Category Archives: Government

A nation of barrackers

Australian politics has become a battleground where warriors loyal to death raise their political colours to support their chosen party or ideology. The battlelines have been drawn according to political party, or just simple left/right divisions.

This might be a jolly bit of fun if it were merely sporting teams involved, and the real future of Australia as a nation weren’t at stake.

The political discourse lacks nuance, intelligence and informed judgement. Evidence-based policy with a clearly articulated goal has been trampled for populist uninformed initiatives. Shooting sharks, for crying out loud! The treachery dispensed to asylum seekers has no basis in law or policy.

Long-term initiatives to address the challenges of the future, climate change being the most pressing, are ignored in favour of short-term [again] populist actions. Where is our 10/50/100/500 year plan? What do we see for this nation in 200 years’ time? 20 years?

Who does this serve? Certainly not democracy. And that is why I’m deeply concerned by this new phenomenon of political barracking. Democracy is only served when citizens are informed and able to discriminate between self interest and community interest; between short-term outcomes vs long-term benefits. In most cases, a coherent analysis is needed to understand the purpose and impacts of government policy. Only an educated population can do that. Not just educated in vocational and professional skills and knowledge, but also as citizens. As citizens in a democracy we all have the right to protest and make our views known. Genuine civil disobedience is a democratic right, even though there may be judicial consequences. Many a protestor who has been able to demonstrate their actions were of concern for the public good have been acquitted.

Where there is a vacuum it will be filled, and when democracy starts to fail, those with power that would otherwise be contained will fill that void.

Make democracy stronger not weaker

The horrorshow that is the Abbott government is undermining the reputation of democracy itself. And the Liberal/Labor parties too.

A constant stream of lies is touted as truth. Over and over again.

Stupid antics by Abbott as opposition leader and now as PM degrade the position of PM to – what? – class clown? Minister after minister demonstrates a complete lack of policy and consistency of logic. And so on and on and on…

Meanwhile childish revenge is waged against any and every fundamental pillar of Australian society that may have a whiff of Labor or Greens. What’s best for the Australian people in general and Australia as a whole is irrelevant. We are nothing but grist for the corporate mill. Not corporate in general, but corporate mates – fossil fuels in particular.

Right wing commentators are already saying that democracy is broken; it doesn’t work. This is the very worst outcome possible. And there’s every chance it has been orchestrated. Via the US Tea Party at whose feet the IPA and Liberals worship. The Liberals have been the [initially, at least] unwitting Trojan Horse of the extreme right wing ideology; an ideology that is actively putting in place systemic barriers to poor and middle class people voting. And that prevents citizen engagement in our community and politics as is required by a healthy democracy.

Those leading the campaign against democracy are deliberately undermining our confidence and faith how our democracy works.

Many young people do not register to vote – they don’t see why they should.

While we have some idea how rule of law protects us from violent person-on-person crime like murder and robbery; but few of us realise how much we are protected from exploitation and oppression by our democratic system.

The extreme paranoid right-wing ideology imported from the US that presents government as the enemy fails to mention that, without government, we would be weak and without any means of resisting oppression by the most evil forces that have no desire but to exploit and harm us.

Let there be no mistake: when democracy is weakened a power vacuum opens up and the psychopaths swarm in. They have already infiltrated government (Liberal and Labor). Without actively strengthening our institutions and functions of democracy, we are in very grave danger as an egalitarian and free society.  Democracy is our best and only protector, whether it’s socialist or capitalist is irrelevant. We must work to make it better and stronger, and make governments far more accountable.

Government or community? The dilemma

I’ve been exercised by this issue since many thousands of us leapt in to fund the Climate Council after it was almost instantly de-funded when the Abbott government took office.

The response from the government was something like” well there you go. It didn’t need government funding because the community was able to do it after all”. This of course was duplicitous and showed an apparent lack of understanding of the role of government.

What is that role?

First, and most prominent at this time of deregulation, is to mitigate or moderate the exercise of power by the powerful to prevent “unacceptable” disadvantage to those without power. What constitutes “unacceptable” is a decision made by the community in a democracy. Such decisions are made through elections, but also through ongoing community debate. And made ultimately by governments for the long-term good of the community as a whole.

Ideally.

The role of bodies such as the Climate Council (and many of the others that have been de-funded, including the advisory council on the ageing population) is to interpret science for government and the community, and to provide expert policy advice so that effective evidence-based decisions can be made.

The community already pays for these essential functions of good government through their taxes.

This morning Jon Faine on Melbourne’s ABC 774 local radio was proposing that the community help the LaTrobe Valley community clean up after the dreadful fire that’s been plaguing the region for months.

One listener objected, saying the government should conduct or fund it. While a blame analysis might justify such an approach, there are great advantages to the Victorian (and broader) community coming in the help clean up. It brings people together in a time of difficulty, and underlines and reinforces our humanity.

If we become passive and expect the government to rescue us we become helpless in our lives. We are much better off if we join as communities to solve our problems than stand as separate individuals waiting for external help that will almost certainly be inadequate.

That said, there is a role for government to facilitate and support such community actions in a variety of ways. It may be to provide or subsidise accommodation, set up or fund coordination groups so those who need help the most receive it first and so on. Where government has been part of the problem (for example, where essential regulatory functions have been absent or inadequate) then certainly compensation is a longer-term solution to the disadvantages inflicted on the community.