Lesson number one — listen to the electorate

By Tom Ravlic

Tuesday May 24, 2022

Scott Morrison
The sun has set on Scott Morrison’s government. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)


Australians on Saturday voted in a manner that should ensure political parties seeking government will need to stop telling Australians what they know, and instead listen to the electorate and its concerns.

It was the telling question from Sky News political reporter Andrea Crothers that was asked of former prime minister Scott Morrison that symbolised the campaign:

Why was Morrison so keen on telling people what they know rather than actually listening?

Morrison’s response two days before the Coalition’s campaign launch and a week out from the election itself epitomised why the parliament would look the way it did.

He called himself a ‘bulldozer’ as he described his method of doing things, and the rest, as they say, is history, with the Australian Labor Party winning the election.

That moment is a metaphor that explains in part why the parliament will look very different for the next three years.

Independents have unseated key Liberal Party players because of three issues that cut through to the electorate.

An absence of enough action on climate change from the Coalition government was the first cab off the rank.

That is followed closely by issues related to equality at a time when the temperature on issues related to wage equality, women’s safety in the community and in workplaces.

Then the failure of the Morrison government to implement a promised national integrity commission by this election.

Consider the issue of establishing an anti-corruption commission.

The campaign was filled with references to the then opposition’s reluctance to debate a Coalition proposal that had been criticised as being inadequate.

Anybody observing this would not have perceived this as advocacy for a government model, but a reluctance to do anything on the matter even after having three years to do so.

It opened the Morrison-led government to the charge of breaking a promise, and repeated references to sports rorts and car park rorts were used as an explanation for the reluctance to proceed with an integrity commission.

Teal independents ran that issue into the ground along with belting away at the issue of climate change. Expect these issues to be reinforced over the next three years, with teal independents already indicating they want more ambitious targets for emissions reductions.

The body count of senior coalition ministers and backbenchers is impressive, with former treasurer Josh Frydenberg among the casualties.

It is the natural consequence of a failure of people in the political class to listen to the electorate rather than telling them what they ‘know’.

Coalition ranks have thinned as a result of a failure to listen, but the Labor political machine has not come away from the weekend unscathed.

Albanese does not have a key player from his shadow cabinet any longer because the Australian Labor Party thought it would be able to get former senator Kristina Keneally into the house of representatives.

Dai Le is a local independent candidate who won the seat of Fowler contested by Keneally. There was a lot of grass roots disappointment expressed in the ALP for denying a branch-selected candidate a run in the seat.

This is not necessarily an outcome that related to a failure to promise appropriate policies but a failure to listen to the people in Fowler who are members of the local branches of the Australian Labor Party.

A further remark is necessary here.

Research has demonstrated over a long period of time that trust in the major political parties and democratic institutions has eroded, and that people are suspicious of the motivations of those that form governments.

The move to minor parties and independents is completely understandable in this context despite the attempts of various political figures and commentators to convince members of the public that the world will end if a minority government has to negotiate with minor parties on issues.

The success of the teal candidates and other individuals taking down prominent figures in Australian politics will encourage more to have a go in the future. It gives hope to people in Australia who may want to be involved in politics but dislike the structures of the two major parties that have both demonstrated in the recent past that they have problems running themselves.

It is also a reminder to politicians and the political parties that Australia has a representative democracy in which voters can choose whoever they wish to represent them irrespective of whether that individual is a member or a party or flying solo.

Disrespecting individuals running for elections as independents and calling them ‘fake’ because you see them as a threat might actually be the fastest way to ensure somebody else’s political rise and your political demise.


Where does the respect start?

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