Category: Democracy

Voter ID and dead cats – » The Australian Independent Media Network

To call Voter ID changes a “dead moggie” is very dangerous. Russian roulette was once called fun too until it wasn’t. That Idea is like the one thrown about decades ago, that the ABC was an unnecessary taxpayer burden and should be sold off. That grew to become LNP’s bullshit slogan  of “No Cuts to the ABC” in 2013 to 8 years of razor slices called by Treasurer Morrison “Efficiency Reviews”. A slip sliding of language which was a concerted effort to bring the “dead moggie” to life and “rid us of the ABC”. That LNP ideal outcome is now accepted as a normal LNP platform and practice and will continue to be forever more.

Changes to universal franchisement and compulsory voting can easily go the same way.  Yes, just another distraction, a “dead cat” that there really is no need for our Compulsory Voting system isn’t a hypothetical. Dead Cats have a habit of coming to life in the hands of the LNP,to become a normal part of our political ecosystem, labeled as “just debate” Beware!!

People that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. James McGrath is correct to a point when he suggested that politicians don’t have a good reputation. Demonstrably it has nothing to do with the election process but more to do with actions the politicians are alleged to take during the political parties’ pre-selection processes or after election. Is it too cynical to suggest that the sudden legislation requiring voters to provide identification prior to voting is Morrison’s version of Boris Johnson’s ‘dead cat strategy’ where a dramatic or sensational topic is introduced to a discussion, solely to distract attention from the inconvenient truth? What do you think?

Source: Voter ID and dead cats – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Supreme Court Ruling Delivers ‘Dark, Dark Day for Democracy’ | Common Dreams News


“We are now on a clear path to enshrining a constitutional right to anonymous spending in our democracy, and securing an upper hand for dark-money influence in perpetuity.”

Source: Supreme Court Ruling Delivers ‘Dark, Dark Day for Democracy’ | Common Dreams News

Republican State Legislatures Are Winning Their War On American Democracy | HuffPost

A Virtually Unprecedented Effort’ To Suppress The Vote Republican legislatures in 14 states have already passed 23 laws that placed new restrictions on voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Another 60 restrictive bills are moving through legislatures in 18 states, according to the Brennan Center’s legislative tracker. At the current pace, the U.S. will have more new voter suppression laws than in any year since 2011, when a rash of new voter ID provisions went onto the books.

Source: Republican State Legislatures Are Winning Their War On American Democracy | HuffPost

After Donald Trump, is American democracy out of the woods?

Donald Trump

Yes: While there is some shoring up to do, democratic institutions held, which bodes well for other advanced democracies like Australia. No: The Republican Party is the party of Trump and its frontal assault on democracy rolls on and on.

Source: After Donald Trump, is American democracy out of the woods?

Why U.S. Republicans are now adopting Putin-style “managed” democracy |

main article image

Utilizing Putin’s playbook, Republicans make a mockery of free and fair elections. Putin, for his part, falsified election results and “managed” the electoral process by limiting who – and which parties – could actually stand for elections.

In contrast, U.S. Republicans do their “managing” a bit more obscurely, but even more harmfully for the whole idea of democracy. They are actively engaged in a campaign to disenfranchise voters from ethnicities and geographies that are not promising “hunting grounds” for the Republicans.

Source: Why U.S. Republicans are now adopting Putin-style “managed” democracy |

The Solution to Labor Exploitation Is Workplace Democracy

At the very heart of our capitalist economic system is something grotesque: labor exploitation. That’s immoral — and we need some form of workplace democracy to undo it.

Source: The Solution to Labor Exploitation Is Workplace Democracy

Democracy Is Good, Actually

There are moments when even the most committed of democrats find themselves despairing of political democracy. But the system has proven again and again to be the last best hope of ordinary people in defending their pursuit of happiness against tyrants of all stripes — both public and private.

Democracy Is Good, Actually

Australian media policy: of the mates, by the mates, for the mates

The broad principle that Democracy needs to regulate private corporations is correct despite whose interests the LNP are working for in this instance Murdoch’s. Even if the broader principle is right but the specific case distasteful Democracy needs to be supported. The war against Murdoch, the LNP and the IPA needs to be attended to in another arena fuck it.

The news media bargaining code is part of the grand tradition of media policy being run in the interests of media proprietors — and with no heed given to the public benefit.

Australian media policy: of the mates, by the mates, for the mates

The “For the People Act” Would Make America a Democracy

The “For the People Act” Would Make America a Democracy
Temporary security fencing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. President-elect Joe Biden is set to arrive in Washington on Tuesday, the eve of his inauguration, with the usual backdrop of celebrations and political comity replaced by a military lockdown. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Without such a law empowering democracy, it’s unlikely any of that will ever happen. And the Democratic majority in the House will almost certainly be extinguished in the 2022 midterms, blocking the bill for the foreseeable future. It’s difficult to believe, based on its lamentable history of squabbling and in-fighting, that the Democratic Party will manage to hang together and pass a significant bill that’s both in their own obvious self-interest and in that of the country. But stranger things have happened, such as the fact that the For the People Act has gotten this far in the first place.

The “For the People Act” Would Make America a Democracy

America’s Transition Away from Democracy and the World’s Wave of De-Democratization

The US is wealthy per capita, so it should have a high chance of continuing to transit to more democracy, not less. So why is the place falling apart? Well, I called the system capitalist democracy, and that is increasingly a contradiction. American capitalism is unhealthily dominated by monopolies and is marching toward a world of billionaires on the one hand and of workers barely making it on the other. Economic insecurity has increased, which is associated with heightened racism as ethnic groups feel they are competing for a shrinking pie. Remember I said that in 2014 the losers in Libya’s election refused to go home or to acknowledge the rules of the game? And I said that then Libya fell into civil war? And now I am saying that in 2021 a substantial section of the Republican Party doesn’t want to go home after losing and also does not agree on the rules of the game? You do the math.

America’s Transition Away from Democracy and the World’s Wave of De-Democratization

Democracy or the white supremacist mob: which side is the Republican party on? | Donald Trump | The Guardian

capitol attack

Next week Republicans in Washington have one more chance to turn their backs on fascism. They could reject the laughable claims from Trump’s lawyers that he was merely exercising his free speech rights by telling his mob to march on Congress and fight like hell. Apparently such conduct does not constitute incitement to riot, because the word “incitement” has lost all relationship to reality. Nobody expects Republican senators to vote in enough numbers to convict Trump of the obvious charges that played out on television. Nobody expects enough of them to reject the violent overthrow of the democracy that put them in the Senate. They represent, to use Bush’s language, a hostile regime inside the nation’s capital. Until Republicans split with the insurrectionists – by ejecting them from their party or forming their own – democracy itself is unsafe.

Democracy or the white supremacist mob: which side is the Republican party on? | Donald Trump | The Guardian

Maybe now the U.S. should stop talking down to the World about “Democracy Promotion”

These precautions are eminently sensible, given the threat of right-wing violence. And the last thing the new administration wants on its first day of office is to hold a very visible super-spreader event in the nation’s capital. But it’s not a good look for American democracy when the peaceful handover of power has the appearance of a banana republic installing a tinpot dictator—or resembles the America of 1861, for that matter, when a huge security presence at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration presaged the outbreak of civil war.

Maybe now the U.S. should stop talking down to the World about “Democracy Promotion”

‘A Big Deal’: Lawmakers Reintroduce Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United | Common Dreams News

Attendees hold signs as they listen to speakers during a rally calling for an end to corporate money in politics and to mark the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, at Lafayette Square near the White House, January 21, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

We cannot allow the wealthiest individuals and corporations to flood our elections with cash through complex webs of super PACs and dark money groups that put special interests above the will of the American people.”

‘A Big Deal’: Lawmakers Reintroduce Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United | Common Dreams News

Lobbyland: ten lobbyists for every MP has democracy on life support – Michael West

Lobbyland, lobbying, lobbyists

The resources industry donated $136.8 million over two decades to Australian political parties. Donations buy a lot of influence, with research showing that for every US$1 spent, the return on investment can be as high as US$220. In return, public policy is routinely moulded to suit the highest corporate bidders and their lobbyists. Adam Lucas investigates.

Lobbyland: ten lobbyists for every MP has democracy on life support – Michael West

The Pandemic Has Exposed the Free Market’s Fundamental Flaws. We Need a Democratically Planned Economy.

The Pandemic Has Exposed the Free Market’s Fundamental Flaws. We Need a Democratically Planned Economy. By Hadas Thier As COVID-19 cases skyrocket again, hospitals remain understaffed and PPE and ventilators are still in short supply. We can’t leave people’s basic needs up to the whims of profit-seeking actors — we need democratic planning.

The Pandemic Has Exposed the Free Market’s Fundamental Flaws. We Need a Democratically Planned Economy.

ICE Raids, Asylum Seekers and the Othering of People of Color | The Smirking Chimp

English speaking governments backed by Murdoch media have broken International Laws Human Rights Laws and diminished the meaning of Democracy faster than in any time since WW2

via ICE Raids, Asylum Seekers and the Othering of People of Color | The Smirking Chimp

The Truth About Islam and Democracy

Hundreds of millions of Muslims the world over live in democracies of some shape or form, from Indonesia to Malaysia to Pakistan to Lebanon to Tunisia to Turkey. Tens of millions of Muslims live in — and participate in — Western democratic societies. The country that is on course to have the biggest Muslim population in the world in the next couple of decades is India, which also happens to be the world’s biggest democracy. Yet a narrative persists, particularly in the West, that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Islam is often associated with dictatorship, totalitarianism, and a lack of freedom, and many analysts and pundits claim that Muslims are philosophically opposed to the idea of democracy. On this week’s show, Mehdi Hasan is joined by the man expected to become Malaysia’s next prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, and by Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, to discuss Islam, Muslims, and democracy.

via The Truth About Islam and Democracy

Where Does Truth Fit into Democracy? | The Nation

This is, admittedly, a project fraught with peril. The line between enhanced rules and regulations for communication and the repressive abridgment of free speech can all too easily be transgressed, especially when the power to regulate falls into the wrong hands. In addition, such projects can easily backfire, as increasing regulation feeds conspiracy theories about government control and makes it easier than ever for populist firebrands to depict mainstream reporting and opinion as “fake news.” In the end, the most effective way to address the problem is to restrain the economic power of the companies and interests that profit most directly from populist attacks on epistemological authority, as well as the underlying distributions of power that have led to the current popular discontent.

But even as progressive forces work toward this long-term goal, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are not about to start moderating their opinions, and Facebook and Twitter are unlikely to do much to regulate themselves, no matter how much earnest criticism they receive in The New York Times. It is also time to start serious discussions about how to keep the immensely powerful communications forces unleashed in the past generation from immeasurably harming the public good. These are discussions to be entered into carefully, judiciously, moderately. But they are important to have. Far more important, it might be added, than placing bets on when Donald Trump hits the 10,000th lie of his presidency.

via Where Does Truth Fit into Democracy? | The Nation

Outgoing Republican Governor strips power from Democrat who beat him

The New Democracy “Fuck the People” The Napthine Government was way earlier than Scott Walker. They signed contracts before the freeway vote amd the LNP has still witheld $3 Bill in a blackmail tactic trying to get the Victorian electorate to vote their way. The effects of those tactics Victorians are still paying for. Walker has taken it on step further he’s pushing through bills after the election results are known. (ODT)

Outgoing Republican Governor strips power from Democrat who beat him

Greek cleaning lady jailed for 10 years for faking diploma

Image result for Image of greece the foundation of Democracy

The Foundation of Democracy and our Justice System (ODT)

A Greek cleaning lady has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for fibbing about her elementary school record in a court ruling which has provoked uproar in the country.

via Greek cleaning lady jailed for 10 years for faking diploma

Malaysia and Indonesia are bucking the global trend on democracy | Indonesia | Al Jazeera

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad are seen outside the National Palace, a day after the general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 10, 2018 [File: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]


Much of the world may be having its doubts about democracy. Even in the Asia Pacific’s veteran democracy Australia, a recent poll showed that a third of the population favoured an authoritarian or “strongman” type leader. But in the Muslim Malay world, it looks like democracy is here to stay.

Source: Malaysia and Indonesia are bucking the global trend on democracy | Indonesia | Al Jazeera

Beth Noveck on how open data and direct democracy could restore our faith in politics – Politics – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

An illustration shows a crowd of people passing large dice with a yes or no choice.

Democracy if it’s broke fix it (ODT)

Beth Noveck on how open data and direct democracy could restore our faith in politics – Politics – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Disinformation destroys democracy – » The Australian Independent Media Network

The internet is both wonderful and wicked.  The world’s combined knowledge is at our fingertips, as is its debauchery.  It is so much easier to find things out and so much harder to sort out the truth from the lies. We tend to live in echo chambers, seeking out the information that confirms our world…

Source: Disinformation destroys democracy – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Dethroning The Oligarchs: How We Can Reclaim Our Democracy – New Matilda

OPINION: Yesterday, Liam McLoughlin exposed the oligarchs. Today, he’s trying to get rid of them.  They will endure poverty, servitude, barbarism – but they will not endure aristocracy. -French political theorist Alexis De Tocqueville writing about democratic communities. Australian politics is now a contest between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten over who does the bestMore

Source: Dethroning The Oligarchs: How We Can Reclaim Our Democracy – New Matilda

The “Democracy” of Billionaires & the Most Expensive Election ever Bought (Except for Bernie Sanders) | Informed Comment

By Nomi Prins | ( | – – Speaking of the need for citizen participation in our national politics in …

Source: The “Democracy” of Billionaires & the Most Expensive Election ever Bought (Except for Bernie Sanders) | Informed Comment

Political fundraising can’t be left to trust

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Our system of democracy relies on transparency. If vested interests can get closer to power by donating money, then the public has a right to know about it.

The refusal by federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent to answer questions about his multiple attendances at political fundraisers hosted or organised by an alleged Mafia boss underlines why the system of political fundraising in Australia needs an overhaul.

If politicians will not answer these questions, and our system of disclosure shines no light on them, then the public must place its faith in the phrase: “Trust me, I’m a politician.”

Our system of democracy relies on transparency. If vested interests can get closer to power by donating money, the public has a right to know about it. But the current disclosure system only forces a donor to declare a donation over $12,800.

When pressed, many politicians are reluctant to shed light about fundraising events or the true motivations of donors.

According to barrister Geoffrey Watson SC, who is the counsel assisting the NSW corruption watchdog ICAC, many who donate want the ear of a politician and a chance to influence a political decision – access not open to non-donors. Watson says the checks and balances around this money-for-access system are abysmal.

For his part, Broadbent is unwilling to explain how much he or his party received in donations linked to Mafia. The public is also left guessing about the motivation of these donors.

As early as the 1990s, Broadbent was being cultivated as a political contact by certain Calabrian fruit wholesalers, including Tony Madafferi. Police have repeatedly alleged in open court that Madafferi is an organised crime figure. For Broadbent, there should have been obvious warning signs around Madafferi, the donor, including the fact that Madafferi or his associates were after something from their political contacts.

Broadbent started going to fundraisers with Tony Madafferi at the same time Madafferi and his associates were lobbying Broadbent and other politicians to help get a visa for Madafferi’s criminal brother, Frank, who police wanted to deport back to Italy because he was a violent Mafia thug. (Tony Madafferi was named in court proceedings by police throughout the 1990s as a suspected crime figure, but, unlike Frank, he has no criminal convictions and denies any wrongdoing.)

Because Broadbent will not answer questions, it is hard to know when the Liberal MP first learnt of the serious (and public) criminal allegations about Tony or Frank Madafferi.

Broadbent has also not explained why he attended a 2004 fundraiser hosted by Tony Madafferi and attended by other alleged crime figures, and which was held – at least in part – to thank the politicians who had taken an interest in the Frank Madafferi visa campaign. Also attending this fundraiser were other Liberal MPs (including Bruce Billson, who said last week he was deceived by a Liberal donor about Frank Madafferi’s past) who had lobbied to get Frank Madafferi a visa on the grounds that his deportation to Italy would affect his wife and children.

Further, Broadbent has not explained why he invited Tony Madafferi to his Parliament House office, or why he dined with him in the Parliament House dining suite.

All Broadbent has said, in seemingly selective comments given to the ABC, is that he did not lobby to get Frank Madafferi a visa. Perhaps “lobbying” is too strong a word.

But Broadbent did allow Tony Madafferi and his supporters, who also happened to be Liberal donors, to meet him and, on at least one occasion, to make their case. Broadbent also contacted the immigration minister’s office and inquired whether such a visa could be granted.

It is logical to believe the Madafferis and their associates believed Broadbent had taken an interest in the visa matter and could potentially use his power to assist, whether he was willing to or not.

Watson says the visa lobbying shows that “for no better reason than the making of donations to a political party, specific representations were able to be put to the most powerful politicians in the land”.

Broadbent has also offered no explanation as to why he attended a 2013 Liberal Party fundraiser hosted by Tony Madafferi and held in a reception centre part-owned by his drug-dealing brother, Frank.

By then, it was pretty hard not to know that Tony Madafferi was an alleged crime figure. It had been splashed all over the papers and aired in court. Much of the coverage was to do with the fact Frank Madafferi had won his visa battle. He was granted the right to stay in Australia in November 2005 on humanitarian grounds by the then immigration minister Amanda Vanstone, despite police warning he was a nasty gangster. Frank Madafferi was later arrested for drug trafficking and is now in jail.

Broadbent presumably knew some of this when he wandered into Tony Madafferi’s 2013 fundraising event. So how many donations did the Liberal Party receive at this event? And how many goods and services did Tony Madafferi also donate (remember, he and his brother Frank own the reception centre where the fundraiser was held)?

No one knows the answers to these questions, because the individual amounts donated fell below the disclosure threshold. It is also impossible to know what, if anything, donors asked of the politicians in the room (including the unwitting guest speaker, Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy).

If politicians will not answer these questions, and our system of disclosure shines no light on them, then the public must place its faith in the phrase: “Trust me, I’m a politician.”

But not even top Liberal Party fundraisers are buying this any more. After the recent revelations about the Mafia’s political donations, former chief Liberal fundraiser Michael Yabsley called for major reforms and warned the system is vulnerable to corruption. He says donations should be capped at a few hundred dollars and many organisations should be banned from giving them.

Federal Labor MP Gary Gray has also highlighted Labor’s voluntary declaration of any donation over $1000, while urging the Abbott government to back an overhaul. The minister responsible, Michael Ronaldson, has, so far at least, said this is not necessary.

So how did Broadbent respond to our latest effort, just this week, to get him to answer questions about the stench his own actions have created? Just silence. Which, to me at least, translates into: “Trust me, I’m a politician.”

Nick McKenzie is an Age staff reporter.

I have a dream: More honesty and less Murdoch

Rodney E. Lever has a dream that, before 2016, one of the main parties can offer a rational solution to deter any more megalomaniacs from wrecking all our freedoms, all our hopes and all our future.

“I have a dream, today.” 

Some people will recall that Martin Luther King Jnr opened his most famous speech with those words in 1963. He was demanding fairness for the black people of America — the slaves who had provided much labor that was to make America the wealthiest nation on the planet.

In Australia, it was convicts that Britain sent who would help to build the beginnings of our nation in New South Wales. There were also islander people brought here – some voluntarily, but also also many through “blackbirding” – to help cut sugar cane in colonial Queensland.

There were the coal miners from England who came here after they had been permanently blackballed by their owners when they begged for better wages and safer working conditions. One of them was Andrew Fisher, who was three times prime minister of Australia.

Then there were the shearers, thrown out of work when they protested at the importation of cheap Chinese shearers.

These were issues that resulted in the formation of the Australian Labor Party in 1891 under the “Tree of Knowledge” in Barcaldine, Queensland. It was the era of Waltzing Matilda, Banjo Patterson and the Melbourne Cup, and the beginning of Australia as we know it today.

We have a proud freedom of the press, unwritten and unspoken. And we have a Murdoch press that exploits that freedom by telling lies, and in Britain engages in raw criminality and bribery and fear.

There are regulations which affect television and radio, but no regulation of our press. Rupert Murdoch began to abuse the freedom of the press as no one before him had ever done.

Fairness and freedom are words that often go together. It gets trickier once you talk about freedom of the press and that extends to other forms of communication never thought of when the United States ratified its Constitution in 1787.

Four years later, in 1891, the fathers of the Constitution added the First Amendment:

‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…’

That did it! The cat was out of the bag.

We don’t in Australia have any formal acknowledgement of press freedoms. We just take it for granted because it generally had worked well.

Rupert Murdoch treated us like suckers. He showed his view of freedoms as his right, not the right of his readers. In Australia, then in Britain and then in America, no one could touch him. The U.S. Constitution had opened the door to all media, even though the Constitution only says “the press” and the rest of the English speaking world seemed to accept it.

In Australia, Murdoch owns three quarters of all the major newspapers. No one has ever freely exerted that kind of power before — perhaps not even Hitler and Stalin.

Never before have we seen one magnate grow up so quickly and then turn the country’s media into a personal fiefdom, bullying and abusing politicians, and crashing electoral traditions. The politicians on both sides of the major media let him get away with it. The rest of us have had no say at all, except many choosing not to buy the rubbish and looking elsewhere for news..

In Britain, Murdoch has far more competition, but one of his papers, The Sun, has the largest readership and is powerful enough to change governments according to wherever he can get the best deal. It has nothing to do with press freedom and all to do with wealth and personal power over politicians and the lives of people.

He dumped Labor in Britain last year in the interest of accessing the full ownership of Britain’s largest commercial television service. TV has always been a licence to print money. After supporting the Blair and Brown Labor government for six years, Murdoch switched his support to David Cameron’s Conservatives only after Cameron was able to snare another party into coalition and to promise that Murdoch would get his wish for total ownership of BSkyB.

In Australia’s Constitution there is no mention of freedom of our press.

It does, however, state that

“… the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.”

Both Sir Frank Packer and Kerry Packer were called to a parliamentary inquiry at different times. Both fired back at the questions they were asked and gave as good an argument as the drubbing they received.

I remember another occasion when R. G. Menzies was prime minister. He had the Speaker, Archie Cameron, order the arrest of a publisher named Frank Browne and his partner. They were called before Parliament and charged with contempt because of something written in their modest weekly paper. They served a short prison sentence, as I recall, which is better than a flogging.

So much for freedom of the press in Australia.

If Australia does not formally offer total press freedom as a Constitutional given, then opportunities are there for the next Parliament and Senate to argue about it, but only as long as they keep Murdoch at bay.

Some form of legislation must surely be possible to protect the rights of readers, over any rights of publishers. Voters want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They don’t want funny headlines.

Relying on an Australian Press Council to constrain its own members is a little like playing with a piranha in your bathtub.

Our best hope for the 2016 election is that one or the other party can offer a rational political solution to deter any more megalomaniacs from wrecking all our freedoms, all our hopes and all our future. This could be the main issue next year. I hope so.

You can follow Rodney Lever on Twitter @RodneyELever.

2015 The End of Australian Democracy?

museum of democracyaustralian democracy

In the recipe of what a democracy is there are many ingredients but simply explained it is a political system where like-minded people come together to form ideas that become a philosophy. They then become the foundation of political parties. These ideologies pull in different directions in a quest for majority approval by the people. It is a far from perfect system that has variations all around the world. It is elastically flexible, (we even have democratic dictatorships), unpredictable and at its worst, violent and extremely combative.

At its best it is noble, constructive and generally serves society well. It is very much better than the next best thing and accommodates diagonally opposed ideas, extreme or otherwise. All in all it’s an imperfect beast that has served us well. Yes it’s government for the people by the people.

Common to most Western Democracies (and in the absence of anything better) it has a capitalistic economic system.

In Australia the right to vote is the gift that democracy gives and people are free to vote for whichever party (or individual) they support but overriding this is the fact that people cannot possibly believe in democracy, if at the same time they think their party is the only one that should ever win.

A clear indication of an Australian Democracy in decline is the fact that people are giving up this voting gift, literally saying:

“A pox on both your houses”.

Three million did so at the last election by not voting.
Our political system is in crisis because our solicitations fail to speak with any clarity on issues that concern people.

Moreover, an enlightened democracy should provide the people with a sense of purposeful participation. It should forever be open to regular improvement in its methodology and its implementation. Its constitutional framework should be exposed to periodical revision and renewal, compromise and bi-partisanship when the common good cries out for it.

But above all its function should be, that regardless of ideology the common good should be served first and foremost. A common good healthy democracy serves the collective from the ground up rather than a top down democracy that exists to serve secular interests. One that is enforced by an elite of business leaders, politicians and media interests who have the power to enforce their version. That is fundamentally anti-democratic.

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 is currently sinking in a quagmire of American Tea Party Republicanism.

tea party

I am not a political scientist, historian or a trained journalist. I write this as a disgruntled and concerned citizen because it seems to me that the Australian democracy I grew up with no longer exists. The demise of Australian Democracy has its origins in a monumental shift by both major parties to the right with the result that neither seem to know exactly what it is they stand for. They are now tainted with sameness.

The Liberal Party has been replaced by neo Conservatism actively asserting individual identity against a collective one and old style Liberalism no longer has a voice. There is little or no difference between the Liberals and the National Party who seem irrelevant as a political force.

Conservatives have gone down the path of inequality with a born to rule mentality that favors the rich.

“The whole logic of the “lifters” and “leaners” rhetoric so favoured by the current Government is a distillation of the idea of that there is no such thing as society, that we and only we are responsible for our own circumstances”.
Tim Dunlop.

The Labor Party needs to rid itself of an out-dated socialist objective and invest in a social philosophical common good instead. And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.

The major parties have become fragmented with Labor losing a large segment of its supporters to the Greens whilst the LNP is being undermined by rich populist Clive Palmer in the style of Berlusconi.

In terms of talent both parties are represented by party hacks of dubious intellectual talent without enough female representation and worldly work life experience. Both 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 have come out of the Union Movement or in the case of the LNP, staffers who have come up through the party.

Our Parliament, its institutions and conventions have been so trashed by Tony Abbott in particular that people have lost faith in the political process and their representatives. Ministerial responsibility has become a thing of the past.

aust parliament

Question time is just an excuse for mediocre minds who are unable to 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 others 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 showcase of the Parliament and is badly in need of 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 all focusing on illegal sickening behavior. There is no reason to doubt that the stench of NSW doesn’t waffle its way through the corridors of the National Parliament and into the highest offices.

And 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 it was lost in power struggles, undignified self-interest and narcissistic personality.

The pursuit of power for power’s sake and the retention of it has so engulfed political thinking that the people have become secondary and the common good dwells somewhere in the recesses of small minds lacking the capacity for good public policy that achieves social equity.

Our voting system is badly in need of an overhaul. When one party, The Greens attracts near enough to the same 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.

murdoch media

One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without at the same time aligning it to the collapse in journalistic standards and its conversion from reporting to opinion. 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.

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 to bloggers who more reflect a grass roots society. Writers with who they can agree or differ but have the luxury of doing so. As a result newspapers in particular have degenerated into gutter political 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 decent democratic illumination. They even promote free speech as if they are the sole custodian of it.

There are three final things that 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 believes that the effect of lying diminishes over time and therefore is a legitimate political tool. So much so that his words and actions bring into question the very worthiness of the word truth. Or he has at least devalued it to the point of obsolesce.

The budget will be remembered for one thing. That it has given approval for and overwhelmingly legitimised lying as a political and election contrivance.
Mr Abbott has long 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.”

On the eve of the last election, after crucifying Prime Minister Julia Gillard daily for three years, Abbott made this solemn promise:

“There will be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS”.

This is an unambiguous statement that cannot be interpreted any differently than what the words mean. To do so is telling one lie in defense of another.
In the budget he broke them all. As a result, a rising stench of hypocrisy and dishonesty has engulfed the Abbott prime minister-ship. When you throw mud in politics some of it inevitably sticks but there is a residue that adheres to the chucker. That is now Abbott’s dilemma but the real loser is our democracy. In Australian political history Abbott’s legacy will be that he empowered a period emblematic of a nasty and ugly period in our politics.

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 with unmistakable anger the decline in our democracy.
People need to wake up to the fact that government effects every part of their life (other than what they do in bed) and should be more concerned. But there is a political malaise that is deep seated. Politicians of all persuasions must be made to pay for their willful destruction of our democracy.
Good democracies can deliver good governments and outcomes only if the electorate demands it.

You get what you vote for rings true.

Lastly but importantly we need to educate our final year school leavers (the voters of tomorrow) with an indebtedness and fundamental appreciation of democracy. A focus group I held recently at a nearby college revealed two things. One was that our young people are conversant with societal issues and have strong opinions grounded in clear observation. They cannot however place them into a logical political framework because (two) they are not adequately informed about political dogma and its place in the workings of a democracy.

We deserve better than what we have at the moment. However, if we are not prepared to raise our voices then our democracy will continue to decline and the nation and its people will suffer the consequences.

Part two. Opinions

Three books have recently been published that address the state of our democracy. The first ‘’Triumph and Demise’’ is by The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly. In the final chapter Kelly suggests that our political system is in trouble and that, if that is the case, then by definition so are we. The Prime Minister launched the book and in doing so fundamentally disagreed with the authors assertions.

Paul kelly
“Paul suggests that the relentless negativity of our contemporary conversation, the culture of entitlement that he thinks has sprung up over the last decade or so, means that good government has become difficult, perhaps impossible’’

“It’s not the system which is the problem, it is the people who from time-to-time inhabit it. Our challenge at every level is to be our best selves.”

In the first quote two words, negativity and entitlement jump out at you. Not necessarily in the context of the difficulty of governance, he was alluding to, but rather as self-descriptive character analysis. He could not have chosen two better words to describe his own footprint on the path to our democratic demise.

The second is a disingenuous, even sarcastic swipe at his opponents that leaves no room for self-examination or blame for his own period as opposition leader and later as Prime Minister in particular. And in another indignant self-righteous swipe he said that Labor was “much better at politics than government.”

These are quotes by Kelly at the launch.

Kelly said he increasingly felt there were “real problems” with the mechanics of the political system as he worked on his book.

“I have always believed in the quality of leadership. I have always felt that leadership was fundamental … to the success of the country,” Kelly said.

“I do think the system today makes governing, and in particular serious reform, more difficult, and I think the record does show that.”

I have not read the book but I agree entirely with his diagnosis. In the first quote I believe he is referring to a breakdown in the conventions and institutional arrangements of our democracy.

The second is a general commentary on the dearth of leadership over the past decade or so. Although he was a Howard supporter and he has recently said this of Abbott.

“Abbott is governing yet he is not persuading. So far. As Prime Minister he seems unable to replicate his success as Opposition leader: mobilising opinion behind his causes. The forces arrayed against Abbott, on issue after issue, seem more formidable than the weight the prime minister can muster.”

The third quote is a direct reference to the 24/7 News cycle and negativity as a means of obtaining power.

The second book ‘’The Political Bubble’’ by Mark Latham also addresses the state of our democracy.

3649 Political Bubble CVR SI.indd

‘’Australians once trusted the democratic process. While we got on with our lives, we assumed our politicians had our best interests at heart’’

He suggests that trust has collapsed. In this book, he freely explores and travels up and down every road of our democratic map. On the journey he talks about how democracy has lost touch with the people it’s supposed to represent. Like a fast talking cab driver he gives view on how politics has become more tribal with left and right wing politics being dominated by fanatical extremists.

An entire chapter is devoted to how Tony Abbott promised to restore trust in Australian politics and how he failed to keep his promises. Another chapter is devoted to what can be done about fixing the democratic deficit as he calls it.

‘’Can our parliamentary system realign itself with community expectations or has politics become one long race to the bottom?’’

The Rise and Fall of Australia

The third, and more recent book, by Nick Bryant (BBC correspondent and author) aptly titled The Rise and Fall of Australia ‘’How a great Nation lost its way’ ’takes a forensic look at the lucky country from inside and out. The most impressive thing about this book, besides the directness of his observations and astuteness of his writing, is that what is being said is an outsider’s point of view. He is not constrained by the provincial restrictions of self-analysis. Instead he offers his take on what he calls

‘’the great paradox of modern-day Australian life: of how the country has got richer at a time when its politics have become more impoverished.’’

Another important contribution to the democracy debate is this piece by Joseph Camilleri ‘’Democracy in crisis’’ I highly recommend this thoughtful article for a comprehensive outline of what ails our democracy.

I have alluded to these works, not as a review of each, but rather to highlight a growing concern over the state of our democracy.

There is no doubt in my mind if one looks at all the ingredients that go into forming a strong democracy, and you make a list of ingredients, the traditional recipe is no longer working. Or it has been corrupted by inferior ingredients.

At the risk of repeating myself, take for example the seemingly uncontrollable bias and market share of Murdoch. A desire for unaccountable free speech that is weighted toward, extremism. The attack on the conventions and institutions of parliament by the Prime Minister. The precedent of invoking Royal Commissions into anything as a means of retribution. The rise of fanatical right wing partisan politics and media. The decline in parliamentary respect and behavior. Add to that the right wings dismissive contempt for feminism.

Corporate sway and the pressure of the lobbyist can also be added to the mix, together with the voice of the rich that shouts the voice of inequality. The idea that with political servitude comes entitlement via financial benefit and privilege. And you can throw in the power of personalities over policy within the mainstream parties. Then there is the uninhibited corruption from both major parties. Then there is the acceptance by both sides that negativity is the only means of obtaining power.

But at the top of the list is the malaise of the population. Although we have compulsory voting 3million people at the last election felt so disgusted with our democracy that they felt more inclined to have a beer at the pub, or mow the lawn than cast a vote for Australian democracy.

If we are to save our democracy we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should tell the truth.

Others have also written on the subject. Democracy and diversity: media ownership in Australia

Budget Crisis or Crisis in Democracy
Another by me.

Democracy Usurped
ByJohn Kelly