Thinking that leads us into a crisis is not the thinking required to get us out of it. So, time for some fresh thinking.
Politics requires a new approach. But what is the problem?
Politics as we have experienced it for years is driven by one dominant mindset – how to win the next election. This impairs our capacity to assess or sensibly address real problems.
This approach has political candidates trumpeting their virtues while denigrating the opposition enough to get most people to believe them and make them the government.
While the party elephants battle it out for supremacy, all supposedly in the name of democracy, the citizen ants are trampled on.
This contest has problems viewed through a political lens because every solution must serve the dominant concern of how to win the next election. This is very different from an open-eyed objective assessment of community problems for the purpose of generating solutions to benefit the community as the primary concern.
Make no mistake: the social and economic problems we face are real and far more complex than any narrow political assessment can ever achieve. Crime, for example, is a very complex social problem, not a political problem. The same applies to the Territory’s economic crisis and future prospects.
Assessing social or economic problems through a political lens is a misdiagnosis from the start and can only generate political solutions. This incorrect diagnosis leads to solutions that are woefully inadequate in addressing the real issue because the ‘solutions’ is designed only to solve the political problem of how to get elected. That may benefit the political party but is certainly leaves the citizen out in the cold.
No wonder people are not bothering to vote.
An obvious side effect of this approach is that vision is narrowed to squeeze into a four year election cycle; this further handicaps efforts from the start, no matter how sincere.
Worse still is that this approach breeds cynicism which erodes public confidence in the political process. When people feel the real problems, in spite of promises, are never adequately addressed they become increasingly angry, frustrated and disconnected as faith in the political process evaporates.
Even though people instinctively sense the election promises are a bit far fetched they participate but with diminished enthusiasm. The reality gap between politics and the real world is widening. People live with real problems not political problems and most problems need a long term approach that is creative, logical and believable and, most of all, able to endure well beyond a four year cycle.
We need a new approach more than ever because the Territory is entering a new and critical phase. Unless we adjust our mindset and posture we may not be able to weather the storm.
So what is the answer?
An insightful analysis of the present deterioration of popular trust in the democratic process is offered by CDU law academic Danial Kelly. He describes a new type of political entity a vehicle that could provide a way forward.
This new construct could begin to shift the political dynamic away from political parties and return it to the citizens whose interests should be central to any democratic endeavour.
This could give the Territory the new political arrangement that is desperately needed. A new approach focused on problem-solving to benefit the people rather than an exercise designed around a contest to win an election for the primary benefit of a political party.
A new model encourages an approach that favours pragmatism and it would not be ideologically driven. Instead it would favour collaboration by creating space for elected representatives to work together awake to the reality they have authority conferred upon them directly from the electorate first; ahead of any party, ideology or exclusive agenda. This would lead to more sustainable logical and believable solutions that directly benefit the people they are elected to serve.
Without a new approach we are condemned to approaching problems the same way and vainly expecting different results.
As said before, we seriously need a new approach now more than ever because the Territory is entering a new and critical phase and unless we change tack we may not be able to weather the storms ahead.
A new model that is locally relevant and nationally significant could have its beginnings here in the Territory.
Many boast that the Territory is a ‘can do’ place but then act as though everything is someone else’s fault. Instead I have faith in the quiet Territorians who are yearning for something different and real. I remain convinced that we can do politics better here by turning the process towards Territorians and away for the conventional approach we have endured for a couple of decades.
Over to you my fellow Territorians.