Australian politics should focus on policy, not personalities

Australian politics should focus on policy, not personalities

OPINION | This election, make sure you cast your vote on the basis of a party’s policies, not their personalities, argues CHLOE WESTLEY.

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott

WE all indulge in a bit of gossip here and there. Australian society loves to speculate about who is wearing what, which politicians don’t like each other and who insulted who on television. However you would expect during the election at least, the media would shift its focus from questions concerned with personality disputes to those concerned with party policies. This has hardly been the case.

Last night I overheard two people on the bus complaining about Rudd’s haircut, and then came home to see a story on the news about statements Mr Abbott made about a female candidate. This was followed by comments from a friend on Facebook outlining that they would vote for the LNP if ‘the mighty Malcolm was in charge!’ These are the kind of conversations that are being encouraged by the media in the lead up to the election, and it’s disconcerting to anyone who considers votes should be allocated on the basis of policies, not personalities.

I would like to make one thing clear. Australia is not America. We do not vote based on the personalities of the leaders of respective political parties. Saying you will vote for a party because you prefer a leader or what that leader says in a campaign is confirmation that you don’t understand the political system. It’s a party that gets legislation through parliament – not a person.

Laws can only be introduced or changed through the authority of federal parliament. When a Bill is approved by the House of Representatives, it is then sent to the Senate for approval. There are 150 MPs and 76 Senators, all of whom must vote in proceedings. When one Member of Parliament proposes to introduce or reform a law, this has little to no legitimacy without support from a dominant political party.

When a leader of a political party promises to promote certain legislation, this is usually on behalf of dozens of politicians and has been agreed upon after extensive analysis by members of the political party. With this in mind, you would hardly comment that the Prime Minister is ‘in charge of the country’. Rather, it is their leadership abilities that would or would not persuade his/her party to make informed and morally coherent decisions.

Your vote should be in consideration of your local representative, and the policies their parties are proposing. Although the media may attempt to convince Australians they should be focusing on the charisma and charm of party leaders, I have faith that voters will see past the vacuous personality disputes and make an effort to understand what each political party is proposing to introduce into Parliament.

Contrary to popular opinion, Australia is not a mini-American republic: it is a constitutional monarchy. Let’s keep it that way.

Chloe Westley

Chloe Westley

Chloe Westley is from Brisbane, Queensland. She is a Philosophy student at the University of London, with an interest in Australian politics and history.