You’ll probably be Prime Minister next May, given the current Government rabble. Friends who know you tell me you’re a good man, but from what I see on TV and read, you’re very difficult to believe in. And your performance yesterday – in Parliament and on TV – was so disappointing. It was the last day of Parliament for the year (not your fault). Yet there you were, bickering over the optics, the politics, not discussing what your Party’s principles or policies would be if/when you are in government, not motivating or building credibility with a cynical electorate.
What Happened Yesterday: Energy, Cybersecurity, Refugees
Three important bills were debated. The energy bill – with the government trying to focus on cheaper prices without considering climate change, energy vision, industry structure, renewables, energy security – was easy to oppose. Which you did. But when the reporter asked what you would do in government, you said, ‘We’re not going to give away all our policies before the election’, followed by some politic-speak. Not helpful.
The encryption bill was unique. As I understand it, no country has sought to force the tech companies to open themselves and their customers up for national security reasons. (Except that the US already works with these companies secretly and China inserts its own spyware into phones without asking…)
But, after reluctantly agreeing with the government to pass the bill, Labor reneged…because of the government’s behaviour on the third bill – the Nauru medical assistance bill. On TV, you argued that the encryption bill couldn’t be passed because it was being rushed through…but Labor had already agreed to a series of amendments! As it turned out, later in the night, Labor final did support the bill and it passed. But your TV grabs did nothing to show you as a leader of principle or vision on this.
The third bill was the Nauru medical assistance bill, effectively brought on by brand-new independent Dr Kerryn Phelps – what a breath of fresh air she is! The bill aimed to bring mentally ill children and their families from Nauru to Australia. The government stopped Parliament early, as it faced defeat on this bill – a poor look going into the recess. (But I’ll bet they quietly remove everyone from Nauru before Parliament resumes, to expediently avoid this bill returning to Parliament.)
But, Bill, what are your views? Labor is poorly placed of course, because it started Nauru! You said there was a ‘point of difference’ from the government, but failed to say what that was! Instead, you said you supported turning back the boats, banning all people smuggler refugees from ever coming to Australia and securing the borders. OK…but the bill was about children’s mental health…and you didn’t address their plight. Not one word about human rights, humane detention, health, alternative approaches. This issue has already been ‘solved’ by the practitioners and the people…but still you…and your Party…won’t catch up with what people really think. You should finish this disgusting episode in our history.
And Other Issues
Your Party’s lack of clear policies on the issues above and your focus on political tactics, not visionary policies, make it hard to vote for you. And then there’s Adani, coal mines, saving the Great Barrier Reef and equitable education funding, just off the top of my head. I really don’t know what you actually plan to do on any of these critical issues for the country.
A Plea for Vision, Principles, Policy Clarity
Bill, you said about yesterday’s parliamentary shambles, ‘No wonder people hate us politicians’. Indeed Bill, with your responses above, no wonder.
But you can rise above this.
We want a different set of government principles and policies. We want you to succeed. So please have the courage to tell us what you plan to do. In relatively simple language, devoid of politic-speak.
What are the underlying principles that guide your thinking, develop any vision you might have? Gough Whitlam was clear and simple (‘Men and women of Australia…’). Hawke and Keating clearly explained what they were going to do, and why, even though it hurt their supporters in the short term. So did Howard (and his ‘Aussie battlers’).
If you want to be PM not just for the power, but PM for the good of the country, invite us in. Tell us what you plan to do. Let’s have the discussion now, before you get in power. Because everyone has given up on the current government. No one is talking to them any more.