Twin blights on our democracy

April 27, 2019

Election 2019 will decide who governs but the campaign reveals the poison now running through Australian democracy — the evidence being the effort by Clive Palmer to buy power and the business model of peddling hatred by GetUp.

The Conservative Party stands alone as the only genuine Conservative political force in Australian politics and refuses to engage in cheap shots or populist politics that would compromise its deeply held, common sense principles.

An opinion piece in today’s The Weekend Australian says Clive Palmer’s campaign constitutes an unprecedented abuse of existing laws — with an advertising spend probably upwards of $50 million by election day simultaneous with denying candidate accountability — while GetUp, the most powerful allegedly independent campaign force, has shattered its pretence as a democratic lobby for moral causes by trading in hate and dishonesty.

Palmer and GetUp seem to be complete opposites. Palmer runs a dictatorial top-down outfit that floats on big money, pumps out xenophobic populist propaganda that thrives by denigrating the system. GetUp presents as mother’s milk democracy, a grassroots moral movement that exists to purge Australia of the tyranny of conservatism extremism.

Yet they are remarkably similar in one respect. They represent the ugly face of the Americanisation of Australian politics. Have a close look. If their 2019 performance is our future, then our democracy, like our society, is becoming more toxic, hysterical, negative and polarised.

This represents the iron law of society — your politics will follow your culture. The past six years have seen the growing debasement of our culture and that puts our politics on an escalator to rancour and disrepute. An astonishing feature of Australia today are the interests attacking our traditions, institutions and demonising anybody in their ideological path while pretending they are acting in the name of a better democracy.

If Palmer wins representation for himself and his party there should, in parliament’s review of the election, be a push for spending caps to be introduced by law. It is highly likely the 85 per cent of people who don’t like Palmer and won’t vote for him, and who are driven nuts by his ads, will support such limits.

Yes, such laws have unintended consequences (witness the US) and would need to pass the High Court, but that is no reason not to try to refine the design.

GetUp is an organisation that seeks to destroy. It does not run candidates itself. Its operating method is to damage and destroy its opponents, whom it blackens through a combination of personal character assassination and political critique. It boasts about its influence at the 2016 election and its ability to terminate at this election Coalition MPs of what it calls the “hard right”. Its agenda now is ambitious in the extreme. It seeks, in effect, the partial political beheading of the Liberal Party. It targets Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton, followed by a line of others — Kevin Andrews, Greg Hunt, Josh Frydenberg, Christian Porter and Nicolle Flint.

Its method is an Australian version of the US brand of political action committees that are getting stronger at each election and are basic to the disrepute of US politics. PACs are formed by like-minded people, raise money and run campaigns to elect or defeat candidates, some being constructive but many viciously negative.

GetUp is a highly sophisticated operation, feared by the Liberals, trading on the idea of a “flourishing and fair” Australia. But it has been caught in its own hubris this election and risks being exposed as an extremist organisation of the Left fighting its declared extremists on the Right.

To read Paul Kelly’s full article, click here.

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