By Sarah Capper
23 August 2013
During a candidates’ debate (a loose term) in the seat of Melbourne recently, an impassioned local resident rose during question time (again, loose term) and implored other local voters to send a message to Canberra – that voters in Australia’s “most progressive seat” should reject the major party policies “that have been tailored to suit the [presumably far less progressive] voters in western Sydney”.
We’ll take that as a comment. But indeed, western Sydney has been the ‘battleground’ for many past federal elections. Former prime minister John Howard ‘wooed’ the so-called “battlers” in western Sydney seats and prime ministers have continued to woo them back and forth ever since.
In this latest campaign (looser term), that is also where Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz spectacularly spoke about the Coalition’s “six-point plan” to “stop the boats”, which, when questioned for details, amounted to just “stopping the boats” (X6).
And it was this issue of asylum seekers – and Kevin Rudd’s pre-election leap-frog (as opposed to lurch) to the right of Tony Abbott – which the Melbourne resident at the candidates’ debate was referring to, in his plea for the seat to stick it up western Sydney.
For the rest of the country, it begs the question – why should politics merely cater for some marginal seats which seem to contain a disproportionate amount of disgruntled swinging voters?
And then a solution presented itself – a way that could radically restore – EGAD! – confidence in voters! A “solution” that is not preceded by the name of a random country in South-East Asia or the Pacific.
A solution that could put a swift end to dishonourable Howard-esque dog-whistle politics of fear and loathing – like when Foreign Minister Bob Carr talks about asylum seekers as “economic migrants” and it whistles to western Sydney as:
“they want your jobs/money/livelihood”
This could all end. And it’s relatively simple:
Excise Western Sydney from the rest of the country.
Heck, we’ve excised Australia itself from the migration act (again, nod to western Sydney), so why not just excise western Sydney from the rest of Australia?
And why stop there? Both major parties have announced their campaign launches will take place – not in Rooty Hill (shock horror, you should feel outraged, western Sydney) – but in that other sunny battleground of Brisbane, Queensland.
As an ex-Queenslander who sought “refuge” in the southern states years ago, I say with the greatest respect that I am quite happy for Queensland to join western Sydney and be cast adrift as well.
For Stephanie Bannister’s sake, Queensland can become its own ‘One Nation’, and they can follow “haram” to their heart’s content.
Kevin Rudd can become the first Prime Minister – hell, he can become the first PRESIDENT of Queensland. He and Peter Beattie can provide endless cheesy grins (and obsessive hair flicks), and they can do it together in a shark pool on the Gold Coast. Clive Palmer, Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson (who can be dragged up from her NSW Senate candidacy (Vote. Below. The. Line) can join them.
Tony Abbott and his shadow of daughters can move from lovely leafy northern Sydney and take the “suppository of wisdom” to Penrith, where as a monarchist he can be “King” – and he can bang on all he likes about “stopping the boats” in land-locked Penrith. LAND-LOCKED.
Fellow monarchist Sophie Mirabella can join them, and Murdoch tabloid the Daily Telegraph can banish its headquarters there as well (along with Sydney’s second airport – they can have that “debate” as well).
The Liberals can put Malcolm Turnbull back into the leadership – he can wear his leather jacket on QnA and not have to pretend he actually likes Tony Abbott any more – and Tanja Plibersek or Bill Shorten or Penny Wong can appear with him (and not have to squirm their way through justifying why Rudd’s return to the top job was such a top idea) and we can actually benefit from – shock horror – a contest of policy ideas.
I for one will take back Julia Gillard to lead the Labor Party – who, with western Sydney excised, will not be so beholden to the right-wing machinations of the party (they can all move to western Sydney too) – as well as welcoming back some of the talent from the third of cabinet that left with Gillard’s departure.
Instead of the last three years of policy reform being ditched or recast because of ego, we can keep the constructive nation-building policies like Gonski, the NBN and the NDIS, and change the not-so-great and quite-wrong policies, eg, Tony Abbott’s sister can get married.
We can actually have an election campaign with a mature debate – a proper one, not a glossy-but-dull, contrived and hokey populist version (eg, last night’s “debate” – at the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Club – included this line from our possible next prime minister Tony Abbott:
“Let’s not please say that I’m somehow Mr cut, cut, cut because I want to be Mr build, build, build so we have more jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Seriously. This bloke is not auditioning for Play School but for the prime ministership. Yup. Gulp).
With the “Western Sydney and Queensland Solution”, we could instead have real debate about the policies of health, education, the environment and yes, asylum seekers and immigration. We could actually GROW as a country – feel more connected with our communities and genuinely engaged with, and be proud of, our political representatives, processes and institutions.
This could be the simple solution our politics has been crying out for. Instead of hearing a broken record about “stopping the boats” and “stopping the waste”, we could actually stop the slogans, stop feeding into the relentless, surface-scouring, poll-driven 24-hour news cycle, and stop the dumbing-down of real policy issues.
Read more: A Bonza Margo Kingston