Donald Trump’s victory demonstrates the media and commentariat are disconnected from voters. Almost without exception they failed to anticipate the presidential election outcome — and had little influence on it. Their message that Trump was unfit for presidency largely ignored.
Australia’s political media and commentariat are also out of touch. Listening to them you’d think Australians are preoccupied with gay marriage, offshore detention, carbon emissions and identity politics. Most are preoccupied with their families, their homes, their jobs, the monthly bills and their kids’ education and job prospects.
They care about the economy and national debt. They want to live in a safe society where Australia’s way of life is valued and respected.
There’s a growing disconnect between the views expressed by the media and commentariat and those of many Australians, with commonsense often dismissed as extreme, ill-informed, even bigoted. Here are some examples.
Our biggest education challenge is performance declining against global benchmarks. Demanding more education funding as the solution is misconceived. It’s been happening despite substantial education funding increases. Something’s wrong. Australian schools should be the best in the world, not 28th behind Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, the education issue dominating political news has been the Safe Schools controversy. It’s understandable why parents are concerned. Some content in Safe Schools and other school programs, frankly, beggars belief.
Teachers shouldn’t be schooling children in gender fluidity or asking them to imagine or role-play different sexual orientations, or teaching them about exotic sex acts, or criticising “heteronormativity”.
Governments should shut this nonsense down and focus on improving academic performance.
That’s not homophobic. It’s commonsense.
The world has more than 60 million refugees, around three times Australia’s population, with many others desperate to move to Western nations for economic opportunity.
Allowing people to stay in Australia if they make it to our shores Hunger-Games style (or acquiescing when they do) is cruel and irresponsible.
During the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era more than 1000 people drowned and detainee numbers skyrocketed from less than 500 to more than 10,000.
Refusing to settle asylum seekers in Australia who arrive by boat is tough and unrelenting but it saves lives.
Nations must uphold their borders to maintain their sovereignty, potentially their survival. My ancestors learned this the hard way. Border security isn’t racist or an embarrassment. It’s commonsense.
Australians have a strong record of embracing immigrants in their communities and in their families, and most immigrants embrace Australia and our way of life.
But at the moment Australians are seeing something we’ve rarely seen before.
A small minority of Muslim migrants and/or their descendants reject our way of life and instead want us to embrace aspects of theirs which go against our laws, customs and culture — women covering their faces, refusing to stand in court, Sharia law regulating divorces, polygamy and even forced child “marriages”.
A smaller minority support terrorist causes and are plotting to kill us. That’s not acceptable to most Australians, including most Arab and Muslim Australians. Yes, it’s only a tiny minority but their attitudes and actions are divisive and dangerous and must be acknowledged and confronted.
Every Australian should treat others with decency, follow our laws and institutions. This isn’t racist or Islamophobic. It’s commonsense.
People of all societies through the ages were expected to contribute. Families and charities supported those who couldn’t. Modern Western governments introduced welfare to help people on hard times get back on their feet, not provide an optional life pathway. Governments shouldn’t pay people who refuse to work. If there are jobs picking fruit, selling hamburgers, labouring or cleaning, unemployed people should do them or lose benefits.
I hope the federal government’s welfare reform plans go beyond tough talk and become tough action. Making people take available work isn’t cruel. Sit-down money is cruel. Welfare reform is commonsense.
Politicians who articulate these kinds of opinions are often branded heartless and bigoted by the progressive/Left, cheered on by prominent members of the political media and commentariat.
It’s rare to hear centrist politicians speak as bluntly as I just have. Centrist Labor tends to pander to the progressive/Left. Centrist Liberals tiptoe. In doing so they leave a vacuum for extremists and populists.
Trump, Brexit and One Nation’s resurgence deliver two key lessons.
First, politicians who speak directly to voters about what voters care about can prevail, regardless of the media and commentariat.
Second, if centrists are unwilling or afraid to embrace commonsense views, voters will turn to extremists and populists, however offensive.
The first centrist politician who embraces commonsense with plain-speaking, ignoring the political class and dealing honestly and firmly with issues Australians care about, will dominate the ballot box.
Warren Mundine is chair of the Prime Minister’s indigenous Advisory Council and a former ALP national president. First published in the Daily Telegraph.