The Age Editorial Re-Editorialised

by Stephen Hughes (@flipzwidling)

25 June 2013

As the September 2013 Australian Government election approaches I am perturbed by the lack of detail that the main alternative to an ALP led government, the LNP coalition, is providing to the electorate.

I am cautious of any group who seeks the power and responsibility of government through a campaign of negativity that focuses on key slogans to influence public opinion, and unsubstantiated attacks on the credibility of the government of the day.

I am also cautious of the politics of personality that is drowning out any substantive debate on what it means to govern and what is really in the best interests of all Australians – not some Australians – all Australians.

I am curious as to how a government that can’t get its messages of policy and success heard is blamed for that very issue, when the main stream media seems bereft of any capacity to interrogate the opposition parties on their intentions should they be bestowed the privilege of governing this country.

Interview after interview of government ministers who daily front the cameras and microphones of the mainstream media are reduced to questions about pretenders to the Prime Ministership. It is hard to understand how they can get their portfolios examined by voters when they aren’t asked any questions about them.

I am not a member of a political party but I have a long standing interest in politics, especially as I have worked in the education professions for over thirty years.

As a frustrated voter I recently considered what I wanted to know about an alternative government’s policies on matters that impact on my life and the lives of my family, friends and community.

So I compiled a list of questions and went to Twitter looking for some answers. Here is the list of tweets I compiled over a two day period to prompt some discussion and encourage others to start or keep asking questions and expecting answers in specific terms. Before I list the questions though, I did tweet some opinions.

The relentless focus on leadership qualities in government gives a free ride to incompetent and lazy politicians who represent electorates. What has your local member done for your electorate this term? If they are in opposition don’t let them get away with using that as an excuse.

Get the focus back onto evaluating what politicians are doing for their pay. I get annual performance reviews as most do nowadays. Why not our local members?

The questions:

  1. Of the hundreds of pieces of legislation passed by the 43rd parliament what specific pieces will be repealed by a coalition government if elected?
  2. Will a coalition government repeal legislation that it actually supported while in opposition?
  3. What will the coalition do in government that the current government isn’t already doing to discourage asylum seekers arriving by boat?
  4. Given the small impact of the carbon tax on electricity prices what will a coalition government do to bring down electricity prices?
  5. How will a coalition government improve the living standards of low income people?
  6. What will a coalition government do to ensure equity of educational opportunities across states and systems?
  7. What will a coalition government do to ensure that all Australians have affordable health care that is timely & delivered by expert staff?
  8. How will a coalition government protect the working rights of young people seeking entry into the workforce for the first time?
  9. What would a coalition government do to preserve the protection of collective enterprise bargaining for working Australians?
  10. The cost of education is soaring in Australia. $2560 for a one semester certificate 4 course at TAFE in Qld. How will a coalition government reduce the costs of education?
  11. How will a coalition government ensure that Australia’s interests as a global citizen will be furthered if elected?
  12. What will a coalition government do to protect the superannuation of Australians from being eroded?
  13. Will a coalition government give refugees the right to work and pay taxes while waiting for permanent citizenship?
  14. How will a coalition government address the gross inadequacies in basic service delivery to remote aboriginal communities?
  15. How would a coalition government protect Australia from the threat of diseases such as TB being imported from PNG?
  16. How would a coalition government ensure that the pervasive and growing incidence of mental health problems in the community be addressed?
  17. How would a coalition government protect the interests of all Australians by preventing tax minimisation by the rich?
  18. What would a coalition government do to reduce the death toll on Australia’s roads?
  19. How would a coalition government reduce the rate of youth suicide in Australia?
  20. What would a coalition government do to prevent the fracturing of Australian society along lines of income, education, access to technology?
  21. How would a coalition government address the serious issue of alcohol fuelled violence in communities?
  22. What strategies would a coalition government adopt to reduce the impact of domestic violence in communities?
  23. How would a coalition government ensure accountability of all politicians to the electorate and under law?
  24. How would a coalition government ensure equal opportunity in Australian society and workplaces?
  25. What would a coalition government do to return the focus of government to governing rather than focusing on the personality cult of leadership?
  26. What would a coalition govt do to maximise the benefits of mining for all Australians?
  27. What would a coalition government do to ensure a planned transition to a low carbon based economy? What it the plan to wean us off coal?
  28. What would a coalition government do to enhance health services to rural communities? What is their plan?
  29. What would a coalition government do to reduce the burden of spiralling higher education costs on young people?
  30. What strategies does the coalition have for reducing the impact of a growing population on the environment?
  31. A decade of drought will come again. What water security measures does a coalition government plan to implement?
  32. How would a coalition government deal with an ally who spies on Australian citizens? Can it protect our freedom?
  33. Why won’t Tony Abbott go on Q&A? Why won’t he go on the 7:30 report?
  34. What specific aspects of the current government’s asylum seeker policy would a coalition government keep?
  35. How would a coalition government protect Australian manufacturing jobs in the face of globalisation?
  36. How would a coalition government ensure that Australians are protected from global financial pressures?
  37. What is the coalition’s plan for restoring tertiary education as a driver of innovation not just vocational training?
  38. What additional taxes will a coalition government introduce to return the budget to their promised surplus?
  39. Will a coalition government protect the universal health care system that has served Australia so well?
  40. Would a coalition government follow through on the current investigations into child abuse and the Catholic church?
  41. What percentage of Australian GDP will a coalition government spend on defence forces and related expenditure? How would this compare with efforts to resolve conflicts through peaceful diplomatic means?
  42. What lengths will a coalition government go to, to support the USA in its agenda of global interventions?
  43. How will a coalition government promote Australia as a peaceful nation with legitimate interests in the development of Asia?
  44. How will a coalition government address the social injustices that plague many countries in our global neighbourhood?
  45. Will a coalition government recognise the rights of Indigenous people in Australia to exercise their legitimate interests in the management of traditional homelands?

The more questions I write, the more I realise that I am not hearing them asked in the mainstream media. I feel denied my rights in a democracy to hear from a free press the real intentions of a pretender to government at the federal level.

The very same questions can be asked of the current government, but a lot of their answers are already in the public domain as part of the legacy of the last two terms of government.

By the way, the answers to my questions are not in the ‘Plan’ published by the LNP, complete with quotes by Mr Abbott from 1992. I downloaded it recently and read it.

I want to hear the answers to my questions from the mouths of the politicians concerned and not only from Tony Abbott alone either. I want to know who is behind him.

A government is not a Prime Minster standing at the dispatch box at question time, despite what we see on mainstream media nightly. We need answers to our questions from all the team.

I saw Andrew Rob on the ABC 7:30 Report on budget night after Penny wong was interviewed. I was appalled at his inability to answer the most pedestrian of questions put to him. If this is the quality of the ministry proposed by Tony Abbott then I am especially concerned.

The interrogation needed includes local members. If we can’t get them to answer our questions then how could you invest your vote in people who won’t be held accountable for their proposals?

Social media is presenting us with unprecedented voice in the political processes of our nation. Let’s get some questions heard and demand answers that politicians can be held to account on.