After confidently calling the end of the 45th Parliament on Thursday 4 April (‘as we head towards the final hours of the 45th Parliament…’), the press gallery was forced to walk back these premature statements of fact within 36 hours (‘Morrison likely to delay election campaign by another week…’).

Turns out that ‘sources say next weekend has firmed as the preferred timing’, a prediction from the above article, was also wrong: the ABC News Twitter account posted at 06:37am on Thursday 11 April that Morrison had left the prime ministerial residence to call on the Governor General.  

Hi! My name is Ingrid. I regularly blog on Australian politics and signed up for Ausvotes 2019 this year. And no, this is not a post about political journalism in particular, or major media generally getting it wrong, although I often do write a lot of words [waves hands vaguely] along those lines.

Instead, I picked the above example from the last week to illustrate why I want to counter the overload of what we call ‘retail politics’ and ‘horserace reporting’. There is no good reason to report that the parliament is over when the claim has not been verified; or that the election will be called on a specific date – especially when it wasn’t.

The Great Moral Challenge of Our Time

There is every reason, in contrast, to report on the significance of climate policy stasis which Australia has endured over the last decade and beyond. Intergenerational equity is an internationally accepted principle that has informed global efforts around biodiversity and environmental sustainability at the highest levels since 1972 (United Nations Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment).

In more recent years, the principle has been supplemented by intergenerational solidarity and intergenerational justice, not least because we have failed to honour this basic commitment to our children.

It is a dismal reality that the current and previous Liberal party prime ministers have used the statement above (correctly ‘declared’ by the last Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd), to beat up on their political opponents rather than enact meaningful policies on climate change. Since the Coalition government repealed the price on carbon, emissions in Australia have increased every year (charted by Guardian Australia economics writer Greg Jericho here). Australians have the heaviest per capita carbon footprint on the planet. And the UN reports that we are unlikely to meet our obligations to the international community, to intergenerational justice, or to the planet. This is so regardless of whatever comforting lies we are told about reaching our Paris targets ‘in a canter’.

Voice Treaty Truth

If climate change is the moral challenge of our time, the Uluru Statement from the Heart is the moral roadmap to our collective future. Yet then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected this most gracious of invitations, five months after it was issued, in a press release signed off by then-Attorney General George Brandis and retiring minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion.  The Voice Treaty Truth movement encapsulates priorities nominated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples during the consultative processes of regional dialogues and the Uluru Convention. These are, in sequence, a referendum to amend the Australian Constitution to include an Indigenous Voice to parliament; and Makaratta, a word gifted by the Yolgnu people, meaning ‘coming together after a struggle’.

That the Voice be constitutionally entrenched is essential, because past institutional representation of Aboriginal people, such as ATSIC, have been created and abolished by successive governments. That Treaty come before Truth is essential, because the truth-telling must be led by First Peoples. In other words, the sequencing is integral to the movement. (Here, I am paraphrasing dialogues facilitator and convention delegates Teela Reid, a proud Wailwan and Wiradjuri woman and lawyer; and Thomas Mayor, a Torres Strait Islander man living on Larrakia lands and union secretary, from Uluru Statement events I have attended. Any errors are my own.)

One of the most substantive messages to be heard on Voice Treaty Truth is the reality that ‘the people are ahead of the politicians’. Research conducted by Reconciliation Australia has found that:

almost all Australians (95%) believe that ‘it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in matters that affect them’ and 80% believe it is important to ‘undertake formal truth telling processes’, with 86% believing it is important to learn about past issues.

Karen Mundine, CEO, Reconciliation Australia, 11 February 2019

We are unlikely to hear much about Voice Treaty Truth this election campaign; we typically hear little of First Peoples justice and rights in any given timeframe. This does not mean that future sovereign relations are moot. It means that any reluctance by Labor to campaign on the courage of its convictions – a referendum is promised in its first term – is surpassed only by the failure of the Coalition to grasp the import of sovereign relations in this country.

It’s the economy, because it always is

Announcing the election date at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Howard said it would be a decision for voters about who they trusted most to look after Australia and its economic future.

“This election, ladies and gentlemen, will be about trust,” he told reporters. “Who do you trust to keep the economy strong, and protect family living standards?”

Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August 2004

Along with many others, I intend to write more about the economic pitches from the campaign as we go. So to wrap up this post, I make an observation about the Morrison economic policy election slogan which, like his other set-pieces – repeating the Turnbull trek to Tumut, re-branding Abbott’s ‘direct action’ (giving public money to big polluters) as a ‘climate solution fund’ (ditto) – is copied from a previous Liberal Party prime minister.

The recycled slogan plays directly to a myth based on a lie. The notion that this government has outperformed the previous Labor government on the economy does not stand up to the most cursory scrutiny. It is an absurd and dishonest proposition that its record of doubling the national debt while presiding over growing inequality exacerbated by falling or at best stagnant real wages is somehow superior to management of the 2008 GFC so deft we dodges a recession and was praised globally.

In my view, the dishonesty of this recycled slogan goes to character. Not only is it unoriginal, it is branding without substance, marketing rooted in dishonesty. Like most politics-watchers, I am alert to the ‘preferred prime minister’ polling which shows that voters do not warm to Bill Shorten, the man who will almost certainly be the next Australian prime minister. I do not warm much to Shorten myself, to be frank. But that does not matter, because it is his public leadership that matters, not personal or private impressions, whether by the electorate or the journalists whose duty it is to inform us.