There is no greater imperative in Australian society today than the restoration of our democracy. It cannot happen in a year or two. It will take almost a decade.
Labor needs to win the upcoming election by as many seats as to make a second term a certainty. Then it needs to govern in a refreshingly wholesome way that would make a third term attainable.
During this time it should change leader (a woman would be preferable) and declare our democracy stable.
What needs to happen?
After Christopher Pyne’s thoughtless interview with Barrie Cassidy on Insiders Sunday 10 February I could only conclude that he had rather stupidly and hysterically insulted the process by which logical thinking takes place.
He doubled up the following day lamenting the state of our parliament and our democracy.
I agree our democracy is in a bad way, but not for the reasons Pyne outlined. His seemed predicated on a vague sort of bromance. A bromance is a close, emotionally intense, non-sexual bond between two men. In this case Malcolm Turnbull.
The rise of narcissism, inequality, the demise of compassion and the absence of truth illustrates the state of our democracy.
My view is that it is not broken beyond repair but if we are to save it we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should tell the truth. We have to ask ourselves if we have reached the point in politics where truth is something that politicians have persuaded us to believe in, “alternative facts” rather than truth based on factual evidence and solid argument.
Democracies are formed when like-minded people come together to form parties that then compete for the public’s attention within a democratic voting system. The parties have differing political philosophies and can vary throughout the world. We even have democratic dictatorships.
The Australian polity at its best is elastically flexible, unpredictable and at its worst, violent and extremely combative; it accommodates diagonally opposed ideas, extreme or otherwise. All in all, it’s an imperfect beast that has served us well. Yes, it’s a government for the people by the people.
In the absence of anything better, we have a capitalistic economy and a compulsory voting system. The right to vote, imperfect as it is, is the gift that democracy gives and people are free to vote for whichever party (or individual) they support but overriding this is the fact that people cannot possibly believe in democracy, if at the same time they think their party is the only one that should ever win.
Evidence of a democracy in trouble is when a sizeable proportion of the population gives up this gift and says to its politicians “a pox on both your houses.”
Millions withdrew their right to vote in the last election. 15 676 659 are currently registered to vote in the 2019 election, whilst 816 000 estimated eligible Australians aren’t enrolled.
This compares to an estimated 1.22 million in 2013. Many have been added from the vote on same-sex marriage.
Australia’s form of democracy, as robust as it is, has until recently served us well. However, when self-serving “leapt” ahead of “the people” in terms of why people sought to serve in our democracy, it went into decline.
Pinpointing the genesis of this is difficult but it was most definitely in John Howard’s tenure and Tony Abbott made it flourish doing untold damage.
Of course, the repair of our democracy will not come about unless we understand what is happening and why.
The system finds itself in this predicament because our politicians fail to speak with any clarity on issues that concern people. So the people have no sense of any purposeful participation.
Any democracy, including its constitution, should be exposed to periodical revision and renewal. Ours is not.
It should forever be open to regular improvement in its methodology and its implementation. Its constitutional framework should be exposed to, compromise and bi-partisanship when the common good cries out for it.
Logic calls for deeper thought about what influences government and how to restrict these influences be they lobbyists, the media, big business, Unions or secular interests etc.
Led by Howard, and then followed by Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison, Australian democracy experienced a monumental shift in our politics to the right.
This came about when American Tea Party conservative politics insinuated itself on the right of our politics and was adopted by the conservatives and fringe groups like One Nation.
So we have become a top-down hotchpotch democracy that exists to serve only the rich and privileged. One that is self-serving, that believes in unregulated capitalism.
I am not a political scientist, historian or a trained journalist. I write this because the democracy I grew up with has been lost in the longevity of sameness.
Conservatives have gone down the path of inequality with a born to rule mentality that favours the rich.
Still resonating with me is Tim Dunlop’s article from 2014, The right hates the society it has created, in which Tim said:
The whole logic of the “lifters” and “leaners” rhetoric so favored by the current Government is a distillation of the idea of that there is no such thing as society, that we and only we are responsible for our own circumstances”.
“People like Paul Kelly might yearn for a better society, but they miss the fact that the modern woes are a by-product of the neoliberal program they champion.
Might I suggest that the right is given to govern for those who have and the left for those who have not? So this upcoming election is important. Crucially so.
It is not just about the competing forces of left and right. If you think about it politics governs almost everything you do. Well except what you do in bed and some would like to control that.
This election is about the structure of our society, about our democracy, the rules and conventions under which politicians can conduct the affairs of the nation.
About the people eligible to serve. About our constitution and whether it needs a major face-lift. This election offers a choice as to if we should become a republic.
All these things need serious thought and it is incumbent on the young to become involved. After all, they are the future custodians of our great nation.
Our Parliament, its institutions and conventions have all felt the destructive hand of Tony Abbott and others. We don’t trust our politicians anymore. To say that we are ambivalent about our them is an understatement. Now we are ashamed.
Is it any wonder? Recent times have demonstrated just how corrupt our democracy has become. We have witnessed a plethora of inquiries all focusing on illegal sickening behaviour.
In this election, your vote is not just about left versus right or a swing to independents. It is also about what restoring, repairing or reappraising what we want our democracy to be in the future.
Next time: How to fix it.
My thought for the day
If we are to save our democracy we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should tell the truth.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!