Monday, 29 November 2010

The litmus seat of Mitcham changes hands: no apologies for poor policy: getting the message to the politicians

It is out with the old - 
Tony Robinson, (Australian Labor Party)
Minister for Gaming, 
Minister for Consumer Affairs
Minister Assisting the Premier on Veterans’ Affairs
Member for Mitcham District since 1997.
and in with the new -
Dee Ryall (Liberal Party of Australia)
in the litmus seat of Mitcham in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Click picture to enlarge.

The Victorian election is almost done and dusted.  Counting still goes on.  Concession and accession speeches are yet to be made by John Brumby and Ted Baillieu, respectively.  

On Saturday night, the ABC broadcast from the tally room and the most unattractive Daniel Andrews was there speaking for Labor.  How this man came to hold one of the most important portfolios in the state, Health, I will never know.  And there he was - I think he got an F in debating and public speaking - blaming Labor's electoral loss on the length of time that it had been in power.  No humility, no admission of mistakes let alone apologies for them: 
But, according to Andrews and Brumby, it was a time factor - not a policy factor - that is to blame for the loss. One thing you can say for politicians these days: they only want you to put them into power.  They don't want to listen to their electorates, and they don't want you, the voters, to chuck them out when they have failed to listen to their electorates.

I was part of a small group of people in the Mitcham electorate who took time to speak to Tony Robinson and to Dee Ryall on environmental matters.  We did appreciate the time they gave us.  We discussed local environmental issues as well as those on a city and statewide scale.  We didn't expect either Tony or Dee to acquiesce to our wish list.  But I believe it was important that we were there to try to put the environment on their individual agendas and note that there were people in their electorate who cared about what happened.  And, I might add, we were no starry eyed hippy-greenies: we were middle-aged to elderly citizens from quite diverse backgrounds - as is appropriate to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. (Tongue embeds in cheek here!)

When we brought up the matter of forests, it was clear that Tony had more than a superficial knowledge of the subject - but why did it come out sounding like a paid advertisement for what the forest products industry talks about.  

Dee, it seemed to me, was keen to make known her local environmental interest and told us about her work for the proposed Junction Road Parklands.

One thing we were rather sure about.  Mitcham would be represented by someone from the major parties: Liberal or Labor.  We felt that we came away from our meetings with a sense that - whichever person was elected - we had the beginnings of a working relationship with them.

And we have a way of renewing acquaintance which I shan't reveal just yet - but we will wait until the new Member for Mitcham District recovers and everyone comes back from the summer holidays and then we will be making an appointment to see Dee Ryall once again.

I am not starry eyed about legislators these days - although there was a time..... Some difficult policy areas have few options and hard decisions have to be taken.  I find that the politic processes of Australia - as I suppose it is with other Western-style democracies - are such a turn-off that only a certain sort of person can succeed to have any influence.  Many, many of these have never been involved with their community - not even to running a cake stall at the school fete.  Quite a few have just gone from university or unions or both to politics without having to mix it in a world of differing ambition and views.  Many are parachuted in to their electorates and - as shown in this recent election - many don't live in their safe Labor seats

Don't you think it wonderful, Networkers, when a politician represents a safe western suburbs working class seat but lives across the bay in the nice middle-class/upper middle-class suburbs of nayce people?  I hope someone can find some co-relation between Labor losses and the people who do not believe in truly representative government.  

Add to this the fact that local ALP branch members don't get much of a look in (oh, did I mention the blatant, corrupt and widespread branch-stacking?) and you have risk-factors for getting dunderheads, dishonesty, and self-serving people into electorates who sit there for a very long time.  I found it refreshing the other day to hear The Green, Colleen Hartland - when speaking about the damage that poker machines and gambling were doing to her electorate - she spoke of "my community" - and you just know she was talking about a place in which she had lived for quite a while and a community of which she was an active and integral member.  

And the remedy? A broad and active community with lots of community organisations doing their special interest stuff.  I would like to be able to say strong membership of political parties in local branches.  That would be good too - except for the fact that they can be blind-sided by bias, and shut up and prevented from active policy debate but all tied up with pretty ribbons to be delivered as votes and free labor whenever needed.  We need to be able to have our say, say it in a way that gets the message to our local representative, and be persistent, consistent, and strong in saying it.  Your vote might only be exercised every four years but ensure, ever so politely, that your local representatives understands that- in the end - it is local votes that make the decision.

Picture from here
John Brumby with family at the concession speech 
Monday 29 November 2010
Tony Robinson, former MLA for Mitcham, applauding on the right.
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