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Does Aussie Democracy Exist Anymore?

I was prompted to write what follows after reading a post on this blog by Paul G. Dellit titled Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point in which he so rightly attacks Prime Minister Abbott for his proposal to, as he Paul puts it, ‘’Pass a law that would create a precedent for the end of the rule of law in this country’’. He of course was addressing the issue of taking away a person’s citizenship.

The Prime Minister, since coming to office, whilst achieving nothing positive, has thus far only attempted to, in various ways, ruthlessly manipulate and impose a right-wing agenda on a naïve and unsuspecting public. This instance is yet another attempt to dismantle a fundamental tenet of society: the rule of law.

The fact that so many of his backbenchers support the move simply reinforces the fact that as a cohort they are all tainted with a terrorist extremism mentality equal to their leader’s. I wish they had the same enthusiasm for family violence that this year has seen two women murdered each week.

I have been writing for this blog since November 2013 and in that time have written over 200 pieces. Mostly I have attacked Tony Abbott for his callous lying, his lack of character and trustworthiness.

Remember this:

It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards”.

Ask yourself this:

“Has Australia ever elected a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, the environment, so ill-informed of science, so oblivious of the needs and aspirations of women, so divorced from the need to address growing inequality, and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society?”

My contention is that he is eminently unsuited to be the Prime Minister of Australia.

The egregious fanaticism of the Abbott Government is a symptom of the growing cancer that has nearly destroyed Australian democracy as we have moved rapidly toward oligarchy. U.S. Senator Sanders has characterised oligarchy succinctly as being a government controlled by a handful of the wealthiest and a concentrated corporate media dominating what the vast majority of voters get to read and hear.

However, as much as I have written about the Prime Minister, for me, my more important writing has been about the demise of our democracy.

When commenting on the attacks on our society by neo-conservative, wealthy and privileged oligarchs, it is easy to become negative and despondent, even ignorant of the totality of their purpose, and if we do, we freely concede to our rivals all the power they need.

But we cannot allow our despondency to get the better of us. We must press on because the left of politics is concerned with those who cannot help themselves whereas the right is concerned with those who can.

Thoughtful positive optimism is a worthwhile pursuit and together with consistency, truth and reasoned sound argument they form the basis of an influential, even inspirational, counter narrative.

When our voices are silent against unfair, deceitful and dishonest government we get what we deserve.

We need to digest words like these from a speech by Robert Kennedy in 1968:

“We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missles and nuclear warheads…. It includes… the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.

“And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials… the Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile….”

The conservative counter to this is Margaret Thatcher’s:

“There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way and the poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect of the rich”.

There are many ingredients in the recipe of a civil open enlightened functioning society. Two are interwoven and have a major influence on democratic functionality. In this piece I thought I would concentrate on two facets of society that are integral to its function and democratic survival: free speech and a free media that mutually co-exist.

So let’s look at free speech and ask why it is that people of the Bolt ilk pursue the extremes of it, or at least their interpretation of it, with such rigor. Why do they need to be more distasteful than they are already?

Do they actually want hate speech? It can only be for the pursuit of hate because that’s all the misuse of free speech can bring. Free speech does not mean it should be free from ethics like truth for example but the extreme right see it as a weapon of destruction.

I think that we can never understand the effect free speech has on people until we have suffered from the abuse of it ourselves.

We need to ask ourselves why, if indeed we live in an enlightened society, it is that we need to enshrine in law the right to abuse each other. If we were enlightened we wouldn’t do so.

Enlightened citizens would not tolerate the misuse of free speech and insist on individuals imposing their own self-discipline.

It seems to me that those on the right want unmitigated access to free speech to make up for the freedom of thought they seldom use.

The pedlars of verbal violence and dishonesty are the most vigorous defenders of free speech because it gives their vitriolic nonsense legitimacy. With the use of free speech, the bigots and hate-mongers seek to influence those in the community who are susceptible or like-minded. The original intent of free speech was to give a voice to the oppressed and to keep governments honest.

In the United States the first constitutional amendment is now used as a justification to incite racism, validate hatred and promote both religious and political bigotry. In a democracy the right to free speech in given by the people through the government. Therefore, it should be incumbent on people to display decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the other point of view. Sadly, this seems to have been forgotten both here and in the United States.

The right also complain bitterly about television media bias and target the ABC while at the same time having disproportional representation on its current affairs programs. Right-wing think tank and Government advisor the IPA openly lobbies for its destruction while at the same time its representatives appear on its programs.  Insiders, The Drum and Q&A come to mind. Whether the ABC is biased is a matter of opinion and I have never seen any persuasive evidence that it is.

But if it were to go what we would we be left with? Well nothing more than a right-wing propaganda machine making you feel good about the wrongs being perpetrated on you.

In radio, with an abundance of right-wing (can you name one that is left-wing?) shock jocks, they rule the air waves. People like Alan Jones seem to take delight in being obnoxious. They enjoy huge audiences which seem to rise when they are at their most controversial.

In print ,Murdoch controls 70 per cent of distribution in the capital cities. But with the advent of new media sales have dramatically declined. To combat this it has, in order to maintain the reader’s interest, progressively become more outlandish – more tantalising – more seductive-more flirtatious-more provocative – more stunning and more enticing. And in their desire to maintain some dominance, that’s exactly what print media is doing. It has chosen to prostitute itself in the forlorn hope of remaining relevant.

You see articles are now written in a manner to suggest objectivity but subjective words are scattered throughout together with carefully phrased unsupported statements. These articles have no cogency and are just right-wing (and mainly Murdoch) propaganda. Lying in any media is wrong and when they do it with deliberate intent it is society that suffers. They just seem to think they have an exemption from moral consequence. It’s a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated.

What they haven’t understood is that along the way they changed from news gathers to opinion marketers who see their opinions as newsworthy. Then they pay people like Bolt enormous sums to be as bigoted, racist and hypocritical as they can be under the guise of journalism but in writing suitable for the intelligence of thirteen year olds.

I for one can get well written and creditable opinion from blogs like The AIMN. I quit buying newspapers years ago. And news in the electronic age is available from many reputable sources.

Sometimes at my age I tire from the sustained effort required to continuously write material that confronts the extremities of the right. Then I read pieces on this blog and the intelligent comments they illicit and I am enticed to the keyboard yet again.

 

39 comments

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  1. rabiddingo

    Thanks for that, John, a thoughtful and provocative piece. Particularly liked the Kennedy quote: reminds me how much was lost to history in Dallas.

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    Maybe in depth look at free speech and what it is would not go amiss. Sounds simple and straight forward,

  3. James Cook

    Great work, John. Reading this over breakfast makes me realise what a long way we have to go in the fight against Abbott and his followers. The quote from Kennedy was magic and demonstrates the gap between real liberal thinkers and the likes of Bolt. There are days lately when I despair for our future but articles on the Aimn (et al) often give me hope. Please keep up the good fight.

  4. Ruth L

    Totally agree John.
    Independent Australia is another (mostly) spin free read.

  5. mark

    lt didnt exist in the first place, therefore the articles title is inaccurate.
    Citizenship should be based on race – not soil. Jus sanguinis (Latin: right of blood) is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth but by blood. Right now there are a lot of people in this country who should not be here. lf anyone can be an Australian then no one is an Australian

  6. Evelyn Wheeler

    Thankyou John, at a similar age I too despAir, but we keep on fighting (figuratively) anyway. Ps rabidingo….wrong kennedy, robert really did believe ….unlike older brother jack

  7. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Mark; If you look at the Anglo-Saxon history of Australia’s mother country, Great Britain, you will see that invasions from all over have produced a blended people. The main difference today is that the colour of skin differs and so does the religious adherence. Bearing in mind that white people in Australia are all invaders and a lot of Asians have been here longer that many white people, I think your comments are entirely out of place. Citizenship should be granted to anyone who is prepared to contribute and co-exist peacefully with all who are already here.

  8. stephentardrew

    rabiddingo: it was Robert not John F Kennedy which in many ways were worlds apart.

  9. donwreford

    Great article and insight as to what is the truth in our present government of mismanagement, in terms of almost all groups of Australians having been compromised? economically and fear spreading, it begs belief how the voter would put such a dysfunctional government in either the voting public are fairly unaware as choose this type of government or they acquired power through default or the polling booths as has been suggested having been rigged? It is unfortunate the potential opposition if gaining power are also a problem? Altogether, any vision for Australia’s future is ambivalent? how this situation of a country with such great resources having such a bleak future that the future of Australians coming to retirement are being informed they have not enough money in super and personal assets and can only be described as pensions being precarious, is this vision for the future dismal and yet we are considering purchasing submarines from Japan, Japan is not able to give information on much of the submarines technical information that has to be covert, I suggest if this is now considered defense of potential enemies of the globe, we are no longer able to afford this path, what is it for the people of Australia to defend it self against enemies of Australia when the Australian can no longer afford to live?

  10. wildediana

    I gave up reading any newspapers many years ago, and I despair for my 3 grandchildren, all under the age of 12. I love the AIM blogs and everyone’s insightful essays which I share on my Facebook page. I have noticed lately that my 40 year old son with the 3 GGs likes a lot of my AIM shares, so things are hopeful that the electorate see through the NeoCon Agenda.

  11. stephentardrew

    John I think there is no choice but to confront free speech, and so called free will, which philosophers, unfortunately, turn into complex polemic debates between alternative schools which tend to confuse and muddy the facts.

    In my mind free speech has come to mean the freedom to generate fear through lying, misinformation and downright deception. Fear is the child of anger which further still is the child of hate. Psychological tests have demonstrated conservatives are more prone to fear than progressives. Fear triggers the emotional center in the amygdala while reason can diffuse fear and subsequent anger by dampening down autonomic and subconscious habituated drives. No one has free speech. Just go to a public space and freely express hatred bigotry, obscenity; verbalise sexual pornography; terrorist propaganda and so on then see if you are not soon charged’ fined or even imprisoned. Conservatives would be the first to support police action and the so called rule of law. Hypocrisy and deception abound. In organised societies there are strong sanctions against free speech in the public domain yet hypocritically we think it is OK in private or on social media yet we are now being spied upon by our government in an act of bastardy that completely undermines the whole notion of free speech. The contradictions and blatant hypocrisies are legion. However continually bleating on about free speech fools ordinary people into believing they are being empowered rather than exploited. In fact the whole notion of free speech, promoted without qualification of a broad number of exceptions, is straight out indoctrination and an unmitigated lie.

    The right do not believe in free speech they believe in the freedom to use fear as a counter measure to rational facts they do not like. Free speech is a con while they peddle unsupportable economic rationalist supply side economics, rabid Christian prejudice and fundamentalism which are the total antithesis of real free speech and secular democratic rights. Actually we must get to the empirical facts before speech can be rational and have free practical application to the world at large. Facts and rationality represent the true basis of freedom whereas lying and deception are weapons of indoctrination and manipulation which is exactly the opposite of what free speech is. Conservatives love tradition, habit and scientific ignorance because they can use any irrational nonsense to justify greed an power by the few. Free speech is one of those ridiculous oxymorons.

    The universe is bound by tightly constrained fundamental laws and constants while we peddle completely unsupportable notions of free speech in a universe that is primarily causal and deterministic. Unfortunately the facts challenge the orthodoxy of both left and right who accept tradition and convention over the factual proofs of science.

    Nevertheless the one area where degrees of freedom blow out it is in subjective space and it is this conflict between objective facts and the degrees of freedom in subjective space which so confuses. Evolution is presenting us with facts while introducing the capacity to imagine future possibilities to help us plan a more sustainable future held in equilibrium by formulating a sustainable philosophy of justice, equity, utility and moral probity.

    It is becoming obvious where the path of irrationality, fear and greed is taking us. The rational facts demonstrate that ideologically driven free speech and conservative irrationality will only end in tears and an unlivable environment.

    Bit long however there is much more I could say on the subject.

    Unfortunately it is an issue that requires some thought..

  12. stephentardrew

    Oops to get back to the point. I don’t think true democracy has existed anywhere though there are better and worse versions throughout history. It is our degree of kindness an compassion that will lead to democracy not a set of prescribed irrational ideological obligations.

    Sadly ideology infiltrates both left and right leaving empirical facts open to ideological nonsense. Believe what you want however it is critical to embrace facts and empirical proofs first.

  13. David Bruce

    Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it? The collapse of the Third Reich comes to mind. When you look at what is happening in the US, the 5 “eyes” and Israel, perhaps we are living in the Fourth Reich?

  14. diannaart

    ‘’Has Australia ever elected a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, the environment, so ill-informed of science, so oblivious of the needs and aspirations of women, so divorced from the need to address growing inequality, and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society?’’

    No.

    …and it must never happen again.

  15. Florence nee Fedup

    Free speech I believe is more about the right to criticise government and society at all levels. I think it was born out of times of political struggle.

    It is not about, as many seem to debase the concept to the right to abuse all and sundry.

    That has never been accepted. The fact that we have sanctions such as libel and defamation proves this.

    Free speech does not give one the right to harm another.

    It is the first concept that this government is trashing.

  16. che

    As if this being proposed is not horrifying enough – what is the matter with Labor? And this hot on the heels of Labor supporting the Border Force Act (and it undue emphasis on unaccountable ‘force’). Now Bill Shorten has meekly said today, he is merely waiting on a discussion paper rather than defending robust democratic principles and fundamentals of rule of law. Appalling and shocking.

  17. Bilal

    Outstanding article which should be shared widely. There is clearly a major threat to the limited democracy which we have enjoyed. The nobbling of the ALP with the factional power of the right wing unionist lobby, which seems to be very Catholic in composition, the placing of the friend of John Roskam as ALP leader, who cannot be removed thanks to Rudd’s paranoia, and the penetration of the NCC-IPA-Tea Party ideology into the “Liberal” Party, indicate a very interesting immediate future.

    The silencing of staff in the offshore concentration camps, threats to rule by ministerial decree on citizenship, based on suspicion alone, threats to ethnically cleanse First Nation peoples from their homelands, insults to Indonesia, vilification of the Australian Muslim community, can all be seen as steps to totalitarianism. There is no longer a viable opposition or a mildly competent government. We are siding with a declining USA against our major trading partner China in the issue of domination of the Chinese coast.

    Unless our population awakens we will drift into a real nightmare.

  18. cornlegend

    Democracy ?
    A while back, a friend sent me a series of questions , WHAT IF ?

    What if we are just wasting our time and it all doesn’t matter ?

    The message in part read

    “What if you were allowed to vote only because it didn’t make a difference? What if no matter how you voted the elites always got their way? What if the concept of one person/one vote was just a fiction created by the government to induce your compliance?

    What if our so-called democracy erodes the people’s understanding of natural rights and the reasons for government and instead turns political campaigns into beauty contests

    What if the purpose of contemporary democracy has been to convince people that they could prosper not through the voluntary creation of wealth but through theft from others ?

    What if Parliament isn’t actually as democratic as it appears?

    What if democracy as it has come to exist in Australia today is dangerous to personal freedom?

    What if big government destroys people’s motivations and democracy convinces them that the only motivation they need is to vote and go along with the results?

    What if the problem with democracy is that the majority thinks it can right any wrong, write any law, tax any event, regulate any behavior and acquire any thing it wants?

    What if the government misinforms voters so they will justify anything the government wants to do?
    What if the government believes in make believe?

    What if its made believe that the people have a voice?

  19. Florence nee Fedup

    Voting alone does not make democracy safe. Doesn’t matter if other rights remain in play. First is the right to join a union, join protests. right to criticise a government. All are being whittled away over the last few years.

    The Founding Fathers ensure in constitution was enshrine the process to arbitrate wages between boss and worker. A constitution that has little in it, when it comes to rights.

    If we lose the right to speak out, our vote matters very little.

  20. corvus boreus

    It seems Labor are content to persist with a right-wing invertebrate as their ‘leader’ into the next election, acquiescing to erosions of our liberties and denying all calls for transparency and accountability along the way. Billy skates on sedately, playing follow the leader and hoping for a self-induced Liberal trainwreck so he can pull a Bradbury and inadvertently inherit the apparatus of a highly secretised and martial state.
    On current form I predict a return of T Abbott(bar internal overthrow) in 2016, with an increased primary vote to the Greens and other minor parties/independents.
    Depressing shit.

  21. darrel nay

    Your mouth gives you the right to speak freely – stuff the politicians who believe they can turn rights into privileges.

  22. mars08

    “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
    ~Noam Chomsky

    These days, the “spectrum of acceptable opinion” is being reduced almost daily…

  23. darrel nay

    I think political correctness is mental illness.
    The discussion surrounding marriage equality generally seems to focus on the adults but I personally believe that the institution of marriage was created as an ideal environment for children. I have personally protested/marched against homosexuality being illegal so I certainly don’t consider myself to be homophobic. That being said I ask, as a general rule, does not a child deserve a mother and father? I, for one, am glad that I was not ‘born’ in a test tube. How will gay parents answer their children if the children feel like their parents made a selfish choice and that they were ‘shafted’?

  24. diannaart

    Where is this magical ideal of the perfect mother and father? In some magical kingdom I suspect.

    My parents stayed married till death did part, my father who was mostly absent and rarely had anything to do with me, left his marriage via a brain hemorrhage caused by chronic alcoholism, leaving my mother to manage pretty much as she always had – on her own. The good thing was that I did not fear going home anymore.

  25. Harquebus

    Totally free speech allows me to argue against those who would “generate fear through lying, misinformation and downright deception.”
    Those that sacrifice free speech for security are cowards who are not prepared to stand up and fight the good fight.

  26. darrel nay

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty {ie. freedom of speech}, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”…Benjamin Franklin

    Cheers

  27. Harquebus

    “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” — P.J. O’Rourke

    Cheers 2u2.

  28. John Lord

    Darrel you sweepingly overlook the fact that more than fifty percent of marriages break down. Go to your nearest school and ask what percentage of pupils are from single parent families. You would be amazed. They don’t necessarily need a mother and a father. All they need is LOVE in whatever form it comes.

  29. freenaynowdarrel nay

    reply for John,

    I didn’t overlook anything- I grew up in a broken family.

    You have misrepresented my views – I stated that two parents are ideal but I didn’t claim it was necessary. As for the fact that more than half of our children are in broken relationships I would say that it is not ideal – perhaps you disagree. My view is that we are force fed maths and English but we aren’t all that skilled when it comes to building long-term relationships.

    Cheers

  30. corvus boreus

    Harquebus,
    Totally free speech would also allow me to falsely slander and incite violence against those I oppose.
    There has to be some limitations to absolutism.

  31. darrel nay

    Only violent people commit violence – violent people are the only ones responsible for violence. The person who ‘incites’ is only guilty of speaking.
    As for those who slander, well they live in their own mire and always pay for their lies in one way or another.

  32. Harquebus

    @cb.
    You have no faith in your fellow man. The more who speak out, the less chance that false slander and violence has of breaking out.

  33. corvus boreus

    darrel nay,
    So are you saying we should abrogate and absolve any legal responsibility toward those who deliberately and maliciously instigate violence(including murder) through incitement, and leave all slander and libel to the jurisprudence of karma?

  34. darrel nay

    No corvus boreus,
    I am saying that it isn’t possible to engineer violence – the person(s) committing the act is entirely responsible. For example, I would assume that no matter how hard someone may try to incite you to violence you would refrain and it follows that the choice to commit violence is always the responsibility of the individual. We are quick to ask the government or the courts to sort out our issues rather than taking responsibility as individual adults.
    As for those who slander and libel – my point is that these people live a diminished life, in the sense that they live their own lies (a true tragedy). These people don’t get to enjoy the many benefits of a clean conscience. I pity them but I don’t think they need to be criminalised unless they lie under oath. Further, these liars will generally find their reputation and self respect damaged in the long run.

    Cheers

  35. corvus boreus

    darrel nay,
    First up, I do not assume that other people operate by the same principles and parameters as myself. Some people are easily swayed by others to commit atrocious acts. Those who incite share responsibility. You are being a (deliberately?) naive fool if you think that people are never in frames of mind to be influenced by others into acts they would not necessarily enact of their own accord.
    As for slander and libel, were one to, falsely and with malice publicly accuse you of, for example, pedophilia, this might diminish one’s own soul, but it would also potentially impact upon your social standing and other prospects, and may lead to violent acts being perpetrated upon you by the gullible. Should people be enabled to do such with legal impunity?
    Get real.

  36. darrel nay

    reply for corvus boreous,
    Your views are common and they fail to ask the violent person to take responsibility for their own actions.
    As for your views on slander and libel I would suggest that you look back at a few of your comments regarding Abbott and ask yourself whether perhaps you may have ‘incited the gullible’. Personally, I don’t have an issue with gullible people but violent gullible people are a different story. Your solution is simply to criminalise people for speaking and ultimately to fill the pockets of lawyers.

    Cheers

  37. corvus boreus

    I expect people to be held responsible for their own actions, including false and malicious claim.
    As for my own comments towards Abbott, if you can find any libelous accusation or incitement to violence, please point it out.

  38. corvus boreus

    Harqueus,
    I am sorry if my seeming cynicism makes you depressed or pessimistic, seeing as you are usually such a fount of positivity.

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