Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MP accountability

A New Accountability

A Party MP’s response to the arrival of the secret ballot in parliament.

As a party MP I was identified by party policies, and accountable to the party.

Following the introduction of the secret ballot in parliament, to decide all debates, things will be vastly different in parliament and in my electorate.

In my electorate, I will now have to establish my identity personally, as an independent, on an equal footing with any rivals. I must convene public meetings regularly to ensure intensive consultation with my constituents, to establish the best policies to pursue on behalf of my electorate - and

I will become very well known personally by this intimate contact with my constituents, my motives and integrity (my bona fides), being thoroughly scrutinised.

I will now be able to be active in parliament on behalf of those policies preferred by my electorate. My vote will be private but I will be publicly active to achieve the desired outcomes of the electorate.

My strength will lie in the independence of the rest of the Members, who will be free to respond to the policies that I pursue on behalf of the electorate—conditional only on the intrinsic acceptability of those policies.

I will find the local media very interested in my activity in parliament and in the local meetings. So, between the media and the constituents attending these meetings, I will be under the closest scrutiny.

Should outcomes in parliament appear inconsistent with my public stance and efforts, I will come under considerable pressure to satisfy constituents that I have honestly done the best that is possible for them.

However, a failure to achieve a desired, and justifiable, outcome will not be allowed to be the end of the matter, regardless of the difficulty of pursuing it to a successful conclusion later.

Basically, constituents will expect an unremitting representation on their behalf.

Rivals could well emerge at any time if my performance fails to convince the constituents in the public meetings—a very real, and ongoing accountability.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quick! Return to Democracy.

Democracy is about cooperation in society, in search of the best answers to the problems. We need to get away from the competitive divisions in politics (parties) each of which thinks they have the best answers. It is quite clear that durable policies need the considered input of the uninvolved thinking community, through a real independence of all representatives.
As we look towards the next Australian election in November there are many challenges.
In particular there is the escalating challenge of the strains of the federal system of government arising in the past from settlement of the states in separate colonies, from Britain.
The federal constitution retained the separate state governments as the price of setting up a national government in 1901.
The situation has become exacerbated because of the takeover of income tax powers from the states in WWII, due to the exigencies of war. Now the states have the jobs to do but the federal government has the money and criticises them for poor performance all the while sitting on a large surplus of tax revenue.
Party politics is a problem as all the states have Labor governments, ideologically opposed to the federal government.
It is obvious that in the context of hospitals that the federal government approach should be that of a 'good parent', with cooperation and responsibility. It seems that Kevin Rudd is more likely to go that way with a policy of 'cooperative federalism'.
There are some who think that the states should be replaced with regions. That may well be in the future. This would be a massive reorganisation of life in each state, but the dispersed regional population areas might well be better off with government closer and more responsive to their problems. (The principle of subsidiarity suggests that government should be always be as close to the areas of service as possible.)
But the problems of federalism, requiring a cooperative approach between the two levels of government would be no different.
Party politics is always likely to make the problems more difficult.
Let's hope for better things. We need good government and so does the world. If we can't learn to resolve these minor problems in a cooperative spirit what point is there in democracy? Or perhaps we haven't even tried it yet!
There can be little hope for a world government to secure peace and justice, if we can't even do it here, can there?
We've a long way to go, and all uphill!