Common Ground, Not Middle Ground

When a friend heard me describe us as Australian Democrats as a centre party, they sent me the above cartoon (1).

I did not take offence. I actually agree. Determining to ‘find the middle ground’ is a very bad way to make a decision.

Consider this example.

Two people live in one town, and want to get to a nearby city.

One is convinced the city is 200km away.

The other swears black and blue the distance is 100km.

So they decide to find the middle ground, and agree the city is 150km away.

They set off the next day.

We see immediately that this doesn’t work. Sure, both parties have compromised, but neither have determined the actual facts, and now, who knows where they’ll end up. And in this case the compromise was only one of 50km; what if one of those folks had a really extreme perspective, and decided the city was 10,000km away? The middle ground in that case, would be way off base.

So let’s make it clear. We are not a party of ‘middle ground’. What we are, is a party committed to finding common ground.

Common ground is when two people who live in one town, want to get to a nearby city.

One is convinced the city is 200km away.

The other swears black and blue the distance is 100km.

Ultimately they agree that they both need to get to the city, so they get out the map, look for the facts, and then work out the best way to get there, together.

Maybe this seems idealistic, but you’d be surprised how much agreeing on the destination can bring disparate groups together.

And sure, maybe there might still be disagreement – should we take the ute or the car, for example? Do we leave at dawn or after lunch? Who is paying for the petrol? – and maybe these details will need to be debated, and come down to a vote. But it will be a much more constructive conversation, and have a real chance of yielding a positive outcome, than if both groups ignore the facts and head off blissfully in the wrong direction; or worse, if they are too stubborn to yield, so never move anywhere at all.

This is not to say there are no guidelines. As Australian Democrats, our unwavering commitment is that our vision for Australia – that is, the destination – must be inclusive for all people living in Australia, and it must be environmentally responsible. If someone proposes a ‘destination’ that threatens community by demonising or taking rights away from a particular group, or is short-sighted and only focuses on short term gain instead of long term sustainability, then this is the wrong direction, and we will not be able to find common ground there. Furthermore, we accept the scientific method and other research processes, and we must be guided by the facts as they are available, even if it means we need to put our own opinions and strongly held beliefs to the side.

But if we are committed to the same outcomes – peaceful, inclusive communities, successful Australian industries, effective environmental management, a responsible economy – then why can’t we talk together?

The media and some political personalities love to pit groups or interests against one another.

  • “Farmers or animal rights?
    Unions or small business?
    LGBT or religious?
    Pick a side,” they say.

But that is exactly why we are determined to be different. Australia doesn’t need more polarisation – we need stronger community, and we need to get on with decision making rather than squabbling over differences.

But please know that as we share our message of kindness and collaboration, we do not mean ‘find the middle ground so we keep everyone happy’. We mean, find the common ground, so that we can talk, and find solutions together.

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2018-09-10T19:28:12+00:00Tags: , |

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