Close scrutiny of the last half dozen or so Federal elections, from a variety of different perspectives, leads Piers Golddigger to consider the following to be lay down miseres, to which no doubt many more could be added.

1. No candidate will discuss which taxes they will raise, and which new taxes they will introduce, but plenty will talk about which ones they want to reduce or abolish.

2. No candidate will reveal which expenditures they wish to cut back or eliminate, but all will talk about areas where they think the Government should do more.

3. Most candidates will mention particular groups of people or industry sectors that have suffered recently, while few will talk about those that have done well.

4. Candidates will focus on means rather than ends – that is, how much money they have spent or would spend, not on what outcomes they have or want to achieve.

5. No candidate who criticises the Goods and Services Tax will explain the virtues of the Wholesale Sales Tax.

6. Candidates in rural areas will bash national competition policy, globalisation and dairy deregulation at every opportunity, without even the most superficial analysis that would show the benefits that these phenomena have brought to the economy. Many in the electorate will believe them.

7. Candidates will elucidate in detail where their party would spend a few extra dollars or reduce taxes by a similar amount. Few will spend any time explaining their stances on social issues where governments can actually make a real difference via either legalisation or prohibition, such as euthanasia, abortion, gay rights, drugs, IVF access and human rights.

8. Candidates will claim to be ‘of the people’. No candidate will proudly admit to being a member of the educated or cultural elites – at least, not in those words, and not to a general audience.

9. Mark Latham (ALP) and Ross Cameron (Liberal), often the only honest voices on economic policy, will either keep their heads down in their own electorates, or will be criticised by their own sides for saying something eminently sensible.

10. Unfortunately, the use of humor by candidates will be sparing.

Parties

11. No ALP candidate will highlight how pleased they are that the view of their party caucus will prevail of their own view in determining how they’ll vote in Parliament.

12. No Coalition candidate will declare embarrassment at having their campaign funded mostly by big business.

13. The Greens and the Democrats will spend plenty of time criticising each other despite having almost identical policies.

14. One Nation will once again fail to attract many votes from those educated beyond year 10.

15. One Nation will receive media coverage out of all proportion to the number of people that they will actually get elected, especially compared to the other minor parties.

The Public

16. Lots of individuals will self-righteously proclaim that “never again” will they vote for this party or that party.

17. People will complain about “compulsory voting”, despite the fact that it isn’t. (Hmmm, the Commonwealth Electoral Act refers to “compulsory voting”.)

18. There will be complaints by some that they have “nobody to vote for” – as if they could only vote for somebody with whom they agree 100 per cent on all policy issues.

19. No industry lobby group will admit that they are being taxed fairly or are already the recipients of sufficient largesse from the Government.

20. The trade union movement will fairly assess the policies of all parties, before endorsing the approach of the ALP on every issue.

21. People who regularly claim to abhor ‘politicians’ will end up voting for one. What do they think that members of the House of Reps and the Senate are meant to do?

The Media

22. Media analysts will declare this “the most important election for a long time”. In reality, by 2010, the 2001 election will be remembered no more nor less than most others of the previous forty years – unless it’s a tie.

23. Commentators will refer to the election being held “in volatile times”. Paul Kelly (The Australian) already has. Like, the entire population has been comfortable and relaxed for the rest of the past century?

24. The media will ignore voters in seats that are not marginal, of which there are still plenty. Indeed, as Don Chipp once famously put it, “this election will be decided by a few thousand morons in marginal seats”.

25. The Senate election will receive little coverage, despite legislation having to pass both houses of parliament.

26. The parties will spend lots of cash maintaining comprehensive web sites that will only be referred to by those almost certainly voting for that party (or another) in any case. Swinging voters will be influenced rather by glib sound bites and short television and radio advertisements.

The Result

27. Millions of trees will die, and countless hours wasted by people handing out ‘How to Vote’ cards when they could be doing more useful things, because the parties are unwilling to change the electoral laws.

28. Everyone will be the winner on election night. The parties that don’t get into government will claim to have done better than they thought they would, in view of the trying circumstances in which they had to fight the campaign, including the extent of unwarranted criticism they receive in the media.

29. He who will form government will talk about the things that unite us being more important than the things that divide us, and will say that they will try to act on behalf of the entire community, not just those that voted for his party.

30. The single member electorate system will again leave many voters unrepresented in the House of Representative. Not just those who vote for minor parties, but those who vote for the major parties in the seats that they don’t win.

31. Whoever wins Government will claim a mandate to implement all of their policies, without amendment by the Senate, irrespective of how close the election was, how well that party performed in the Senate election, or how much publicity individual policies may have received during the campaign.

32. At the conclusion of the election, analysts will refer to the electorate in homogeneous terms, implying that they – all of them – changed their vote from 1998 in this direction or that. In reality, the swing either way is likely to be less than 5 per cent. Chances are, 19 of every 20 people you know will have voted the same way in both 1998 and 2001.

33. Similarly, analysts will simplistically homogenise voters according to where they live.

Afterwards

34. Whoever forms Government will have broken promises by the time of the next election, which will be the subject of many letters to the editor over the next few years by voters “shocked and dismayed” that this could possibly have happened. If the ALP wins, they will “find the cupboard bare”, forcing them to junk some spending or tax promises.

35. No politician who loses their seat is going to need the services of a Salvation Army soup kitchen to keep their family fed.

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