James Allan

Bligh & democracy

Here in Queensland, with just a few days to go before the State election, there are two quite remarkable aspects to this election campaign.

The first is the nasty, vituperative nature of the campaign. Or to be rather more accurate, it is the nasty, vicious, mud-slinging aspect of the Labor campaign, as the LNP has largely tried to stay above the fray as it were.

This first feature of the Queensland campaign has been widely noted but people’s reactions to it vary. Some who find the mud-slinging distasteful seem to want to regulate such behaviour. This, despite the LNP being the victims, is not a small government, pro-democracy, faith in the voters response.

The proper response in my view is to trust the voters. If the Labor campaign sickens them then they can vote in such a way as to obliterate Labor, to take them down to a handful of seats. The remedy should lie in the hands of voters, not pseudo independent regulators who tell parties how they can and can’t campaign.

Personally I put a lot of stock in the good sense of the voters and expect them to deliver a clear message on what they think of the Labor campaign. But we shall see.

The second aspect of the Queensland campaign that is more recent, and not widely commented upon, is Ms Bligh’s late conversion to pleading for people to vote Labor to stop an LNP landslide. The premier (at the time of writing that is) even had the gall to say it wouldn’t be good for democracy to hand the LNP a massive landslide. For good measure she threw in a few non sequitur references to Joh Bielke-Peterson.

So what should we take from such scare-mongering? Would it be bad for democracy to hand Labor such a thrashing that it retained only a dozen or so seats in Parliament?

And the answer in my view is clearly ‘no’, it wouldn’t be bad at all. And to see why look overseas to Canada. Back in the early 1990s the national governing party there became very unpopular with the voters. It was seen to be mildly corrupt and incompetent. So in the 1993 election this governing party lost more than half its previous vote, and in the First-Past-the-Post voting system it went from having 151 MPs to just 2. That’s correct, just 2 Members of Parliament were returned for this political party.

Did democracy die in Canada in 1993? The question is of course rhetorical and laughable. And just to be clear to readers the party in question was the right of centre Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. It was obliterated.

And after that the left of centre Liberal Party remained in government in Canada for some 13 years, until 2006 when a rejigged Conservative Party came back into office, a role it still holds.

But democracy did not end. What was thoroughly battered was one particular political party. Of course if, like me, you trust the voters’ good sense, this is what it deserved.

So on that analysis what this last ditch Bligh tactic amounts to is a plea for the voters of Queensland to save her Labor Party from the 10 or 15 years in the political wilderness that it would otherwise deserve. It is a plea to go easy on them.

This is scare-mongering, pure and simple, because there is no evidence to suggest that because an Opposition has only a handful of seats the government will ram more legislation down the throats of unwilling voters and break election promises and lie.

Indeed there are strong grounds for thinking that fragile minority governments reliant on rural socialist independents and the Greens are more likely to do this. (Hmm, I wonder if I can think of any evidence for that claim?)

So come this Saturday the voters of Queensland have no reason to hesitate in how they might otherwise vote based on the spurious claim that they would be undermining democracy by not voting Labor.

Sure, that seems to be the core belief of many of the State Labor top guns, but that in itself is one of their problems. A decade or two in the political wilderness will do them some good.

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