Thursday, March 29, 2018
On March 21, I posted a piece under the heading “Can you help me please”. I was seeking comments on 21 ways in which Labor could create a better society in order to write an essay. I received a response from a person who goes by the name of Kyran that I thought so good, it deserved a stand-alone spot of its own. For me, it displayed a generosity of spirit, or a willingness to share one’s ideas that The AIMN family seems to generate.
“There are two books of interest in the context of “a Department of the Future”, due to their antiquity. Alvin Toffler’s ‘Future Shock’ and Edward De Bono’s ‘Future Positive’. Written in 1970 and 1979 respectively, the ideas they had back then are of increasing relevance now, and urgency due to the lack of ‘political reform’ on a global basis in the interim.
With regard to Constitutional reform, it seems to me that we have missed the boat. Dr Venturini’s recent articles are informative in underlining the intent of the constitution as, basically, enshrining the rights of the states as sovereign entities within a sovereign commonwealth. They were never about ‘we, the people’.
A quick look of the Australian Constitution reveals that it is technically an act of the British Parliament passed in 1900, the last vestiges of British legislative influence in Australia to be eliminated with the passage of the Australia Act in 1986.
The Constitution is interpreted and operates in two ways: literally – some sections of the Constitution are taken literally and followed to the letter; conventionally – other sections operate through a series of ‘constitutional conventions’ which vest real power in the hands of elected politicians.
Alongside the text of the Constitution, and Letters Patent issued by the Crown, such Conventions are an important aspect of the Constitution; they have evolved over the decades and define how various constitutional mechanisms operate in practice.
Conventions are unwritten rules, not laws. They express an accepted way of doing something. The ‘Westminster parliamentary system’ is built around these kinds of unwritten rules. They presume that people of good reputation and character behave in an honourable way. By and large Australian ‘conservatives’ do not respect ‘Labor people’ as persons of honour. This is one of the reasons why ‘conservatives’ have been preferred to ‘Labor people’ = rabble on a three/fourth basis since federation.
Even by the rather paltry standards of the Constitution, our governments have consistently ignored the relatively low bar that has been set. You may have noticed our current mob are seeking change in respect of Sect 44 to further enshrine their rights to be negligent or careless but consider there is no ‘appetite’ for reform in respect of our First People. What crap!
Of course, the system is favoured by both Her Majesty’s governments and oppositions. The liturgy of the ‘Westminster System’ provides for an Opposition opposing everything – in Australia even on the light of the day, and a government caught by the preoccupation of being re-elected, surviving the most destructive attacks of the Opposition, and when ordinary, or ordinarily led as the present, running for cover under the constantly unfavourable pollster opinions.”
Ministers are expected to take responsibility for the administration of their departments, the actions of their staff and themselves. This principle has become increasingly difficult to interpret and enforce, given the size and complexity of modern government. Often the political support of the Prime Minister is the most crucial factor determining whether ministers survive scrutiny and criticism of their conduct. With the support of the Prime Minister, there is no problem. Otherwise, personal responsibility is brought to work and the culprit must resign.
As for amending the Constitution, a referendum process is the only process available – although extraordinarily difficult. This is one of the reasons why constitutional referenda are relatively infrequent. There have been only 44 attempts on 19 separate occasions to change the Constitution. Only 8 of these have been successful, the most recent in 1977. Only 4 referenda have succeeded in the past 50 years.
How do you ‘reform’ something that, by its very nature and construct, is impervious to change? The other significant problem is that it becomes incumbent on ‘we, the people’ to convince the beneficiaries of this largesse to change their behavior. There is little, if any, prospect that those with entrenched ‘privilege’, ‘power’ and ‘status’ will surrender any part of it.
With respect, you are seeking change within the confines of a system that is resistant to change.
Previous articles on this site (many written by you) have advocated Direct Democracy as a voting model.
From what I’ve read, this would not require Constitutional change, merely replacement of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It would take one heck of an effort, but it is doable given the increasing power of groups such as GetUp and Change.Org.
It would still require an upper and lower house, with the upper house to comprise no more than half the members of the lower house as the only constitutional requirement.
Ok, that’s #2, #3 and #7 in a procedural sense, but what about motivation? There is much written about the apathy, ignorance and plain laziness of the Australian voter.
My belief is that people are not apathetic, they are simply exhausted by seeing things done by our politicians that beggar belief and yet they are powerless to stop. Surveys have consistently shown that the majority of Australians believe in ‘climate change’ and want something done. They have also repeatedly shown that the majority of Australian’s are against privatization, particularly of essential services.
Having recently decided I’m becoming more radical in my impending dotage, I cannot fathom why we have States. A population of 25million requiring so much government designed to argue over ‘entitlements’ has become nothing more than a distraction from the fact that education, health, law, everything, are varied simply because of your geography. Most Australians I know are political in the sense they care about a lot of things. Most couldn’t give more than a minutes thought to the current politicians or their parties.
To have these conversations, we need to look at change from every angle. How to disassemble power structures and empower the broader base. My contention is that you cannot have those conversations within the constraints of the current power imbalance.
Oh, by the way, I would specifically exclude political parties, lobbyists and corporations from the initial movements. Real people only.
Thank you, Mr Lord and commenters. Take care.”
“PS, Vaughan. If you can get a copy of De Bono’s book, they were exactly the sorts of things he was talking about. Ironically due to the pending impact of computers (pre-internet, automation, AI).”
My thought for the day
“Logic comes from the head. Compassion from the heart
and sometimes both come from a deeper understanding
that only the experience of life brings”