This election day, very little is actually up for vote

For a leftist, what hope can there be for an election? Either the ALP will win, or the Coalition will. On leftist issues, the results will be disastrous. On foreign policy, the differences are negligible. Both parties favour strong alliances with Anglo-US imperialism, their wars, puppet states and bombings.

On asylum seekers, there’s been a race to find somewhere below the gutter by both major parties. Cruelty knows no bounds, and this dark chapter must note that the ALP introduced mandatory detention, and that Gillard brought the attempted savagery of the Malaysia solution. On climate change, both parties fail to meet even their meagre and inadequate 5 per cent cuts by 2020. Gillard feminism slashed benefits to single parents, mostly mums, in the face of internal opposition. Gillard, the feminist icon opposed paid parental leave before that – yet somehow the ALP is supposed to inspire progressives. Given the feminist policy vacuousness of Rudd and Gillard, the only regret of this election campaign for me is the speed with which certain brands of selective, complacent feminists are being denied the critical scrutiny their embarrassing boosterism warranted.

This election may offer analytical satisfaction for the astute who pride themselves on their strategic nous. For most of us on the Left, we must simply grit our teeth, steel ourselves and leave no cliche unturned or metaphor unmixed as we prepare for more barren years. I grew up with most of my political consciousness shaped by the Howard years (from age ten until the final year of my honours). When Howard lost, there was jubilation among the centre–left arts students, who thought this meant victory.

But in fact, very little is actually up for vote. The Intervention will continue. Only token constitutional change is on the agenda. The same Aboriginal voices will speak on behalf of Indigenous Australians for politicians and the Murdoch press (unlike Fairfax, which mostly abdicates the issue). We have the structural problems of highly concentrated corporate media between the right-wing Murdoch, the corporate centrist Fairfax, and trashy corporate TV utterly dominating what ‘news’ Australians get.

We have a healthy cynicism, but there’s an urgent need for actual information about issues.Where’s Aboriginal sovereignty? Where’s reducing the obscene rate of Indigenous over-representation in custody, and addressing their shocking socioeconomic conditions? We’re supposed to be impressed that Abbott has an Aboriginal friend and visits a community. It’s akin to someone being an expert on Vaucluse because ‘I have a friend there and have been to a few dinner parties at their house’. But this kind of anti-intellectual, Sarah Palin-lite stuff is treated with reverence by the geniuses who report the news with their mythical adversarialism.

But to return to the Left: we can’t just vote ALP and expect the best. We will inevitably be taken for granted by preference flows, as the ALP fights to win votes they wouldn’t otherwise get on the right. In short, we must fight on non-election days too – even those who are happy enough voting Green must demand more (even though my natural instinct is to distrust politicians, I must say that on many issues, the Greens have behaved honourably). We must fight, we must organise, and we must force change. To borrow from an unlikely source, there is no alternative.

Michael Brull

Michael Brull is a columnist at New Matilda. He’s written for other publications including Fairfax, the Guardian, Crikey, Tracker and the Indigenous Law Bulletin.

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