Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Showing what we stand for: Oi, oi, oi!

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-04

Guess what Australians really care about, deeply enough to:

  1. Discover a government inquiry;
  2. discover not a high-profile Senate inquiry, but one tucked away inside a department; and
  3. make a submission…

Carbon emissions?  The economic stimulus?  Water?  No, no and no.

The winner is … televised sport, with 323 submissions (  While many inquiries by the Senate are lucky to get a couple of dozen submissions, it’s worth having a look at some fairly newsworthy inquiries:

Agency Topic Initiated Closed Days Subs Subs per Day
Senate Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – Mark 1 2009-03-11 2009-04-08 28 142 5.0
Senate Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – Mark 2 2009-05-14 2009-06-04 21 49 2.3
Senate Economic Stimulus Measures 2009-09-08 2009-09-18 9 18 2.0
Senate Gene Patents 2008-11-19 2009-03-19 120 72 0.6
Victorian Parliament Melbourne’s Future Water Supply 2007-09-19 2008-08-29 345 110 0.3 Sport on Television Review 2009-08-20 2009-10-16 57 323 5.7

While we could look at other inquiries across parliaments and agencies, while we could correlate the data with space and bandwidth in the news sections of the mainstream media, letters to editors, guess at those submissions by ordinary Australians by discounting submissions by organizations and the usual academic suspects, factor in the difference in profile of inquiries homed on the main parliamentary website versus those on agencies, the take-home message, that Australians are swayed by "bread and circuses", could play on politicians’ minds, and affect the policy agenda for years to come.

It is a depressing reflection on the Australian psyche.  Too depressed to look at the responses in detail, I did a small sample of individual submissions.

Were those responses mainly in favor of free-to-air sport?  No, from the tiny sample, most were wanting live sport, arguing that free-to-air-TV wasn’t doing enough, so pay-TV should be allowed to do it – feel free to look more deeply, I might be wrong.  Most of these were written with regard to the needs of the author rather than the individual community.

Anne Lynton at least was concerned about the disadvantaged folk and raising the possibility of subsidies if necessary for sporting fixtures that (based on past audiences) Australian seemed to care about.  Then again, she writes like a typical lefty.

One individual response, however, is worth quoting directly, for while it considers the wider context, reads as if written by someone with a reasonable vocabulary (despite the typos indicating a rush), it is unashamedly (or, just perhaps, satirically) arguing that watching sport should be critical to all Australians (my bolding):

What ever shape or form the new scheme takes, several cultural and historical points need to be weighed in during the creative process. Australians live, breath and digest sports like no other nation. Our sense of pride, togetherness and community are all intrinsicly linked to the corresponding paths and efforts of those sports individuals and teams that represent us. Bonds; both family and friendship are strengthened and maintained through sharing a common desire to see those that we respect and admire achieve. Sons and Daughters around the country for decades now have watched their idols on television and with the gentle nudging and guidance of their parents, thus dared to dream. Without a no cost readily available forum for this essential ingredient to be transferred, I fear that social networks, family unity and in some cases a sense of worth and aspriation in individuals will detiriarate. Be removing the protective barries that prevent the bidding wars of corporations channeling media on a basis of which audience will pay the most/afford the most, aren’t we then condoning a society in which childrens upbringings and foundation knowledge will differ greatly. I couldn’t imagine an Australia in 5 or 10 years time where half the kids in the playground don’t know who’s captaining our next tilt at the ashes.

It seems the "light on the hill" now comes from a flat screen.

While there is certainly good grist for the mills of sociologists who have more incentive to go through the submissions in detail, crunching the numbers of responses compared to other departmental inquiries (which usually get very few responses), and while my small sample will make the latte-sippers shake their heads, it is the responses of political advisors that worries me.

What will those political advisors tell our lords and masters in parliaments?

  • "We told you so."  Policy in the last decade or so has appealed to the same class of people that only become agitated about individual benefit in the here-and-now, and these policies have obviously reflected polling and focus groups run by political advisors.
  • "The analyses of latte-sippers have been spot-on.".  How many latte-sippers have shaken their heads in disappointment and shame at policies, and how these were accepted by the electorate?
  • "But you don’t have to worry what the latte-sippers think – even if they are correct."  The latte-sippers aren’t politically active, don’t push government directly with feedback, merely chatter away with blogs, letters to editors, and moan in coffee houses.  For many, even the moaning might even be mere show to impress their social circles, their votes could well be more low-browed than their talk.
  • "We should be seen to promote participation in government policy with a TV show – Order Out of the House – like Big Brother but where the plebs evict policies that don’t appeal…
  • …and the first policy we put up is a 90% rebate on Foxtel.  Telstra keeps its profitability, the plebs won’t mind the wasted money, there’ll be sport for all, … although a fallback option is still a barbeque-stopping vote-winner: 10 new ABC channels devoted to sport, and digital broadcast licenses conditional on having at least two sports-only channels with different programming, so free-to-air can provide all the major games live."
  • "The news cycles and policies should be driven by three things:
    1. bread and circuses;
    2. break and circuses; and
    3. bread and circuses!

So, the latte-sippers, whether of the left or right, can do one of two things:

  • Change the perceptions of political advisors by responding to more inquiries that are made public; or
  • just give up, admit defeat, weep into lattes, and perhaps even change focus, taking what enjoyment is possible from the low-brow offerings that are the only things we’ll get.

As for myself, I’m the result of a century of selective pressure of Geelong being the "big smoke", so I’ve got my Cat’s Premiers 2007 and 2009 T-shirts.  I love it when the town is painted blue and white, that you can relate to strangers on the streets with "Hope we do well on Saturday".  I’m happy that my grandson (150 years of selective pressure) enjoys getting dressed in blue-and-white, having whiskers painted on his face, and can yell "Go Cats" and "Ablett".  I might even be tempted to disinherit him if he breeds with a Collingwood supporter.

However, even though a keen Cats fan, even though I knew about this inquiry, even though I’ve made a few submissions to other government inquiries (usually on topics dear to the hearts of latte-sippers, despite being a flat-white addict), and even though I think live free-to-air should be assured for major sports events like footy finals, televised sport isn’t a major factor when deciding whether or not to be politically active, nor is it anything that could alter my opinion of a government.

No, I’m proudly a latte-sipper.  I won’t lie down, and will keep putting my opinions in the face of politicians through inquiries on the public record.  That’s more than I can say not just for the general public, but for the majority of latte-sippers who merely moan and make no efforts.

So folks, be prepared to see the environment and human rights be nothing but a sideshow in the broadsheets.  Our politicians might have the intelligence of the latte-sippers, but they govern for the troglodytes, and have shown no inclination to elevate the critical thinking and sensitivity of the nation – merely look good by increasing the numbers attending university yet remain uncivilized, merely promise a PC for all students without worrying about cost-effective implementations that provide not middle-and-upper class welfare but better educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

Doubtless the politicians are happy with what has been demonstrated, that the population is short-sighted and self-absorbed, and thus easily swayed.

That an inquiry about televised sport gets the population much more politically engaged than what we latter-sippers consider important shows that the electorate will only stand up for their rights to lie on the couch.

One Response to “Showing what we stand for: Oi, oi, oi!”

  1. […] Showing what we stand for: Oi, oi, oi! […]

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