Suiting up for the election
If you’re of voting age in Australia, and particularly for those in New South Wales, the next few months are going to be annoying at best and enraging at worst.
It’s election time. The NSW election campaign gets properly underway this month (February) while the federal election will be properly underway likely in April.
The politicians are acting like the campaigns are already underway doing bus tours, promising money and generally pouring buckets of scorn over the policies of their oppositions.
They are all hoping you are noticing, at least tangentially, and that you’ll get the very strong hints they are sending that ‘The Other Side Is BAD, and we are not’.
Given we humans tend to make decisions more with our emotions than the rational bit of our brains, they are doing what they can to appeal to those decisive emotions.
But it’s worthwhile, at the start of the madness, doing a few things that will help you in the long run while giving the rational bit of your brain a fighting chance in the decision making process.
Sit down and decide what is important to you and your family that a government could actually affect. Governments can’t make your children clean their rooms (despite me warning my kids that there were laws against messiness) but they can help clean your environment or build the infrastructure you need.
Make another list of what you think is important for the country, because it’s always good not to think just of ourselves.
When you hear a politician promise you something, ask a couple of questions.
Do they know the problem they’re trying to solve and have they got facts and evidence to back up both the reason they say there is a problem and the solution they propose.
They will have quite a lot of rhetoric, but brush past that for the facts and for the evidence. It's not fool-proof. Politicians will often present you with some of the evidence but not all. For example, when a Government produces Treasury modelling of an Opposition policy, it is often the case that they haven’t quite modelled what the Opposition is proposing, but something similar to it or a half-baked version of it.
And look closely at the dollars a politician is throwing at any particular problem. Governments are elected at the federal level for three years. Budgets are done over four years. Promises that are made with ten year figures look much better because the numbers are bigger but no Government can promise they will be there in ten years.
The only ones to look at over the longer term are the big promises. Sometimes funding for something grows over time so the four year figures look moderate but the biggest costs is in the 5-10 year figures.
None of this is perfect advice and it’s complicated. But life isn’t perfect and is also complicated. Any politician trying to tell you something is easy is wrong.
So be prepared for the politician onslaught. Know what matters to you. Look for facts and evidence. Look for complexity. And give the rational bit of your brain a chance to weigh in when the emotional bit gets ready to make a decision.