Thursday March 8 2018
Feeling a little unwell yesterday, I wasn’t up to expanding on the Tasmanian election. Nor was I up to doing any research. I did, however, come across a piece by Lawyer Greg Barns who was an adviser to NSW Liberal premier Nick Greiner and the Howard government. He was disendorsed as the Liberal candidate for Denison in 2002, he then joined the Democrats. In 2013 he was the WikiLeaks Party adviser. The piece was published in the normally pro right Hobart Mercury.
Ultimately it will be up to Tasmania’s citizens to examine their state’s election and decide if it served democracy well. Barns, in his usual upfront style, points out a number of issues that were unprecedented in Tasmanian political history.
“DEMOCRACY has been weakened in this 2018 state election campaign.
Unprecedented in this jurisdiction, one political party outspent its opponents by what most independent watchers say is a multiple of five. Not only that, corporate interests in one industry swung behind that political party with millions of dollars in-kind support and donations.”
“To make matters worse, we are kept in the dark about the quantum of the donations to that political party.”
Here he is referring to the 18 months required for political parties to reveal donations to their campaigns. The same regulation that is a requirement for Federal elections. Or the same one in which the Prime Minister was forced to reveal his personal donation to the Liberal Party. Of course, there is no reason too, in these times of instantaneous publication that we cannot know in real-time who is donating what on a dedicated website.
It seems to me that at times it’s the politicians themselves who are destroying the very democracy that feeds them, We have to demand better. Transparency should be a cornerstone of any decent democracy but this government, with its attitude to FOI, seems intent on turning us into a need to know society.
Barnes points out that the Liberal Party spent $5 million and Labor and the Greens a combined $1 million. This is tantamount to buying an election and any decent inclusive democracy simply shouldn’t allow it.
We are not, however, living in normal times, we are living in a period where the extreme right have decided to toss out the conventions and the rules of Westminster and bludgeon everyone else to death.
“The result was saturation coverage for the Liberals in all forms of media and hotels, bottleshops and casinos plastering advertisements over their premises and having their staff wear uniforms urging a vote for the Liberals.”
Despite being asked on numerous occasions to name the source of his party’s donations the Premier refused to answer, and instead falling back on the antiquated disclosure rule.
Surely the Australian people aren’t that gullible or have little regard for democracy, not to see that they are being conned and that if you give the right, the capitalistic power it craves, it will eat away at our democracy until it owns it.
“At this juncture, here is an invitation to persons of conscience to blow the whistle and reveal the list of Liberal donors.
The Liberal Party’s supporters in the campaign, such as former staffer and journalist Barry Prismall, justified the Liberals’ brazen conduct by noting that all parties take donations.”
There are many ways to rebut that position. Firstly, two wrongs do not make a right but more importantly in this election the future of poker machines was a major issue and the Liberals should have come clean on how much they were receiving from gaming interests threatened by Labor’s position, and whether their campaign team was coordinating with the gaming interests’ media campaign.”
A clear indication of an Australian Democracy in decline is the fact that people are either giving up the privilege of voting or just accepting what they know to be wrong.
“In a society wedded to the democratic tradition, elections should be free and fair. To be fair entails transparency. Political parties and it has to be said particularly the Liberal Party in Australia, resist full transparency and real-time disclosure of donations. This attitude is corrupting democracy.”
In accepting the donations from the pokie industry without declaring the source of them, Hodgkin has insulted our democracy and the people, treating them with utter contempt.
Moreover, an enlightened democracy should provide the people with a sense of purposeful participation. It should forever be open to regular improvement in its methodology and its implementation. Its constitutional framework should be exposed to periodical revision and renewal, compromise and bi-partisanship when the common good cries out for it.
But above all its function should be, that regardless of ideology, the common good should be served first and foremost. A common good healthy democracy serves the collective from the ground up rather than a top-down democracy that exists to serve secular interests.
One that is enforced by an elite of business leaders, politicians and media interests who have the power to enforce their version. That is fundamentally anti-democratic and the people were coerced, by compulsory voting to do so without all the facts.
“Fair elections should not depend on the amount parties have in their coffers from private donors. In a fair contest, you do not have a position where the Liberal Party spends five times the amount of its opponents, despite each having a relatively equal number of voters. This is so because there is a deal of evidence that shows a positive link between the amount spent by a party and its electoral success.”
“If Mr Hodgman wanted to strengthen Tasmanian democracy, he would have, during the campaign, acknowledged the existing law on disclosure is deficient and that he wanted to be honest with the electorate about his party’s finances. Sadly, he reinforced the all-too-common view among many that political parties are, in the main, dishonest or at least untrustworthy.”
“The Liberal Party in Tasmania and its gaming friends just hammered another nail into the coffin of democracy.”
Our Parliament, its institutions, and conventions have been so trashed by Tony Abbott in particular that people have lost faith in the political process and their representatives.
Ministerial responsibility has become a thing of the past. Question time is just an excuse for mediocre minds that are unable to win an argument with factual intellect, charm or debating skills, to act deplorably toward each other.
The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a chamber of hate where respect for the others view is seen as a weakness. Where light frivolity and wit has been replaced with smut and sarcasm. And in so doing, they debase the parliament and themselves, as moronic imbecilic individuals.
Had the Premier had a thought for the future of Australia’s democracy then he would have disclosed who these donors were. He decided not too. Therefore this election will always be known as the election that Hodgkin bought.
My thought for the day.
“To say that we are ambivalent about our politicians is an understatement. Now we are ashamed”