The absence of candidates from major parties in the forthcoming Tweed Council elections underlines the trouble with Australian politics.
It’s no surprise that Labor supporters will not fly the ALP banner.
The state government is hell-bent on destroying local councils; elected Labor representatives are prominent among the 320 councillors signed up for the Keep It Local campaign against Frank Sartor.
Local conservative politicians have problems closer to home. Being sacked for corruption is never a good look, but the scale of scullduggery on the Tweed beggars belief. Developers donated $340,00 in campaign funds during 2004, prompting a comparison with the total campaign budget of $63,000 for the Sydney Lord Mayor in the same election.
Half those funds were raised by Tweed Directions, run by prominent Liberals Jeff Egan and Bob Bordino. Political balance was assured by Labor apparatchik, Graham Staerk.
This disgusting history may explain the reluctance of this year’s candidates to don Labor, Liberal or National party t-shirts but is a symptom not the cause.
Our disgust with corruption reinforces the fear that politicians do not govern in our interests. They protect the commercial interests of the companies that fund their election campaigns, but they also have one eye on their own retirement packages and another on the larger interests of a globalised economy, our military allies and major trading partners.
This self interest is shocking but it is their weakness that marks our leaders as failures. Politicians naturally form alliances with the rich and powerful to get things done. Machievelli accurately defined self-interest as the one reliable motivator. It is weakness, though, that confuses alliance with obsequiousness.
Historically successful leaders have displayed the strength to balance the interests of the people, the nation (or empire) and the many and various interest groups demanding their attention.
The strength of the Labor Party last century was the connection with its rank and file. As a grass-roots party, beholden to its members, it was always guaranteed the support of almost half the population and almost half the time, the majority required to win government.
The membership of the three older parties has been declining for two decades. In that time, only the Greens membership has grown. The Greens’ consensus decision-making may be cumbersome and its insistence on refusing corporate donations might limit rapid growth, but it has paid off. It is now the only party fielding a ticket on many local councils.
The anecdotal evidence is sweet. Prominent political operators in the region are embarrassed by their families’ support of The Greens. The branch secretary of one major party complains that he has to remove Greens literature from his fridge every time he hosts a Party meeting. â€œYour policies are too damned attractive,â€ he said. The eldest offspring of one prominent Federal candidate is now a member of Australia’s only expanding political party.
As Julius Caesar once observed, â€œLose control of your family, and you lose the nation.â€
I take a more benign view. The young face an uncertain future and are leaving the dinosaurs of the twentieth century behind. They are naturally attracted to a party that has a sensible plan for the future that, after all, is theirs.