Unless you own a newspaper or a mining company, or are happy to turn a blind eye to the erosion of our democratic values then it would be difficult to get an argument from you that the Abbott Government continues to go from bad to worse.
But one of worse characteristics of this government, and one that receives little attention, is its determination to silence any dissent. It is this silencing of dissent and the erosion of our democratic values that prompted ‘Joe W’ to write this letter to The AIMN:
I’m sick of being called anti-democratic, or a ‘sore loser’ (among other insults) over the election result and told to swallow this government’s lies whole. My response to this incorrect assertion and attempt to silence me is as follows: My complaint is not over the election result, rather how the election was won and that the Abbott Coalition is using this result as justification for the erosion of our democratic system. Here are a few examples off the top of my head from the few short months under the Abbottocracy:
1. Disbanding of expert governmental panels that give government best scientific and economic advice from which to enact policy, which is a way of not being held to account for their decision in the public forum e.g. Climate Council.
2. The disbanding of committees representing the people and front line workers of industries and peak bodies giving voice to policy debate – across the board – silencing the voice of the people in their respective fields e.g. law reform committee, alcohol and other drugs council.
3. The aggressive and threatening rhetoric directed towards the workers of Australian public agencies and expert committees, backed up by severe cuts and summary disbandment and sackings. Clearly designed to silence any dissent, even where it may be in the best interest of the Australian people, adhere to scientific reason and well-founded economic rationale e.g. latest example being the marine park authority.
4. The stacking of governmental panels with members with clear bias or conflict of interest, thus ensuring predetermined outcomes of the governments design. This is not democracy, it is exercise in the sanitation of dictatorship e.g. a panel of review into renewables headed by a fervent opponent of wind generated energy, yet another review into education dismissing the findings of Gonski and headed by an avowed critic of our open and secular curriculum, the head of the audit of budget being a representative of big business with a myriad of vested interest in privatization and corporate expansion.
5. Attacks upon the press, not just the unfounded accusations and threats leveled against the ABC but also mainstream commercial media, who are often derided into silence.
6. The attacks upon unions, which like it or not, represent the interests of Australian workers and their families – many whom have lost their jobs since the Coalition came to power e.g. setting up a royal commission against unions, bringing back tough Howard era restrictions and sanctions against union activities and members.
7. Increase costs to FOIs, increasing barriers for the press and individual citizens to be able to gain information on governmental action.
8. The increasingly secretive process of negotiations towards the TPP – signing over our nation’s sovereign rights to the interests of multinational corporations with no proper Senate oversight or representation in these negotiations for representatives for the interests of the Australian people.
9. Massive cuts to legal aid services. Equality before the law being a basic principal of democracy and expert representation essential to the rule of impartiality.
10. The undermining of international law and institutions designed to protect our freedoms, support peaceful, cohesive and productive relations, and to give forum to international negotiation and efforts towards constructive and sustainable objectives e.g. snubbing international climate change forum, dissing international conventions and siding with the perpetrators of the most blatant breaches against liberty.
11. Refusing to make government papers available to opposition parties (representative of the people) an act of refusal not once seen by the previous government, despite the numerous requests and attacks of Australia’s most aggressive opposition.
12. The labeling of any dissent or questioning as unpatriotic and insinuation of alignment with an ‘enemy’. The usage of the rhetoric of war in a time of peace as means of shutting down inquiry. The vilification of peoples, groups and attacks upon the right to protest and public assembly. The framing of discussion in terms of us and them and manipulation towards siding citizens against a common enemy. Fear mongering and the fanning of the flames of hate. The examples here being too numerous to mention but clearly designed to create a climate of fear over threats to our way of life and orchestrating a divisiveness preventing a reasoned examination of issues facing our nation.
Democracy encompasses more than one vote per person every 3 years. The points listed above clearly demonstrate the aggressive silencing of the people and an erosion of the institutions of democracy designed to give a voice to represent the interests of all Australian citizens.