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Day to Day Politics: A new way forward to a better society: a Labor perspective (part 1)

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Thank you for the enormous response to my piece “Can you help me” on Thursday, March 22. I had 40 comments of a high quality from our AIMN readers, and a number from Facebook.

My plan is to firstly identify those things that need to be changed or implemented that would make Australia a better society. The final list follows but I have a feeling that one has eluded me. Secondly, I plan to place under each heading the comments relevant to each heading.

That done, I am hoping it will lead to further discussion and from there I will write my essay.

1 A need to divorce Labor from the negativity of institutionalised politics.

2 Create new ways of purposeful participation in the body politic for Australians wanting to be involved.

3 A two-year constitutional review ending with the appointment of a full-time sitting committee.

4 Review of Labor’s outdated social objectives.

5 The need for a wider range of social experience when pre selecting candidates.

6 An independent speaker heading an Independent Speaker’s Office.

7 An independent review of Australia’s voting system.

8 The teaching of politics in year 12 with the possibility of allowing 16 year-olds to vote if registered at high school and completing the politics course.

9 Fixed 4 year terms with a fixed date.

10 A review of free speech in an enlightened society.

11 A continuance of superannuation, negative gearing, capital gains, and other policies taken to the last election including the shares imputation debate currently being debated.

12 Reconsideration of the Henry Tax Review also taking into account exemptions for religious institutions and charities.

13 A policy return to some form of pricing on carbon emissions.

14 Making sure that mining companies pay the fairest highest royalties and a review of subsidies is undertaken.

15 That multi-nationals and Australian companies pay their fair share of tax.

16 Consideration be given to the need for a Department of the Future.

17 A guarantee of affordable health care.

18 A national Anti-Corruption Commission modelled on the NSW ICAC. with teeth that can bite be a high priority should Labor win the next election.

19 A suitability test for prospective MPs.

20 A 10 point common good caveat for all proposed legislation.

21 Look at ways to achieve a fairer more responsible media.

22 Look at ways in which to become a republic sooner rather than later.

23 Major appointments to government Agencies be considered by a joint parliamentary committee, to discourage stacking of Agencies with partisans.

24 Our First Nation Peoples be included in the constitution and in the parliament.

25 Address equality of opportunity in education.

As I said at the start, I will add as many comments from different people under each heading and then seek further additional remarks.

My thought for the day

”We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence.”


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  1. RatMatrix

    A very complete list of objectives, John. May I add a few for your consideration as these are two that I feel absolutely need positive change.
    The first I offer, should I be forced to choose, I can (barely) live with, but the second I feel is of utmost importance. Is it fair that one who is under severe financial stress gets punished by further debts and on a scale that makes the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder to suffer further stress?

    Abolition of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each Parliamentary sitting day.
    All fines inclusive of parking and all road/,motoring, late fees, ATM fees, financial institutional charges and governmental charges to be means tested. e.g Higher income – higher fee, charge, fine.

  2. Terry2

    It seems that new South Australian senator Tim Storer may have heard you, John.

    He is the hold-out Senator, along with Derryn Hinch, who will not just sign on to corporate tax cuts and evidently is calling for a commitment to proper tax reform not just a slash and burn approach as adopted by this government.

    The Turnbull government are not known for doing the hard yards on tax reform and probably find calls to justify their actions quite startling.

  3. Freethinker

    Very good objectives John, can you expand on 19 A suitability test for prospective MPs?
    I am looking forward to the ALP national conference regarding democratisation within the party.
    I support Butler and Conroy position in this issue.

  4. Graeme

    If Labor gain power in Canberra they should make it a priority to replace biased LNP/IPA appointees currently planted in government bodies. Fill the rolls with competent, fair minded citizens who can be trusted to act in our best interests

  5. Zathras


    I agree that Shorten should de-politicise various appointments.

    One of the things that brought Rudd undone was his magnanimous decision to appoint various ex-Coalition Ministers to prominent public positions (War Memorials, Future Fund, diplomatic posts etc) and also not to flush out the croneys in the upper levels of Public Service embedded there by Howard.

    It’s the Coalition that has a real history of “jobs for the boys”.

    Such insider appointees are not working in the public interest but in the political interest of the government.

  6. Jeanne Hart

    Well done John. Also, I would like to see a Bill of Rights for Australia given we are the only OECD country without one.

  7. johno

    Look at way to reduce the military budget.

  8. flohri1754

    Graeme … of course that is exactly what Abbott and Credlin did to Labor appointees in 2013. I understand your sentiment, but I think that appointees should be judged on their merits and not on political inclination. Otherwise, Australia heads down the trump road of attempting to return to the old American type “Spoils System” of governance.

  9. helvityni

    The last one the list, number 25, ought to be the first; educate the nation and we will get better governments, and we will not elect people like Pauline and the like…

    One good public system, with emphasis on good teachers, will achieve a more harmonious fairer society, no more them and us…
    So no more schools based on religion, and make them all co-ed…and hopefully the need for the ME TOO forums will disappear…

  10. OlWomBat

    One item I feel is missing, and I am not sure how to phrase it, is to restore science to its proper place in reasoned argument and reverse the current denigration and relabeling of anything that goes against the arguments of the right as “fake”. In this regard I guess it supports helvityni’s point regarding a good quality education system populated with good and well paid teachers and support staff.

  11. ajogrady

    When are the motives of many L/NP members , such as Prime Minister Turnbull and Senator Matt Canavan, going to be called into question by the Main Stream Media. They are being paid by the taxpayers of Australia to look after their interests not the interests of the Minerals Council, banks and multi national corporations.
    Make Australia great again! Join a union!

  12. John Lord

    The one that eluded me was an Australian Bill of Rights. I will add it in.

  13. Ricardo29

    A very comprehensive list, enhanced by the further suggestions. I don’t quite know how to word my suggestion but I would like to see religion taken out of every aspect of government.can the opening prayers, or replace it with a non-religious opening statement. The hypocrisy of self-proclaimed Christians like Dutton and Morrison compared with their actions is clear to see. I support the suggestion that religious groups should have their incomes taxed, without ways to reduce them. As part of a root and branch look at the tax reforms already referred to we should look at ending government funding to non government schools and private health funds.

  14. Terry Campbell

    The current model of a republic is not even up for consideration.
    Legalise cannabis.
    Improve the living standards of the poor.
    Remove the Cashless Welfare Card.
    Bring back the CES, remove work for the dole model as it now stands. Job training yes!
    Technical schools.
    Stop privatisation.
    Overseas investment is well and good but 99 year leases instead of selling Australia.
    Encourage the Australian Manufacturing Industry.
    Ban Fracking.
    Encourage the move from reliance on fossil fuels. Encourage investment in diversification of energy provision.
    Fix the current school system outdated and not challenging our children’s minds.
    Improve available health system.

  15. Harry

    I would add: A commitment to full employment.

    From the period post-war to the late 1970’s unemployment never exceeded 2%. It’s now over 5% plus another 8% under employed. Unemployment has been used as a tool to capture much of the growth in labour productivity over recent decades.

    I think it is evil and heartless to pretend that current policies will somehow return us to anywhere near full employment. Youth unemployment in particular is dire and there is a risk that a whole generation will be blighted by it. Is that acceptable or tolerable? I think not!

    The level of unemployment is a political choice, not an economic choice. The federal government can and should eliminate all involuntary unemployment by the offer of work in the public sector at a socially accepted wage (at least the minimum wage) plus other benefits and training, to anyone who is capable of work but cannot get it. This is called a Job Guarantee.

    Funding would be provided by the federal government with the actual work to be organised locally, eg by local government or another appropriate body.

    There is never a shortage of work and tasks to be done. The range of socially useful work is only limited by the imagination.

  16. Harry

    I will add another:

    No targets to be set for the federal government’s fiscal balance – focus to be on full employment, price stability, sustainability and well-being, i.e. as low as practicable spending gap in relation to the capacity of the economy.

    The obsession over the budget deficit and the aspiration by both Labor and the Coalition to return it to surplus is very damaging to a social democracy. It has resulted in unnecessary privatisation of public assets, reduced resourcing of education, health etc because we “do not have the money”.

    The federal government ALWAYS has the money. It creates it after all and does so every time it spends. It’s a convenient but damaging fiction that it needs our taxes to “fund” spending.

  17. Joe Abby

    Great list with some notable additions aimn readers
    I would add education as the key to solve many of these problems
    I also agree with implement MMT and Job guarantee the neocons have had 40 odd years we all know it does not work for the majority
    Voting system needs real change too team red or blue fails us all
    No changes to our constitution as I don’t trust ANY current polly’s to re-write it or other ‘leaders’
    Nationalise our country assets and ensure no TPP ever again
    Make all levels of government accountable with not only a federal ICAC (with real teeth) but actual penalties for lies,deceit, corruption and phaps ministers sacked for broken promises (changed promises after election)
    no CDC and protect our social security for all that need it
    Population controls with priority to war zones rather than rich individuals from ???

    Exercise your rights and obligations to governments of ‘MY WILL’ and do it for both positive & negative issues

  18. Helen

    Not to leave refugees in hostile and primitive, even punitive, environments- even murderers see a term to their punishment. Invite educated refugees who pass security tests to come to Australia and do not leave them for years as unskilled underlings. Yes teach civics and do not prevent those with different but evidence based views for speaking to the young. So warn against/educate about gambling, domestic violence, global warming, fossil fuel reliance. Teach about basic fallacies and about evidence versus opinion.
    Yes to federal ICAC, ban corporate donations and ban offshore money ferreting.

  19. helvityni

    Yes, Helen, let’s start educating our kids that we all just human being, no matter some are white others are coloured…teachers and parents can teach kids about empathy by showing it themselves to others, and no one will bully or sledge in the future …
    Don’t abuse asylum seekers, don’t punish them because they were lucky and escaped drowning…

    Don’t talk about being the most harmonious multi cultural society when our aboriginal people are still not equal citizens and Muslims and African youngsters are blamed for every crime…

    Stop being overly punitive, train our police force better…
    Aim at being a truly civil society, not a materialistic one.. Amen

  20. Meg

    I agree – we need to start making amends, especially for the stolen land we occupy right here at home. Seize investment properties and give them to First Nations People. Any non-investment property principal residence worth in excess over $1,000,000 should be “garnisheed” when sold so that half of the windfall capital gain be gifted to First Nations People. Why should the white children of the white privileged parasites continue to profit on ever-increasing property values, essentially stolen out from under our First Nations People? It’s effectively continuing the policy of poisoned blankets and flour, stealing children, deaths in custody and genocide.

  21. Glenn Barry

    Graeme, I think you’re on the money with eliminating the IPA acolytes – however I believe all IPA affiliates, representatives, associates or otherwise adjoined people should be banned from both the ABC and SBS until such time as the IPA sees fit to publish both it’s full record of donations and donors as well as all of its political donations and a full list of it’s subscribers/membership.

    If they want access to the public broadcasters – then they get to play by the rules of a democratic institution and that requires full and uncensored disclosure

  22. Michael Taylor

    They can rip up Turnbull’s disgraceful NBN and replace it with the one that Rudd and Conroy gave us. And they need to ram it down everyone’s throat the huge cost (read: waste of money) Turnbull’s was. And they also need to ram it down everyone’s throat just how bad and obsolete Turnbull’s NBN was.

  23. Meg

    I ordered my NBN today – wish me luck. What will the difference be?

  24. Michael Taylor

    Luck, Meg.

    You need all the luck you can get.

    Hopefully it’s better for you than it is for me. Mine is slower than my ADSL2 was.

  25. Freethinker

    Meg, the NBN is awesome, fast and reliable for the web and Voip.
    Having say that I am in Tasmania.

  26. Jack Russell

    My long term wish is for ALL childcare to be provided free, by the Education Department, with centres in every public primary school in the country, and run by trained staff able to better prepare the kids for a smooth transition into formal education, most likely at the same school. It will do wonders for children, families, teaching, and teachers.

    Not to mention eliminating the rorting private shonks who should never be allowed near our kids . . .

  27. Kaye Lee

    I think appointments should be taken out of politicians’ hands entirely. We should have a public service board or something like that who make the appointments on merit rather than political persuasion.

    Not wanting to interrupt the wonderful suggestions, I just have to say I listened to Matt Canavan today at the Press Club. He was asked about our declining oil production and exploration and if we should be moving towards electric cars. I don’t think Canavan realised what he was saying when he launched into his defensive answer about how much investment has gone into oil and gas in recent times because we have a …wait for it….”very attractive tax system in place”. Say what????

  28. Andrew Smith

    Compulsory high school subject (ongoing all years) related to language, critical thinking, communication, political, corporate, data, digital etc. analysis and literacy; encouraging and making accessible to the general public requires attention too.

    NSW and Vic matriculation explicitly included similar in matriculation or HSC English till early 80s to be disappeared with changeover to the two year VCE in Vic and similar in NSW.

  29. Matters Not


    the need for a Department of the Future.

    In days of yore we went down that track.

    In October 1984 Cabinet approved a proposal by Barry Jones to establish a Commission for the Future. The Commission was to initiate a continuous public information process to ‘demystify’ science and raise public awareness of the social and economic impacts of technological change, addressing in particular concerns about the effect of such change on employment. Cabinet would appoint the seven members of the Commission, but it would be at arm’s length from government and would be free to encourage discussion without political or bureaucratic constraint. Jones strongly opposed locating the Commission within a university, which would be ‘the worst possible environment, an academic one’. The Commission was established in 1985, but had a controversial existence and was abolished in 1998.

    I was an active participant in those days. Not likely to be resurrected unfortunately.

  30. Michael Slocum

    Hulllooo!? Asylum seeker policy? Please? Will not ever vote Labor until this is fixed for good. Coke and Pepsi politics in Australai.

  31. PK1765

    #learnmmt Taxes and government borrowing NEVER finance the spending of a monetary sovereign central government, such as Australia is.

    People saying they do, or conventions which are introduced to make it look as though they do, don’t change this simple fact.

    People who claim otherwise either don’t understand monetary systems or are being dishonest.

    Taxes are there to limit inflation – government debt issuance is there to provide safe financial assets to savers and/or for the purposes of interest rate management.

    Professor Mitchell explains…

    Introduce a Job Guarantee Program…

  32. Michael Taylor

    Whilst politics shouldn’t be about personalities – though it often is – and whilst I quite like Bill Shorten, what Labor needs is another Gough Whitlam, Paul Keating, Julia Gillard, or even a Don Dunstan.

    Will we ever see the likes of them again in the near future?

  33. Wam

    When we are equal then education will be equal. My granddaughter got 0-4 grade for her grade 11 english assignment. The same as those who failed to submit except she spent hours on it. She is dyslexic, her teacher is a neophyte and victoria is big enough to do without such students.
    Her mother was the same and she is a PhD in heav metals so this new teacher is in for a battle.
    The universities get millions on a signature from the debt of students who are functionally illiterate and enumerate or are in bridging or certificate courses or are Indigenous.
    The reaction to a charge of bums on seats rip off, was met with outrage at such negativity. Universities are full cash from teacher and nurses debt when their are no jobs. The rabbott licensed institutions to seek debt. All without accounts.
    Your list is perfect for Labor to follow especially 21 perhaps they could use the lnp equalising the left wing ABC as a role model for murdoch? The should change from being negative to the duly elected government and trust the LNP, and the minor parties. (Personally I would struggle to trust pauline or richard but I am resistant to change in canberra or the climate.
    Independent is oft used but ‘of what’? Gillard abrogated the politician’s right to vote on pay rises to an independent body wow pollie not voting. Why?? We might squeal at their greed and some may vote no. Solution for a slimy lawyer use the word ‘independent’ but hide the terms of reference and their findings. Just take the cash quietly, in the knowledge that even the rabbott wont reverse that initiative
    Any union should just tie their wages to that independent body. QED Independence exposed.

  34. Matters Not

    I note that MMT seems to be gaining traction here, there and everywhere but only on various blogs while in the wider political world it’s regarded as an example of intellectual masturbation. Politically, it simply doesn’t resonate.

    It’s a bit like telling a Hindu there’s only one God. Or a Muslim that … Or perhaps a Christian that a Virgin birth … is possible or …

    Then again, there’s so many who don’t want to confront the existing political reality and choose a future promised Land. As is their right.

  35. Kaye Lee

    I wish MMTers would phrase it as a possible alternative rather than insisting it is what we already do. I spend too much time showing them it is not what we currently do rather than investigating the pros and cons and possibilities it offers.

  36. RosemaryJ36

    You left out all mention of refugee policy and Year 12 students are all over 16 as a general rule.

  37. Matters Not

    RosemaryJ36 – not to mention that if the proposed above was strictly applied, it would discriminate against Aboriginal youth re the democratic participation activity. Complications (always) abound.

  38. townsvilleblog

    Yes John, you did miss one mate. Sustainable population policy is of the utmost importance, if we don’t work out the maximum population this the dries inhabited continent on Earth we simply will not survive. Once the figure is arrived at taking into account firstly “water” then available land for population whilst leaving enough to support agriculture, we can move forward with confidence with our immigration policy and hopefully a population policy that the whole country can understand and support.

  39. townsvilleblog

    Michael Taylor, How true , yes the general public simply don’t like Shorten, his preferred PM is up 1% to 36% the general public just don’t trust him, and with good reason. With 18 months to go until the next election now is a good time to blood a new leader, what do people think about Deputy Tanya or Justin Clare?

  40. Michael Taylor

    I like Jason Clare. He would be my first choice.

  41. townsvilleblog

    Jack Russell, yes indeed Jack, the cert3 educated childcare workers may even be afforded a decent wage. That is if multinationals pay a decent amount of taxation which currently stands at 17.2% thanks to a list of deductions as long as your arm.

  42. Michael Taylor

    Tanya and Penny Wong got me a bit offside when they were on Labor’s panel that recommended supporting Brandis’s metadata laws.

  43. jimhaz

    Tim Storer is getting my respect. Sure hope he can maintain it over the longer term. I am desperate for someone both honourable and realistic.

    “In a broad-ranging interview with Guardian Australia, Storer said he intended to assess all legislation on its merits rather than engaging in horse-trading, but he said he was clear about what he wanted to achieve during his time in Canberra.

    He said a boost to Newstart was a priority. “For me, it is a priority that I would like to take forward,” Storer said.

    “I’ve got 500 days from when I was declared as a senator to the end of the period. There will be an election in that of course, but yes, [boosting Newstart] is an issue I wish to take forward”

    “Newstart has shrunk against average wages, median wages and the minimum wage and the pension. There are groups such as the Business Council of Australia, as well as KPMG and the Australian Council of Social Service and economists like Chris Richardson who have all made calls to link it with wages and increase it.”

  44. Kaye Lee

    I also admire Jason Clare. He seems to avoid the screeching silly stuff. I like Mark Butler too. But Labor can’t change leaders again before the next election. They have made a point of saying they learned from their mistakes with the disunity of the Rudd Gillard times. For better or worse, Bill has to put his best foot forward. I think they need to learn a lesson from the Australian cricket team and STOP the sledging. The Coalition’s policies suck big time. There is no need for the rubbish we see in Question Time. The repetitive questions over and over drive me bananas

    jimhaz, I agree about Storer. I haven’t heard much from him but what I have has impressed me.

  45. townsvilleblog

    Michael, so do I its sad but true the person they elect to leadership must these days either be very knowledgeable as was E.G. Whitlam, or handsome, which fits both Tanya and Jason. Our standards have been influenced by decades of yank propaganda to the extent we now (some of them) think like the dumbed down yanks where attractive human features seem to outweigh attractive political policies?

  46. townsvilleblog

    Meg, in my humble opinion, you are spot on.

    MegMarch 28, 2018 at 11:24 am

    I agree – we need to start making amends, especially for the stolen land we occupy right here at home. Seize investment properties and give them to First Nations People. Any non-investment property principal residence worth in excess over $1,000,000 should be “garnisheed” when sold so that half of the windfall capital gain be gifted to First Nations People. Why should the white children of the white privileged parasites continue to profit on ever-increasing property values, essentially stolen out from under our First Nations People? It’s effectively continuing the policy of poisoned blankets and flour, stealing children, deaths in custody and genocide.

  47. jimhaz

    [jimhaz, I agree about Storer. I haven’t heard much from him but what I have has impressed me.]

    Particularly in view of the fact he is a business export entrepreneur type – generally they tend to be too libertarian. But early days yet.

  48. jimhaz

    It might be an interesting exercise if folks were asked to pick a Aussie Political Squad from all parties or independents.

  49. townsvilleblog

    Harry, unemployment at 5% only if you believe the under funded ABS figures. Roy Morgan Research Corporation puts unemployment in January at around 10% and 2.59 million Australians either unemployed or underemployed. These are the questions that should be asked in Question Time not about the 65Bn giveaway, that Turnbull has ready made answers for.

  50. townsvilleblog

    Terry Campbell yes mate, your list would be a great thing for this country, but, alas like me, you are probably dreaming of a progressive ALP that may not exist?

  51. Michael Taylor

    jimhaz, I can’t think of one LNP politician who’d make the squad. Not one. Not even a half of one.

  52. Jr Ric

    with regards to no 9 definitely not a 4 year term because when you have a bad government like we do now even the 3 year term is far to long and they can do far to much damage to the country in that 3 year term so extending their corruption to 4 year is no a good idea as for a fixed date that is a good idea, but don’t we have that now where they have to have an election within the 3 years

  53. Zathras

    It’s interesting to see how much the notion of public presentation and celebrity image affects the choice of leaders.

    I would prefer somebody with a clear vision for the future and determination who acts in the national interest, regardless of how he/she looks or behaves on camera, than some egotistical slick snake-oil salesman with no real agenda who represents the interests of a select few.

    I suppose that’s the price we have paid since politicians had to become TV performers instead of leaders.

  54. townsvilleblog

    Ricardo29, for a bloke who didn’t quite know how to word your suggestion you did a sterling job mate, and a great suggestion, in my humble opinion.

  55. Kronomex

    I’m hoping, really hoping, that Tim Storer holds to his principles and will continue to be a nasty thorn for the LNP.

  56. jimhaz

    [jimhaz, I can’t think of one LNP politician who’d make the squad. Not one. Not even a half of one.]

    i had the same view. Almost added the same thing. Even Julie Bishop, who is not as mad as the others (outside of election time), would not even make the reserves.

  57. townsvilleblog

    jimhaz “folks” is yank for “people” not being a yank, I don’t use yank words.

  58. townsvilleblog

    Jr Ric about 4 year terms, I think they should be 5 year terms, as long as if its a bad government people do what Queenslanders did with the Campbell Newman LNP government and vote it out after just one term. What is the difference between this terrible ultra right wing Abbott/Turnbull L’NP govt being elected for 2 terms and having a 5 year term, provided people throw them out if they are no good and continue to do so?
    I can’t think of any serving or past tories (L’NP) politicians that would make the grade, not even half a one.

  59. Michael Taylor

    “Folks” is a Middle English word, originating sometime before 900AD. It is from the Old English word “folc”.

  60. townsvilleblog

    Are there “any” Australians left who are proud to be Australian, an independent creature to a de facto yank?

  61. Kaye Lee

    The wondrous thing about being an Australian is that we are continually changing and evolving. Conservatives hate that but it is inevitable.

  62. Michael Taylor

    And the Irish have been talking about the “wee folk” since time began.

  63. Harry

    Matters Not:

    “I note that MMT seems to be gaining traction here, there and everywhere but only on various blogs while in the wider political world it’s regarded as an example of intellectual masturbation. Politically, it simply doesn’t resonate”.

    That may be so but we live in a neoliberal-dominated economic, social and political system where vested interests try to dismiss its appeal.
    Mahatma Gandhi reportedly said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

    I could add that when an intellectual proposition gains wide enough traction so that the vested interests can no longer ignore it they claim they knew it was correct all along.

    What is your own view by the way?

  64. Harry

    townsville blog: I agree that if anything the statistics have been rigged to understate the unemployment data to make the government of the day look a bit better than they deserve. The key point though is that national governments choose the unemployment rate; current policies will NEVER get us to the full employment of the 1970’s.

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