Can We Just Vote ‘NO’ in the Upcoming Australian Election?

A man's hand putting an envelope in the slot of a box

I will miss the Brexit excitement when it drops out of the news cycle over the next few days. At least this referendum offers voters a stark choice.

In Australia, the choice offered to voters in the upcoming election is as bland and depressing as it gets. As The Australian reports today:

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are the two least-favoured and least-preferred leaders going into an election for 40 years; never in Newspoll’s history have voters so disdained a pair of prime ministerial candidates.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a fair assessment.

When Malcolm Turnbull booted Tony Abbott, there was a sense of expectation, a sense of hope that a leader, not a politician, was in charge. In this sense, Turnbull has been profoundly disappointing.

Ever since taking office, Turnbull has become a bog standard, fearmongering politician. All slogans and no substance.

And the alternative? Well, what can you say about Bill Shorten? That he’s not Malcolm Turnbull? Unless you’re a hard core Labor voter, that’s hardly a reason to get excited.

These leaders are the two least favoured and least preferred in more than 40 years for a reason. They offer the electorate nothing apart from slogans and platitudes. This election campaign is just one long orchestrated press conference. Both parties mindlessly throw money at marginal electorates in the hope of clinging on to power for another three years. From The Australian again… 

This election campaign is mainly about competing efforts by the major parties to buy votes using other people’s money, also known as taxpayers’ funds.

The leaders of the Coalition should know better; once upon a time they believed in small, ­responsible government. There was also a time when Labor might have resisted the temptation to throw taxpayers’ dollars at inappropriate ends — think of those halcyon days of Paul Keating as treasurer and Peter Walsh as ­finance minister — but those days are long gone.

Mind you, it is not just a matter of out-of-control pork barrelling; it is the complete disregard for any principles governing federal financial relations. When did building netball courts in the high-income electorate of Higgins become a ­responsibility of the federal government? And why should the federal government pick up the tab for some vague and ill-conceived tram line in Adelaide?

Yet the polls registering voter disinterest have no impact. The arrogance of our politicians on both sides is astounding. The greater our disgust, the greater their disdain for it.

Here’s a tip if you’re half-crazy and think you want to give politics a go. Establish a party that isn’t bogged down with the ideological weight of either the Liberal party or Labor. Build your platform on telling the electorate hard truths. Tell them that it isn’t the government’s responsibility to create jobs and economic growth. Rather, the government’s role is to create the conditions to ensure that people with good ideas and a strong work ethic can make a success of themselves.

Restructure the tax system, remove bureaucracy and make a long term plan to scale down middle-class welfare. Be compassionate about the sick and marginalised — attacking ‘dole cheats’ isn’t going to fix the budget deficit.

Such a platform won’t get you elected. But it will get you a bunch of votes from those who are genuinely disaffected by the current, bottom of the barrel political process. That might make the major parties change their tune.

Australia faces a huge challenge in the years ahead. We need to have more policy depth than a reliance on the ‘lucky country’ moniker, and the knowledge that we can sell off our land and lifestyle to make ends meet until the next election.

If there was a vote ‘NO’ option at this election, I’d be taking it.


Greg Canavan,
For The Daily Reckoning

Greg Canavan
Greg Canavan is the Managing Editor of The Daily Reckoning and is the foremost authority for retail investors on value investing in Australia. He is a former head of Australasian Research for an Australian asset-management group and has been a regular guest on CNBC, Sky Business’s The Perrett Report and Lateline Business. Greg is also the editor of Crisis & Opportunity, an investment publication designed to help investors profit from companies and stocks that are undervalued on the market. To follow Greg's financial world view more closely you can subscribe to The Daily Reckoning for free here. If you’re already a Daily Reckoning subscriber, then we recommend you also join him on Google+. It's where he shares investment research, commentary and ideas that he can't always fit into his regular Daily Reckoning emails. For more on Greg go here.

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