings taking place this week, we’ve seen a political hotbed of policy issues debated and it seems that we are set for a whole lot more debate, without any real prospect for action. Except maybe for that all parties will continue to agree to disagree.

Yes, we seem to be headed down the road less travelled by countries such as the United States, where the major political parties are so diametrically opposed, with a population so evenly spilt in their political preferences, that the idea of consensus and progress are all but extinct.

Couple this with the notion that debate seems to be completely random, possibly dictated by whatever is trending on social airways, one can be excused for thinking that our parties have lost their ability to talk, listen, plan, write and then work bloody hard to put policy into place.

Back home, as the Labor Party contemplates their begrudging acceptance that the Government’s ‘turn back the boats policy’ has actually worked, rather than smile and get on with the next issue, the government are hell bent on debunking the Labor party’s newfound position, as ill conceived and ‘not really meaning it’.

As the ABC So eloquently put it, all that was required was ‘a brief but satisfying round of “I told you so”, followed by the indefinite satisfaction that comes with the capitulation of an adversary, or having been vindicated in a notoriously dicey judgment call?’

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Move on in other words.

Also to come out of the Labor Party Conference is news that the party are considering whether to force a vote on same sex marriage, so that its members are bound to vote for same sex marriage, with the threat of party expulsion looming for those that oppose gay marriage. What’s wrong with our political system when a person, be it an MP or a member of the voting public is forced to do anything? Isn’t the whole notion of our political system based on the right to decide for your self; to cast your own vote, even with the party walls? That’s healthy debate right?

It all reeks of political mismanagement and reactive governing. The GST debate at this week’s COAG meeting is another prime example. Sure the debate needs to happen, but what’s wrong with sticking to the whole of tax system review currently being undertaken (again) and properly debating its findings? Kevin Rudd will attest to the personal and political destruction caused when you ignore a wide-reaching review only to operate in isolation and make a captain’s call. It doesn’t work.

Maybe our judgment is clouded by now more fond nostalgic memories of past political foes, but there was a time in this country, where the governing party, would be afforded the courtesy of running it. Bipartisan support for good policy was commonplace. Healthy debate followed by a round of short re-writes would see those policies which generated more political divide find at least some common ground; at a minimum a platform from which the opposition could live with. There was a respect for the governing political party – a respect that allowed them to get on with the job they had been elected to do.

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Nowadays both side of the political fence seem to want to do everything they possibly can to avoid well-conceived plans, making decisions, stickling with them and economic progress.

What do you think? Do our governments need to start accepting that bipartisan support for good policy is good for the country? Do they need to put their personal persuasions to one side?