It has been almost a week since the “longest election” in Australian history was resolved in favour of the incumbent Gillard Labor government, and there has been much discussion about who and what did and did not win the election in the final shakedown.
After waiting for a marathon 17 days from election night – which delivered a hung parliament – and then waiting through an excruciatingly long press conference from two of the four independents to find out which side of the political divide they would support to form a minority government (see video below), we found that the National Broadband Network (NBN) became the deciding point. Not only for Windsor and Oakeshott, but for Andrew Wilkie in Tasmania, and the Green MP, Adam Bandt.
Technology issues rarely make it into political calculations – even using the word “rarely” is probably overstating it somewhat. Generally, they just do not get a guernsey in mainstream discussions, with election debate normally centering on an “it’s the economy, stupid” debate, with only an occasional dalliance with other issues.
In 2007 for example, the federal election was primarily fought on a platform of industrial relations, with the Labor party sweeping into power, largely because they were “not the Coalition”, which went to the polls with its unpopular WorkChoices legislation.
The government has long proposed its NBN – a $43b plan to deliver a fibre-to-the-premises solution to 93% of Australian homes and businesses. In the dying days of the campaign, the Coalition delivered its own $6.5b plan – (based largely on “optimising” the existing copper network, built around 65 years ago, and wireless technologies) – as an alternative solution to our broadband needs going forward.
Without going into the pros and cons of each – (my opinion is well documented both on my site, and elsewhere) – Australians, and in the end the five men charged with ultimately deciding who was to form government, came to realise that our broadband and technological future was a little more important than it was previously given credit for in the wider community.
Many people still do not understand the ramifications, but the community as a whole needs to do so, because it decided the election.
As voting continued, I speculated that the "tech-heads" were about to become a new political force in Australia. While that remains to be seen, this most recent chapter in our political history has generated at least two positive outcomes for Australia’s future, particularly from a technology perspective.
First of all, I believe that all sides of politics will realise that in a voting community that will contain an ever-increasing percentage of people for whom technology policy is extremely important, that they will absolutely need to concentrate a lot more effort and energy into this area in the years ahead. That is a very clear message from this election.
Secondly – and putting all areas of policy aside – the hung result has sent a glaring message to all politicians that voters simply don’t care for the style of politics they have been served up traditionally. Effectively, nobody won the election at the ballot box, and any political party that does not heed this warning will be in for a rude shock come the next election.
Australia has announced loudly and clearly that they are not interested in the traditional “bullshit” anymore, and that has got to be a good result for all.