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Tag Archives: westminster system

Religion and Politics

There is an old adage that warns we should never discuss religion or politics. It’s bizarre that two such influential aspects of our lives should be off-limits. The obvious implication is that, in these two areas, people’s minds are already made up and closed to any information, argument or change. Are we scared that our beliefs, under scrutiny, may be shown to be flawed? Are we unable to explain why we believe something, or hold a certain view, or support a certain religion or political party or policy? Are we unable to be tolerant and civil? Are we unwilling to learn? Is it heresy to question?

There is a growing dissatisfaction and feeling of disillusionment and disappointment with both religion and politics. To use the parlance of the day, their business model is broken. This is hardly surprising as they have allowed very little organisational change in hundreds of years.

We subsidise these two institutions to the tune of trillions of dollars every year. It’s time we demanded a productivity drive – changes have to be made. An efficiency dividend perhaps, or performance based payment? What is the return to stakeholders? If these were private companies, the entire board and management team would be sacked and new directions taken.

Experts warn that we are heading towards an apocalypse driven by climate change, resource depletion, environmental degradation, overpopulation, and income inequity, yet our two greatest institutions seem intent on ignoring these challenges in favour of power and greed.

Religions spend an enormous amount of time and money on worship – to what end? Recently, Pope Francis said

“We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money. The world has become an idolator of this god called money.”

A noble sentiment no doubt, but somewhat hypocritical when, each and every week, some of the poorest Catholics around the world contribute to the church’s unbelievable wealth.

The Catholic Church, once all her assets have been put together, is the most formidable stockbroker in the world. The Vatican has large investments with the Rothschilds of Britain, France and America, with the Hambros Bank, with the Credit Suisse in London and Zurich. In the United States it has large investments with the Morgan Bank, the Chase-Manhattan Bank, the First National Bank of New York, the Bankers Trust Company, and others. The Vatican has billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, T.W.A., etc. At a conservative estimate, these amount to more than 500 million dollars in the U.S.A. alone.

The Vatican’s treasure of solid gold has been estimated by the United Nations World Magazine to amount to several billion dollars. A large bulk of this is stored in gold ingots with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, while banks in England and Switzerland hold the rest. But this is just a small portion of the wealth of the Vatican, which in the U.S. alone, is greater than that of the five wealthiest giant corporations of the country. When to that is added all the real estate, property, artworks, stocks and shares worldwide, then the staggering accumulation of the wealth of the Catholic Church becomes so formidable as to defy any rational assessment making it one of the wealthiest institutions on Earth.

Avro Manhatten, in his book The Vatican Billions, said

“Jesus was the poorest of the poor. Roman Catholicism, which claims to be His church, is the richest of the rich, the wealthiest institution on earth. (…) How come, that such an institution, ruling in the name of this same itinerant preacher, whose want was such that he had not even a pillow upon which to rest his head, is now so top-heavy with riches that she can rival – indeed, that she can put to shame – the combined might of the most redoubtable financial trusts, of the most potent industrial super-giants, and of the most prosperous global corporations of the world?”

Their wealth is so big that they could create sustainable social programs to end famine on Earth; they have the power and the means to oppose wars; they have the financial resources to create an Eco-friendly planet — the biblical heaven on Earth. But how could they be willing to invest in “green technology” when they have huge investments in fossil fuel industries? In fact, wars perfectly suit their financial investments.

The church’s failure to remain relevant to today’s society, with its preoccupation with power and wealth accumulation, its adherence to celibacy, and its refusal to allow women in positions of authority, make it reminiscent of eunuch guards protecting an ancient temple of gold.

“And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!” Revelation 18:16

Government is the other institution with the means and duty to protect us. We collectively invest our money, entrusting them to make decisions in our best interests. This is not a loan to be handed out to big corporations, nor is it to payroll jobs for your mates or to use on private jets and chauffeured limousines to go to “social networking” functions.

We should not have to pay more to give Gina Rinehart a tax free zone in which to make billions from developing our resources whilst repealing the mining tax that might give us some return for our patrimony to help pay for the damage her coal will cause to the planet. We should not have to rely on the largesse of big corporations to give us a fair return on our money and assets.

We should not have to pay for politicians to use Parliament as a theatrical stage. This isn’t a high school debate we are having. If it was, the behaviour would be far better, the arguments more coherent, the speech far more eloquent, and it would actually address the arguments for and against the specific point. Each side would listen carefully to each other and try to find flaws in the opposition’s proposition. Real flaws, based on facts, not on personalities or spin.

“Chamber sitting” is a total waste of time. Speeches are ignored, question time is a debacle, debate is stage-managed or gagged, point-scoring by endless repetition is the mind-numbing methodology, and not one constructive thing is achieved other than voting on legislation, which could be done remotely.

Matters Not, an AIMN commenter with parliamentary experience, said

“The ‘common sense’ of Parliament is an historical hangover – relic of a past time when face-to-face communications was the only option. At one level it’s now a joke. But while voting can be done from afar the ‘socialising’ and ‘politicking’ cannot.”

Is this really what we are paying them for?

The amount of time and money that is wasted on polls, advertising, image consultants, spin doctors and message control is staggering. Hundreds of millions are spent by politicians on making themselves popular so they can get re-elected. What a fraudulent waste of our taxpayer money.

Tony Abbott’s expense entitlements as Opposition leader were over $1,000,000 each year. These include travel and office costs. When you consider all the parliamentarians, entitlements add up to a huge amount of money. I wonder how much we would save if the Finance Department had to approve all expenses before purchase and have them pay the bill rather than periodically accepting spurious claims for reimbursement from every MP. Perhaps better still, increase an MP’s salary by a specified amount and make them pay for everything from their own pocket. Bet that would put paid to weddings, private jets, trips to sporting events with your daughters, and custom made bookcases. It might also put people like Mark Textor and Peta Credlin out of a job making way for staff with useful expertise.

The official Federal Parliament website states that

“the most important change (to the Westminster system) since 1867 has been the growth of the party system. Nearly all members of the lower houses are now elected as representatives of political parties. Party discipline in all the parliaments has been greatly strengthened, and in some of the parliaments it is almost unknown for an MP to fail to support the agreed party position-that is, the position agreed by a majority of the parliamentary party. In some of the parties, an MP may be expelled from the party for failing to support the party line.”

In the last 150 years the most important change has been to form gangs that stifle debate and disenfranchise their members under threat of excommunication? The party system has become corrupt, susceptible to manipulation by wealthy donors, factional bullying, preselection and preference deals.

Imagine if we elected people on merit rather than party affiliation. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if each individual MP voted for what was best on the basis of expert advice and informed debate rather than being told how to vote to best serve your party’s donors. Gina can’t fund everyone’s campaign – well she could, but bribing 145 people is a lot harder than just bribing the leader of one party.

Our Parliament is hamstrung by archaic ceremony and tradition. This is very costly and extremely unproductive. In the 21st century surely we can come up with a better system.

So I say to our religious and political leaders, lift your game!

Religions of the world should remember that their core beliefs are basically the same and there should be interdenominational co-operation to preach and practice charity, tolerance, peace, and love.

“O mankind! We made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).” (The Qur’an 49:13)

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18 “

Politicians need to reminded of their job. They are our guardians given temporary stewardship of our wealth to provide for all Australian citizens and to fulfil our global responsibility as a prosperous nation. It is NOT their job to increase the wealth of a few at the expense of the many while spending every moment campaigning for re-election.

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” -Thomas Jefferson

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

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