Friday, December 16, 2005

Muslim & Australian Attitudes

from Ian Johnstone

Dear Basil,
Thanks for your thoughts on the Cronulla clashes.
I agree with your two points, which I see this way:

1. It is difficult for Muslims, used to obeying religious authority, to
submit to a secular government. That is what will make it hard for
Democracy to "take" in Iraq.

2. Muslims see our western culture as decadent; how we run on, covetting, consuming, greedy, self-seeking, polluting, self-indulgent with alcohol and sex.
Muslims perhaps feel self-righteously better than we are, and morally superior.
Add some male rivalry, our indignation at how they treat their women and rape some of ours, and a dash of racial intolerance, and the violence erupts.

There is no one simple remedy, as the origins, and of it and fuel for it continuing, are a combination of deep differences about religion, sex and race. It will take generations for these to subside, as did catholic/protestant differences forty years ago.

Cheers, Ian Johnstone

Good stuff Ian, But we do hope to speed it up by the healthy process of people involvement when we achieve the ballot in parliament. This which will force our representatives to consult with the people in public meetings.
As Latham says (Latham Diaries) our sick politics and sick society feed off each other.
Conversely, healthier politics, through the ballot in parliament, should feed, and be fed off, a healthier society, through this greater public participation.

Basil Smith

Sunday, November 20, 2005

MPs must be set free by parliamentary ballot.

Why is that so important?
Well, why do we value the ballot for elections? Because we want to be free to exercise our vote without interference from ANYBODY.
Well, why should the ones we want to represent us be forced to vote for us without that freedom?
Those who don't want that freedom must surely not be interested in representing us, but rather the interests which finance their campaigns. True or false?
What do you think??????

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The New Democracy - in a Nutshell

Party politics is government by bullies with our reps dominated by party
With secret ballots in parliament they will all be independent and answerable only to their own constituents. They will then be sure to hold regular meetings locally so we can talk to them.
In parliament they will enter into debate on each issue, as required, on our behalf alone, and will each be confident on getting a fair hearing from the rest of the free MPs. Minority interests will be able to be heard without fear as they will have no special power. Personality politics will be soon seen as counterproductive and will vanish.
With the executive team formed by ministers who will all be individually
elected from, and by, their MP colleagues, and each directly responsible
to parliament, parliamentary government will quickly regain the respect
of the people.
This new process will usher in a new and far better kind of practical MP accountability (or responsibility to the electorate), based on the resulting public political stimulus and the effective dependence of each MP on the support of each body of constituents. The public meetings will prove a fertile breeding ground for rival candidates where sitting MPs waver in performance.
The effect will be a rapid increase in public participation and political sophistication, with vanishing apathy, and a rapid rise in MP statesmanship.

This is a radical, comprehensive reform which must not be dismissed on the basis of fear that an uninformed public could not handle it, but diligently assessed on its intrinsic merit. At present we have public demoralisation caused by the corruption of democracy. This reform will require an intensive public examination, in the light of the new political environment which we have every confidence will result from
its eventual adoption.

Let's not be afraid to examine a real alternative form of democracy.
The one we have is definitely 'broke'!

Monday, October 31, 2005

The media and all that junk

Sensational reporting is common but is it the best way to get things done?
'Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.' So said Ralph Waldo Emerson, eminent American social commentator of earlier years.
But editors can be bullies too, and good government can easily fall through the cracks between the two.
Reading today (the Age 31/10) about serious errors in the public hospital system, with patients dying who should not, through surgical and nursing errors etc it seems far from good enough to have this horrifying news long after the reported events. No doubt it helps sell papers to elicit this information through the unwieldy and often slow and unwilling Freedom of Information facility. And no doubt a handy tool for an Opposition to lambast the government in public, but does this help to quickly iron out the problems of our hospital system, in an ongoing scrutiny (with understanding of the problems) to give us confidence in our hospital system.
No doubt the government is doing this, but can it be fully effective in a climate of belated, trenchant criticism? The natural reaction of government is to be defensive and cover up. Party conflict only hinders ideal government operation.
In similar vein is the legal confidentiality restriction being imposed by the Federal government on the ACT Chief Minister's publishing an updated draft of the proposed 'terror laws' on his website.
With the urging of the Prime Minister to have it all passed quickly, in the midst of a public preoccupation with the Melbourne Cup, clearly close public interest is unwelcome.
Which is all rather strange, or should we say rather that our democracy has become estranged, when we remember the 1859 comment of Abraham Lincoln, "In this country, public opinion is everything." Our democracy has seriously drifted.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A New Leader?

We need a new leader. One who actually does believe in democracy, instead of claiming it while indulging in sham wisdom and blatant autocracy.
To exercise authority as a political leader over elected representatives is a democratic sham. The fact that a leader can claim that they are only there by reason of his marvellous leadership qualities merely indicates that he has powerful and wealthy forces (media and otherwise) behind him to steamroll elections in his party's favour, and to whom he is beholden for his policies and the exercise of his power.
Parliament is now rightly accused of being a rubber stamp for these powers.
Throughout history democracy has needed revision from time to time to rescue it, and the people, from the inroads of authoritarian powers.
The Chartists lobbied for better elections and we got the secret ballot for elections, after the Eureka stockade. We did well. But we now need further drastic change.
Since Federation there has been a takeover of parliamentary government by big parties, supported by powerful interests, and democracy is in urgent need of substantial revision to restore the power of the people to self-govern.
This requires intervention in the operation of parliament to exclude the means by which the major parties commandeer our parliaments' powers for their own advantage, while muttering about ruling on behalf of all the people.
People need more than 'bread and circusses', (prosperity - or the myth thereof) and entertainment (major sports and other events proliferating).
Without having an appropriate say in government, and having no sense of control of our destiny, we are becoming politically and morally puny, while party government goes on its merry way unchecked.
The origins of democracy do not suggest that the modern equivalent, consisting of powerful (robust!) governments, rowdy and ineffectual oppositions, strikes and occasional violent demonstrations, qualify as democracy.
Pericles defined it for us, saying:'We call ours a democracy because our decisions are made by the many rather than the few'. That is exactly what our systen of government is not. And there is only one way we can oversome the problem of elected dictatorships. Parliaments must be reformed to enable our representatives to all have equal power to decide on our behalf, after frequent local consultation. This can only be achieved by having our parliaments function by secret ballot for all debated matters, including the election of ministers. Thus selected individually by ballot of all members of parliament, they will form an executive which is both responsible and securely accountable to our representatives.
That is the reform we need to rescue our delapidated democracy.
Who will stand up for this and lead us out of the political murk into which we have allowed ourselves to sink?
We have big names protesting but noone to lead.
Who will bite the bullet?
My best bet is Dr. Carmen Lawrence.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Song of Democracy

You MPs and Senators leave us appalled,

With party-line voting whenever you're called,

You know very well it's the people you slight,

And we don't think you're all that engagin';

Well you can't have your way, hold the people at bay,

For the times they are achangin'.......

You've hung up 'the system' with parties so long,

You've forgotten completely democracy's song,

That government rights to the people belong,

And the system needs much rearrangin';

So get out of the way, it's the people's New Day,

And the people will soon do the changin'......

You know that the world's in a terrible mess,

With widespread anxiety, unemployed stress,

With war and disease of a terrible kind,

And hopeless political turmoil;

It's democracy's way - give the people their say,

Then we'll all get along with this changin'.........

by Basil Smith

(With apologies to Bob Dylan.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The new force

For too long we have teated democracy as a done deal - in the West. It's never been more than a 'work-in-progress'. New and better ways to facilitate the involvement of the people in self-government should regularly be investigated if there is respect for the welfare of the people. The convictions and certainties of ideologues must never claim a greater importance, although they usually do.
For one hundred and fifty years we have seen the benefit to the people of the secret ballot employed for elections, with gross practices sharply reined in. Now we have the opportunity, with electronics, to similarly clean up the gross abuse of democratic practice in our parliaments. With electronic voting, decisions can now be made with electronic speed where they count most importantly in the affairs of the nation.
So, not only will the speed remove all excuse from those who want to use their personal power to control the affairs of the nation, but the secrecy of voting will finally remove the power they have, through the open vote, to control our representatives.
So the 'new force' is in fact an old force, but modern electronics now makes possible that which could only apply to elections for the last 150 years. We have now been dithering for far too long with the urgent need for the power of the ballot to restore the power and the glory of the people to our parliaments. That will be a return to a real Periclean democracy - where 'the decisions are made by the many rather than the few'.
We need to urgently reorganise the decision-making processes of government on such democratic lines; with the ballot operating in our parliaments to ovecome the political dominance of ideology and minority powers which destroys representation, frustrates policies of sanity and justice, substituting wild schemes (like war in Iraq) which resolve nothing, and create fresh dangers rather than securing us from the threatening traumas of the future.
There is no doubt that the people are more capable of exercising the care and wisdom that are needed for the best approach to the deep problems of the future. The powers of those so convinced of their own perfect wisdom and unwilling to forgo personal power in favour of real democracy can be thwarted by the ballot in parliament for the election of members of the executive. Government power belongs to parliament - not to the executive, whose place is to carry out the wishes of a freely voting parliament.
The best years for democracy, and the people of the world lie ahead. But without this revolutionary reform the years ahead can only be full of gloom. Population growth and the wildly out of control exhaustion of world resources make that clear.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Let there be - Peace!

Pamela Bone says (Melbourne 'Age' Opinion 5/10) 'calling for peace is an easy
option.' We know well that there can be no peace without justice, the rarest commodity on the planet.
If peace in Iraq only follows civil war, it will copy what has happened in America, and in Britain many times, and many other countries. The stronger side, not a majority, wins. It happens still - and usually minority government, often concealed behind a facade of dodgy elections. With political parties dominant, elections are merely struggles for (leader) power.
But that's not democracy, is it?.
No, and that's why there is no peace.
How to bring peace to the world?
1. Sidestep presidential and executive power with ballot controlled parliamentary government.
2. Eventually set up the UN on the same basis with each country having votes in proportion to its population - and no Security Council, of course.
"He's dreaming!" said the father (often) in the Australian film 'The Castle'.
It is, nonetheless, probably the only viable vision of real hope for the future.
If we will it, there will be peace one day - but not if the pressures of population growth on the world's resources beat us. And a nuclear end to the world is not impossible - or even unlikely.
The future of the planet, and our children, needs some fast footwork, on our part.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Latham bottoms out with a splash

Interviews with Latham by Andrew Denton (excellent as always) and John Faine AM 774 Melbourne,(also excellent) were understanding but penetrating.
Here we see a man who is a briliant thinker but not suited to the idiocy of party politics. In this connection reference has been made elsewhere to Professor John Hewson, the political intellectual who strayed into the 'chookyard' and got pecked to death!
John Faine asked Latham if he could see an antidote for the 'poison' which pervades the Canberra political scene. Latham replied: 'No'. In his view the political nightmare has passed beyond both its use-by date, and beyond redemption.
That this is a sad day for Labor is evident, but is it a sad day for democracy? No, not really. Because he said it like it is. And before things can change there has to be an understanding in the community generally that our democracy really is stuffed.
However, nothing can really by thoroughly and honestly examined in detail until an alternative is found. Back to John Faine's question.
Is there another alternative to the chaos that is the party sytem of (mis)government.
Yes there is, and the light is just beginning to dawn.
With the activation of the Secret Ballot Party there is now an alternative, which exists, not to seek power, but to end party politics, which has strangled our democracy.
Most of the people I have spoken to since August 16th are able to see the sense and power of the change in parliament to the secret ballot way of MP voting, freeing them from party pressure and freeing them to be representatives of their electorates, instead of the party machines which have ruled the system for the last century.
When Australia led the world with the 'Australian (secret) Ballot', for elections, it was called the era of democracy, because of the vast improvement it gave to the participation of the people.
But the final step, to prevent the formation of party power, which defeats the people's access to power, failed to appear.
Now is the time, when the mess of party politics has been so plainly exposed, to bite the bullet and complete our democracy. With secret ballots in parliament all the MPs can freely elect the best ministers and other senior positions in parliament, and decide all debated issues. Executives will no longer rule our parliaments but, instead, they will be answerable to our representatives.
The ballot for elections was the start. The ballot ruling in parliament will complete our democracy in a manner which will be a challenge to all other countries which are struggling to find the way to good government.
Until the distortion of party politics is replaced with the fairness and the order of the internal ballot in parliament, democracy cannot be a strong challenge to the evil of dictatorship.
It's time for party and sectarian politics to pass into history, unmissed and unmourned.
The world will then be in a position to progress with confidence towards a new basis of fair and efficient operation for the UN as well, without the incubus of a security council, but with each country having votes according to its population.
The human race can still hope for planet earth to become a secure place.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Accountability - A New Dimension

It is often thought that MP accountability means voting in parliament for an established platform of promises, made to the electorate at the election - so each vote should be open. No, that's not accountability to the electorate. That is accountability to the perty and its backers.
There is something much better - real democracy.
The Secret ballots in Parliament concept opens a new window of opportunity for a representative to be a statesman (person, sorry ladies!) - i.e. to be free from party control, and to react to the changing situation throughout the parliamentary term, both in parliament and in regular consultation meetings with constituents.

In fact, the most important thing for a real democracy, is for MPs to create a dynamic and objective environment, both in parliament and the electorate, as a free-wheeling team member in both.
The goal is an increasing public understanding of the issues, enabling them parallel the debate in parliament, and facing the issues with a sense of freedom and competence to face the future - squarely facing the costs which must be borne if we are to survive in a fast-changing world.
There are challenges ahead which we now only dimly perceive. We must be equipped, both people and political procedures, to meet them in the best possible way, as an efficient team.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Democracy, Degraded and in Danger

Danger ahead.

We are living on borrowed time - involved in an unpopular, divisive war based on fear of a hidden enemy of unknown capacity to harm us. But what is known, is that 'the enemy' is fundamentally opposed to our tradition of democracy. Calls are appearing for the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, from Indonesia to Spain.

Moderate Islam may not be opposed to democracy but there is confusion in the ranks, due to the growing radicalism in Islam, and its opposition to democracy is becoming clearer by the day.
This resurgence of fundamentalism in Islam shows a real possibility of prevailing over more moderate views.

The war in Iraq, aimed at forming democracy by force has been a trigger perhaps, but the die is cast, the fuse has been lit, battle has been joined, and retreat is not feasible. Iraq does not
present as a step toward democracy, but rather as an early stage in a long and bitter conflict, evidenced by the determined use of suicide bombs, in Iraq, and around the world.

So where do we stand?

We will need all the wisdom and moral/political strength we can muster to resolve the conflict, the responsibility for which we in 'the West' must accept some responsibility. The seeds of religious conflict have been dormant for years, decades, even centuries, but the fruit is at last appearing inexorably.

In the face of these pressures we must stand very firm for democracy. It cannot be negotiable.
The democratic will of the people must take precedence over any religion - be it Christian, Muslim or any other. 'Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's, and unto God those things that are God's.'

It follows that any religious concerns diverse from the views of the people at large must not succeed except by a process of public persuasion - never by fear or manipulation.

But here we have a problem. Islam does not respect 'democracy', for that matter, neither do we, as currently (mis-)practiced. Political manipulation and exclusion of the people from effective participation is rife in our corrupted democracy, so much so that it lacks the moral dimension
and strength to meet the challenges we now face. This has to change - democratic practices must regain respect nationally and, earn respect in international circles. Only by providing real justice can its authority be re-established.
Is our 'democracy' ready for the Future ? Of course not.

Party politics has had its time. It is hard work for those concerned, but most of their efforts are wasted in the conflict they foster. The object of democracy is to resolve conflict, create harmony, and unify the country to face the many serious problems looming ahead. The high and rising petrol prices are likely to be the least of our worries, unless we can develop a system of government which sees the people as the senior partner.

The secret ballot has been the making of democracy in our elections, but we need it in our
parliaments to complete the cycle of democratic government. The practical exclusion of the people from the decision-making process has produced party government - a sterile democracy, with neutered people.

We need to be serious about democratic reform not just complain about politicians. They need us to sort out the prison they have made for themselves - a prison where none of them can realise their best hopes of service.

With modern technology, serious and far-reaching change is possible as never before. The Secret Ballot Party's (sole) objective is to harness this new power by installing electronic secret voting in parliament - to decide all debates, and ministry appointments, and send the traitorous practice of party-line voting to perdition - where it belongs.

Many are crying for change but it appears to escape public consciousness how completely
decisive and fair the secret ballot is in elections. It will be equally so in parliament, and will achieve the radical changes we need, for a fair society in a very short time, opening up endless beneficial possibilities for the future - not to mention a new and confident relationship between people and government .

The secret ballot is the tool which gives life to democracy wherever it is employed.

The secret ballot for all decisions in our parliaments is the secret which alone can undo the damage wrought by the party system, and recreate our democracy with individual independence and responsibility.

The Way Forward

How can such a revolutionary change be pursued? This 'party' is a rallying point for all who want a much better democracy.

This party will:
  • initially, have a free membership.
  • endorse candidates committed to the secret ballot in parliament.
  • give complete freedom of candidates to act as agreed with their
    electorates on all issues.
  • be able to have more than one candidate in a seat.
The party's success will automatically ensure its demise.

This real democracy will result in:
  • Abolition of party power in parliaments.
  • Restoration of parliamentary authority.
  • Subjection of the executive to parliament.
  • Redirection of lobby power, away from parliament.
  • Restoration of public involvement.
  • Restoration of representative accountability.

Electoral Meetings

A major gap in our Australian democracy is the absence of 'the local town meeting', in which a representative can mature as well known and trusted, enabling effective community input, and a growing confidence of the people in their representative - an essential factor which has been too long missing from our 'representative self-government'.

Despite the rhetoric about our modern 'democracy' the Athenians would not have had a bar of
it. Democracy is their invention. Pericles said: 'We call it a democracy because, unlike our neighbours, decisions are made by the many rather than the few'.

'Elected dictatorship' is not for us.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Big Parties, Big Money

In a scathing article, (The Age Monday 25/7/05, p13, get it and read it) Dr. Graeme Orr of Griffith University and J00-Cheong Tham, of Liberty Victoria, claim that our democratic system has been sidetracked by big money infecting the party system. Lop-sided party wealth, from donations, advantages by incumbency etc mean that the major parties have a considerable advantage (like five times) over anyone else, when measured as an amount per primary vote We well know that the major parties have box seats in parliament, with the absence of a 'level playing field'. Orr and Tham are certainly right in their claim that: ... our political system 'is democratic in name only'. And that's the truth despite much rhetoric about 'our democracy'.
'The truth will set you free' said Jesus. Yes always, in any context, if we act on it, for truth highlights problems and also points to their solution
We need radical political reform through secret ballots within our parliaments, to recreate parliamentary government, real electorate representation, real parliamentary debate, and each executive unarguably responsible to its parliament

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Democracy or Islam?

An interview by Age writer Barney Swartz (with Geoff Strong - 26/7 p6) with Muslim group Hizb ut- Tahrir's Australian leader, Wassim Doureihi, highlights some of the challenges we face from our admission of other cultures into our country. Somewhat naively we have assumed that immigrants would, in a generation or so, all assimilate into our society with minor and acceptable change. We believed our society was strong and our values resilient enough to handle the influx. Well that's pretty much the way it used to be. But now, think again Australia!

In an article the following day (27/7), Professor Dennis Altman of La Trobe University argues that our children should all be educated at primary level in state schools, to get used to, and to understand, other cultures. He points out that the growth of private and home education will only increase the tendency for ghetto development. Noting that ethnic differences have not been a big problem in the past, he draws attention to the more serious conflicts now being nurtured by religion. He notes that while post WWII migration has largely followed our materialistic drift from religious observance, there is a new tension in the arrival of immigrants perhaps more dedicated to their religion of Islam, although this tension arises more from the fundamentalist attitudes of some Muslim leaders, who are now openly denigrating our culture of democracy.

How far and to what degree more extreme attitudes are endorsed by most Muslims is a matter for conjecture, but the main problem is that with the authoritarian nature of Islam, that cannot be assessed with any accuracy. However we are told that fundamental Islam is 'implacably opposed to Western values and the presence of Westerners in Islamic states'.

We realise that the Muslim world is far from happy about its experience of the 'Christian' West in the Crusades, Palestine, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Doureihi sees the involvement of the West as a 'campaign against Islam which is political, economic, ideological and military' which justifies Islamic violence in defence of invaded territories. We should not underestimate the determination of the more militant in Islam, who are bent on the re-establishment of the Caliphate - a fully Islamic state from Indonesia to Spain. This is really the resurgence of an old war, which will cost all the wisdom and strength the West can muster to resolve in a just and peaceful way. All else is failure and that we or the world cannot afford.

Islam has no agreement with democracy. Although its benefits suit them as a moderate minority, it would have no future in a fully Islamic state. He observes that 'with matters dealt with in halves, you inevitably arrive at a foul concoction', meaning Islam under the rule of governments under western control or influence. With 'a foul concoction' he could have been describing our pseudo democracy. It is neither fish nor fowl - an elected dictatorship.

It is now suggested that radical leaders should be deported, but this may merely aggravate without solving anything. Mr Doureihi wants to win hearts and minds to Islam(ic government). Our objection is that church and state must be separate, with all, including religious people, ruled by democratic government. We too have the challenge of winning hearts and minds - to democracy. We have a big job to do and we should be thankful perhaps for the challenge. We have been too slack about it for a long time now. We have a battle on our hands. Will we win the hearts and minds to democracy, or simply dig ourselves in further by dependence on military strategies, and ignoring the root problems? Democratic government must be fair within and between nations. If democracy is not filling the bill, and earning the respect of Muslim dissidents especially among the young, we are 'sowing the wind' and the 'whirlwind' will be our own fault.

Real democracy has yet to be realised. The Secret Ballot Party calls for the dedication of the Australian people to the challenge ahead - a true multiculture, with religions contributing their special gifts to the wellbeing of our people as we live under just and stable democratic government.

Wake up Australia.

Back to : Secret Ballot Party

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

John Howard and Industrial Relations

John Howard is right - and wrong.
He's right because the work place is a place for individual effort and efficiency, unhindered by less worthy motives.
He's wrong because party govenment creates fear and conflict - failing to provide the unifying democratic leadership which alone can take the heat out of industrial relations.

Employers are often slow to appreciate the concerns of employees, especailly perhaps in the area of work safety. Unions are the result.
On the other hand it is clear that an employer needs an efficient and profit-sustainable business. To an employer, an employee who gives diligent, intelligent attention to the business is like gold. Equally, one who does as little as he can get away with, or just puts forth a very basic effort on behalf of his employer is as much a liabiity as an asset.
But let's understand the fears that drive many to defend jobs by a less than full effort to be an efficient and valued worker. We are talking here about the trust that must exist between employer and employee.
Attitudes of both vary considerably. There are good examples and bad examples on both sides.
There tends to be the idea that there are not enough jobs. Both right and wrong - because the job-pool is not fixed. Employers are understandably not enthusiastic about creating jobs for people who have no interest in the employer's concerns. If on the other hand an applicant for a job seems a good risk then a job can be found.
I was out of work once and being sick of waiting for a reply to all the job ads, I sallied forth to a local factory. I got a job after some hesitation. When I started on a drill (a boring job!) I was soon advised to slow down. I was shifted around and eventually moved into the store. Later I drove a fork lift and cleaned up all the rubbish blocking up the tracks. The previous guy had done nothing he was not told to do. I found later that when I was hired they had been planning retrenchments. That's why they seemed hesitant when I showed up. They later sacked a dozen men. When I resigned they obviously did not want me to go.
The point is that go-slow tactics did not save jobs. In fact, those tactics could well have been the cause. they were not seen as valuable enough to hold for an upturn in business. I remember a girl a long time ago who was being helpful. When I thanked her for the help she said: "Thus I make myself indispensible!".
On another occasion I was promoted and somwhat surprised. I asked how come. The reply was: 'Well some just haven't got it, or just don't try.'
The job killer is self interest of employees and employers. If the latter care only for profits and share prices, they will not be slow to sack staff. (But it may not be that simple if business is bad.) If the former care only for their pay packets and an easy day's work, then they are not likely to be valued.
The plain fact is that the profitability of many businesses can be quite borderline. Success demands a cooperation by both sides if jobs (and businesses) are to be secure in difficult times.
Talking to some from Asian work situations, the contrast of Asian work pressure with Australian conditions is considerable. This our future and will not change for the better.
Industrial relations have too long been a difficult issue, in an industrial atmosphere contaminated by distrust, sharemarket pressures, and union antagonism. But fear and greed are the driving forces.
What is missing is the kind of democracy which can resolve these conflicts by a real involvement of the people in society's issues.
Party politics creates conflict, does not solve it. Only parliamentary government - with the secret ballot enabling the people to govern, through their representatives - can void the conflict-generating power and illegitmate government of party executives.
Back to : Secret Ballot Party

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Is it too late for democracy?

We are in a downward spiral of religious conflict, with extreme elements grabbing the agenda.
False religion has always been a notorious base for dogmatic opnion and the exercise of illicit power. The fact that it is false religion has never hindered its destructive force in the affairs of men - notably by men, but occasionally by women.
The second commandment: "Love your neighbour" is obviously the only religious dictum which can be said to have any legitimacy in the processes of civil society and governance. All else centres on pride, self importance and hatred of those with whom there is disagreement.
My attention has been drawn to the early years of the island of Iceland, first peopled by the violent Vikings during the tenth century when a recession of the ice age freed land for the taking. The independent and adventurous Norse people of Norway were fed up with their authoritarian King.
Like many another primitive society they found a way to govern their society by face-to-face arguments over problems, neighbourly support and the practicallity of seeking concensus rather than settling into powerful factions and warfare.
One could compare the early settlement of America's West - fierce independence married to a recognition of the need to live and let live.
For some years I have been propagating the notion that democratic governance in the large, and larger societies in which we now dwell must be governed by the secret ballot. There has no other way been found to diffuse and liquidate the tendencies to power accumulation that have developed in the rule by factions, parties and pressure groups, generally centering on powerful leaders.
The people no longer rule as we slide, too easily, and inexorably toward warfare. How many were startled by the recent admission by President Bush that Iraq could have triggered World War III.
Oddly enough, as Vietnam proved a while ago, the greatest military power can be useless when faced by determined guerilla warfare, as is now the case in Iraq.
If we hope for the success of America's attempt to create 'top-down democracy' in Iraq, we are tacitly opening the door to total hegemony for another world power dominated by its leader's religious dogma and conviction, which surely renders the second great commandment, of none effect - and genuine democracy a dream.
Perhaps it is too late for democracy to recover lost ground, turning to a new devotion to justice within and between countries.
There is something sinister in the recent remark of Prime Minister John Howard: 'I am a nationalist'. This elevation of the national interest seems a denial of that 'goodwill toward men' that would be much more consistent with our politicians' 'Christian conviction' - and a quite archaic attitude in this shrinking world.
Critism of government by some tends to produce bitter responses from others. If dissidents are intimidated and remain silent then democracy is indeed dead.
The essence of the problem is that, government becomes 'personal', and the less important issues get the most prominence, as they best suit the leader's purposes, the real issues being relegated beyond public sight, understanding and participation.
So leaders quarrel, the public is bemused and the progress that government should be securing is lost in the dust of conflict. And instead of the long term plans to resolve the issues which will bedevil our descendents, we are fed 'progress' - which means the rapid dissipation of the resources which those same descendents will sorely miss in the future.
Perhaps we are too late - too late for democracy!
It all reminds me of the pop-song I heard years ago: 'Walking backwards down the stair, trying to get higher'.
Back to : Secret Ballot Party

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Cleaning the Aegean Stables

Thinking about the state of our world and the mess the politicians are making, I thought of the mythical old story of Hercules and his challenge to clean out the massive filth in the Aegean Stables in one day.
So the story goes, he diverted two rivers through them and swept out all the manure.
Our politics needs a similar attention. The mess is so thick with error, corruption and stupidity that only a river of change has any hope of fixing our problems.
The meally-mouthed responses of the so-called Christian leaders to the London bombing reveal that they have no clue how to resolve the dangerous world they have created, not do they even see that they are to blame.
For more in-depth notes on the Middle East mess, check - and search 'A Troubled World'. It's not complete yet, of course.
Keep up the hope of a better, more sane world.
Only the expansion of the secret ballot, into all the parliaments of the world, can get rid of the evil of party-power politics'.

God bless
Basil Smith - email:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Parliament that Works - with secret ballots

I see you are concerned and think a lot about the political situation. I think you are quite right about this: ‘I think the main issue is the strangle hold of the major parties in the minds of the electors and in the media. …
The system is a product of evolution over time with a progressive abandonment by the people, because people of power and influence have manipulated the political rules to achieve their own ends. For example, look at the regulations which benefit the powerful:
· All must register to vote. (I’m happy with that, democracy is the public’s responsibility but,
· Voters must fill in all the squares on the voting paper. (This ensures preferences flow away from the candidates with less money etc.
· Parties get public funding, minor players mostly don’t.
· Donations by the powerful to the major parties are good for their business interests.

‘My ideal is strong people in parliament who are willing to state their reasons for the way they vote, and who are strong enough to vote against the party if they have good reason to.’
We all have our wish lists of what we would like in politicians, but would we be any different if in their shoes. I think not.
Why not give them all an automatic free vote. Then they can do what you suggest.

But why don’t the parties set them free in this manner? Very simply, the parties would collapse, without the financial support of their wealthy and influential supporters. Make no mistake, control of the open vote is the key (the chief key) to their power over parliament, and us.
We need a ‘cultural shift’ and certainly the ‘parties and the mainstream media will be against it.’ Naturally. People are angry, and with good reason. But while the public is blind to the reasons why it is so, they don’t really want the trouble and sacrifice of any change. So we will still get ‘the government we deserve’.
‘… no one (person) could be in a position to understand all the issues …’ There needs to be specialisation.’ That’s true but, with a cultural shift from ambition and power to an ethos of public service and honour, are we so bereft of ‘good’ people that it couldn’t happen? And if not a secret ballot parliament could appoint secretaries for technical matters as the President does in the US. And what would be wrong with that if parliament decided to do that. That would be quite feasible.
‘…alternative perspectives’. These too will not be lacking with the parliament and people involve in a new and realistic connection, created by the freedom of the ballot in parliament.
‘ There is no easy way to improve it without many more people taking an interest.’
You are quite right there Robert. I invite people to look long and hard at the secret ballot in parliament. It is simple in principle and will work. It will give us the ‘open public forums for people to voice their concerns’, that democracy demands and include more people in the process of politics.
Even politicians will find a much greater effectiveness and fulfilment.
We can cry for an easy way but there is none.
As to a republic we would certainly need a ‘new model and a new approach.’
Keep up the attack!
To look further at this vital reform, see
Happy hunting!
Basil Smith

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Religion and Politics

Yes - Pamela Bone, writing in the 'Age' (Melbourne) today 23/5/05, is quite right - and wrong.
Right in claiming that ethical values are intrinsic to our human nature, and wrong in dismissing the relevance of the 'power' that formed us.
But for a politician to claim religious authority for a personal view as a Christian is to use an authority that is political, not Christian.
Here is the nub of the problem.
In our corrupted democracy we have ceded so much power to party politicians that it is easy for them to become 'a law unto themselves'.
The path to less power for politicians (and more ethics), needs a restoration of the authority of parliament, vis-a-vis the executive, with conscience voting of members prevailing via secret voting in parliament.
Then, individual and minority views, political, religious or otherwise, will not have the present power to unduly influence or worry us.