Ah Democracy…the last bastion of civilised society, or is it?

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By Strategic partner Paul Arnold 

The recent federal election again raises the spectre of the role of the media and its unwieldy influence. Some media outlets choose to make celebrities out of controversial personalities and then wonder why they are elected. Hardly, the responsible way to govern a country. Makes us all look a bit loopy.

Freedom of the press is one of the strengths of a democratic society, but that freedom can allow significant distortions, as media outlets seem to go all out to make controversy and trap people. The real time electronic and social media and its electoral significance were not even thought of when democracy was birthed in Australia.

A full electronic media blackout for the whole election campaign, would be a much better environment for people to make their minds up without all this negativity. Negativity can come from any quarter and can come without the usual justice principle of innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, such time proven justice principles seem not to apply in politics and negativity beats positivity every time, for a great number of people. Indeed, this leaning towards negativity is a poor reflection on humanity.

Election outcomes can come down to the selfish hip pocket nerve. We live in a democracy where $5 from some elector’s pocket can influence an election outcome. It seems any attempt of the government to solve long term budget deficits, will result in electoral rejection. Such short term thinking.

It has to be said that governments were able to govern in days gone by without the constant pestering for news from the 24-hour media circus. I do feel sorry for anyone caught up in this vicious merry-go-round.

Democracy certainly throws up short term surprises and difficulties, and we struggle to live with its consequences. Lots of questions and complaints about the fairness of the messages run by many parties, and the role of the media, however, in the long run, democracy does get it right. We might just have to wait for that long run…..

This election has proven again that Tasmania does not welcome the national approach to advertising by the major parties. We are proudly our own people and do not appreciate campaigns designed for the masses in urbanised cities. If Australia has a strong future, the major parties have to return to state directed campaigns, as the state organisations should be capable to knowing their state issues better than edicts from on high.

Australia does not have all this democratic challenge on its own. We have Brexit, USA Presidential Elections, Scotland, and a host of other countries struggling and demonstrating how short-term democratic outcomes may be poorer than long term visionary leadership hoped for. We live in interesting times.

Above all else Australia needs strong leadership. The recent elections seemed to come down to electorate based project funding, rather than vision, leadership and economic strength. The question has to be asked: Why are we committing billions of $$ from funds that we do not have. When will the international lenders demand their return and how might that look, when we are unable to pay our dues.

Governments should only run huge deficits to stimulate the economy on the reasonable prospect that the improved economy will lift the taxes that the government needs to repay its deficits. We seem to have lost sight of that reality in recent years. Australia is facing significant economic challenges that will now be deferred for at least 3 years, and a media dominated election process, will ensure that we may never face the economic reality of increasing international debt.

Australia is heading into vulnerable territory, as we lack the leadership necessary to correct an over taxed economy with billions of dollars wasted annually and little resolve or strength to address it.

It’s worth pausing to think about the old adage “May we live in interesting times”.

Ah… democracy is inherently broken in the short term, but in the long term it gets it right. Here’s hoping.

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