Do we really need election campaigns?

AUSTRALIA is in the middle of an election campaign that will culminate in polls being held on September 7. By law after an election is called, there needs to be a minimum of 33 days before the poll itself. And the polling day has to be a Saturday.

Campaigns involve a lot of repetitious sloganeering and politicians from all sides of the spectrum promise this, that or the other. The major parties throw as much money as possible at various groups in order to literally buy their votes.

And this goes on and on and on. No-one stops to ask – do we really need such campaigns?

The whole period of campaigning is mainly focused on the two main parties or rather the two leaders who can hope to be prime minister. The media is obsessed with the doings of these two, rather ordinary men.

Of course, if a candidate from any other party does something out of the ordinary, then the media picks up on that. Else, one has no idea about candidates from fringe parties or what these parties even stand for.

In short, the election campaign that is supposed to educate the ordinary voter about the candidates in the race does not even come close to doing that.

The information that emerges about the major parties is already well-known. It is repeated endlessly when parliament sits. There is nothing that is different.

Different sections of the media show their own biases. There is a group that backs the Liberal-National coalition and one that backs Labor. It is well-nigh impossible to find any kind of balanced coverage. Apologists abound – and their rewards come in many shapes and sizes if the party they back wins.

On polling day, when one goes into the booth to vote, one is confronted by a list of names, for the lower house and the upper house, and one knows little about most of those names. In the case of the upper house, the Senate, this is more pronounced because the number of candidates is more and one can vote for all the seats in one’s state of residence.

Given this, what does an election campaign achieve? Little or nothing. There is a massive waste of public money, with parties employing every trick in the book in order to minimise paying from their own pockets. Parties launch their campaigns as close to polling day as possible because they have to pay for their electioneering from their own pockets from launch day onwards.

And parties send postal vote applications to all and sundry – but never tell the voter that the free return envelope is addressed to the party office, not the electoral commission. In this manner, names and other details are harvested and used for targeting appeals for votes in the current and future elections.

A week of electioneering would be more than enough. During that time, every party should have to make its policies and candidates known to the election commission which puts all the information on a central website so that the public can access it if needed.

A lot of taxpayers money would be saved, money which could be spent on worthwhile things for the public. And we wouldn’t end up with any worse government or opposition than we have in the past.


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