By this time next week we should know the date of the next election. But we may have a long wait to know if any of the parties has gained control of both houses, or if we have won another hung Parliament controlled by fractionally supported lucky dippers.
The media appears to be more interested in producing inconclusive attitude and opinion surveys that assume a presidential popularity poll, rather than asking what the electorate hopes to gain from turning up to cast their pebbles*.
As we wait for the Senate count to know who will turn back the policies of whatever is “the other mob”, we should now use Q+A programs to ask all sides to give us answers to ten better questions:
1. Do you or your party intend to respect the verdict of the electorate or return the nation to the polls within a year to try to get a different set of decisions?
2. Will you or your party commit to quitting Parliament in the event your campaign promises are reversed or not implemented before the next election, and will this be monitored by the PBO (Parliamentary Budget Office) as the OFC (Official Fact Checker)?
3. Will you, or at least your party’s leader, commit to the Commonwealth takeover of full responsibility for the health system in view of the continuing blame game around shortages of doctors and nurses and rising delays in emergency services?
4. If people smugglers continue to “sink the boats” in the Indian Ocean outside Australia’s territorial waters, will your party commit to a let-them-drown policy if other nations do not have the capacity (or intent) to mount search and rescue efforts?
5. When will your party restore business confidence to a level that guarantees small and medium enterprises the capacity to cut the levels of youth and long-term unemployment to the level of the national average?
6. How soon can we expect assurances that sole parents and those on Newstart will be guaranteed a job at the minimum wage, or at least the increased $50 a week income insecurity payment recommended by the Business Council and ACOSS?
7. What is your response to the increased levels of preventable chronic disease and inadequate access to aged care services as many move away from the capital cities?
8. Assuming the two major parties accept the necessity to return to surplus before the next election, or a double dissolution, whichever is the sooner, what cuts in health, education, aged care and indigenous services will be fully quarantined?
9. Will your party establish both a schedule and a deadline for “Closing the Gap” for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island citizens against the Hawke promise to eradicate child poverty and subsequent governments’ commitment to bring life expectancy into parity?
10. Will your party set a deadline for achieving 1% of untied foreign aid to meet the Millennium Goals and ensure that aid assistance is not tied to Australia’s domestic and commercial policy objectives in order to eradicate poverty?
*Psephologists might then be better placed than media massagers based upon answers to these questions and might encourage support for people’s forums in every electorate, along the lines of the American Town Hall meetings at which all candidates are required to turn and tell their version of the truth.
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Dr. Colin Benjamin OAM is the chairman of Cultural Infusion Ltd and director general of the Life: ‘Be in it’ Australia charity