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You Spin Me Right Round…

Jo Scard

Not sure about all of you but I’m a bit exhausted post-election.

Waiting on ABC Radio updates for the “too-close-to-call” seats around the country is a bit like waiting on the results of a blood test trying to work out if you’re really sick (I’m a political nerd, sorry). It’s nerve racking. Imagine how the politicians must be feeling – you’ve got to feel some sympathy.

Last weekend’s election “result” has been called disappointing by some. Others thanked their loved ones while some were just angry with what the punters dished up, saying it was a “wake-up call” for someone or other.

But really, truly, what happened? Well, here’s my take. A bit like what’s been happening in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, people are opting for other voices than the main parties. They are choosing short term, not fully-formed, sometimes angry and at times shrill, voices instead.

When my parents first got involved with politics they lived in Sydney. It sounds cliché, but life was simpler. My father lived and worked and got everything his family needed with a few mile radius. Choices were few, and politics reflected that. It was either them or the other ones. They got elected, stayed in power always for two and very often three, full terms. People respected the Prime Minister and the office.

Well it ain’t that simple any more is it? My theory is that modern politics is dominated by choice. A bit like the amount of lunchbox snacks you can now buy, there are lots of options. Too many. Getting a guernsey to stand isn’t hard. Due diligence isn’t too relevant and anyone can do it really. And win.

So when we get to the ballot box we have options: the AEC now allows us to draw male genitalia on our ballot papers and it’s sort of like Flappy Bird but in real life. It’s fun. Not that serious. Apart from the fact that it actually is. You can buy a democracy sausage and then tweet about it.

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Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD) 2016 Federal Election Polling Booth at Old Parliament House, Canberra. Photo by Sean Davey.

My thinking goes like this.

The first iPhone went on sale the year Kevin Rudd was elected. Remember him? Since then we’ve been steadily bombarded with little bits and pieces of information. Academics are scared that we no longer think about what an answer to a question might be – instead, we Google it.

We now have the ability to vote all our elected officials out of the house in much the same way as we vote them off The Voice, so that they are discarded as detritus – so what? Well the “what” makes for very short-lived political and policy decision making and it’s not much chop.

And our politics has gone down much the same path. We have Motoring Enthusiasts. Pauline Hanson is back. Mr X and his NXT is a tour de force. Fred Nile has got in on the act too. And a radio shock jock who has never voted before last weekend when he voted for himself, Derryn Hinch, is now a Senator.

They are there, and they all have votes, and, as a consequence our policy makers will have to lie in the bed that has been made. It’s called democracy and it’s real. And it’s happening all over the world.

As we all survey the new federal parliamentary landscape, some of us may have reason to be concerned, saddened, worried or even just uninterested.

But what I would say is that whatever you think about whoever has been elected, it shows that it pays to form a view, be engaged, get across stuff and let your elected peeps know what you think (constructively). Because that way, you can’t complain that no-one asked you what you reckon should happen.

Feature image: Andrew Meares

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Jo Scard

With over 20 years' experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is one of Australia’s leading advisers to corporates, Not-For-Profits, organisations and government. Managing Director of communications agency, Fifty Acres which is HQ'd in Canberra, Jo is a respected former political journalist in the UK and Australia working with ITV, Associated Press, Seven Network, SBS, ABC and Fairfax. A former senior adviser to the Rudd and Gillard governments and a trained lawyer she is on the Boards of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Hockey ACT and a Member of the NSW Council of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. Jo is an Ambassador for the global entrepreneur magazine Renegade Collective and a member of the Registered Consultancies Group of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. She has spent over a decade advising corporates and Not-For-Profits at CEO and board level across strategic communications, government relations and public relations and co-authored the best-selling book The Working Mother’s Survival Guide with Seven’s Melissa Doyle. More about the Author