PMs are the real ‘Stolen Generation’

by PAUL COLLITS – IT IS arguable that the greatest problem faced by the Australian polity is executive government overreach. 

Elections no longer determine what policies will be enacted in government. Legacy Parties ignore what they promised and simply make it up as they go along, with reference to focus groups but never the public. 

The extremely sobering conclusion is that politicians attach little, if any, weight to the people’s choice…

Worse, they take on powers we never, ever gave them. Draconian COVID policy is the most obvious, and most evil, example.

The Parties have two “set lists” before each election. One that is made public for the punters to consume and decide on, and another, not made public, their own preferred tracks to play.


Suddenly issues emerge between elections that we never really talked about much when deciding who to elect to government.

Once upon a time in democracy-land, the people used to pick governments. It happened every three years. Now, not so much.

Now, political Parties routinely change leaders between elections, including (perhaps now, especially) when in government. This, in effect, removes from the people the right to decide the fate of governments.

How many readers can remember the last time a leader of a political party at the time of an election was still leader at the following election?

Now, it is the exception rather than the rule. Look at the Liberal Party in Australia. The people voted for Abbott in 2013 and ended up with Turnbull.

In 2016 they voted (only just) for Turnbull and they got ScoMo.

In NSW, the elections have been in 2011, 2015 and 2019. The governing Liberals changed leaders in 2014, 2017 and 2021, off-election years.

The NSW voters have not got the leader they voted for since 2011, over a decade ago.

After Bob Carr resigned as Labor Premier in 2005, there were a succession of premiers, and at the 2007 election, they voted Carr’s replacement Morris Iemma back.

But then there were three leaders of the ALP in the one parliament. They voted for Iemma and got Nathan Rees, then Kristina Keneally.

Look to at the Tories in Britain. Elections were held in 2010, 2015 and 2019. David Cameron was the last Tory leader to complete his contract with the people. The Brits voted for Cameron in 2015, and got Theresa May and then, God help us, Boris.

Since 2011 in NSW, Labor has had John Robertson (left in 2014), Luke Foley (left in 2018), Michael Daley (left in 2019), Penny Sharpe (interim), Jodie McKay (left in 2021) and now Chris Minns.


No NSW voter has had a say in any of these comings and goings, apart from Daley who left after an election defeat. Better not to even mention Rudd-Gillard-Rudd.

You get the point. The Parties couldn’t give a rat’s about the people’s vote. The extremely sobering conclusion is that they attach little, if any, weight to the people’s choice.

They have taken upon themselves the right to replace leaders, including elected leaders, whenever they choose. When the polls turn south. Or perhaps when they decide a leader has reached his used-by date.

Or perhaps when there is a concerted campaign by insurgents simply to defenestrate a leader to satisfy their own ambition.

Sometimes a leader goes voluntarily, as in O’Farrell and Mike Baird in the Premier State. Farrell from embarrassment over a probably innocent bottle of wine, and Baird “to spend more time with his family”.

As in so many cases, the retirement leads not to family time but less. It leads rather to the rich pickings of the corporate sector and associated opportunities to suck up to China – see under Hawke, Keating, Carr, Dastyari, Downer, Robb, and so on – and at the same time make a financial killing.

This bespeaks complete arrogance on the part of those who leave with the job unfinished and those around them, their advisers and fellow MPs. It is a cop-out.

Leaders who abandon their voter-given jobs are like the student who enrols in the course, then skips the lectures and readings and, instead of facing the examiner, simply drops out.

This utter disdain for voters is not a million miles from the way corporates now treat their customers with contempt, as is driven by the same forces.

Think of merely three cases to make the point – call centres, personal data theft and self-serve check-outs in supermarkets.

They all make us wait hours on the phone and make it impossible to avoid this. The social media platform companies sell our data to third parties and then cancel us if we express opinions they find disagreeable.

And supermarkets nudge us into doing the check-out staff’s jobs for them, without a discount of course – nor a bag. The things that make customers genuinely angry have little impact on corporates.


They are comforted by the fact that so many people (millennials?) embrace the technologies that allow them to lay off staff and get the customers doing their work, and by the fact that their competitors behave in exactly the same way.

The customers are in a no-win situation. It is made worse by the lies. “Your call is important to us”. No, it isn’t.

If it were, they would employ more staff to answer the phones, or better still, put human beings who possess comprehensible English skills to answer the phones in the first place. Mostly, they are told what to say and speak in formulaic jibberish that doesn’t answer your question or solve your problem.

And the political Parties behave with the same arrogance. The behaviour of institutions is now largely governed by narrative formation and maintenance, public relations and marketing, all driven by the managerial class at high level.

There is now little use for authentic relationships with real people, as opposed to focus groups, robocalls to targeted voters and the relentless and essentially corrupt use of government paid advertising to plant and embed party-political messages in the public consciousness.

The other thing that Parties in government now do is to dole out targeted grant funding to prescribed locations and groups, not on the basis of need but rather of anticipated political advantage.

Such grants allow favoured local members bragging rights, all in the service of winning and retaining mainly marginal seats through what is essentially a cargo cult.

Difficult societal issues are outsourced to conscience votes, so that Parties won’t be disadvantaged come the election.

The major Parties now agree on so much – rampant social liberalism, the merits of unfettered globalisation, fiscal incontinence and the rest, that the contest is far less about ideological differences and philosophy but rather the quality of political management.

This is utterly cynical but it is the way of the new politics. Where voters’ interests are replaced by those of corporate Parties and factions who crave power and will do almost anything to gain and retain it.

In this playbook, individual leaders are completely dispensable. Their principal use, for Party managers, is to help in gaining power. Perhaps their only use.

If they cannot do that, then poof, they are gone. Here one day, gone the next.

As Peter Smith at Quadrant notes: “You would have thought that winning elections is the key to longevity for prime ministers. Not so, obviously, as Rudd, Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull, and now Boris Johnson, might attest.

“In fact, your perceived chances, as incumbent, of winning the next election is far more important in the eyes of your loyal parliamentary colleagues than are past triumphs. They freeze in panic at the hint of losing their cushy seats. Regroup, reconsider polices? Nah! Chop off the leader’s head.


“We must face up to the fact that politicians, forever promoting their devotion to public service, are (with few exceptions) the most self-serving weasels that our Lord God put on this earth. Once that unpalatable fact is faced all becomes more understandable.”

The machine rolls on, hardly missing a beat. Whatever voters are there for, it isn’t about forming governments. This amounts to a fundamental re-writing of the rules of representative democracy, as once we knew them.

It might be argued that people vote for Parties, not leaders, and that Parties have always chosen those at the top.

The latter is true but irrelevant, the former only Partly true. Different leaders can have very different philosophies, programs and priorities, especially in the astonishingly “broad church” that is the modern Liberal Party.


It is now a series of factional fiefdoms rather than a coherent Party. The broadest damned church I have ever seen.

Abbott and Turnbull may as well have come from different planets  Who knows from which planet ScoMo emerged?

No wonder more and more of Australians simply don’t turn up to vote any more, and a third of those who do spurn the Lib-Lab duopoly. (Or the “Quad”, as Lyle Shelton of Family First now calls the political elite – the Liberal Nationals, Labor, The Greens and the Teals).

Perhaps the weary, cynical voters simply don’t see the point any more. The Parties do what we haven’t told them to do, they don’t do what they say they will, they lie and cheat, and they deny us the ultimate mandate, to tell leaders what we think of them.

I suppose that none of this should cause us to be surprised. After all, we have seen in the brutality, the propaganda, the lies, the nudging, the manipulation, the crushing of opposition and the gaslighting of the past two years precisely what the political class thinks of the rest of us.PC

Paul Collits

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Tony Abbott. (courtesy BBC)

2 thoughts on “PMs are the real ‘Stolen Generation’

  1. The “quality” of politicians took a nose dive after the ones in power voted to give themselves a pay rise that certainly wasn’t commensurate with their ability. After that people that wouldn’t get a job stacking shelves at Coles threw their hat in the ring…..low and behold…got elected. How many of our elected representatives have ever worked in the private sector, ran a business. A university degree in the arts, staffer for a local member and bingo your in! $200.000 plus perks. What a pathetic joke.

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