Late last year I wrote a post bestowing the virtues of the current minority government status we have in our federal parliament. Rather naively and/or presumptively, I wrote that

…it is almost certain that Australia will have these cash-guzzling machines limited in some fashion, if not removed from existence altogether…

I wrote this based upon the fact that, in November when those words were committed to paper (or whatever its digital equivalent is), the situation was thus: the government had an agreement with key independent Andrew Wilkie to implement pre-commitment technology on poker machines by 2014, and Wilkie, who then held the balance of power, had promised to renege his support for the government should they fail to do so.¬†At this time, what we didn’t expect to see by mid-January was the whole Slippery Pete speaker swap, reducing Mr Wilkie’s influence, and now the government’s decision to abandon its agreement with him on poker machines.

This latest episode, which did cause Mr Wilkie to withdraw his support as he promised to do, simply goes to reinforce the image that this minority Labor government is illegitimate and prepared to abandon any principle and backflip on any agreement in order to gain or maintain power.

Look at the list: Rudd dropping the ETS because it was too hard to legislate, Gillard overthrowing Rudd before the election, Gillard subsequently abandoning the need to act on climate change, Labor gaining government with a minority by wooing a few independents, Labor then backflipping on the backflip over carbon pricing to introduce the carbon tax, Labor seducing Slipper into the speaker’s role to shore up its numbers, and now this pokies backflip. The list is quite damning, seeing as this has occurred over not even two years.

While some of the policy outcomes (read carbon tax) have in fact been beneficial, that does not change what they were. Backflips. Reversals. Lies. And with the now two key backflips her government has perpetrated, Gillard has managed to alienate both of Labor’s primary supporter bases. The social conservative, suburban “Aussie battlas” were offended and driven away by Gillard, arm in arm with Bob Brown, deciding to introduce a carbon tax when it had promised not to do so. While I may support the tax, and these may be the people who choose to deny climate change based upon the fact that it was cold last night, nothing changes the fact that this backflip hurt her politically, at least on that side. Now, by breaking the pokies regulation promise, she has alienated the social progressive supporter base she had, the type who support government intervention on problem gambling. The two sides of the party who Gillard and Labor need the support of have both been alienated by two damning backflips that leave them feeling betrayed.

So where does this leave a voter like me. I reluctantly voted Labor at the last election, based upon the fact that I thought Kevin Rudd’s handling of the financial crisis was exceptional, and in spite of Labor’s lack of commitment to what should be core principles such as action on climate change and fairness to immigrants. However now, Rudd remains alienated in favour of an unconvincing politician whose every word sounds like it has been scripted and rehearsed, and who looks in no way either convincing to her voters or convinced of what she’s saying herself.

But what’s the alternative? As a progressive-minded young person, I’d rather be caught eating paddle pops in hell than vote for anyone like Tony Abbott, yet this government continues to find ways to make him look more credible than itself. His policy beliefs also swing more wildly than a loose gate in a cyclone, so he’s hardly a “conviction politician” like he claims himself and his former leader John Howard to be. And his core beliefs are so far right of centre that I’m sure Mussolini would be looking on in approval.

So what can we hope for? A change of leader in one or both of the major parties is probably the best option. Someone more convincing that Gillard or more moderate than Abbott to lead their parties would be a start. Then for some parties to provide some policy inspiration and give us something to choose between and a reason to vote for them at the next election.

Stop me now. I’m dreaming again.

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