What if our politicians had to tell the truth? (#ItsTime)
Imagine a world where our politicians suffered real consequences when they mislead the public with a lie. A world where politicians had to work together like civil adults – instead of tearing each other apart like badly behaved toddlers. In other words – imagine a world where politicians had to live by the same standards that we do.
For too long we’ve accepted politicians’ lies and childlike behaviour as normal. For too long we’ve accepted that our politicians are untouchable – protected by law and power from having to change.
“That’s what elections are for” our politicians argue.
The problem with that argument is that the issue is systemic. The way our pollies behave is built into the laws, conventions and traditions that govern them – many of which have been in place for hundreds of years. This is why changing ‘who’ is in parliament at election time seems to have very little impact on ‘what’ politicians the world over do – leaving us feeling frustrated, helpless and disillusioned about those we choose to govern us.
Well I’ve got some good news. It turns out – for those of us in functioning democracies at least – we’re not as powerless as we’ve been led to believe. The tide has turned a little this century and we – the average punter – have much more power to make change happen, right from the comfort of our living rooms.
Here’s why we need to. And more importantly – how…..
As a species, we’ve made huge leaps forward in the last 150 years…
If you think back over the last 150 years – mankind has progressed on so many fronts. We’ve harnessed electricity to power our homes. We’ve gone to the moon. We’ve cured diseases that once wiped out hundreds of thousands. We’ve run the four minute mile. We’ve learned how to share knowledge and connect with each other through devices we carry around on our person. Our human rights record has even improved – albeit slowly.
But there’s one front where mankind has made little progress…
Despite all this progress on a physical and intellectual level, there’s one aspect of mankind that has hung doggedly onto the traditions of the past – and that’s our political culture, the way those who lead us, our politicians, behave.
Stop and think about it for two seconds. If there’s one thing we can pretty much all agree on, regardless of your political orientation or whether you have any interest in politics whatsoever – it’s that our politicians’ behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. All over the world you can easily find examples of politicians behaving, well like toddlers. Ok – worse than toddlers:
If they’re not fighting physically – our politicians are calling each other names, heckling each other and generally looking at how they can make anyone not from their own political faction look bad. Here’s comedian Shaun Micallef with some examples from last year in the Australian parliament:
And it’s not just the fighting – it’s the lies. Politicians can literally lie with impunity. Unlike the rest of us, they are specifically excluded from having to be truthful in their advertising. Nor are they subject to the same defamation laws the rest of us are. They can legally get up in parliament and say pretty much whatever they like without fear of fine, civil lawsuit or imprisonment. And because we’re so used to it now, most of us don’t even blink an eye. In the words of one Australian Political Commentator:
“Pretty much everyone assumes that once they see a politicians lips move, that means you’re not necessarily going to hear the truth” (Niki Savva, Insiders, 2015)
It’s easy to shrug this off – many people do. Many people feel that they can do nothing about this, that their vote doesn’t count – that politicians are untouchable – so they just accept it.
But politicians are our leaders – the ones in charge. They are the people we elect to represent us, to determine the future of mankind on this planet. We should have people in charge of our countries who represent and are examples of the best of humanity – not the worst.
Our politicians are still living by rules from the Middle ages
Our Prime Minister speaks of innovation – it’s the new buzz word in politics. But our politicians are still living out political traditions from the Middle Ages – literally. In fact, according to Maurice Bond, OBE, FSA – who wrote the book on British parliamentary procedure:
“In general…there have been few changes in the basic rules of [parliamentary] debate since the days of Elizabeth I”
Elizabeth I reigned over Britain in the late 16th century. And yet the rules of British parliamentary debate – which have formed the basis of the rules used by many current democracies around the world (including Australia) – have not changed. The same is true in other areas of parliamentary behaviour.
Imagine if we behaved the way our politicians do…
To grasp exactly how absurd politicians’ behaviour is – how out of touch it is with current standards – let’s imagine what life would be like if companies today operated the way parliament does:
Imagine you are a shareholder in a company of 100 employees who build widgets. Now imagine that rather than all 100 employees working together to build widgets, only 60 of them are actually involved in widget production. We’ll call them ‘the Controllers’.
The job of the remaining 40 employees – who we will call ‘the Opposers’ – is to sit around and heckle the Controllers and occasionally call press conferences to tell shareholders what a bad job the Controllers are doing running the company.
In our imaginary world, when the Controllers and Opposers get together at company meetings, they do very little company business. Instead they shout at each other, call each other names and accuse each other of various atrocities.
Keep going with this – and imagine that widget production is way down on expected targets and so are widget sales. (Hardly surprising – given that only 60% of staff are actually building widgets and that the remaining 40% of staff spend their time talking about how bad the company’s widgets are.)
However, rather than trying to fix the actual problem, the Controllers embark on an advertising campaign. They run an ad saying their widgets are half the price of any other widget on the market, and that there are serious health risks with their competitor’s widgets which will likely lead to the early death of anyone who purchases them. (Not true of course – in fact the company’s widgets are the most expensive on the market, and their competitors’ widgets are perfectly safe – but in our imaginary world, the company can behave like politicians, so truth in advertising is not a requirement.)
Now imagine that you and the other shareholders are becoming concerned about the way things are going. You’ve heard the press releases from the Opposers saying the company’s widgets are really bad. You’ve seen the ads which you know are not true. You go to the Shareholder meeting hoping to get some answers, but every time anyone asks a question, the Controllers either don’t answer the question, tell you something which is demonstrably untrue or say it’s not their fault anyway – that it was the Opposers who did it.
Finding it hard to imagine?
That’s not surprising. Because if the rest of us behaved like our politicians do – we’d be fired, fined a lot of money and/or locked up in jail. And the widget company would go out of business pretty quickly. After all, who would buy something from a company whose own employees hold press conferences spelling out what a bad job they are doing? And what company would think it a good idea to pay 40% of its employees to heckle the remaining 60%.
In the real world, real people learn to compromise – to work with people they don’t always agree with. The good ones even recognise that working with people who have different opinions to themselves can be a strength as they provide a different perspective.
In the real world, if a company or an individual misrepresents themselves to the public for financial gain, or lies to their boss or shareholders – it’s called fraud – and they can be heavily fined, sued for their lies and sometimes even jailed.
We’re all pretty much agreed that the politicians that we – the people – employ to run our country are, on the whole, doing a pretty poor job of it. So what needs to change?
For a start – politicians need to start playing by the same rules that we do.
It’s time. It’s time that our politicians stepped out of their medieval ivory towers and moved into the 21st century, and lived by the same rules that we do.
While many politicians like to act as though they are our rulers, in a democracy their job is to represent and serve us. Ministers swear an oath when they take office in Australia, promising to ‘serve the people‘. They are our servants. We hire them. We pay their salary. And once every few years we decide which servants still have a job.
It’s time we demand our servants – our politicians – change. Let’s get them to start with two basic small steps:
Step One: Stop lying and stick to the facts
It’s time our politicians were required to work with facts rather than political spin. It’s time to eliminate the laws that allow politicians to lie to us or ‘misrepresent’ the truth. If a company lies in an advertisement, they can be prosecuted and fined by the ACCC. If you or I lie in an advertisement to sell a car, the person who bought the car could sue us. If a company director lies, they can go to jail.
It’s time these same standards applied to politicians – not just in advertisements, but in any representations they make to us, particularly at election time. And if they don’t tell us the truth – then they should be prosecuted, fined and/or lose their jobs.
Along the same lines, we should remove laws that protect politicians from defamation – again, they should be bound by the same rules as the rest of us.
Step Two: Behave like adults (and not children)
Here’s three fairly simple steps that the rest of us all have to live by in our workplaces:
- No heckling, fighting and name-calling:
Politicians are hired to run the country, not to heckle each other and point-score. And every single person sitting in that parliament has been voted in by us, the people who pay those politicians’ salaries. When politicians disrespect each other they are disrespecting us – since we voted them in.
- Learn to compromise and work together:
It’s ridiculous that we pay people to heckle and that only the ‘majority’ get to ‘govern’. Ok – it’s not quite that simple – but that is a big part of their job. We pay all our politicians to govern us – they should work out how to come together and do the job we pay them to do. In the real world we all learn to work together. It’s time that ALL elected representatives in parliament get real input and a real say, and that parliament is a real place of debate and discussion – not just a place where laws that have already been decided upon behind the closed doors of cabinet meetings are rubber-stamped.
- Live within our means – Politicians keep telling us we have to do this. And yet their expense claims are beyond ridiculous. They’re our servants, not our masters – and yet they live better than we do. Enough’s enough.
The need has never been greater
Right now the world is facing problems which need global solutions – which need our leaders to work together. Problems like:
- 70 million displaced people who have no safe place on this planet to put their feet; and
- Global warming, which is going to increase the number of displaced people globally and potentially threaten our food supplies.
These are not problems that any one nation can solve on its own. These problems have to be solved at a global level – with global solutions. But how on earth are our leaders going to solve these problems, when they are still playing by rules that were created in the Middle Ages – back in a time when duels and wars were considered an honorable way to solve a dispute.
Today, the rest of us have mostly learned to solve our disputes with logic, with reason – it’s time our politicians did too. It’s time we demanded that our pollies live by the same rules we do.
It’s time. But how?
Democratic revolutions are fought and won with voices, not with guns
It’s actually not that hard to make change happen. Oh sure – politicians will whinge and complain and push back – after all, they’re experts at that. But at the end of the day, they work for us. And if the majority of us want change, it will happen – not with fighting and guns, but by us all simply using our voices.
That’s the way it’s always happened.
Real change at a political level has pretty much always come from the people – not from our leaders. It’s come about when someone has an idea and shares it with others, who in turn share it with others. In the past – before democracy – those who wanted change often needed guns to make their ideas reality. But in a democratic society, ideas are our weapons and we take up arms when we voice our opinion, not just when we vote, but every day.
Women didn’t get the vote early last century because politicians came up with the idea and sold it to the people. They got the vote because citizens started talking about it, because they stood up and made their voices heard, because they talked about the issue until the tide of public opinion changed. Only then did a majority of politicians have to get on board.
Changes to racial discrimination laws weren’t initiated by politicians. They came about because civil rights activists started talking about the issues, started questioning whether the status quo was right. They stood up and made their voices heard and eventually a majority of politicians had to get on board.
It’s always been that way. Revolutions have always started with ideas. With real everyday people like you and me using their voices to share those ideas – and with those ideas catching on and gaining support.
That’s what democracy is all about – at least in theory – us all deciding which ideas we want to adopt. That’s what makes a democracy different to any other form of government – it allows the free discussion and vote on ideas. It’s what makes us different to countries like China or North Korea – where access to ideas on the internet is tightly controlled. Why? Because their leaders recognise that ideas, that the voices of its people are the greatest threat to their continued rule of those countries. It’s the reason governments like Nauru shut down access to social media – to stop the spread of ideas, to stop people using their voices.
Those of us in functioning democracies have it easy today – we don’t even have to meet together physically to share our thoughts and ideas. With the internet and social media, each of us can share our ideas with hundreds, even thousands of others from the comfort of our living room. Today, thanks to technology, we the people have never been more powerful, because our voices have never been more able to be heard.
Sit down for what you believe in
And so, my fellow democratic citizens – if you think it’s time our politicians moved out of the middle ages and started living by the same standards as the rest of us, all you need to do is spread this idea. Talk about it at the dinner table. Share this article. Or write your own. Start your own hash tag – or use #ItsTime.
As I’ve written before – Kevin Bacon was right. We are all only separated by six degrees of separation. If you were to talk to everyone you know about this, and they in turn talked to everyone they knew – it would really only take six layers of conversations for everyone to be on the same page. In no time, we could technically all agree that change needed to happen. Of course it’s never entirely that simple – it’s rare for everyone to agree. But in a democracy, everyone doesn’t have to agree – just the majority.
And once a majority of us agree, and keep saying it’s important to us, in the end our politicians will have to come on board – or a new mob of politicians who are on board with the idea will take their place. That’s how democracy works.
Our Pollies have lived in the middle ages for too long. Whether they like it or not – change is coming. There is a ground swell globally of people who are sick of politicians. Sick of being lied to. Sick of politicians creating greater inequality instead of greater equality. The answer isn’t voting in people like Donald Trump – who pretend that they are different from those currently in power. It’s in demanding higher standards of our pollies.
You can be a part of creating a positive model for us to move forward with – by just using your voice, by standing up – actually better still, sitting down – for what you believe in. To make it really clear that:
It’s time our politicians lived like us (#ItsTime)
This isn’t a silver bullet. It won’t magically fix our governments. But requiring our politicians to move into this century – to work in the realm of facts and not spin, to learn to work together – it has to be an improvement on their medieval practices of today.
It’s time our politicians were required to work with facts rather than political spin. It’s time to eliminate the laws that allow politicians to lie to us or ‘misrepresent’ the truth.
What is a fact and what is truth in the context of politics? In that particular context both those things are enormously slippery concepts, and more particularly in the way they may be employed. This isn’t science, this is sociology. In science you might be able to demand that a certain fact leads to a certain conclusion; that is not true in a political (sociological) context. The exact same “fact” might be used to argue entirely contradictory points of view. It’s all about whether you can fit a given “fact” into an internally consistent worldview without that “fact” contradicting it. The vast majority of statements made in the realm of politics are contextual, worldview-based where “truth” has no place whatever as a principle.
In politics, “facts” are heavily interpretive, much as they are in psychology. And whose “facts” are we talking about and in what context? Economics, where there are barely any facts that can’t be applied to any given model?
“Abbott stopped the boats” – that statement is neither true nor untrue. It’s a contention for which competing arguments might carry equal weight, especially when one factors in the complexity of language and meaning.
I certainly agree that politicians ought be held to account for misrepresenting facts when it can be shown they are knowingly doing so, but, really, good luck with that. Last time I was browsing AIMN archives I came across and bookmarked this [Abbott era] post which makes some interesting points about what is and isn’t “lying” in politics:
As for the element of this article that speaks to behaviour, I’m in general agreement. It’s certainly pretty awful at times, but then, these are pretty normal people and we’re all pretty awful at times, particularly when we’re placed in an environment and dynamic that involves power and risk combined. I do wonder if we don’t sometimes falsely romantically invent an era in which politicians were better behaved than they are now. Luckily I’m much too young to really know about that sort of thing. Vastly too young. I mean, I can … ok
Along the same lines, we should remove laws that protect politicians from defamation – again, they should be bound by the same rules as the rest of us.
Um, we defame politicians every single day on social media with complete impunity. I actually think we should be a little quiet about defamation laws where politicians are concerned.
No heckling, fighting and name-calling:
No, that ought be left to the people they are supposed to represent, you know, on Facebook, Twitter, social media generally where such things are normative. God forbid that our representatives actually reflect us in some way. Unfortunately politics and parliament is a debate-based reality. I certainly agree it gets pathetic at times, but pollies are ordinary people when all’s said and done. And really, it’s not that they do it, it’s that they do it without any quality that really upsets us. Paul Keating was the biggest smartarse in the modern political area, yet we love him for it, for the most part.
When politicians disrespect each other they are disrespecting us
This just isn’t true, for me. What they are doing is presenting and reflecting us, rather precisely, as it happens. We seem to want to demand that they evince a version of us that doesn’t actually exist.
I have to admit, but in doing so I’m happy to be contradicted, that I tend to think that articles like this are ultimately designed to make us feel like we’re better than we really are. The question of how much politicians represent and reflect who we are is a rather complex one.
I appreciate that in the context of democracy we can reasonably demand that politicians be leaders and resolve to commit to a standard higher than might be expected of the general community, but we seem to be curiously equivocal as to whether we want politicians to be “leaders” or “representatives/servants”. It’s kinda hard to be both. Sure, we often expect them to actually be both, but to also have the wisdom of Solomon to know when exactly to be which thing, even though there is likely very few moments when a public consensus will exist with regard to that. I guess we can trot out a whole bunch of platitudinous aphorisms about “leaders who serve” etc, but that doesn’t deal with the practicalities of how and when to do either or both or one or the other or neither or whatever other combos there are ….
For me the biggest problems with our political system revolve around internal largesse and the corruption that follows politicians’ relationship with external corporate and lobby-group forces, all of which tend to subsume and ruin the political process. In the end I care less about whether our politicians are being polite to each other and more about whether they are conspiring with someone to subvert democracy.
#FIN – Federal ICAC Now.
P.S. Nicely written piece, Kate.
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It’s annoying that WordPress tags are apparently not universal.
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This article prompts a couple of thoughts. Firstly it is not just in the standards applied to politicians’ behavior and truthfulness and the regular rorting of their expense accounts that they play by different rules to the rest of us. Far more alarming to me is the cartel behavior of political parties. I’ll cut and paste from an earlier article I wrote.
A cartel is defined as:
An association of manufacturers or suppliers that maintains prices at a high level and restricts competition.
A coalition or cooperative arrangement between political parties to promote a mutual interest.
A “cartel party” is a party that deals itself resources of the state to maintain its powerful position within the political system. The emergence of the cartel party in Western Europe was first identified in the 1990s. Like commercial cartels, major political parties colluded by employing the resources of the state to ensure their own collective survival. Election campaigns were:
‘…capital-intensive, professionalized and centralized, and are organized on the basis of a strong reliance on the state for financial subventions and for other benefits and privileges.’
The transition of the two major (Australian) parties from mass membership models to cartels for the elite has disenfranchised party members from the political process. The steady disengagement from their membership base has seen valuable ideas crucial to problem-solving and policy-making forfeited. Not only has the progressive and ongoing stifling of the people’s voice (in this case party rank and file members) caused ‘valuable ideas crucial to problem saving and policy making’ to be lost but it has disproportionately strengthened the voice of that ‘other constituency’, those who bankroll elections and seek to influence political decision making in return for their financial support. Depending on which party we are talking about this is either the industry and business lobbyists, the rural producers’ lobby groups or the unions.
Here is just one example of cartel behavior between our ‘old parties’ in our Federal Parliament. I’ve pinched the text from a Fairfax article by Sally Young – the link is below.
In 2013 Rob Oakeshott described the major parties as indulging in “cartel behaviour”. This was a more apt description than perhaps even he knew. The ALP and Coalition made a deal to introduce new “administrative” funding for parties of an extra $1 for every first preference vote. This was to be in addition to the present $2.48 they receive per vote (the new rate from July). Then they pushed it further with a cheeky provision to backdate payments.
The deal stretched the limits of public acceptance of state subsidies because it was so transparently born of self-interest; the timing was awful – coming just before an election but after budget cuts and a more austere financial environment – but it also happened in a parliamentary environment characterised by outspoken independents and minor parties who publicised their distaste and made the issue newsworthy. The resulting public backlash stopped this proposal dead, at least for now.
But many deals have been done successfully – incrementally, and far more quietly – in the past. State subsidies have been increasingly flowing to parties and MPs over the past 20 years.
One important sign of this is the growth in MP entitlements such as mail and communications allowances. Being able to send promotional mail to constituents is a major advantage of being an incumbent. Those postcards, letters, calendars and fridge-magnets that arrive in letterboxes (especially in marginal seats) are an important part of the “ground war” of political campaigning. In the early 1990s, $5200 was the average amount MPs spent on printing and stationery per year, but according to the latest reports from the Department of Finance and Deregulation, MPs spent an average of $107,000 each on office administrative costs (which includes printing and communications) in the 2011-12 financial year. This means up to a 20-fold increase.
Other markers of the way Australian politicians have pushed the costs of their “permanent” campaigning onto taxpayers are bigger electoral allowances, more staffers for MPs, more media advisers and larger media units when in government, and the biggest public perk of all for incumbent political parties, government advertising.
But funding for elections was the state subsidy highlighted last week. When it was introduced at the federal level in Australia in 1984, public funding was paid at 60¢ per House of Representatives vote and 30¢ per Senate vote. That amount was based on the cost of a standard 30¢ postage stamp per elector per year.
The rate per vote is now $2.48 for both House of Representatives and Senate votes (which buys about four stamps in today’s money). The amount of public funding paid out in 2010 was nearly seven times that paid out in 1984.
The public funding legislation had good intentions to break the nexus between money and politics and stop private money flowing in to the system, but it didn’t achieve those goals because the legislation didn’t combine public funding with either caps on spending or limits on private donations. So private donations were not curtailed but instead grew enormously.
At the federal level, Australian political parties instead set up a highly unusual system in which they receive public funding with no restrictions on how they can spend it, they can then still raise as much private money as they like, and spend it all without limit during an election.
We give public funding but don’t ask for anything in return. That’s not the way it is done in other countries. Even in the US, the home of free-market political fund-raising, if a presidential candidate accepts public funding for their election campaign, they have to agree not to raise private contributions and not to spend more than the amount of public funds they receive.
Elsewhere parties have to do something with their funding, something that will benefit the broader community or improve the conduct of politics. For example, in the UK there are grants for parties that are given for policy development. Other countries give funding for activities that promote the political participation of young people or reinvigorate their party memberships or to conduct socio-political research.
In Australia, we don’t demand the parties use public money to expand their memberships, build links with the community or research better policies. We don’t even ask them to limit the amount of private money they raise. We just give them extra money for more advertising and direct mail.
In a system like this, political parties that rail against “big government” are shamelessly hypocritical. They don’t want others to be reliant on welfare or public handouts but are heavily so themselves.
The parties had a setback but we haven’t seen the end of it.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/australian-politics-101-take-the-money-and-run-20130604-2noci#ixzz4CkV1l3gZ
In the business world Australia’s legislators have placed strong controls on cartel activity. An Information guideline from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ACCC states:
While cartel activity has been illegal for more than 30 years in Australia there is now, for the first time, the additional sanction of criminal conviction for cartel conduct. The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the Act) provides major additions to cartel detection capacity, including search warrants and telephone interception. The criminal provisions provide a powerful deterrent to those who might be tempted to collude with competitors.
Unfortunately for Australians with few exceptions our Parliamentarians have not shown the same willingness to regulate the probity of their own behavior. When Tony Windsor complains about the collusion between Labor and Liberal evident in the failed Gillard government political donations legislation in terms of its potential to strengthen the power of both these old parties he is complaining about typical cartel behavior. When these parties conspire to remove minor parties they would rather not have in the Federal Lower House by swapping preferences they are engaging (although in this instance the structure of our parliamentary system clearly permit it) in typical cartel behavior to limit consumer choice. When governments grant themselves vast sums of public money to engage in political advertising, as they increasingly regularly do – they are engaging in typical cartel behavior. If these parties were businesses their principals would be behind bars.
So quietly, behind closed doors, at meetings, conferences and working dinners away from public scrutiny, our democratic processes are incrementally re-shaped to suit the interests of these old parties and their unelected financial backers from industry and the increasingly unrepresentative union movement. Aided and abetted by the distortions of an over-concentrated, lazy, often deliberately deceptive and disgracefully partisan main stream media the old parties and their backers quietly chip away at the foundations of our democracy. Because it happens one modest step at a time almost no-one notices.
This brings me to the second thought your article provoked.
Despite your protestations about the power of our electronically amplified voices I have to tell you we are without power. They decide the rules by which the game will be played and no amount of shouting from the sidelines will change what they decide to do.
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Hi Douglas. Thanks for the comment. I’d love a link to your full article so I can see more of what you’ve written 🙂
I’m going to have to agree to disagree on us being without power – although we are definitely the underdog. But history is full of underdogs who eventually won out. OK – only rarely, but it does happen 🙂
Doug that’s a fairly depressing closing paragraph.
The only way way can remove the power is asking for the recall of our political franchise.
Democracy is one issue; we all get to discuss, then we all vote, a majority of that vote determines the outcome.
Worked well until the forum became too large to hold the conversation, so we franchised representatives.
By my calculations the forum is rebuilt and accessible to any who want to access it.
There is no longer the need for the franchise.
As electors we are already, rather meaninglessly, engaged in the politics and issues of our national and state parliaments.
Through newspaper, TV, Radio, casual conversation, the internet, we participate and consume.
It is not conceivable in this age of the instant transfer of cash from my phone, that I couldn’t securely and privately have a vote anywhere at any time?
Our “government” of the people could consider legislation & expenditure over 30 days, watch the verified and trusted running total and at some point make a vote or not, either choice has a consequence. You could change your vote at any point upto the close of the poll.
Why pay such exorbitant fees for our representatives when, in a better world, we could have the same type of election for CEO of each cabinet position?
Candidates drawn from the very best available, not from who was owed a favour for their vote of support.
They run our core public services, with real expertise and long term vision driven by the rich rewards and the overwhelming need to impress the shit out of us.
Or they don’t get voted back in next round.
Nothing changes but everything
We like our democracy unqualified.
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My last sentence could have more carefully worded, although I believe it to be fundamentally true, and the problems with our democracy go well beyond a system, the rules of which positively encourage cartel-like collusion between the two old parties, which themselves increasingly lack purpose and direction. I could have expanded the sentence and written that on any issue that does not bear on the maintenance of the stability and continuation of the power status quo politicians will normally vote according to their assessment of the impact of the matter on:
their patrons and benefactors both political and commercial
the possibilities to disadvantage their political opponents
the standing of their Party within the marginal seats in NSW and Queensland which, election in and election out determine government.
and – oh yes – last but not least they will pay attention to the impact on the electorate (especially THEIR electorate. especially just prior to elections).
Who gets priority? Who do you think?
When however the issue DOES bear on the maintenance and stability of the two party system that becomes an absolute except on the rare occasion they are caught at it and embarrassed into acting with at least some ethical standards. Occasionally this DOES happen.
However as my comment was aimed at cartel-politics I will restrict my response to that. The expressed opinion is the result of years of six years direct experience of our political system as a climate change activist. My concern is with the situation as it manifestly exists here and now rather than with idealistic and doubtless well-intentioned cyber-scenarios for sometime well out in the future. The words are not just mine but those of two respected former independent Federal lower house MPs and reflect their careful assessment of what is happening to our democracy. Little by little it is being pinched from under our noses. There is a wealth of academic research supporting the cartel theory of politics. If you are interested in careful, albeit academic, assessment try googling ‘The Cartel Party Thesis revisited’. These matters have also been responsibly canvassed in the MSM and convincingly (to me at least) discussed by Sandi Keane on the online platform Independent Australia. Without knowing more about you and your experience of the political system it is difficult to know exactly how to respond directly to your comment. I must say though that on the surface your comment seems unjustifiably optimistic about the power of the internet, its capacity to resist manipulation/subversion, its penetration of our society and the existence, beyond your (or mine, or anyone’s) immediate circle of FB friends and blog followers of consensus on any issue you care to name. It is tempting to ask in your view who does the mountain of careful assessment of whether the cyber-elected Cabinet CEOs have fulfilled our demand for ‘real expertise and long term vision’ that would be required to determine whether they get voted back in next round. But hey I’m always happy to be surprised. I await the advent of cyber technocracy with hopeful anticipation.
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Part one answer is a pitch to a better future that’s relatively easily attainable through the means of the current system.
Our democracy has been subverted, stolen from under our noses. I agree with all your assessments of the two party system, they will be in opposition to each other on everything but the fact they believe the world needs only 2.5 major parties.
I ran as a HoR candidate in the seat of Perth WA in this last election. I stood under the Online Direct Democracy Party (ODD) banner. It’s a simple party with one policy – to present the majority view as expressed by a discussion and poll on every bill put before parliament. Nothing else.
I have my opinions on many things and happily contribute across many channels. As the Rep. if voters chose to listen to me, or any one else and followed their lead, then we have been leaders. Otherwise I, like all the other registered voters in my electorate have but one vote on the issue.
We, as an electorate, have the entire period of a bills readings and various amendments to discuss and, through the representative, contribute toward the development of that bill. ODD are utilising a platform called pollyweb – pollyweb.org which will evolve as new technologies such as blockchain open up the possibilities for secure and accountable voting at any time and in any place.
Voting shouldn’t be confined to the day, it makes the whole process too fraught, too open to manipulation and corruption. ODD will run a poll from the start of discussions. The voter votes as and when they want and at any time, up to the close of poll, can change their mind / vote.
Not everyone will be bothered to vote all the time on every issue, we rely on the fact that enough people will vote on any issue to make a majority decision, that a decision will be made, it will have a consequence and that if it is for the better, great outcome. Worse, we can always vote on it again (I mean it’s just another internet poll.)
My hope springs from the fact that motivated by a real fear for our climate and economic good sense, hundreds of thousands of Australians have readily embraced solar PV systems, millions energy efficient light sources and appliances. More than was expected, sooner than anticipated, to the point those adhoc policy decisions by us free market consumers, have radically affected our power generation and distribution systems. These were policies initiated by government in response to community concerns.
Our current Government is now effectively an agent for business with residual but significant commitments to social service. Their policies and indulgences have sort to quash these popular uprisings against the old monopolistic corporate model. They stupidly ignore the very real indicators on climate and environmental change. None of this for lack of council or public clamour.
We can spend billions of characters pointing to all that’s wrong or devote some time to making the change to a real democracy when instead of commenting, you can contribute toward the change and vote on it, that’s 50/50 chance, as opposed to 95/5, things will turn out the way you expected.
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