Quarterly Essay: Issue 40 (Trivial Pursuit)
Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 9:20PM
Matthew Kopelke in Books

I have been quite a big fan of the writings of George Megalogenis for some time now. Unlike a lot of his News Ltd brethren, George has a fairly balanced outlook on Australia’s political landscape. So it came as absolutely no surprise to me when his latest Quarterly Essay, which looks at the last decade or so of political developments, all of which culminated in last year’s extraordinary Federal election result, became such a compelling read for me. Unlike so much of the commentary out there right now, which attempts to force us to subscribe to strange theories around the implications and reasons for the election result, Trivial Pursuit puts things in a much simpler, and therefore easier to believe, format. It’s really this common sense simplicity that makes this essay compulsory reading for anyone interested in understanding why Australian politics is so messed up right now.

The general line of argument here is that the Australian people rejected the Rudd Government because of its inability to deliver on core ALP values, rather than any one specific issue. George goes further, and looks at politics since around 2001, and explores why we appear to have a real lack of a desire to pursue a reform agenda within Australia, and that it’s this situation that is the more troubling for the electorate. Gone are the days of the Australian Governments of the 1970s and 1980s, replaced with ones that appear driven by polls, focus groups, and a desire to retain power at all costs - even if this means sacrificing core party values in the name of electoral bribes and other silly stunts (e.g. the PMship of John Howard post 2001). Much of this isn’t news to anyone who closely follows politics, but to the general public I suspect that a lot of what George talks about in his essay could be quite interesting material. I know I certainly found it fascinating despite my relatively deep understanding of current politics.

While the end of the book doesn’t really make one feel hopeful about the immediate future of Australian politics, George does offer enough possible outcomes for Julia Gillard that one cannot hope but pray that she’s read this essay, and understands the implications of what the real problems are here. And I think part of that has to do with us, the electorate. While it’s easy to sit back and feel disconnected from politics, claiming it’s not important or is a waste of time, the fact is we get the politicians we deserve, and right now we deserve better. The Australian people need to start becoming more engaged with what’s happening down in Canberra, and honestly, reading Trivial Pursuit wouldn’t be a bad starting point.

Well done, George. Excellent material, as always.

You can order a copy of QE40 by clicking here.

Article originally appeared on The Sunday Talk (http://thesundaytalk.squarespace.com/).
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