Donald Trump’s victory demonstrates that the media and commentariat are disconnected from ordinary voters. Almost without exception, they failed to anticipate the Presidential Election outcome. And they had little influence on it. Their message that Trump was unfit for President largely ignored.
Australia’s political media and commentariat are also out of touch. Listening to them you’d think Australians are preoccupied with gay marriage, offshore detention, carbon emissions and identity politics. Actually, most are preoccupied with their families, their homes, their jobs, the monthly bills and their kids’ education and job prospects. They care about the economy and national debt. They want to live in a safe society, where Australia’s way of life is valued and respected.
There’s a growing disconnect between views expressed by the media and commentariat and those of many Australians, with common sense frequently dismissed as extreme, ill-informed, even bigoted.
Here’s some examples.
Our biggest education challenge is performance steadily declining against global benchmarks. Demanding more education funding as the solution is misconceived. It’s been happening despite substantial education funding increases. Something’s wrong. Australian schools should be the best in the world, not 28th behind Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, the education issue dominating political news has been the Safe Schools controversy. It’s understandable why parents are concerned. Some content in Safe Schools and other school programs, frankly, beggars belief. Teachers shouldn’t be schooling children in gender fluidity; or asking them to imagine or role-play different sexual orientations; or teaching them about exotic sex acts; or criticising “heteronormativity”. Governments should shut this nonsense down and focus on improving academic performance. That’s not homophobic. It’s common sense.
The world has over 60 million refugees, around 3 times Australia’s population; with many others desperate to move to Western nations for economic opportunity. Allowing people to stay in Australia if they make it to our shores Hunger-Games-style (or acquiescing when they do) is cruel and irresponsible. During the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era over 1000 people drowned and detainee numbers skyrocketed from below 500 to over 10,000. Refusing to settle asylum seekers in Australia who arrive by boat is tough and unrelenting but it saves lives and reduces human trafficking. Nations must uphold their borders to maintain their sovereignty, potentially their survival. My ancestors learned this the hard way. Border security isn’t racist or an embarrassment. It’s common sense.
Australians have a strong record of embracing immigrants in their communities, even in their families and most immigrants overwhelmingly embrace Australia and our way of life. But at the moment Australians are seeing something we’ve rarely seen before. A small minority of Muslim migrants and/or their descendants reject Australia’s way of life and instead want Australia to embrace aspects of theirs which go against our laws, customs and culture –women covering their faces in all situations; refusing to stand in court; Sharia law regulating divorces; polygamy; even forced child “marriages”. A smaller minority support terrorist causes and are plotting to kill us. That’s not acceptable to most Australians, including most Arab and Muslim Australians. Yes, it’s only a tiny minority. But their attitudes and actions are highly divisive and dangerous and must be acknowledged and confronted. Every Australian should treat others with decency, follow our laws and respect our institutions. This isn’t racist or Islamophobic. It’s common sense.
People of all societies through the ages were expected to work and contribute; families and charities supported those who couldn’t. Modern Western governments introduced welfare to help people who’d fallen on hard times get back on their feet, not to provide an optional life pathway. Governments shouldn't pay people who refuse to work. If there are jobs picking fruit, selling hamburgers, labouring or cleaning, unemployed people should do them or lose benefits. I hope the Federal government’s welfare reform plans go beyond tough talk and become tough action. Making people take available work isn’t cruel. Sit-down money is cruel. Welfare reform is common sense.
Politicians who articulate these kinds of opinions are often branded heartless and bigoted by the progressive/Left, cheered on by prominent members of the political media and commentariat. It’s rare to hear centrist politicians speak as bluntly as I just have. Centrist Labor tends to pander to progressive/Left sentiment; centrist Liberals to timidly tiptoe around it. In doing so they leave a vacuum for extremists and populists to fill.
Trump, Brexit and One Nation’s resurgence deliver two key lessons.
Firstly, politicians who speak directly to voters about what voters care about can prevail, regardless of the media and commentariat. Smart politicians speak through the media, not to them.
Secondly, if centrists are unwilling or afraid to embrace common sense views, voters will start turning to extremists and populists who do, whatever other offensive, fringe or wacky opinions they are peddling.
I believe the first centrist politician who embraces common sense with plain speaking delivery, ignoring the noise of the political class and dealing honestly and firmly with issues most Australians care about, will dominate the ballot box.
Edited versions of this article were first published in the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun on 15 December 2016
It's common sense, stupid
15 December 2016
By Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO