At a recent family event one of the absent cousins rang in something of a state: she had been going to vote Labor, but a Green had told her that if she didn’t vote Green, and the Greens didn’t get in, then we would all be dead in twelve years! What should she do? She was reassured by the family. Where did that twelve-years nonsense come from, I wondered. The originator seems to have been the Democratic Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who later said that her words were mis-characterised, whatever that meant. Thankfully, neither of our political leaders has been making that sort of statement in their attempts to show (i) that each has the right policy to attack climate change, (ii) that we lead the world in doing so, (iii) that it won’t cost much or anything, (iv) everyone will be better off, and (v) that the economy will benefit.
Mr Shorten claimed that talking about costs here was simply to miss the point. What about the costs of inaction? What exactly are they, I wondered. The planet is greening, food production is up, people are living longer lives, poverty is declining, and all without much effort in terms of addressing climate change. A cost-benefit analysis, based on good data, not on models of global temperature and their possible economic impacts, seems to me the way to go.
Enough of that, at least for the moment. One bizarre aspect of the whole campaign was the ‘official launch’ of the Coalition’s policy less than seven days before voting begins, and after months of promises and offers to this region and that region, to this group and that group. Mr Shorten produced his costings, approved by the Parliamentary group. It said they were OK, and I suppose they must be, but based on all sorts of assumptions about Australian GDP, Chinese demand, world prices for oil, and so forth. I gave up trying to work it all out weeks ago, dazzled by billions and hundreds of millions. When will the spending begin? I recall that the Hawke/Keating Government of the 1980s did well in part because it possessed in John Dawkins and then Peter Walsh two tough-minded Ministers for Finance who could say ‘No!’ effectively and often. If Mr Shorten becomes Prime Minister, and that seems to be the expectation, then I hope that he follows suit. Labor tends to overspend, in part because of the deals that have been struck, and in part because it can’t help it — there are all these needy people who are Labor’s core support, and we promised, didn’t we.
In the olden days, when I first voted, the Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, delivered his policy speech some weeks before polling day, and the printed speech became the holy writ of the campaign. If it was in there, the promise was real. If it wasn’t there you didn’t talk about it. If you were questioned and you didn’t like the question, you would say, ‘Read the policy speech!’ Every candidate used it. Its main themes were the themes of the campaign. Today I don’t really know what the main themes of this campaign have been. It seems to depend on where the leaders are on a given day, and what they think will resonate there. Yes, you could say that Labor is emphasizing health, education and wages, but then they are its stock in trade. The Coalition is emphasizing the economy, the need to keep building, the danger of Labor in power, and so on, and they are stock items on its side, too.
For those who really don’t know about The Magic Pudding, it is a story by Norman Lindsay about a pudding that can be any flavour, and is inexhaustible — ‘cut and come again’ is its description. The promises from both party leaders have that characteristic. I doubt that there are more than a hundred people in the whole country who have any idea of what the promises mean, when if ever they might be delivered, or what effect they might have on the country’s bottom line. It doesn’t really matter. The point of the promises is that they show the parties are aware of local problems. Will they affect how people will vote? I have no idea. As I wrote in an earlier piece, we need to remember that voting movements are always net. Some promises will put people off. Some promises by one party will be matched by the other party. Some promises will be dismissed — ‘They said that last time, and we got nothing’.
At a recent lunchtime discussion one theme was that we should vote for the best team, and/or the team with the best ideas about the future. That doesn’t help me. I don’t think either team has great ideas for the future. I said in another recent essay that Mr Shorten’s notions that half of all cars should be EVs by 2030, as well as half of all electricity generation through alternative energy by the same year are simply ludicrous. How could anyone vote for such rubbishy stuff? The Coalition’s record over the past few years does not thrill me, and I’m not at all sure I want more of the same. There is an engaging emergency doctor standing in our seat, so he got a couple of votes from us.
And as I write it seems that Mr Shorten is pitching his final appeal to the voters on, yes, ‘climate change’. Is he worried about Labor votes leaking to the Greens? Does he actually believe in the guff he has been talking about? Beats me. Of course, alarmists will point to floods and droughts and record high temperatures (records with respect to some of the recent past years), but there is no evidence that connects these weather events to some kind of greenhouse-gas-emission-CO2-human folly. If there were such evidence, we would have seen it by now. So Mr Shorten has an appalling solution to a non-problem. If he wins, I would expect some window-dressing, like the return to taxpayer-funding for the Climate Council. As for the fifty per cent EVs in 2030, that will disappear like frost in the sunlight.
I don’t expect much change, whoever wins. The electorate is becoming used to election handouts, and the notion that there really is some kind of financial Magic Pudding. That’s not going to change. We don’t have good leaders, on either side. I don’t have much faith in Labor’s capacity to be tough with its own ranks.
My lunchtime group was divided as to how close the result would be. I opted for a close finish. In the days when I was an election-night TV presenter/expert I had made considerable study of the whole nation, marginal seats and all. These days I don’t have the data or the energy to interrogate them. And indeed there’s not a lot of publicly-available data for the intending student. Sample sizes are too small, so there’s much more recourse now to focus groups and local polling, the results kept close to the heart by the group that did the work, usually one of the parties (or both).
So, good luck for polling day. The Electoral Commission came to our nursing home a week ago, and we did our constitutional duty then.