Today I was at NSW Parliament House. In many ways, unlike much of Australian “History”, it actually felt historic to me. Especially the Jubilee Room which is like a big library containing all the Hansard Volumes.
Logically the majority of the building is a public space, and as we do actually pay for these people, you should visit. Regularly.
In a week of another Federal Election it also felt right to be in Australia’s original Parliament House. Seeing the Photos of previous parliamentarians and Premiers contributed. Though if we dug deep enough, the tacky recent ones made me realise many of the celebrated ex-Premiers were probably as much Matt Brown as they were Peter Andren.
I noted with interest though the reactions of my colleagues as we admired the portraits of the previous premiers of NSW. They found it odd noting the timelines of many of the earlier premiers “reigns”. Not only did many of them have a multitude of Premierships, they often had them for variations of a few weeks to a few years.
And tonight I had a long follow on conversation which made me think more about the nascency of political parties and why so many of these ex-Premiers had such short and sometimes a multitude of premierships.
As far as my study of history though, political parties are a reasonably recent concept. In the past, political parties generally originated from a leader or a movement. And they came and went as that leaders torch waxed and waned, unless they were able to hand that over to others who could keep the torch alight.
There are recent examples of parties founded by leaders like that in recent history, such as the Progressive Democrats in Ireland or the Democrats in Australia. But most often, their waxing has been brief, just as the temporary coalitions to nominate Premiers and Prime Ministers formed in the past were. They existed of their time to ensure important matters of policy were delivered and their constituencies demands appeared to be met.
These days, if we use as an example the three main English speaking Western Democracies including our own, you might note they have effectively become two party states.
So what happened to change things? Did we the people demand these large groups with tight hubs of one series of views? And what has happened to leadership in all of this?
I’m sure the former coalitions were formed behind leaders following some serious horsetrading and backroom deals. Can we say the same about recent events in both the Liberal and Labor Parties here in Australia? Circumstances where leaders were ousted ruthlessly without their replacements having developed their own band of brothers and sisters behind them first.
So if we agree neither replacements is a leader in the truest sense of the word, how are we going to find real leaders who aren’t subsumed by the ‘sameism’ politics of entrenched political parties?
Perhaps it is time to ban all existing political parties for a period to find out who our leaders really are?