Lazy Luddite Log


Face To Face

As I reported during the last Federal Election campaign public meetings are one of the best way to engage in the political process. Once more during this Federal Election 2013 candidates in Chisholm have been invited to panel discussions organized by various community groups. I went to one yesterday hosted by the Chinese Australian Association. It was open to the public but predominantly intended for Chinese Australians in the electorate to interact with our local candidates.

Three of our nine candidates for Chisholm Division were in attendance - sitting member Anna Burke (Labor), John Nguyen (Liberal) and Josh Fergeus (Green). One thing I like is that these three were our candidates last time round so there is a sense of continuity and commitment from them. Anna is known as a tireless parliamentarian who has done a lot for the area. John is a hard-working candidate who you can tell wants the job. Josh is also a dedicated campaigner both in the electorate and for causes that matter to him. They were all there to sell themselves as candidates but the chairperson for the event also stressed that the audience were there to remind the politicians that the public are there to scrutinise and make demands of them.

Specifically the chair reminded us that Chinese Australians are a significant and well-integrated group in society and its political processes and they they will continue to engage in the political process. And so they should. All manner of professional, religious and cultural groups mobilize to make an impact on politics in a pluralist society. Sometimes I think that some do so more than I wish but the way to address that is to have more rather than fewer groups do likewise.

Things proceeded slowly because everything needed to be translated and it gave me an appreciation of just how skilled and important the role of the translator is. This was particularly necessary because many of those in attendance were elderly (as is often the way with public meetings).

Josh Fergeus covered a host of issues in his speech well. It was refreshing to have a candidate so openly say that compassion matters in politics and refer to sensitive issues like refugees. John Nguyen made a speech focused on the drivers of prosperity in our economy which I must say felt like a carbon copy of what anyone from his party in any electorate was likely to say. Anna Burke honed her speech well to her audience and focused on how her government has targeted services to the community in ways that are relevant to them.

And how will this impact on me as a voter? I think it served to confirm my party preferences. I'm attracted to the Greens as a party that seeks to address my specific concerns on a host of important and sometimes neglected issues. But what of other voters and in particular the ones that never get along to public meetings? I get that an old activist like me will never be satisfied by what a major party like Labor does but I am surprised and concerned that many average citizens are contemplating the Liberal-National coalition as an alternative government.

It has been decades since the 'strong economic managers' description has been true of the Liberal-Nationals. They have turned into a force that seeks to use public revenue to construct loose political alliances of disparate interests to get them elected. They make vague criticisms of the Labor government despite that government having insulated Australia from global recession. I suppose if you say something lots of times it will become the accepted truth. In which case I can be repetitive too and say that Labor is now the party of the mixed economy which governs from the centre of Australian politics.

In Chisholm I will vote for Josh Fergeus and preference Anna Burke over John Nguyen. This will give me both a way of signifying the importance of issues like human rights and climate change while also showing my support for a government that has done well in difficult economic and political circumstances.



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