America and Australia: Obama and Rudd: A Trend Maybe

            Australia recently ended eleven years of a conservative government headed by Prime Minister John Howard.  John Howard was a PM who had experienced a long and chequered past in the nation’s politics.  He first came to the fore in 1975 when he was the Treasurer in Malcolm Fraser’s conservative government.  This was followed by stints as leader of the Australian Liberal Party, not a liberal party but a conservative party, the name stems from their policy towards liberal business ties. He lost the leadership and then won it back and lost elections and then he seemed to go through a change and arose out of the ashes of 13 years of labor Government in Australia to become PM for 11 years. 

            Kevin Rudd, who become leader of the Labor Party just a year or so ago lead the Labor Party to government under the banner of ‘time for a change’ The Howard Government had been doing a fine job.  The PM was strong in foreign policy, he was respected by his peers overseas, and the economy was strong.  His cabinet had introduced the first Home Owners grant scheme that was very successful.  Why then did he lose the 2007 election?  The only thing that I can put it down to is that Australians were seduced by a clever campaign of the need for “change”.  The catch cry in the streets was “Oh look Johnny’s too old, and he’s been there for 11 years, it’s time for a change.” But this catch cry was fueled by clever campaign advertising by the Labor Party camp. 

            In America there is another push for ‘change’ and it is being propagated by, surprise! It is the Democratic Party, which has the same philosophical base as the Labor Party in Australia, why, they even removed the U from labour no less.  There is a major difference though between Obama and Rudd.  That is, that while Obama is a good orator and speaks well and sound great, there is not much substance to what he says.  I’m not American so I won’t have a vote but I did have a vote in Australia and I didn’t vote for Rudd.  The same thing is happening here in America as happened in Australia.  Even though voting is compulsory down under there are still many who don’t vote.  How can they fine you for not voting if they don’t know you exist because you aren’t registered to vote?  However, in USA voting is voluntary and many people just don’t bother.  I hate to say this but there are many people who have been encouraged to vote for the first time this time around who have no business voting at all, basically because they don’t know anything about the election process or the candidates. This was the case also in Australia last year.

            Those of you who have read my other article called Bottom Up and Top down Economics will have an idea of what I am on about.  Voting for a liberal political party is very attractive to the middle class voter because they can see the immediate benefits of higher taxes to the upper classes.  They do not see the long term effects of these taxes in higher production costs and loss of jobs, and in the long run higher prices and lower real wages. No matter how good the argument of the conservatives may sound, the promise of more cash in the pay packet is extremely attractive.  So how does this relate to America’s Obama and Australia’s Rudd? Obama has had a huge campaign of early voting and he has pushed a campaign of registering for people who’d never voted before.  A poll which was taken outside the polling stations revealed that many of the voters barely knew their presidential candidates and certainly weren’t very clued up on the respective running mates or policies.  The same thing basically happened in Australia with the challenging party running a campaign to register and vote to have a say, meaning implicitly, as long as you vote for us.

            Perhaps it is more beneficial to learn about how the system works and what values are at stake in the election process before voting.  Maybe the electoral commission could institute a rudimentary test to qualify to vote.  On this test they could ask who the candidates are, which party they represent and which policies they champion.  Perhaps then the person who is elected to lead a country will be deserving of the confidence of their electorate. As a teacher I know that the citizenry are supposed to learn about politics at school in a subject called Social Education or Geography and Society in Australia and social Studies in America. Something is not happening in our schools and many students graduate from high school without a clue about politics or how their country functions politically and socially, nor do they care.  This is evident for Australia as well as for America.  The old adage that a nation gets the leadership that it deserves seems to be well said, because if we go to the polls in ignorance then we waste the gift that Democracy is supposed to give us.