Avowedly crafted for the national good, the policies of the major political parties reveal nothing more clearly than their cynical view of the character of us, the Australian people.
And that view is that we are racists, rorters and liars.
Both sides of politics would appear to subscribe to the view of 17th Century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, that we are brutal creatures motivated by nothing more than ruthless self-interest. As such, he was poles apart from a fellow British thinker of the Enlightenment, John Locke, whose theorising on the social contract between individuals in a just and moral society, was influential in the founding of the US republic.
While both sides of politics would ascribe to the Lockean view, in practice they are Hobbesian.
For instance, if the polls and our recent history are anything to go by, Tony Abbott is on a vote-winner with boat arrivals. In his hardline, anti-humanitarian posturing, he is targeting these most vulnerable of people - refugees from bitter, protracted wars in South Asia - and playing the old familiar race card that John Howard dealt Labor with such relish during his tenure of the Lodge.
The attitude of the Rudd Government too has been to posture tough, with much chest-thumping and declarations of “I make no apology”, and so in effect agreeing with the view of us as racists, while still trying to imply to those of us who would prefer it, the warm and reassuring sense that they would much rather treat South Asian war refugees in a more humane manner.
The truth is the number of people arriving aboard these boats is tiny. As has been remarked, if they keep coming in these numbers, they would fill the MCG - in 30 years. Last year, refugees arriving by boat constituted around just one percent of all migration to Australia.
Yet Tony Abbott would have us believe that the arrival of these few thousand people seeking a better life among us, constitutes an enormous threat to our nation and way of life. Cunningly, the kind of threat itself is never clearly articulated, but Abbott believes we perceive it so keenly anyway that he can piggyback to office on it.
As such, like John Howard, he is a true believer in the ingrained racism of Australians, which he believes can be manipulated to great effect to divide and rule, in a latter-day reworking of the Yellow Peril.
In the process, thoughtful and humane policy-making is bailed up while the beast of racism bays outside the door, threatening to rip the flesh of any party seen as “soft on asylum seekers”.
This tacit judgement of both parties of us as racists is by no means their only bleak assessment of our national character. They also believe us to be rorters and crooks. They could never say as much, of course, otherwise the real villains in the home insulation and schools building schemes would be named.
Because it was not Peter Garrett and Julia Gillard who rorted the schemes - that has never been suggested. The schemes were rorted by “decent, hardworking Australians”, who did so in such numbers and to such effect that they killed off one and have brought the other into the spotlight of strong criticism.
The real charge against Garrett and Gillard is that they failed to stop our greedy and crooked selves from stealing our own money from us.
What? Well may you ask that, but this is the actual failing of which Garrett and Gillard have been accused - of not protecting us from our base and venal urges to get our snouts in any trough, to gouge and gorge, even at the risk of derailing such obviously worthy schemes as insulating our homes and building our schools.
No-one could ever accuse John Howard of that. He knew all too well how low we are. Besides, he never believed in the need for energy conservation, nor in education for that matter.
Something similar occurred with the Emissions Trading Scheme. After the Senate rejected it twice, the government could have taken the issue to the people and campaigned on it. But it didn’t because it knew Abbott would gleefully run the line of how much more it might cost everyone in household bills, as part of his pathetic, kindergarten chant of “great big new tax, great big new tax, nah-nah!”.
So even though polls have consistently shown support for an ETS even with higher costs to consumers, both parties knew that when the household bills came in, the people would debit the government in votes. Thus both sides judged us to be mean with money, and not sincere about taking real action against global warming, no matter what we were telling pollsters - not, that is, if it meant paying anything for it. So they think we are liars too.
The conclusion one can draw from this is that when politicians use favourite phrases such as “decent hardworking Australians”, they really consider the phrase an oxymoron, and that they themselves are lying, unscripted or otherwise.
What they really think of us is that we are racists, rorters, crooks, mean-minded and greedy, insincere about serious matters and liars, which curiously enough happens to be about as much as most of us think of most of them.
Of course, were we to realise what they really think of us, we wouldn’t vote for them, so they do what Abbott confessed to Father Kerry O’Brien that he does, which is lie. Luckily for him the electorate only gave him three Hail Marys and an Our Father in penance for it.
In their attitudes and beliefs, both parties are of course merely ascribing to the view of Hobbes, that life is a self-interested war fought tooth and claw, as opposed to the namby-pamby community hug-in social contract of Locke - the father, of all things, of liberalism (though what Locke would make of Abbott and his “Liberal” Party, one can only speculate).
So it is up to us to show the politicians they are wrong about us, that we have risen above the brutal ruck of Hobbes, and instead do truly aspire to the lofty social harmony of Locke. Oh, and that we are willing to pay for it. Such of course is the stuff of philosophy, and dreams.