It’s the timeless sales pitch for joining a political party: A megaphone and bad hair will only get you so far, the real way to effect political change is from ‘inside the tent’.
But when it comes to politics, we’re not happy campers. Membership of mainstream political parties is on the slide, with Labor’s shrinking and disaffected base a key area of debate during the weekend’s National Conference.
Essential polling this week shows meeting the Prime Minister’s target of 8,000 new members this year will be a serious challenge for the party. In fact, to achieve the target will mean improving the current performance by a factor of about 8,000.
This week we asked about membership of all sorts of social, community, recreational and political organisations and of all these categories, it is the political parties that are suffering the most.
It’s been a year of big political fights: about the future of the world; about the future of the nation; and then some that seem to be akin to war over a barren piece of rock in the middle of the Atlantic.
If carbon tax has been the battle for the planet and the mining tax the battle for the nation; then the fight over bringing the budget into surplus could well be the Gillard Government’s Falklands War.
Because while Tony Abbott huffs and puffs and Wayne Swan blows back over who has the littlest one, the presence of a budget deficit in 2012-13 is regarded as a matter of little consequence to most Australians.
For the recovering alcoholic, every day is defined by the decision not to have another drink. The Opposition leader should know how this feels as he attempts to swear himself off WorkChoices.
As the business lobby and former Coalition danger-men like Peter Reith urge him to take a tipple, Tony Abbott is attempting to stay off the juice even as every fibre in his being wants him to say ‘just a little one’.
And the public? They’re just waiting for him to fall off the wagon.
If you thought coverage of the Queen’s hats and curtsey-gate was bad, just wait until Air Force One touches down in Australia this week.
There will be excruciating live crosses counting down the minutes until president Obama lands on Australian soil; describing in detail each element of the motorcade snaking through the roundabouts of Canberra.
It’s hard – make that impossible – to imagine an Asian head of state receiving such fanfare.
But it turns out media overkill is no guide to the way Australians understand our place in the world.
We might admire the Queen’s class and staying power, we might love the thrill of a POTUS visit; but we hold our cultural allegiances at arms length from our views on our future prosperity.
Every decent industrial dispute needs a villain, but it seems Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s efforts to cast unions as corporate wreckers are backfiring badly.
With 30,000 workers, 11 unions, an iconic red and white kangaroo and the perennial headline-grabbers of aircraft safety, Aussie jobs and stranded holidaymakers, occasional high-profile industrial disputes are a fact of life at Qantas.
The airline has traditionally responded to union campaigning with a straight bat – make any claim and the airline would shut the issue down, convinced that responding would only inflame the situation.
But managing his first showdown, Joyce has opted for beat-up over hose-down. He’s grabbed the microphone off the unions, cranked up the amp and is ripping through his song-list at high volume – “A new spirit of Australia”, is followed by “Qantas pilots are greedy” with an encore of “I’m a really nice person and they’re trying to kill me”.
As our Prime Minister and Opposition Leader continue to struggle under the weight of negative approval ratings perhaps the time has come to draw guidance from the humble hagfish.
Tomorrow is official Hagfish Day, a day to celebrate the ‘beauty of ugly’ and make the point it’s not just cute and cuddly creatures that deserve our attention.
Haikus are written, songs are sung, school kids are encouraged to learn more about the slimy deep-sea scavengers.
It’s not that our political leaders are slimy scavengers. Hang on… it’s not that our political leaders bear any physical similarities that make Hagfish Day relevant; but their pursuit of popularity does end up reinforcing all the negatives that drive our disdain with politics.
US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich was first up, and with him his security detail – two clean-cut, serious, suited dudes scanning the room during Bleich’s presentation on the Obama presidential campaign’s pioneering use of social media.
The dudes didn’t have much to worry about with this crowd, the only real and present dangers being excessively snarky tweets or a tussle over an ipad charger.
The Media 140 ‘Oz Politics’ conference at Old Parliament House last week brought together Twitter commentators, activists, journalists, academics and politicians, collectively known as the #politicotragicmediawankersphere.
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