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Day to Day Politics: How to become a better government.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Author’s Note:

This is a hypothetical piece written by an unashamed idealist. They are my own thoughts on how a revitalised Labor Party should approach the remaining time before the next election.

I don’t profess to have any ownership on righteousness so what follows are just my personal views.

None of us can claim that in this place, that first and foremost on our minds is how we serve the Australian people.

Most of you would agree that Question Time, together with our constitution, are urgently in need of an upgrade. Let’s start with Question Time.

I propose to appoint a panel of former Speakers from both sides of the House, to rewrite the standing orders and reform Question Time. My thought is that the new independent Speaker would establish a “Speaker’s Office” with muscle.

Consider the following:

  • An independent speaker. Not a politician. Not only independent but elected by the people. A position with clout. A Parliamentary Speaker’s Office with the power to name and shame Ministers for irrelevance and lying. It would also include a ‘Fact Check Office’.
  • Imagine if the Speaker’s Office adjudicated on answers and published a relevance scale on its website? This might serve two purposes. Firstly, it would promote transparency and truth, and secondly, provide an opportunity for ministers to correct answers. It wouldn’t take long for profiles of ministers to build.
  • If in the course of Question Time the Opposition wants to table a document that they say supports their claim, in the interests of openness and accountability it should always be allowed. Documents would also come under the scrutiny of the Speaker’s Office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speaker’s weekly accountability report.
  • Freedom of Information could also come under the umbrella of the ‘Independent Speaker’s Office, with it deciding what could be disclosed in the public interest.
  • Dorothy Dixers would be outlawed because they serve no purpose. If back-benchers want information then pick up the phone. Question Time should not be a public relations department or a place for policy advertising. Question Time should be about Government accountability.
  • I acknowledge that our system requires vigorous debate and human nature being what it is passion sometimes gets the better of our politicians. When it occurs the Speaker should have the power to call time outs.
  • Lying to the Parliament is a serious misdemeanour and should not be tolerated. An independent Speaker would be able to inflict severe penalties on serious offenders.
  • In fully answering a question, a minister or parliamentary secretary must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question.
  • Political donations would come under the auspicious of the Speaker’s Department and would be revealed in real-time on its website.
  • The independent Speaker would also oversee and regulate politician’s expenses and apply them as per a new set of rules drawn up by the panel of former speakers.

With a clear platform to clean up our democracy to take to the election I now turn my attention to other matters.

As a party Labor took a giant leap forward in allowing our members a greater say in the election of its leader. I plan to take it to the next step. In addition to that I plan to reform our relationship with the trade union movement. I also undertake to give members a greater say in the formation of policy and our day-to-day governance. You will hear more about this in the next 12 months.

Speaking of policy, we plan to continue with policies we took to the last election. Our superannuation, capital gains and negative gearing policies were well received.

We plan to reject neoliberalism and offer a mixed economy democratic socialist platform centred on equity and equality.

We will frame and implement a more ambitious global warming strategy that is consistent with staying under the global 2 deg C warming limit.

We will adopt the Modern Monetary Theory fiscal stimulus and create a new approach to how governments investment in job creation by taking into account a ‘jobs of tomorrow’ approach.

We will develop a more comprehensive and adequate social welfare system.

We will absolutely see that business pays its share of tax, particularly, the mineral and energy resources sector pays sufficient royalties.

We will invest heavily in critical infrastructure such as clean energy, water and energy efficiency, public transport, fast rail, rail freight, affordable and public housing, education facilities, roads, transitioning to environmental sustainability and so forth.

We will renegotiate the free trade agreements to provide moderate trade protection for important parts of our heavy industry, manufacturing and food/fibre processing industries while still promoting all of our export sectors.

We will actively engage in economic development through support of higher education, state funded R&D and an economic incubator environment such as the Japanese METI approach, or the Singapore model or aspects of California’s Silicon Valley.

We will safeguard our fragile natural world and implement reforestation, erosion control, improved agricultural practices, natural habitat restoration as well as effective pest and weed control.

We will take money out of politics, repair our sick democracy and improve the diversity, balance and relevance of our mass media.

We will undertake to establish an Australian Government Accountability Commission similar to the NSW ICAC model to oversee all aspects of governance and corruption.

We will create a suitability test for all who desire to serve as politicians.

We will re access our relationship with the trade union movement to improve it.

Equality will underpin policy with the need for equality.

We will create a ten point common good caveat that all proposed legislation must pass.

In addition we will establish a ‘Department of the Future’. One that is responsible for researching the long-term effect change and population will on jobs, our culture, our economics and many other areas.

We will guarantee that people’s health and affordable care will always be available for everyone.

And so the challenge is before us. Yes we do live in a rapidly changing world that in the future will see our democracy also change. But it won’t change for the better if we continue with our present system. We cannot afford to live in the past.

We must embrace the future with all the zest that built the Snowy Mountain Scheme. The democracy we have is an old fashioned one structured on lying, partisan politics and corruption. Labor Governments of the future will tell the public what and why it is doing things. We undertake to inform the public of our plans with the use of new media and give the public an opportunity to respond and indeed participate.

In the time prior to the next election we will reveal in finer detail our plans for the future. Stay tuned. It promises to be an exciting time. Substantial and worthwhile change often comes with short term controversy but the pain is worth it for long term prosperity. We can choose to remain in a quagmire of negativity forged by Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull or reach out to a grand new world.

My thought for the day.

“The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can”

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  1. Harquebus

    “Modern Monetary Theory” is rubbish.
    “clean energy” as in, I assume, ‘renewable energy’ is a delusion.
    “fast rail” is expensive to build and uses far more energy to operate than regular rail.
    “the zest that built the Snowy Mountain Scheme” will destroy what’s left of our natural environment.

    Most of the rest is just unrealistic ideals but, does show that the author’s heart is in the right place. Without rejecting the rubbish that I listed and the core ideologies of jobs and growth, even if all the rest were adopted, it would not make one scrap of difference.

  2. Robert REYNOLDS

    Being something of an ’unashamed idealist’ myself John, I can both emphasize and sympathize with where you are coming from. Your essay is a great starting point on where that (pseudo, or perhaps ‘pretend’) Labor Party should be going. Your short sentence claiming that,

    “We plan to reject neoliberalism and offer a mixed economy democratic socialist platform centred on equity and equality.”

    would, if implemented as ALP policy, certainly indicate that the party was getting back on track. Of course a general statement of intent or desire such as this, needs much elaboration.

    I know that you intend to say more on where you feel that the party should be going. Can I suggest a few issues that you might like to consider as you develop your ideas? These might include,

    A significantly reduced level of immigration to say, 50,000-60,000 or less, and an immigration program which makes it as difficult as possible for individuals with strongly held religious beliefs to gain entry to the country. I am well aware that that suggestion will go down like the proverbial ‘lead balloon’ with many but I am satisfied that such a policy is needed.

    Rather than ensuring that the mineral and resources sector pays ‘sufficient royalties’, can I suggest that the mineral and energy resources of this country should be nationalized and the proceeds of the sale of this wealth be used to improve the standard of living of the Australian population.

    Also in the area of foreign policy, we need to separate ourselves from the American Imperialist war machine and become more independent. This would, inter alia, necessitate looking at the American Bases at Pine Gap and discontinuing the arrangement organized by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard that allows for the stationing of U.S. marines in the Northern Territory and collaboration between the USAF and the RAAF. Now that we have such a mercurial, fickle, capricious and unpredictable President sitting in the chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, such move is more necessary than ever. I am under no misapprehension about the possible consequences of taking such action against the United States. Such an action would be seen as extremely hostile by the real ‘powers that be’ in America, and I am talking about the Wall Street bankers, the Arms industry and the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, etc and we would have to anticipate all sorts of responses.

    Anyway John, enough from me. Full marks for your efforts in at least beginning a discussion on where the ALP should be going.

  3. Freethinker

    Very valid points there John and I agree with the majority of them
    Could you please expand on this?:
    “We will create a suitability test for all who desire to serve as politicians.”

  4. Ian Ellis

    We will need a very different population for this idea to work. Apart from that, though, it is quite a good idea.

  5. Kronomex

    A truly independent speaker? The LNP would go into paroxysms of angst and fear at the thought. So would Labor come to that. It’s a great thought but…

  6. MikeW

    Totally agree John, one more, ban mobile phones during question time in both houses.

  7. Jack Straw

    Nice piece John. Your always working towards problem solving or ideas to provoke discussion which may provide some solutions.

    Not like some who get out of bed everyday with the same angst and never change their attitude.

  8. James

    Your hearts in the right place John, but it’ll never fly put an independent watchdog in place and the cancerous inept politicians, or the insanity of the feminists will eventually corrupt it, I feel so sorry for the people of this country, we have failed by inaction we have failed, I have no faith in this country anymore, I wish I could afford to leave it

  9. wam

    Oh what a beautiful day, Lord.
    ‘Independent’ is such a great meaningful concept worthy of repetition. I particularly admire gillard’s use of it in the pay increases where the pollies abrogate their right to have their say through a vote on remuneration. Her insightful creation was one not destroyed by the rabbott’s boys and we have no access to the depth of independence afforded this quiet achieving quasi non-governmental organisation.

    I agree wholeheartedly, Ian, and wonder if your choice of a good idea is the same one as mine?

    I did spoil my great positive start by having a little giggle on the box about a septic thanking god a pipe bomb made in god’s name didn’t work.

    God works in mysterious ways.

    What about finishing with a thought?

    “The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves but if they do they go to gaol. The right is concerned with those who can help themselves and when they get caught they are threatened with gaol”
    Over the Rainbow in Just One Take

  10. Frank Smith

    John, a very creditable set of ideas. With regard to your first point though, I would be very concerned that having a Speaker elected by the people would once again lead to the position becoming politicised. My preference would be to have the Speaker and members of the Speaker’s office appointed from the judiciary – judge like figures knowledeable in the Constitution and Parliamentary procedure. And those appointments would be not be made by our elected representatives but by a Panel of senior civil servants.

  11. Hotspringer

    Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya. I am with you and Robert Reynolds.

  12. Christina Heath

    I hope the ALP is reading this John. If only………………

  13. wam

    Now the bullshit of labor, burke in particular, about disastry losing his job twice as punishment, turns out true as the sad man falls on his janbiya.
    Too little too late for benelong but 2019????

    Frank good idea we really need another lawyer in government.

    have the poms got it close to right?
    Under the new system, candidates must be nominated by at least twelve members, of whom at least three must be of a different party from the candidate. Each member may nominate no more than one candidate. The House then votes by secret ballot; an absolute majority (in the UK sense, i.e. more than 50% of the votes cast) is required for victory. If no candidate wins a majority, then the individual with the fewest votes is eliminated, as are any other candidates who receive less than five percent of the votes cast. The House continues to vote, for several rounds if necessary, until one member receives the requisite majority. Then, the House votes on a formal motion to appoint the member in question to the Speakership. (In the unlikely event that this motion fails, the House must hold a fresh series of ballots on all of the nominees
    ps kronomex apart from duals and his polls?

  14. Freethinker

    The results in the Centre for Policy Development survey coincides very much with many of the views expressed by the posters in AIMN including mine.

  15. Harquebus

    I give Tony Burke credit for being Australia’s most aptly named politician.

  16. Jaquix

    Agree completely regardting an independent Speaker. Some good ideas here John Lord, and others which are unrealistic or undesirable. But clearly a lot of improvements could be made. QT is virtually a waste of time at the moment (not quite) and Dorothy Dixers first thing to go in my book too. I hope the Labor Party are compiling a list of things they want or need to do, ready to tackle a mountain of stuff which requires repeal or amendement.

  17. Jaquix

    Disagree entirely with Harquebus. I think Tony Burke is good value. He knows his subject, and he covers all points really well in an interview.

  18. Thomas Sesselmann

    Hi John, why stop there? Isn’t it time to reform the whole Westminster system? You should really look in to the proposals of the Flux party. They’ve got some revolutionary ideas to reform politics in Australia and around the world!

  19. John Lord

    Thanks for your comments Robert Reynolds.
    Freethinker. I have not thought through that in any depth. Perhaps I could do a piece on it.

  20. Freethinker

    I think that suggestions about the criteria of what will be suitable for be a politician will be a good subject John and I am looking forward to see it.
    By my experience, here and OS IMHO just having a University studies it is not necessary but will see what others have to say.
    Also who or which body will have a said on that.
    IMO it is up to the party members or the electorate but……

  21. Photontrace

    Nice to see such a collection of unashamed ideals gathered in one place. Again, that teasing ten point common good caveat that all proposed legislation must measure up to. That is one of my favourites when I read your work, I live in the hope that one day I will learn what you have in mind for those ten points. I persist in nagging you on this because I like the idea so much. Happy to take part in formulating, but I’m holding back because I suspect you have some or all of them in process and that’s what would really interest me.

  22. Jexpat

    “As a party Labor took a giant leap forward in allowing our members a greater say in the election of its leader.

    Really? My recollection is tht nearly 60% of Labor rank and file voted against the current leader when those ‘reforms’ were put in place -only to be overruled by insiders. I also recall Labor members being prevented from voting due to -what did they call it? ‘Continuity issues”

    Now, contrast that with UK Labour… and Corbyn.

  23. Harry

    I heartily agree with your proposals to reform our moribund democracy. I would also suggest stringent controls and much more transparency in general in relation to donations. These is so much to be done its very daunting. I applaud your advocacy for MMT and the rejection of neoliberalism. The focus on job creation and a return to a mixed economy is very necessary. A more independent approach to the US (eg like NZ) is also needed to restore sovereignty etc.

    Robert Reynolds: given our rapidly rising population which is a factor in environmental sustainability, there is a case for restricting/reducing immigration as long as its coupled with well targeted aid to Iraq, Afghanistan etc/

    Harquebus: you allege Modern Monetary Theory is “rubbish”. Easy to say but I will respect you more if you backup your view with reasoned arguments.

  24. Harquebus

    “if you backup your view with reasoned arguments”
    Would love to, as I have in the past but, I am bad for business, apparently and considering the context of this article, I would probably be accused of hijacking.

    Some of my previous arguments are here:

    What is Modern Monetary Theory and will it help?

    Search criteria: MMT fiat currency debasement

  25. Harry

    Oh and Harquebus, I suggest you outline and justify your ideas. Most of your comments seem to be sneering dismissals. Please put forward some positives or I will ignore you (politely) from here on.

  26. Harry


    Thanks for the link; it confirms to me that MMT is a coherent explanation of modern economics, of how the world works in reality rather than the assumptions that have infected most economics over the last thirty years.

    Reading your comments in the link suggests to me that you have not grasped the fundamental concepts of MMT. I don’t blame you as most people have been so brainwashed by decades of economic misinformation that the reality of MMT principles seem counter-intuitive.

    We live in an MMT world but our federal government behaves as if its still a Gold Standard world.

    You asked where the principles of MMT have been adopted. Well, Japan is the closest example I know of where MMT principles are being used. Its policies have created a low unemployment, low growth economy. Its debt to gdp exceeds 200% but the sky has not fallen in, inflation is low and economic growth is relatively low also. According to mainstream economics interest rates should have soared and the receivers should have been called in. None of that has happened. Interest rates in Japan are close to zero, inflation is no more than ours.

    “Currency debasement” is not a fundamental flaw in MMT but occurs ONLY in very specific circumstances. (Please see link below).

    I’ll agree with you on economic growth and population: our current growth model entails the use ever more finite natural resources and environmental degradation could threaten our very existence. Neoliberal economics of perpetual growth IS unsustainable.

    But that does not mean that all growth is detrimental; far from it. We need MORE growth in public health, education, sustainable agriculture, transport and energy. We need more public programs which are aimed at a better, low consumption life for all. We definitely do not need more growth in consumer “stuff” planned obsolescence products which results in more waste, unnecessary consumption and the like. MMT aims to switch the balance from private consumption and waste.

    If you believe the above is flawed I invite you to explain why.

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