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Defining Democracy

It has become increasingly apparent that this government has forgotten the meaning of democracy. Perhaps they need a reminder. And since One Nation will often hold the balance of power in the Senate, they too should have a lesson.

Attention Barnaby Joyce, George Brandis, Peter Dutton and the rest of the motley crew who seek to impose their will regardless of advice and with no accountability…

The following is from the Museum of Australian Democracy:

Key Democratic Principles

The word ‘democracy’ has its origins in the Greek language. It combines two shorter words: ‘demos’ meaning whole citizen living within a particular city-state and ‘kratos’ meaning power or rule.

It is generally agreed that liberal democracies are based on four main principles:

  • A belief in the individual: since the individual is believed to be both moral and rational;
  • A belief in reason and progress: based on the belief that growth and development is the natural condition of mankind and politics the art of compromise;
  • A belief in a society that is consensual: based on a desire for order and co-operation not disorder and conflict;
  • A belief in shared power: based on a suspicion of concentrated power (whether by individuals, groups or governments).

See Playing Fair, a website by the Parliamentary Education Office.

The Democratic Framework

A liberal democracy (that is, one that champions the development and well-being of the individual) is organised in such a way as to define and limit power so as to promote legitimate government within a framework of justice and freedom. There are four critical elements to the framework:

  • legitimacy;
  • justice;
  • freedom; and
  • power.


A legitimate government is one that has the appropriate mandate/authority to rule. This usually means a high degree of popular support as demonstrated by a free electorate and frequent elections.

  • For example, the government is chosen by a popular vote in which a majority of officials in a majority of electoral regions receive the majority vote; and
  • For example, rules are framed to maximize the well-being of all or most citizens.


Justice is achieved when citizens live in an environment in which all citizens are treated equally and accorded dignity and respect. This may occur in a representative democracy that is tempered by constitutionalism, free elections and restraints on power.

  • For example, the demands made by vested interest groups seeking special privileges are questioned; and
  • for example, society is encouraging of talent and rewards citizens on merit, rather than on rank, privilege or status.


If freedom is to exist, there must be:

  • self-determination such that citizens may make decisions, learn from them and accept responsibility for them;
  • the capacity to choose between alternatives;
  • the autonomy to do what the law does not forbid; and where prohibitions do exist, they should be for the common good; and
  • respect for political and civil liberties. For example, government intervention in political, economic and moral matters affecting the citizenry is limited or regulated; and the scope for religious, political and intellectual freedom of citizens is not limited.


In a liberal democracy, efforts are made to define and limit power, often by means of a written constitution. Checks and balances, such as the separation of the Parliament, senior government and judicial power, are instituted. In addition, there are conventions of behaviour and a legal system that complements the political system.

  • For example, civil liberties are defended and increased against the encroachment of governments, institutions and powerful forces in society.


The many transgressions of these principles by our current government should be a clarion call to us all. We must resist this concentration of power in the hands of a government who actively conspires to keep the truth from us and who silences those who would speak it.


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  1. Freethinker

    Kaye, what it is worry me it is that the polls show that people still prefer Malcolm instead of Bill and also that there still considerable support for the coalition.
    I am so worried about the political wishing of the people that I started withdrawing from political news and debates. It is depressing for me.
    What the people want?

  2. Steve Laing -

    A timely reminder, and highlighting that our democratic rights are increasingly being eroded as the checks and balances that used to exist, are being undermined and denigrated. Particularly worrying is the interference of the legislative arm over the judicial arm. The result is the fascism by stealth which we are currently experiencing.

  3. Phil

    Very interesting read – sent it to my local MP – she who never ever replies.

    Since these Key Democratic Principles were sourced from the Museum of Australian Democracy, I take it that they are what used to apply, and that now that they no longer apply, they have been saved for posterity in a museum display case.

    The Coalition government is a hybrid with extremely low vigour, poor balance and coordination – one might compare it to a mule with Cerebellar abiotrophy – a degenerative disease affecting the cerebellum, the portion of the mule’s brain responsible for basic balance and coordination.

    I think this diagnosis fits the beast we are saddled with in lieu of a democratic government.

  4. Terry2

    So, Bob day of Family First is delaying his resignation from the Senate to help the coalition to get their ABCC legislation through.

    Section 44 of the Constitution does not allow a person to sit in the Senate if he/she is an undischraged bankrupt or is insolvent.

    Insolvency is defined as the inability to pay debts as and when they fall due.

    So, does this imply that Bob, by staying on, is solvent and is able to pay all of the contractors and subbies that he owes money to and does that mean that all those people with unfinished houses can now get Bob to finish the work ?

    Or is this a cynical move by the coalition to prop up its Senate vote.

    The irony continues, one of the amendments to the ABCC Bill, from Nick Xenophon, is a provision to secure payments to contractors and subbies.

  5. helvityni

    “The result is the fascism by stealth which we are currently experiencing.”

    Steve Laing, it angers me, but I believe you are correct in your assessment of what what’s happening…

    I also agree with Freethinker, it’s all too depressing, I’m almost ready to give this country a miss…Where are the good news, our PM does not need to be happy, just try and do something that benefits the whole country and makes us all feel that we too matter….

  6. keerti

    Where are the street marches? Where are the protestors? Where is the revolution? Gone to apathy everyone.

  7. Miriam English

    As with the Republican party in USA, I wonder how much of the LNP’s power comes from gerrymandering. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that a large number of people vote for these clowns. I know the remaining power of Murdoch (thankfully dwindling) can’t be discounted, but surely the LNP don’t really have a great amount of currency in voters.

    …but then I notice how many people support that monster, Trump — even now — and I weep for humanity.

    If it wasn’t for the knowledge that we are collectively becoming better — smarter, more moral, more peaceful, more respectful of each other then I’d retreat fully into seclusion.

  8. JohnB

    missing from your summary – a very important requirement for proper democracy is a properly informed electorate.
    Western democracies have been systematically debased by corporate sponsored propaganda in support of their avaricious neoliberal agenda.
    From ‘Report of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable
    international order’

    “..45. It is generally recognized that a well-informed citizenry is a condition of democracy.
    A country where public opinion is manipulated by the government or private media cannot have a functioning democracy.
    Censorship, whether conducted by States or by press conglomerates, distorts reality and undermines democracy. Who is financing the media and what gets broadcasted or released are important issues in understanding the degree of press freedom, also to what extent big media smother out the independent press.
    Self-censorship as a result of intimidation or social pressures, sometimes referred to as political correctness, constitutes a serious obstacle to the proper functioning of democracy… ”

    That this most incompetent, scandal ridden, economically inept govt. in Australia’s history still attracts support from 48% 2PP from Australian electors is testament to the effectiveness of corporate controlled propagandised national media.

  9. paulwalter

    Terry2, it is heartening to see others have caught up with that cruel, conniving weasel who has left so many people in strife over his decision to pay his money to his political party Family First, an alleged Xtian party, to further his vanity and ambition. Apparently some in even in the government getting sick of him, because he brings such disrepute to government policies like the ABBC which are already suspect at best.

    It is to be hoped that Nick Xenophon continues from withdrawal of support Brandis to rejection of this unethical ABBC bill and that the government and Hanson are thwarted… no more kangaroo courts.

    Time for an election. We need to know whether the public supports this more recent so called policy mix of Turnbull and his gangstas.

  10. jim

    Another great post by the straight shooter Kaye Lee I especially like the Clarion Call.

    Well done to ACT Labor thanks to the gods if you will. great stuff again take care.and posted to Farse book.

  11. Möbius Ecko

    As Morrison is blaming States for unaffordable housing, just as he blame shifts for everyone of his and his governments failures, he’s now blaming Xenophon for the deficit if he doesn’t pass the ABCC and other government legislation.

    Please someone just get rid of this mob for good. They sicken me to the core.

    In a good democracy there should be some mechanism for recalling a bad government and allowing the people to vote again, especially if the elections are not fixed terms and especially if they are double dissolution elections blatantly called for tactical advantage rather than genuine policy reasons.

  12. Wayne Turner

    Spot on JohnB. The main stream media is owned by too few,and are a biased promotional wing of the LNP.

    The MSM are a massive problem.Along with the gullible non-thinking public that blindly follow – Clearly there is enough of these to get this mob back in.

  13. Kaye Lee

    That is why we have to talk to people. Get active. Try to spread facts. It is hard to avoid arguments but they don’t help convince people. There is enough evidence – it is a matter of spreading the word by whatever means are at our disposal. Get people to focus on outcomes and show how this government aren’t getting anywhere because they do not have the courage to lead. They are silencing people and refusing to share the information that we pay for them to be given. We must stand up.

    The public service should go on strike, get the teachers and nurses on board. Sadly I think the police are compromised but border security are pissed off. The legal fraternity could be added to the list of disgruntled at the treatment of Gleeson and Triggs. We need solidarity to win back our democracy.

  14. Kaye Lee

    Joseph Schumpeter said that ‘the classical theory of democracy attributed to the electorate an altogether unrealistic degree of initiative which practically amounted to ignoring leadership.’

  15. jimhaz

    From the Age article

    [In addition, Mr Gleeson had a phone conversation with shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus during the caretaker period before the July 2 election. Given that the solicitor-general has to retain strict confidentiality in dealings with government, the meeting was a provocative and unwise move that should have been explained to Senator Brandis]

    I do not feel this way at all. Gleeson hardly said anything to Dreyfus’s specific questions and it was about the new untenable direction already given by the Nazi.

    For me even if it was not a caretaker government period then Gleeson had the right to say the small amount that he did to Dreyfus considering the principle that ministers must administer properly and fairly (within a cabal of similar traitors – Gleeson had no one to turn to seeing as MT is no more than a baby sucking on the public tit). Brandis has clearly forgotten long ago who he is even supposed to represent.

    Gleeson did not break any law or for that matter any protocol. The LNP is choosing to read this as a break in protocol for witch hunt reasons, but the press should report it as not defined or not adequately defined by the conventions.

  16. Stephen Bowler

    Freethinker, said it all for me, this latest bastardry by Brandis has depressed me

  17. Adrianne Haddow

    Couldn’t the same tactics used by the Libs to get rid of Gough Whitlam be used by the Labor Party and the Greens to rid us of these fascists in suits?

    This dysfunctional government has provided more than enough evidence for a vote of no confidence. I’ll sign.

    Or is our Governor General not functioning these days? Not sure what his role is in this period of lunacy, apart from picking up a fat pay check and lots of big dinners.

    Get up is extremely active, if people care to contact them.
    I recently filled in a Get up survey on the Libs human rights record, or lack thereof.

  18. Kaye Lee

    From lawrence’s link…..

    A special rapporteur from the UN has criticized Australia’s poor protections for Human Rights and its creation of “an atmosphere of fear, censorship and retaliation.” Plastic Attorney General, Bookshelves Barndis replied briefly with what seemed to amount to a, “F***k- off!”

    Liarbril Party Protection Squad, the Australian Federal Police have decided that there was nothing at all to see in Slipper-gate and that Slippery Pete, Chicken Thighs Brough, Sleaze-Boy Ashby and Chwissie the Whyning-Perfect-Prat-of-a-Prefect Pyne are all good chaps who don’t deserve investigation. Right!
    Do I hear faint echoes of The Horst Wessel?

    ( The Horst Wesse was the anthem of the Nazi Party)

  19. Rezblah

    Yes it’s well past time for open rebellion and civil disobedience starting will rolling national strikes, including the public service.

    The ABC should go down swinging with the most incriminating exposes they can assemble on the blatant corruption that is on open display from the most criminal government in our history – 2 a night for 5 nights in a row, starting with that pathetic gutless wonder turnbull (how on earth he has been so successful in business is completely beyond me, he quite obviously doesnt have one single iota of leadership capability in any way, shape or form, he is nothing short of an abysmal failure and should be sacked for gross incompetence immediately, and prosecuted), followed by Morrison, dutton, Pyne, brandis and of course abbot. Smear them with every dirty piece of filth they have ever been involved with, and put them on permanent repeat. Oh but they’d lose their jobs? Their jobs are completely compromised and on the chopping block anyway, declare war and take the bastards down!

    It’s all a complete bluff that crumbles when people stick together, like off shore detention doctors, and the lawyers alliance. This should just be the beginning…

  20. Kaye Lee

    There was a time when the workers understood the power of united support. This government is doing everything within (and outside) its power to destroy that. The fools who have been sucked in by union bashing, and the fools that gave them ammunition to do so, are just as guilty as the corporate rapists and their lapdogs in destroying our economy.

    Unions are crucial for workers to be represented in asking for a share of the wealth their labour creates and to have a say in legislation that affects us all. The ABCC is an abomination whose sole aim is to undermine the voice and power of the people..

  21. Freethinker

    Kaye, that times, when workers understood the the power of unity was well before the “fiber for consumism come to rule.
    People now hare slave of their debts to banks because home loans or other credits and will join the union only when in trouble.
    The majority of the people are not prepared to sacrifice one or two cups of coffee a day in their favorite shop to become a union member of even for the carbon tax.
    People do not care less about the sacrifices in the past by the workers movement, people are selfish, greedy and ignorant and will vote again for conservative parties “which are more predictable”
    There is no point for us to keep blaming this incapable government, they act and rule according to their ideology and voted by the electorate.
    Perhaps we are in a democracy because majority that voted for this government rules and their wishes are now fulfilled.
    We the minority have to face it.

  22. Kaye Lee


    The standards you walk past are the standards you accept. I refuse to accept the crap this government is dishing up. I am 58 years old. I have tolerated many governments in Australia. Howard started the rot, Abbott stepped over the line and Malcolm can’t find the way back. Be loud and proud in your refusal to accept the lies.

  23. Freethinker

    Kaye, I do not accept the standards of this government and the people that have voted for it but in a democracy I have to respect the wishes of the majority.
    You was a child when I have to leave my country because I have not accepted the behavior of the government (IMO dictatorship) and I have be part and very much involved in student and workers union struggle to the point to finish earmarked just for going to see Ernesto Che Guevara.
    I know well what it is put my own freedom in the line but my 70 years told me that history repeat itself and what we are living now here is what was happens in South America at the 1960’s. We can be loud and proud but have to accept the wishing of the majority and do not put all the blame in the government but on those that have voted for it.

    Remember, the fault is not the pig but of who scratched its back.

  24. Kaye Lee

    If I thought the electorate had been told the truth so they could make an informed decision then I could accept a difference of opinion. What I will not accept, and why I will continue to fight, is the lies. I will not tolerate being lied to. I will not tolerate the manipulation and distortion. I will not tolerate a government who has laid down and rolled over and who then tries to sell me a pack of lies to justify their capitulation.

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