By Kyran O’Dwyer
Without a word of a lie, I searched this internetty thingy for ‘politics for dummies australia’ and only got a few results. Books and blogs written for the hapless voter to enable them navigate the jargon and crap prevalent in Australian politics.
Which was, at some time in the past, probably fair. Given the traditional discourse that Australian voters are too stupid, too lazy, too disinterested and/or too apathetic to ever take an active interest in the machinations of government.
I, however, tend to follow the sentiment of Howard Zinn:
What is called “apathy” is, I believe, a feeling of helplessness on the part of the ordinary citizen, a feeling of impotence in the face of enormous power. It’s not that people are apathetic; they do care about what is going on, but don’t know what to do about it, so they do nothing, and appear to be indifferent.
It is hard to remain interested, let alone passionate, about any ‘social’ issues when you know that, however reasoned and factual your dissertation on any subject may be, there will be the naysayers, often a minority group, who simply shout it down (albeit with megaphones, aka the media), and the politicians who simply won’t listen anyway (unless you’re a donor).
In the off chance you have missed it over the past few years, we have, allegedly, one of the most highly qualified parliaments in Australian history. Our politicians have more pieces of paper than a Sorbent jumbo roll. The problem is that their pieces of paper appear to have the same worth as toilet paper, but are less effective at cleaning up shite.
For years now, we have had ministers, assistant ministers, backbenchers, all manner of titles and occupants, professing their complete and utter ignorance of their portfolios and their policies, let alone their job descriptions. That’s without reference to their ethical and/or moral capacity. Which would be an incredibly short discussion.
Given the most recent debacle, I thought we need a new “Politics for Dummies – Australia”, written for the biggest dummies in Australia. Our politicians. It will have to be ‘plain English’ as anything too sophisticated for them (or too long, for that matter) will escape their very meagre grasp on reality, or their even more meagre attention span.
The AEC has produced a handbook for candidates, which makes the job measurably easier.
So, here goes nothing.
Naturally, we will have to start at the very beginning. Nominating for parliament. This is not difficult. As long as you are over 18, are an Australian citizen and are either enrolled or eligible to be enrolled on the Commonwealth electoral roll, off you go. We can visit the Sect 44 thingy a little later.
You fill out a declaration. The AEC website has a stern warning for applicants:
It is against the law to include false or misleading information in a nomination form. Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. In addition, you must not omit any information if omitting that information would be misleading. The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for 12 months.
If that warning intimidated you or caused you to rethink your application, good. It means you were never cut out to be a politician. You see, it’s a scam. The AEC has no right of scrutiny over the content. And anyone wishing to challenge the content of your nomination has only a 40 day period from the close of nominations to do so. And they must reside in your electorate.
All nomination papers are publicly produced at declaration time (12 noon on the day after nominations close) and the relevant AEO or DRO declares the name and address of candidates (address details for a candidate who is a silent elector will not be released or declared). All other contact information for candidates, which they have indicated is not for public release, will be removed from a candidate’s form before it is produced at the time of declaration.
Information listed for public release is also published on the AEC website during the election period. It should be remembered that the media and the public use this publicly available contact information to reach candidates for information about their candidature. All nomination forms are destroyed only after the next election.
This fellow Joyce, undeniably a political dummy of the first order, has been good enough to give us a real time demonstration of the process. Admittedly, it’s a by-election, not a full election. We are, apparently, going to have many by elections, until even the ‘Artful Lodge’r’ recognises the stupidity. Given his track record on ‘judgement’, it may well be a cold day in hell before his judgement comes to pass. Although some are tipping February. If you consider yourself a ‘political tragic’, feel free to have a guess at how many by elections will be required before a general election is called. Bonus points for guessing the LNP/IPA nominee for PM.
Apologies for the digression. Back to New Zealand. My bad, New England.
The close of nominations was midday, 9th November, and we’ll know the candidates by midday, 10th November.
By now, you will have got the gist. You can say anything you like in your nomination, because it will not be checked at any institutional level. Remember, it’s not a Centrelink or Immigration application. Be aware though, there are a few impediments. A lawyer in WA, Dr John Cameron, and a self-described ‘serial pest’, Mr Tony Magrathea, being two recidivist impediments. Rest assured, you will be protected by FOI (which, theoretically, stands for ‘Freedom of Information’) processes that will guard, at all costs, the reality. ‘FOI’ stands for ‘Feck off, idiot’.
Add to the mix the unhelpful contribution of Ms Sally McManus, who has volunteered the AFP to conduct raids, complete with real time media broadcast, on hapless nominees. This is based on their expertise at creating a TV show (hereinafter referred to as the Nightly News) at short notice and with no substance.
Don’t worry. In the unlikely chance you get caught, there is no prospect of restitution of your ill-gotten gains, let alone incarceration for your transgressions. Remember, it’s not Centrelink or Immigration here. Heck, it’s not even like you are an Indigenous person with unpaid fines.
Let’s go back to the Dummy extraordinaire, Joyce. He not only forgot his father was a Kiwi, he actually destroyed the APVMA, diverted water from the Murray Darling scheme, altered Hansard, pork-barreled three electorate offices, has his former chief of staff, Diana Hallam, in the position of general manager, Department of Infrastructure – Inland Rail Unit, overseeing the lay of the rail (where he coincidentally owns some ‘mongrel bush blocks) and, apparently, has had a dalliance with a female other than his wife (which is appropriate. It is ‘same sex marriage’ which will, according to him, destroy the ‘institution of marriage’, not the infidelity of those already married). Now, that’s only a few of the transgressions he committed as an illegal immigrant occupant of our parliament. If only Border Force could protect us from ‘illegals’.
His punishment? He has to stand again. Apparently with an unassailable lead in what is likely to be a one horse race. We’ll know soon enough.
Repayment of the financial advantage gained by deception? Incarceration (which would see him, rather ironically, still dependent on tax payer largesse for three meals and a roof over his head)?
Nope. Nope. Nope. You haven’t been paying attention. This is not Centrelink.
As for this Sect 44 thingy, here’s a radical thought. Don’t change it. Its intent, with respect to foreign allegiance, is clear. If you want to sit in Federal Parliament you can’t wear two hats.
Thanks to Dutton, we now have immigration lawyers par excellence, although it may seem an unlikely ally for a government that hates migrants. I have little doubt there would be no shortage of experts likely to offer their services pro-bono to the government to assist with an audit. A couple of retired judges would also likely assist. They have already offered to assist with corruption in calling for a Federal ICAC.
Even though there have been at least two reports commissioned regarding Sect 44, one in 2004 and one in 2010, both underscore a simple procedural change that is available, yet studiously ignored. Allow the AEC to vet applications. Notwithstanding the likely tongue in cheek suggestion of Ms McManus, there is every likelihood the AFP will have plenty of hours available to assist with the work, now that their foray into unions is temporarily suspended. Admittedly, this will only remain the case as long as Cash and De Garis remain in the AFP witness protection program. As an aside, it doesn’t take too many AFP officers, as the ever vigilant media don’t seem to be pursuing them. Notwithstanding the alleged fraud, this is not Centrelink.
Once the audit is done, call the general election. And repeat the AEC/AFP exercise every time.
With regard to the penalties that should be imposed for these careless recalcitrants, it seems only fair to note there is no need for new laws. Sect 46 of the Constitution provides for penalties, which were later codified in the ‘Common Informers (Parliamentary Disqualifications) Act 1975’. No need for backdating something that’s over a century old!
What we need to do with the Constitution is throw it out and start again. This will never happen as long as our politicians exist above the law. We may as well focus on those things we can change, rather than become embittered by those things we cannot change.
Just for the record, there have been 44 referendums held since 1901 and only eight of these have been successful. The most successful referendum in Australia’s history was in 1967, where 90.77% of the nation came together in support of Indigenous rights.
The Constitution still allows racial discrimination – not just against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but against anyone.
Now, if we are to change the Constitution, which will more likely get up? A change to enshrine the right of Dummies, either illiterate or incapable of the most basic comprehension, to be Dummies, or the removal of racist provisions that underlay our mistreatment of our First People?
That’s before we even start on this government’s flagrant disregard for international law, which will likely see lives lost under the absurd and obscene dictum, ‘at least they didn’t die at sea’.
It is not until you have a government so woefully bad that you take time to think about the protections we, the people, need from Dummies.
Taking to the streets is a pointless exercise, as any protest will be ignored by our politicians and misrepresented by our media.
This should not be confused with apathy.
In the absence of any possibility of realistic or likely action being taken by a government that is so woefully bad, the very least we need to do is rewrite the rules so even these fools can understand them. We need to write a new handbook for our candidates.
Politics for Dummies.