Here's How We Fix This Current Bach Of Politicians
It's not Question Time, it's answer time.
More than ever before, the question that has lurked in the back of our minds all our lives has been pushed to the front: how do we fix politics?
With party colleagues continually leaking against each other – except for when they’re just openly sniping in public – cabinet ministers resigning over matters of principle, or not resigning over complete absence of principle, and the office of prime minister carrying with it the same level of job security as a 15-year-old’s three-month probation period at Big W, the political landscape in this country is a blighted, cratered no-man’s land.
But take heart, fellow Australians! There is, in fact, a way to make politics better, and I’m here to share it. Note that I say “make politics better”, not “make government better”.
The only way to make government better is to devise a means by which the people most desperate to gain political power also possess a genuine desire to serve the public, and that horse sailed a long time ago.
No, what I’m talking about is simply improving the process of politics, so that even if the government never actually does us any good, at least it’s worth paying attention to.
For example, take Question Time. What earthly purpose is served by seeing government backbenchers recite a billion variations on, “Can the Minister inform the House of the ways in which the government is building a veritable Paradise here on Earth, and is the Minister aware of any alternative approaches that complete morons might take, that would definitely kill us all if the other side ever got into power?”
Or, for that matter, by the opposition continually asking, “given that the Minister is a lying bag of burning faeces, does he agree that he should just jump into the sea?”
If anyone besides half a dozen over-caffeinated parliamentary fanbois on Twitter ever watched Question Time, there’s zero chance of any benefit accruing to them. And what’s worse is, it’s not even entertaining.
And there, my fellow Australians, we have the crux of the crisis. Politics just isn’t entertaining enough, and that’s a crying shame: if the voters are going to be screwed over, it’s only fair we get a few aimless thrills out of the process.
Many people bemoan the fact that modern politics resembles a soap opera, or a reality TV program. They’re way off base: the problem is that modern politics isn’t enough like a TV show.
Look at the current situation: Peter Dutton, high on the heady fumes of his own irresistible charisma, has decided he must be prime minister. Fine, OK, totally understandable. But what does he do about it? He quietly gathers support behind the scenes and challenges Malcolm Turnbull in a leadership spill.
Where’s the fun in that?
If this were The Bachelor, Dutton would’ve gossiped about Turnbull in the mansion while the PM was off in a hot-air balloon. If this were Neighbours, Dutton would’ve stolen Turnbull’s medical records from Dr Karl’s office and then planted a bomb in Turnbull’s pub. Why do we never see these sorts of shenanigans? Because our politics are hidebound by convention and beholden to small-picture thinking.
The first thing we have to do to fix this is introduce immunity challenges to federal parliament. It’s perfectly reasonable that the PM can be challenged, but he should at least have the chance to participate in a tug-of-war or put together a jigsaw puzzle on a beach so that, if successful, he can’t be challenged for a whole week. Reward challenges, wherein the prime minister receives a plate of Hungry Jack’s if he can successfully break five jugs with a stick before the Treasurer does, are negotiable.
Then look at the challenger. Why should Peter Dutton be allowed to become prime minister for no other reason than commanding the support of the party room? Australia deserves to know that the man (or, hypothetically, woman) who leads their government has passed a meaningful test to get there.
What I am talking about, obviously, is a series of televised blind dates in which Peter Dutton has dinner with a series of single ladies, who then reveal their feelings about him afterwards. If the Minister can find love on TV, then yes, I am comfortable with him being PM. If the women find him off-putting and dull (and let’s not assume anything), then I want him nowhere near the levers of power.
Of course, none of this would actually be necessary if the Constitution contained measures for a proper electoral system: one in which we cast our votes via 55c SMSes on the night of the candidates’ auditions. That way, after seeing Turnbull, Dutton, Abbott and possibly Kevin Andrews perform what they believe to be the best number from their repertoire (eg “Never a more exciting time” or “What a great onion”), we can tap in our vote in a matter of seconds.
And if we feel strongly enough, we can vote dozens, or hundreds of times. Which is only fair: if we believe so passionately in a politician that we are willing to vote repeatedly for them, why not let us?
None of these suggestions, of course, will ease the cost of living or cut red tape or assuage the creeping sense of dread that assails every citizen in the decaying days of late capitalism. But it’ll give us all a good laugh, and by this stage I think we can all agree that that’s the best we can hope for from Canberra.