How do we elect decision makers?

Nov 2, 2017 | Mayor's Blog

Mayor’s Desk – 2 November 2017

I’m going to make a controversial statement here….are you ready? The majority of Australians do not have trust or confidence in government. Ok, so it wasn’t that controversial was it? Any quick read of a newspaper, scan of social media or a few minutes listening to talk back radio leaves no doubt that people feel disillusioned with politics, but just to wrap some actual data around it, Cameron and McAllister (2016) found that the share of Australians who agreed that ‘people in government can be trusted’ was down to 26 per cent, the lowest result since the survey began in 1969; the previous lowest result was 30 per cent in 1979. Just for the record, Australia is not alone, with many countries showing the same low levels of confidence in their governments.

This and similar surveys cited poor economic growth and associated concerns about job insecurity and income inequality; eroding social values; along with perceptions of a lack of integrity (self-interest and unkept promises) as some of the reasons behind their dissatisfaction.

With the State government election being called last Sunday it is time we all vote for a government again. So my question is: If we are not satisfied and feel the people we are electing by majority are getting it wrong, how on earth do we elect people who get it right?

A few months ago I was invited to a think tank of sorts for Local Government QLD where this subject, along with other yet unsolved issues in local government, was discussed. A councillor from a remote council came up with this thought; we teach our children the three levels of government; we teach them the very basics of democracy; but we never teach them how to read and understand policies, the very foundations on which government is founded.

Studies about how we vote decision makers into government have been found to include our parental influence, gender, ethnicity, class, government performance, opposition performance, election timing, length of election campaign, advertising, local issues and finally policy announcements. However, I have also been told of voting according to a persons name or because they looked ‘nice’.

Perhaps the answer to increasing confidence levels in elected officials (government) is to increase the understanding of what people are voting for. I think my fellow councillor made an important point. Politics basically affects every part of our every day lives and as such an integral part of our lives, shouldn’t more time be dedicated to learning about it? Shouldn’t we be taught how to elect the best person for the job, rather than just being taught we have to perform this function as a member of society? It’s certainly something worth considering.

As for me, in my position, I am ready to work with whomever you elect. Bring on November 25th.

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