Image, Image Everywhere, an' Not a Policy to See. (with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge; ... and the Ancient Mariner)
This week we have had 3 political 'debates': 2 in Australia, and one in the USA. One involved (Labor) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition (Liberal) Leader Tony Abbott. They debated Health reform in Australia, with particular emphasis on improving our hospital system. Both were dressed well, wore significant makeup, and presented the political image they and their minders planned. By all reports, Kevin Rudd won the popularity contest, and the debate. He actually has a policy he wants to implement; the Opposition is still deciding if it has one, or wants one.
In NSW, The (Labor) Premier, Kristina Keneally and Opposition (Liberal) Leader, Barry O'Farrell, debated how good/bad/indifferent is the state, and why each of them should be elected as Premier in March 2011. By all reports, Barry O'Farrell won that debate. He will probably win the NSW election in 2011.
These two debates were really all about image, style, and scoring political points in a setting other than Parliament. After all, televised Question Time does the image of politicians no good at all. I have previously written about the disgrace that it is. Not for nothing is the NSW Parliament called "the bear pit"!
The third debate occurred in the US Congress and Senate, which ultimately passed a Medicaid Bill. Reports indicate it will assist up to an extra 3 million people gain the health care they need. As an Australian, I was astounded when, during Obama's Presidential campaign, there was at least 1 free health clinic organised in rural America - for farmers and their families who could not afford health insurance, but who desperately needed health care. The then US government had abandoned them. Republicans (mostly) are those who opposed the legislation - their view is that one must have money, or an employer, to pay for health care. Everyone else, it seems to the Republicans, can go hang! What a sad indictment on a political party.
Australia, of course, is not immune to poor health policy. We desperately need good policies for Indigenous health, dental care for many, improved aged care, better funding for hospitals, ... (the list goes on)
Politicians everywhere must forget image; they should instead go for the substance of good policy. And WE must tell them so.