In my last piece; “Our Democracy is a work in progress for Social Progressives” I talked about the decline in our Australian democracy and who was responsible. The comments on my post ranged from “we don’t have a democracy” to “it is beyond repair.”
In that piece I had asked:
“Suppose you are, as I am, a socially progressive democrat: You are sick to death of the destruction that male conservatives in Australia and abroad have done to democracy. Their acquisition of the techniques of narcissism, sexism, intolerance, racism and lying as political tools for purchasing power or its retention has to be regretted.”
Now I would like to move onto what needs to be fixed.
1 The constant gibberish that is uttered by proponents of the mantra that small government and markets will save us has been demonstrably proven to be laughable.
2 The 40-year experiment of Neo-Libertarian Economics has got to an end, and that end should be now.
What does a business do whenever a crisis hits? They yell for the Government to bail them out! The time has come to acknowledge that Government has a central role in how a country runs; there can be no shirking that responsibility.
If the Government made a bold strategy and increased the Public Service and delivered more services then the knock-on effect of that would be enormous, and given the state of our public services, you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t have a positive impact on the economy.
3 Our Constitution should be open to constant oversight by a group of retired judges who would form a standing committee that could recommend any changes to both the government and the opposition.
For example, they might recommend our First Nations people be rightly recognised in our Constitution with a unique preamble.
To overcome partisanship, the committee could put its recommendations to the people in the form of a referendum at the next election.
“A statutory Bill of Rights would encourage Australia to become a more rights-focused society. In such a society, people would be more likely to learn about and rely upon the rights to which they are entitled, and, as a result, the Government would face more pressure to uphold them.”
5 The Common Good: Every facet of society, including the democratic process, needs constant and thoughtful renewal and change. Otherwise, we become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that we never see better ways of doing things. Unfortunately, Australia’s particular version of the democratic process has none of these things inherent in it and its people is currently trapped in a quagmire of indifference.
As corrupt as it is, the current Government controls everything you do by way of the law, political, economic, cultural, religious, and social activities. A 10-point list (as a suggestion) of common-good caveats should be attached to every policy, and legislation must meet these standards.
I am not a political scientist, historian or a trained journalist. However, putting any perceived left-wing allegiance aside for a moment, it seems to me that the Labor Party needs to rid itself of outdated social objectives and invest in a social philosophical common good instead. They need to recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.
6 Pre-Selection: Both major parties have pre-selection processes rooted in factional power struggles that often see the best candidates miss out. Both need to select people with broader life experience; not just people who are lawyers or from the union movement for example. Or in the case of the LNP, staffers who have come up through the party. Parties should be comprised of 50% each man and women. Only when suitably qualified people are unavailable could one of the opposites be considered.
The major parties have become fragmented, with Labor losing a large segment of its supporters to the Greens because they are not left enough. At the same time, the LNP is undermined by wealthy populists like Clive Palmer using Trump-style politics.
Party hacks of dubious intellectual talent represent both parties without enough female representation and worldly work-life experience in terms of talent.
7 The Peoples’ Parliament: Since the election of Tony Abbott the Coalition has trashed our Parliament, its institutions and conventions that people have lost faith in the political process and their representatives. Ministerial responsibility has become a thing of the past. Recent sexual revelations of rape and orgies suggest it resembles a place of ill repute than a place of debate and decision.
8 Question time is just an excuse for mediocre minds who cannot 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 other’s view is seen as a weakness, where light frivolity and wit has been replaced with smut and sarcasm. And in doing so, they debase the Parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals.
Question Time is the Parliament’s showcase and badly needs an overhaul and an independent Speaker. Our democracy suffers because no one has the guts to give away the slightest political advantage.
Recent times have demonstrated just how corrupt our democracy has become. We have witnessed a plethora of inquiries and Royal Commissions, all focusing on illegal sickening behaviour. There is no reason to doubt that the stench of recent corruption meanders its way through the National Parliament’s corridors and into the highest offices.
It now weaves its way into all sections of society, including unions, business, religion and politics.
9 Leadership: Our democracy lacks leadership because our current leaders and their followers have so debased the Parliament that there is no compelling reason to be a politician. Well, at least for people with decency, integrity and compassion.
I cannot remember a time when my country has been so devoid of political leadership. In recent times we have had potential, but we lost it in a recipe of ill-concocted power struggles, undignified self-interest and narcissistic personality.
The pursuit of power for power’s sake and its retention has engulfed political thinking that the people have become secondary. The common good dwells somewhere in the recesses of small minds lacking the capacity for sound public policy that achieves social equity.
10 Our voting system is badly in need of an overhaul. When one party, the Greens, attracts nearly as many primary votes as the Nationals but can only win one seat in the House of Representatives, as opposed to eight, there is something wrong with the system. Added to that is the ludicrous Senate situation where people are elected on virtually no primary votes, just preferences. It is also a system that allows the election of people with vested business interests with no public disclosure.
11 The purpose of the Media: One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without simultaneously aligning it to the collapse in journalistic standards and conversion from reporting to opinion-making.
Murdoch and his majority-owned newspapers with blatant support for right-wing politics have done nothing to advance Australia as a modern enlightened democratic society. On the contrary, it has damaged it, perhaps irreparably.
12 The advent of social media has sent the mainstream media into free fall. Declining newspaper sales have resulted in lost revenue and profits. It is losing its authority, real or imagined. Bloggers more reflect the feelings of grassroots society.
Writers with whom they can agree or differ but have the luxury of doing so. As a result, newspapers, in particular, have degenerated into political gutter trash in the hope that they might survive. Shock jocks shout the most outrageous lies and vilify people’s character with impunity and, in the process, do nothing to promote proper democratic illumination.
They even promote free speech as if they are the sole custodian of it.
13 A republic with an Australian as our head of state is essential in a modern democracy.
14 The representation of women in our Parliament must be addressed. More so by the right than the left.
15 A Federal ICAC: It goes without saying that politicians have brought this on themselves. In a decent democratic society, it would not be necessary. Another idea is to amend the Criminal Code to allow the operation of “common law offence of misconduct in public office.”
16 Political donations reforms:
“Limiting the amount of money parties can spend during an election campaign would reduce the ‘arms race’ for donations. If parties had less incentive to sell access to donors, senior politicians would have more time to do their jobs instead of chasing dollars.”
17 The election cycle: There is not enough time between elections to debate new ideas in a three-year electoral process and put in the necessary work for democratic reforms. A rethink of 4-year terms is essential.
* * * * * *
Three final things have contributed to the decline in our democracy.
Firstly, the Abbott factor and the death of truth as a principle of democratic necessity. I am convinced Tony Abbott believed that the effect of lying diminished over time and therefore is a legitimate political tool. So much so that his words and actions brought into question the very worthiness of the word truth. Or he at least devalued it to the point of obsolesce.
The 2014 budget will be remembered for one thing. That being that it approved and overwhelmingly legitimised lying as a political and election contrivance.
Tony Abbott set a:
“… high standard when it comes to keeping promises. On August 22, 2011 he said: ‘It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards‘.”
Australians need to take more care when electing their leaders. Before doing so, we need to question their character, integrity, trustworthiness and leadership qualities.
In Australian political history, Abbott’s legacy will be that he empowered a period emblematic of a nasty and ugly period in our politics. It continued and worsened under the hypocrisy of Turnbull, and now with the dictatorship of Morrison.
Secondly, our democracy is nothing more or nothing less than what the people make of it. The power is with the people, and it is incumbent on the people to voice the decline in our democracy with unmistakable anger.
People need to wake up because the Government affects every part of their life (other than what they do in bed – though who knows – that could also change one day) and should be more concerned. But there is a deep-seated political malaise.
We must make those politicians who have participated in the wilful destruction of our democracy pay for it.
“Good democracies can deliver good governments and outcomes” only if the electorate demands it. “You get what you vote for” rings true.
Lastly, but most importantly, we need to educate our final year school leavers (the voters of tomorrow) with indebtedness and a fundamental appreciation of our democracy and what it means.
In conclusion, allow me to quote Mark Latham:
“Australians once trusted the democratic process. While we got on with our lives, we assumed our politicians had our best interests at heart.”
Next time: What is an ideal progressive democratic society?
My thought for the day
Substantial and worthwhile change often comes with short-term controversy, but the pain is worth it for the long-term prosperity of all.
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