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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ballots in Parliament.

This subject must never be off the agenda, because party politics is a corruption of democracy and creates more problems than it can ever solve. Democracy, as it stands, endangers the world and all its countries with its corruption and injustice, leading inevitably to the wars which constantly afflict the world.

Party politics is about power and dominance - ‘whatever it takes’ - but democracy is about intelligence and persuasion, which cannot prevail in the absence of the sobering control of the ballot, in our parliaments.

The people must determine the issues, not political party leaders. Ballots in parliament alone will make all MPs independent and give them a sincere, intense interest in all their relationships with the constituents. This will rectify what is a most important element of public concern today - the deliberate exclusion of the people from effective access to the decision-making process. All decisions by ballot in parliament will also quickly stimulate the involvement of the people. This is why the Secret Ballot Party stands for ballots in parliament - and nothing else.

Interest Rates - the 'Cure all'!

The cosseted big-four banks rarely have a bad year – while farmers have suffered many drought years!
The Reserve Bank (RBA) is steadily setting new rates, for fear of inflation as increases in demand outstrip economic capacity, bringing pain to business, farmers and householders on mortgages.
The Western world has demonstrated its preference for consumption rather than savings which accentuates the problem for the RBA – how to keep inflation at bay.
An aging population drives concern over the future cost of pensions together with the likely inadequacy of superannuation funds to provide adequacy of funding for retirement lifestyles.
A recent suggestion demands government attention. Since savings for future retirement and aged care are unlikely to be adequate and there is the need to dampen consumer consumption, it has been suggested that this is just the time to increase the compulsory level of contribution to super funds – from, I think, around nine percent to something like twelve percent.

The Putdown

From time to time we all suffer the pain of unappreciative, uncaring, disrespectful attitudes with which we are treated.

The worst case scenario, where someone is so evilly treated that they give up on life, is so highly regrettable and shocking to us all, as in the case of the death of Brodie Rae Constance Panlock, where workplace safety laws so deplorably failed her.

That we even need workplace safety laws is a terrible indictment on our society, and the fact that they are unable to protect a young life such as hers demonstrates how feeble are ever-expanding laws to achieve acceptable levels of morality in the community.

Depleted morality is reflected where the strong lack compassion and the weak lack the inner reserves of an experience of unconditional love – the only real anchor of the soul. We all need it. We all owe it.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

That which divides (or unites) us.

The Age (3rd Dec.) quotes Family first Senator, Steve Fielding, speaking in the Senate yesterday. He brilliantly summarised our country’s (and the world’s) problem, saying “The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is very difficult … because it polarises people”! Can we name an issue that does not?

The comment of Tony Abbott (The Age 2nd Dec. p 4), on his succession to the role of leader of the Federal Liberal Party is revealing. He ‘was confident few Liberal senators, if any, would split from the party’s new stance. “They owe their careers to the party and they will not lightly do that.”’ (My italics) Strong glue!

We note that the secret ballot for elections regularly, and quietly, succeeds in uniting the people behind the political parties they favour, even though they have little idea of the ultimate actions of those for whom they vote!

Just consider; the secret ballot in parliament would unite the members freely behind each specific issue worthy of majority support, being accountable, as independents, to their electorates alone.

Issues of religion have certainly manifested the divisiveness of doctrines. At present The Parliament of the World’s religions has convened in Melbourne. Are the participants here to unite behind peaceful social policies? A real synthesis of views, especially leading to the freedom of individual choice, would be very welcome.

But Jesus said: "I come not to bring peace, but … a sword". Now there’s a conundrum for the many that look for ‘peace on earth and goodwill to men’ (or is it to men of goodwill?). The cross of Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial and love for others. If that life is an offence to some, who feel condemned by it, it is because they have never known God; which explains the division of which ‘the sword’ is emblematic only. The Spirit calls us to a new freedom - a life of love ‘against which there is no law’.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Privacy Laws

A hospital visit to a neighbour proved interesting. When we got to the ward we found and an empty bed. Enquiring of the nursing staff where the patient might be we were informed that disclosure of the patient’s whereabouts was forbidden by the privacy laws. What could we do?

We were lucky. Down the corridor we examined the trinkets for sale and taking advantage of another browser we voiced our complaint about the nonsensical application of privacy laws. As we voiced our frustration an older staff member overheard and furtively murmured the name of another hospital, to which we gratefully repaired and completed our visit.

The blind obedience of the ward staff to obligatory rules and our complete inability to challenge the senseless of it, is just part of a much wider problem. No matter what our frustration and helplessness with the actions of government and the powerlessness of ‘representatives’, nothing can be done unless public anger swells to the point of exasperation and people take to the streets in protest on one troubling issue. But to deal with all our dissatisfactions we would all have to be fulltime activists!

A serving politician in the Victorian Parliament was asked the question: ‘What would happen if parliaments made all decisions by a ballot of the members?’ The terse reply – ‘It would make MPs accountable’. A young government whip once said: ‘It would make my job hard’. No, impossible!

Picture this! Each MP (after the adoption of the ballot) would have no party feathers to fly with. (I recently asked my (party) representative, if he would have been elected if he stood as an independent. He instantly acknowledged: ‘NO’!) It is quite evident that MPs would then be vulnerable (and accountable) because they would have to convene regular local meetings, and face frequent penetrating questions from the gathering of citizens. Certainly, an early question would highlight the public dissatisfaction with the excessive restrictive powers of the privacy laws, and a demand for their amelioration.

With parties excluded from parliament by the ballot, the people would be free to press for immediate action, and every MP would have the power to take personal and prompt responsibility for the woes of his/her electorate. !

A Republic? Once more!

Someone has pressed the button again. Fair enough, it had to come. But are we simply seeing a rerun of the blame game and empty clich├ęs?

The monarchy is favoured by conservative interests and the ‘It ain't broke’ syndrome, while the republican advocates merely insist that we must have a popular election model and that a president’s powers could be well codified to protect our parliamentary system. That must be explained - in the detail that we need to know.

The desire for an elected president evolves, I suspect, from the dissatisfaction of the people with the power and confusion of party politics. But this will not be changed by an elected president who is isolated from political power.

Anyway, the need for a figure head rather smacks of introspection and nationalism, which is really getting to be dated, in view of our growing involvement with global problems, reluctant though we may be.

The world, is riddled with problems, from the top (corruption) to the bottom (poverty and despair), despite one hundred and fifty years of Western democracy, because the people are too isolated from the process, without the power to move governments to effect change, and (consequently) a diminished sense of responsibility.

John Pilger, 2009 recipient of the Sydney Peace prize, in his speech, ’Breaking the Australian Silence’ (The Age, 6/11) laments the ‘carefully calibrated illusion’ of national pride in "flags and war’" while we look at injustice with the "silence" of the uninvolved.'

I suspect that our isolation from the decision-making process is at the root of our silence, and the impression that politics has nothing to do with morality.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Palestine - fond hopes dashed.

Any fond hopes, we might have had, that Barack Obama’s America could set to rights the ‘peace process’ in Palestine, have been swiftly dashed today by Jason Katsoukis’ Analysis. (The Age 5/10, p11).

Katsoukis comments that ‘Netanyahu is emerging as the region’s most skilled political player’, ‘outfoxing Obama on settlements (they will not cease), and forcing ‘the US to adopt his own approach of emphasising improved ... security conditions’, (no doubt continued freedom of operation of the Israeli Defence Force in the West Bank) instead of peace talks without preconditions, as President Obama had called for, before the United Nations.

Israel has already made it clear that it will never agree to a sovereign state of Palestine - with a military capacity.

Meanwhile, President Abbas, refusing talks without a freeze of new settlements (on US advice), has been comprehensively humiliated, causing understandable Arab 'outrage'.

Israeli defiance, and American weakness, with respect to spreading settlements in the West Bank, goes far back. No US president has succeeded in attempts to persuade Israel to desist due, perhaps, to concern over the Holocaust, and the power of the Jewish lobby. Nor has the UN any useful handle on power to successfully intervene -- with its rulings ignored.

We should ask ourselves: Can the threat of ‘terrorism’ ever be resolved by force of arms, without a solution to this outstanding injustice, causing the hatred at its root?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

'United we stand, divided we fall'

'United we stand, divided we fall'*. The government is now tied in knots
over its endeavour to treat the Sri Lanka asylum seekers with
compassion. It will probably have to revise its stance, to the delight
of its critics.
Clearly, our adversarial system of government is stupid.
The ballot solves elections with a minimum of fuss. Applied in
parliament, the ballot would repeat that success with all issues,
improving decisions at all levels, calming useless conflict and
eliciting respect for our government here and across the world. Just do
it.
'United we stand, divided we fall'.

*Aesop, of Aesop's Fables

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Decisions, decisions!!!

Decisions, decisions, representing both the problem and the opportunity of mankind, are the unavoidable precursors to effective action, in both personal and communal life, to produce the results desired and guard against the troubles to be avoided.
That’s politics in all its dimensions, from the curse of bad decisions to the euphoria of sweet success. But, do the sufferings and the rewards descend equally on all. That too is politics. Is it good enough?

I have just finished reading Taylor Branch’s masterly coverage of the Negro search for freedom and dignity in America, from the Civil War to the march on Washington that concluded a long series of struggles against the political segregation which, along with the deeply manifested hate, lay so disastrously heavy on the Negroes, in the South especially.

But this detailed history covering some nine hundred pages also revealed the dysfunction of the separate government institutions which so effectively stood in the way of righting widespread, severe wrongs. Clearly, America is still in turmoil today, with high aims for itself and the world, but enormous dissent. Has the ‘democracy’, which she seeks to implant in the East, real credibility?

But where do we stand? We are quite different and it has been said that our Prime Minister has more power than an American President. But both are at odds with the varied manifestations of representative government – small parties and state powers. Difficulties abound and critically question the reality of the democracy so often claimed. There are many who are worried – how can the many problems of the present – and the future - be resolved in a desirable climate of peace? Our democracy needs reform. The ballot in parliament is sound but has appealed to few. Where else can we look?

A Queensland group, The Foundation for National Renewal, have conceived an entirely new basis of democratic government, in which fifty representatives of quite small electorates (5000) would meet in regional parliaments (covering 250000), which would each send a representative to the National Parliament. These representatives would rejoin their regional parliaments on the Friday of each sitting week, thus enabling cross conferencing and integrating government of all levels automatically. So, what do you think of that?
Check http://www.national-renewal.org.au/ for more detail.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Symposium again!

A VIP at the Symposium (self-defined 'Very Irish Person'), complained volubly about 'Compulsory Voting'.
1. Barry Jones explained that it is not compulsory voting, only compulsory attendance at the polling booth, (with your use of the secret vote or not being up to you). The aim is to make parliament, as much as possible, truly representative of the whole secretly-voting population. But does this democratic correctness maximise popular support of the government?
2. By a further requirement, all squares on the voting paper must be correctly completed, enabling the two leading contenders to share all transferred preferences, giving the winner over 50% of the vote, invulnerability in the Lower House, and the Prime Minister nearly dictatorial power - to the frustration of the Opposition and many of the people!
3. In other countries the percentage of people voting is often quite low. Britain, for example, has first-past-the-post voting, and government is won without preferences, and less than 50% of the vote. There the party government's rule is more flexible, except where a policy is determined by a 'three-line whip' making member conformance mandatory.
4. The real point of course is that the ruling party power derives its undemocratic power by its control of parliamentary voting in the absence of secret voting in the House. The cure is dead easy for a populace which might become inclined to take an elementary interest in the government of their country.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Democracy’s Failure

As I ‘look’ around the world, I see nothing but trouble, and the more trouble I see the more I think to myself: ‘Wouldn’t it be good if only we had democracy – instead of power politics from shire councils up. At every level, from local to global, policies and decisions are determined in the adversarial context created by the virtually unhindered acquisition of political power and consequent advantage – the so frequent failing of mankind in matching greed and a disrespect for the second commandment – ‘to love thy neighbour as thyself.’.

While experimental models abound, serious flaws prevail. Democracy suffers from the lack of a true model anywhere, in place or time. Even the Athenian democracy from whence the dream of democracy sprang, is picked over by the cynics, to ‘prove’ that it can never be achieved, so why bother. Certainly, slaves had no vote but, throughout the people generally there must have been a remarkable generosity of spirit amongst the people, even for the dream to be born, and also lived for a time.
Their decisions were simply reached in open meetings of the people, with opinions of all freely expressed, until desirable solutions became obvious, and no longer challenged. Thus the people made the rules by which they were governed. Quaker meetings today betray a similar principle of operation, reflecting the regard that they have for each other. It is apparent that mutual respect is encouraged in this context and tends towards becoming the norm in a climate of trust.

Thus the genius of theoretical democracy lies in its design that no one might dominate another. But, what has happened to sabotage the theory, to the serious disadvantage, and risk, to us all?
Principles of peaceful governance fail us from the local level, to the state, nation and the world. Leaders are treated with contumely and even their lives sometimes threatened by individuals and groups who are dissatisfied with current trends in policy. It is reported that the net is alive with threats to the life of President Obama, in ‘the world’s greatest democracy’.

At present I am reading the story of Afghan independent MP, Malalai Joya whose life is under continual threat, and before her expulsion from parliament her microphone was cut off if she dared to speak, because she would not refrain from exposing the criminality of the warlords who control Afghanistan with the support of America and its allies, including Australia.

The world is struggling uphill with mounting problems, with its peoples’ ideal of self-government wrecked on the rocky shores of ideology and religion. Democracy, which belongs to the people, is secular, standing for the public interest, the wellbeing of the people, but it has lost the battle with the self-interest of the people. Is that the way we really want it to be? There are some ‘stirrings in the tree tops’, but a national revival of the will of the people is essential.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

‘Israel, US toil to break impasse.’

This Age heading (16/9) implies that both are agreed on a desired outcome. That could be true were it a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians they were seeking together. However, the ‘impasse’ referred to, concerns the basic stumbling block in the long-running attempts at peace negotiations between Israel and the leaders of the Palestinians, whose aspiration for a national identity has being steadily demolished, by the settler ‘invasion’ of the West Bank.
The article clearly indicates that: ‘Israeli president, Mr. Netanyahu, told members of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that he had defied American requests to stop construction completely’. US presidents, from Ronald Reagan on, acting on behalf of an ineffective UN, have been unable to secure the necessary cooperation of Israeli governments.
Settlement continues unabated, with Israeli settlers in the West bank constantly growing in numbers supported by the IDF.
The whole tenor of the article denies the impression given by the article’s headline, which I find puzzling, to say the least. The world has waited since 1948 for this standoff to be resolved and the plight of the Palestinians to be respected.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Palestinian peace talks

The Age today (27/8) published an article: 'Truth
is the way to peace' by Jonathan Freedland from the English 'Guardian',
in which he writes: 'Peace may have stayed out of reach because for too
long we refused to confront the true causes of this war', which are more
than a century old, even then ignoring such reasons for hatred as the
favoured son dispute between Ishmael and Isaac the favoured son and
ancestor of a 'chosen' people. It is worth noting that both Judaism and
Islam have long rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah, Prince of Peace,
as well as rejecting the second commandment: 'to love thy neighbour'at.

For the history of this conflict, reference may be made to:
http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html and
http://www.mideastweb.org/saudipeace.htm.

While Palestinians, and Israelis generally, want to live in peace, the
sticking points are numerous.
Most Palestinians would accept Israel just as Israelis generally would
accept a Palestinian state, but Israel will not accept a Palestine with
any military capacity, which would seem to mean they would live under
Israeli rule - hardly a happy result for Palestinians.

On a different tack, Israel has the serious demographic problem of the
Israeli Arabs, with their large families, fearing Jewish minority
status. Israel proposes to make these Arabs swear allegiance to a Jewish
state, or have no vote. Palestinian prospects of freedom look dim.

In fact, the very strength of the Palestinian resistance, the
willingness of martyrs to die, now proves a substantial hindrance to an
honourable outcome to the peace process. Arab aggression, in war or
with rockets and suicide bombers, has solved nothing, only prolonging
the agony, with Palestinian losses, whether fighters or civilians,
always being far in excess of the enemy losses; as for example in the
recent Gaza Strip conflict, where rockets killed hundreds, but the IDF
killed some 3 1/2 thousand.

However, the major problem may turn out to be, again, that American
presidents' power to secure an answer to this problem is seriously
compromised by the strength of the Jewish lobby in America. The
Spooner cartoon accompanying the above article shows an uncertain Barack
Obama, with a huge 'rock' to roll away. The rock is labelled MIDDLE
EATERN/ ANTI - SEMITISM. That's wierd! In 1948 most of the Arab
population fled in terror to refugee camps. Is that any basis for
believing in a satisfactory answer at this stage without a truly
powerful peacemaker - and a really fair answer?

Underdogs – Part I

Football

Martin Flanagan (The Age 31/8) gives a history of the fluctuating fortunes of Melbourne’s various football teams over the last seventy five years. In all sports there are winners and losers. The question: ‘Which team will be premiers?’ occupies many minds over the football season, not least those of the players themselves, and not forgetting those who tip the weekly.
However, in competitive sports, what makes some winners, and others losers, is not easy to assess the possible outcome attracts much interest, analysis – and guesswork. For many, quite a bit is at stake, and consequently the interest of the public is presently heading for the crescendo of a close final game
Captains, coaches, and of course the players, are all important but, often teams are favoured with the support of backers, wealthy or otherwise influential, which can tip the balance with an important moral support, rescuing the team from its underdog status.

Palestine – ‘Farmers’ struggle to harvest beset by a faceless menace’ (The Age 31/8).
There are places where the unfairness of the ‘competition’ is so entrenched that the underdogs have so little chance of escape that there is virtually no hope for a reasonable future. The above story – on page eight – does not appear in the Online Age, which means that, as papers disappear, underdogs’ troubles will be less and less visible for a concerned public to see.
The fact is that there are Palestinian farmers who suffer attacks form masked settlers whose homes adjoin their farms, with crops and buildings burnt, orchards surrounded by encroaching settler homes and poisoned, without any chance of protection or redress. Put simply, the Israeli settlers do as they please, with a mere token response from the IDF (Israel Defence Force, apparently there to defend the settlers!) and no settler in danger of being punished.
The settlements, without official approval, but the effective support of the Israeli government, occupy much of the Palestinian West Bank, making it virtually impossible for there ever to be a Palestinian homeland, despite the repeated efforts of America, and others over many years to make this happen.
The Palestinians are truly underdogs - a case of a religion creating a virtually insoluble problem and democracy not finding a solution.

History

For the history of this conflict, reference may be made to:
http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/history.html and
http://www.mideastweb.org/saudipeace.htm.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Political shambles.

'With governments like this in charge'. So runs the heading over the Age letter of 7/8 by John Gemmell,
as he fumes about government approaches to political campaign funding, stumbling water policy, public fear mongering, secrecy, and dismissal of expert opinion. (continue at http://secretballot.blogspot.com/)

Indeed, as we see the fruitless confrontation in Canberra over climate change, with personal pride being the dominant factor hindering the kind of intelligent interaction that a believer in democracy might hope for, is it any wonder that we see discouragement rampant in the community?
We are assured in the Bible that 'the powers that be are ordained by God'. Well, that leaves us in a bit of a quandary. The comment: 'Why do we do it?' rings a tiny bell somewhere. Yes, why? In fact we do do it - we vote them in and we vote them out. That's it! That's the extent of our political engagement!
Shaun Carney writes, (The Age 12/8): 'What we're seeing is the failure of the established political parties and the political system itself to generate a discussion, a revolt - anything at all - on one of the great issues of our time.' Where is the public engagement? Indeed, where is it? That is apart from the media, which does nothing to bring opposed view together where a synthesis can operate.
The same thing applies to the experts. We get scattered views but no resolution, enabling one 'expert' (The Age 13/8) such as Dr Gordon Cheyne (Dr. of what?) to assert confidently that there is no such thing as dangerous climate change.
We need a political process that resolves problems, quickly, securely, eliminating political heat (which achieves nothing at all).
Meanwhile, suggestions are made that party campaigns should be publicly funded, so the totally corrupt practice of allowing the flow of vested interest funds to the parties (cash for a chat to a minister), can be arrested. Isn't it quite ludicrous that we should even consider lavishing public money on the parties to enlarge the very campaigns they use to fight for power, while doing nothing to increase opportunities for our involvement as intelligent participants? They just don't care about political reform, do they?
Our political process needs modernising, but not in a manner that might suit the powers-that-be. As Alfred E. Smith (a former governor of New York) once said: 'All the evils of democracy can be cured by more democracy'.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Human Beings are created equal !

Human Beings are indeed created equal Vincent Zankin (The Age 7/8), but in another sense, are made equal, before the law, by the law of the land.

Thus the refusal of terrorism suspect Nayef El Sayed to stand before the magistrate, in court, constitutes a punishable charge of contempt of court - a breach of the rule of law.

Australian law prevails throughout this land with no ifs or buts. Minority views or beliefs, religious or otherwise, contrary to existing law, cannot prevail against the Australian law.
The beliefs and practises of religions are individual but, ideally, have a separate, public role to play, assisting and encouraging believers in the growth of citizen and leadership qualities, as an outcome of their faith.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in this world - the strong and the weak. Democracy, the brainchild of the Athenians, was conceived as a way for the latter to keep the former in order.
How is it working out? It’s not.

Our media is full of the struggles of minorities for justice, or even a real hearing. This is the constant story, throughout the whole spectrum of society, both national and international. Examples are legion.
Take economics. In 2006 Nouriel Roubini was contemptuously labelled Dr. Doom for predicting in detail the process which resulted in the global financial crisis. He is now (for a brief time) famous, with David Hirst (The Age 6/8) noting his Australian visit ‘from Cassandra to super star’. His fame will, no doubt, soon be brushed aside by the ‘wisdom’ of the gung-ho ‘experts’, whose hubris caused the problem in the first place.

The work of Jimmy Carter in easing US relations with North Korea was wrecked by the aggressive George Bush, resulting in the acute nuclear weapons stand-off, which was behind the arrest of two US journalists. Now we see Bill Clinton, after a ‘soft’ independent visit to North Korea, returning with both of them.

A very real issue is that party governments of all kinds are practically impervious to the wisdom of the people amongst whom are very often those who can see the imminent danger, but live with the frustration (and helpless fury?) of being steadfastly ignored. (The policies on ‘water’ and climate change come immediately to mind.) Meanwhile the juggernaut of partisan government rolls on, arrogant, tone deaf, too weak to do what is necessary, but strong enough to juggle experimental responses to vital issues, afraid to listen.

The Godwin Grech affair is another casualty of our partisan style power structure. As a public servant, his responsibility was unquestionably to serve the new government, but the length of stay of the coalition government made him a Liberal convert with an attitude which should have disqualified him as a public servant.
(That Turnbull was willing to take advantage of his inappropriate illegal loyalties casts a long shadow over his democratic character.) None of this would have been remotely possible within a ballot parliament.

The home-birth issue is another case of threatening government dismissal of the importance of minority values. It maybe that the risks to mother and child are too great to accept. But where is the forum for all sides to be adequately heard. For a minority to lose the argument can be accepted if the process fully and fairly canvasses all the facts, without government or other dominance, and the process will permit a rerun of the issue, after an interval, if fresh facts indicate that it should be.

As I write, i have a visit from a builder. He tells me of nine months delay to get the building permits from the Council for three verandah roofs (for which he already has the deposits).

The point is that minorities make a lot of noise because they fear that without that they will never be heard. Then governments resist with more or less force out of fear.


Nothing can really be final in the affairs of the nation, other than declaring war – in which case a very large percentage free vote (90%?) ) in parliament would be essential.

We are not children, or sheep. We are not ignorant, we can think, although, by having the opportunity available to take part in active participation, we could think better and more deeply.

When will we learn that pure democracy is needed to dissipate all this fear, frustration, and anger. In view of government resistance to reasonable change, many are convinced that we should have a ‘bill of rights’ to let the courts have the government on a leash. But control could be, and should be, by the people - not the courts. Rights merely set the people against government, whereas government should be in a realistic way answerable to a confident people, with a confident voice.

Without this advance (to non-partisan government (via the ballot in parliaments), there is no chance of a successful world government. If we don’t wake up to the absolute need for change, Armageddon is a very real possibility. We are the best people to get this ball rolling, if we will only believe - and take appropriate action. Join the Secret Ballot Party - for free.
basilsmith@sfastmail.fm

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ethics etc

Dr. Lindy Edwards writes (The Age 3/ 8) ‘Ethical behaviour, it seems, is a core input for thriving economies.' In other words, community ethics must replace greed and self-interest as the foundation for economic efficiency and progress. This is not exactly surprising. The need for right living or, in other words, the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would that they should do unto you), obviously has universal application, whether in the home, at work, or, surprise surprise! - in the world of politics.
There is no doubt that private enterprise, as an important aspect of individual liberty, has an important role in the vitality of business, and society generally. But to equate greed and self-interest with 'private enterprise' is a serious mistake. They can, in no wise, be regarded as synonymous or congruent, and this misunderstanding has obviously been at the root of the recent global financial crisis, with rash investment strategies encouraged by governments, by deregulation of the financial markets.
There can be no doubt that appropriate regulation is an essential safeguard for the liberty and well-being of all, within the framework of a democracy. But parliaments are pretty much infected by partisan interests, absorbing and adopting some of their less than desirable principles and beliefs.
It is certainly clear that the behaviour in our parliaments would also benefit considerably by a more diligent understanding and application of the Golden Rule.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Bill of Rights

.

There are many at present striving to have a Federal ‘bill of rights’ giving our courts a power of review of parliamentary decisions. This view is driven by a limited concept of democracy, seeking an alternative answer in legal provisions to control parliament, overlooking the real cause of the problem, the corruption of party politics, which messes up parliament as a clean-cut decision-making body, and precludes the people from their vital role. Ideologies and the interests of various minorities dominate parliament as a result. A better democracy requires much more ‘say’ for the people. The radical change needed to restore democracy is the adoption of the ballot in parliament for all decisions. Without this simple but far-reaching reform, the mess will continue, with a bill of rights muddying the water, solving little and contributing to a further complication of the already complicated task of government.

Where people in power are able to act with hubris, their decisions fail to reflect the wisdom of the people which the system excludes. Their decisions are essentially unsatisfactory, and deservedly at the mercy of the dissident criticism of the people, with the often urgent need for strong, sensible action repeatedly frustrated.

Antagonism towards government is a primary evidence of a failure in democracy, not proof of its health. A public company could never survive with a board in the constant, deliberate conflict of power politics, like our parliaments.

With independent representatives linking the people to a balloting parliament, which able to appoint and direct the executive, a thorough examination of important far-reaching matters would precede critical decisions, integrating the people in the decision-making process to the degree necessitated by the issues involved. A world-respected democracy would quickly ensue.

Keep God out of our democracy!

In an excellent article, Professor Carmen Lawrence (self-confessed unbeliever), writes (The Age July 2), ‘I listened with alarm as MPs lined up to claim Christian identity while seeking to justify George Bush in the attack on Iraq.’ I share her concern.

We may think that a Christian MP could guarantee honesty, Jim Wallace, CEO of the Australian Christian Lobby, has testified that a Christian MP confessed to him, with tears, how his loyalty to party interests could override and violate his conscience.

Even if religious MPs believe they have access to Superior Wisdom, history does not concur. We know now that the preemptive war in Iraq, insisted on by confessed-evangelical Christian, George Bush, was quite unjustified, almost certainly hypocritically conceived, and was mainly and wrongly supported by our government. Surely, it must lie heavily on the conscience of all its supporters.

Professor Lawrence concludes: ‘Often the very same people who bowed their heads in prayer (to “Almighty God”), were the ones who appeared least constrained by Christian charity. There’s the rub.’ If that be true there’s something radically amiss.

In any case, with this ‘mistake’ thousands of Americans died - with far more in Iraq. Who is accepting responsibility? Politicians retire and walk away apparently untroubled. Meanwhile, those who encouraged them and those who support them bear no responsibility either.

We need to realise that in a democracy we are all responsible for what government does. Avoiding this responsibility only multiplies the problems. Fair and effective democratic government needs the involvement of the people. To this end, an early revision of our parliamentary system is essential, to be based on the ballot, with party rule replaced by parliamentary government and independent representation, so that we can participate and be responsible.

Rearmament - Defence White Paper

The government’s defence White Paper has advocated rearmament, of the navy - doubling of our submarines from eight to twelve, more and bigger warships with missile capacity; and our air force with more powerful planes. Previously we reequipped our army with the latest battle tanks, ‘to deal with terror’! Will this ‘waving of the fist’ make us safer in today’s realities? Surely an aggressive attitude breeds aggression.

We might be an ever-ready partner for America, as these policies strongly suggest, but of the reverse we can not be so certain. The world’s relationships have changed.

We cannot stand tall as a military power, nor should we ever want to, but we can stand tall as a peace-loving nation advancing the cause of democracy, by reforming our own. For example, our constitution could require an eighty to ninety percent free vote in parliament before deploying any military force beyond our shores! Australians could very well vote that in—if we were asked!

Militant attitudes are very easy for government to sell to the public, fear being an easy public button to push, as seen in the ‘communist threat’, and our involvement in Vietnam (and now North Korea), and the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ with our encouragement of America’s pre-emptive strike in Iraq. How easy it is to blunder on, with hawks in our back room and fear haunting our counsels of state. Fear makes intelligent, restrained policies difficult, requiring faith in the virtue of a people-centred stance of helpful, peaceful intention.

It is encouraging that two ex prime ministers have been moved by concern at the aggressive implications of the defence white paper. Both Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating have embraced these issues from a non-partisan point of view, highlighting the importance of peaceful intention and goodwill respectively. We surely echo their concern.

Superior Merits of the Ballot parliament

It seems all are not convinced of the superior merits of a ballot parliament.
The term ‘ballot’ is taken to mean a ‘secret vote’ by all the members sitting in parliament, a democratic mode far superior to that which prevails, having far better democratic credentials. Why so?

Firstly, we are talking about political power. Who wields it - and who should?
Democracy is government BY the people, OF the people, FOR the people, which means that we, as individuals, are entitled, and have a responsibility, to participate in forming the decisions on matters of public interest and concern. But clearly this means working with others, to arrive at sensible decisions.

Issues can have long term affects on our lives and it is clearly important that facts should govern decisions. But our present system of open voting and party control in parliament results in see-saw governments with important decisions often more influenced by ideology than factual considerations.

Only by a freedom for equality of public input, at all levels, can important decisions be properly subjected to new facts, new thinking and new research.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mission Impossible?

Can President Obama persuade the Jews and Arabs, combatants in Palestine, to ‘kiss’ and make up a quarrel that started when Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian maid, bore Abraham a son, Ishmael. But Isaac, born subsequently to Abraham’s wife, Sarai, was deemed to be Abraham’s real heir and Ishmael was cast out.
The Israelite history in the ‘promised land’ over the centuries was chequered to say the least. That history, in the Old Testament, shows they were victors or vanquished in relation to surrounding kingdoms, as they worshipped, or ignored God. Ever longing for a Messiah, to be successful in war like David, whose kingdom extended from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, they misunderstood the nature of their true Messiah, Jesus.
False messiahs arose and challenged the Roman rule, so that the Romans fulfilled Jesus’ prophesy, destroying the temple and ejecting the Jews, who fled to many countries. Maintaining their separateness as God’s chosen people, they became offside in Russia and Europe.
The Jewish desperation for a separate state, after the Hitler’s ‘final solution’ and its Holocaust, persuaded the UN to allow the Zionists their wish to form the nation of Israel in Palestine. A wise decision?
Some six hundred thousand Palestinians deserted their homes in fear, fleeing to refuge camps around Gaza and in neighbouring states, where Muslim resentment nurtured the new guerrilla war of the suicide bomber. And now the impasse.
Israel, militarily very strong, with American arms, financial support, and by repute, nuclear weapons, cannot be defeated. Nor can they be secure against the Muslim-fed hatred and the fearless antagonism within the Arab nation, the descendants of Ishmael.
Israel, constantly threatened is scared of the threat posed by any rise in Arab power, such as the current threat posed by Pakistan’s nuclear intentions.
Meanwhile, the possibility of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank, assigned by the UN as Palestinian land, has been ‘scotched’ by orthodox-religious Jewish view the God ‘promised’ it all to Abraham and his descendants. Their many settlements have the tacit approval, and defence, of Israel’s government. This, together with the high separation wall, wandering through the West bank, even separating Palestinian villagers from their farms, and dividing families, effectively renders a separate Palestinian state unviable.
Can Obama, with the best will in the world, succeed in pursuing a separate Palestinian state? Consider the vehement response to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ‘openness’ to a two state solution – the right wing cry: ‘traitor’.
But, consider Netanyahu’s preconditions: the Palestine state ‘must be demilitarised and be unable to control its borders or airspace, and must recognise Israel as a Jewish state,’ (the Age 17/6).
And Arabs resident in Israel can only ever expect to be second-class citizens, without the vote, unless they agree Israel is a Jewish state, because Israel fears an indigenous Arab demographic victory.
Jewish minority power in America virtually ensures that Obama, with the best will in the world, cannot resolve this standoff, which ensures that the ‘war’ of Islam against the Western world could last a very long time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ballots IN Parliament - realistic?

My friends,
I am continually saddened by the fruitless argumentation and sterile
conflict in our government circles - (and media). Sound, constructive
decision-making is hamstrung by bitter and pointless disputation. I note
that in Britain they achieved unity of purpose in WWII with coalition
government, after a terrible start without unity. In the beginning of
the present crisis I recall there was talk of a coordinated approach but
it quickly withered through the pressures and pride of partisan
interests.

Watching the children singing with enthusiasm at Grandparents' Day,
today, and admiring their excellent work, in classrooms proclaiming the
highest life values, I came to reflect - do our leaders uphold these
values? Does our style of conflict-based democracy support these values?
Will life beyond school cherish, or dash, their enthusiasm and hope?

They certainly deserve better - much better.

Why should we continue with the present divisive, partisan style of
politics when a simple change to an electronic secret voting system in
our parliaments would quickly result in independent representation, with
ongoing, effective, popular involvement, and a growing confidence in the
possibilities of sensible government, to plan well for a secure and
sustainable future.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ethnics & Branch Stacking – a part of political life

Dick Gross (The Age Comment & Debate 12th May) comments: “It is legitimate to organise to increase a group’s political power. Stacking (is) just part of political life.
“It is a story about how all tiers of government operate to secure power bases that go right to the top of the political food chain.” Speaking for himself (as a Jew) Gross says: “we, and every other grouping, need it.”

It is clear enough that migrants from non-European countries are ethnic minorities, with their consequent difficulties and frustrations. Without seeking to pillory them (Gross notes that ‘anglo’ political manipulation tends to excite less criticism) we should realise the extent to which these so common attitudes diverge from the very central principle of democracy – the right to an equality of political power for every one of us.

Throughout the ages there have been the struggles to bring societies nearer to that philosophical ideal, (which possibly echoes the Jewish injunction to ‘Love Thy Neighbour’), to the Greek recognition of the Demos (the individual people who comprise ‘the people’), through Magna Carta, the French Revolution, British parliamentary reforms, the ‘Australian Ballot’ for elections and the Swiss ‘Initiative’ (giving their people the right to initiate referenda).

But we are still stuck with our wretched ‘representative’ system, which hands power to the powerful – and entrenched conflict. And in the middle of all this we note that as long ago as 1911, English writers Belloc & Chesterton recognised that those whom parliament should rule are the main forces in our parliaments, to the detriment of the people. In this winner-take-all world minorities struggle. Is this a good enough ‘democracy’? I, and many others, think not.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shariah Law

The video below reports that an Islamic shariah court has been allowed independence from British law - to operate in Britain.

This weak acquiessence to Muslim extremist pressure is extremely dangerous and is in absolute contradiction to democratic principle.

The law is much worse than an ass to allow this invasion of the rights of all Britons to the full protection of British law and government, from any religious dictatorial principles insidiously creeping in to Western society under cover of more moderate Islam.

It simply cannot be permitted.

Welcome to Saudi Britain

Joining the 'dots'

The Sustainability Commissioner, Dr McPhail, in tabling the Victorian State of the Environment Report, (The Age editorial, Friday Dec 5th) reveals an environment in ‘dangerous decline’, and ‘laments the failure to join the dots between issues … such as climate change and water supply’.

Similarly, ‘Planning Minister Justin McFadden dared lament the environmentally unsustainable trend to McMansions. The report observes that “community support for government leadership is needed”’.

There are plenty of others, in which the solution of one aggravates the problem in another, without adequate consideration of other associated matters.

Examples include:
1. The expansion of bio-fuel production, requiring agricultural land, when a growing world population will need ever more food.

2. Then there is the electric car which will help with the oil crisis. But have governments really got the will to develop the renewable energy needed to supply the extra electricity required, or will we simply burn more coal.
3. Last year a prize for the best and brightest Christmas lights, promoted by Melbourne commercial interests, ignoring the need to cut emissions from coal powered electricity, has passed by, virtually free of comment.

So much for government 'joining the dots'.

World government

The ideal of world government is gaining some attention, a reflection of the serious concern at the multiple conflicts in the world today. The ‘gun’ and the ‘bomb’ still hold sway, while the poorest of the world, especially their children, continue to suffer and die.

No country has yet mastered the secret of government without the corrupting control of minority interests. So what hope can there be for world democracy where the veto still rules in the Security Council? As in Ancient Greece, ‘decisions (would be) made by the many rather than the few’ in a real world democracy. A ‘pipedream’?

I have elsewhere postulated a world parliament based on a valid democracy.
It might be roughly as follows: China 1250, India 1000, USA 300, Indonesia 220, Brazil 175, Russia 150, Pakistan 140, UK 60 and, Australia 20.



If we have come some way in peacefully integrating many different cultures over the years, that owes much to our rather stable political system, largely because so many years ago we were granted the ‘fair go’ of a secret ballot for the election of our representatives.

But is that all we can do? Democracy is still weak and struggling convulsively with the several hefty world problems which cannot be avoided. Is it so impossible, to have the people govern instead of minority interests?

We ourselves need the last neglected step of democratic reform—the secret ballot to rule in our parliaments, conferring independence on all our representatives, restoring parliamentary government—by the people.

Now that would give us the world’s respect, with an image to lead the world to a genuine democracy within and among all the nations. Must it be only a ‘pipedream’?
.

A nervous electorate

A nervous electorate awaits the outcome of desperate efforts by our governments to contain the financial/job crises, while environmentalists despair of ever seeing an effective program to solve the dangers of climate change.

Meanwhile, the success of stimulus and infrastructure spending being uncertain in the short term, maybe better, maybe worse, in the longer term, Dr. Lindy Edwards, (Age Comment & Debate Tues. May 5) ponders whether Prime Minister Rudd will turn out to be ‘Hero, or villain’, depending on which point of time judgement is involved and whether success is a rain shower or failure becomes a hailstorm.

In the midst of innumerable commentators with widely varying views, and political parties at war in parliament, we have Tony Cutcliffe of the Eureka Project proclaiming our leaders need a ‘two-way flow on decisions’ (Age Business, Opinion May 6).

Cutcliffe claims: ‘most senior decision-makers (have) become isolated from the lives of ordinary Australians’…and ’rather than uniting the community to fight our biggest known threat, Australia’s key decision-makers are leading the community to division, fatalism and fear.’ We need, he says: ‘a structured conversation with Australians—with information flowing both ways’, to take advantage of ‘the highly influential knowledge and skills among staff and constituencies now consigned to irrelevance’. He has a point.

I have long maintained that ordinary people are a resource, neglected by party governments which, being engrossed with the exercise of power, have neither the time nor the will for the profitable interchange with the community which could improve the clarity of decisions and achieve a fully supportive public.

A structured involvement of the people could vastly improve the practice of government, with better decisions and a lot less public frustration. This highlights an elementary aspect of democracy which is missing—to our shame and possible peril.

Guilt, fear and hope

Fear, both real and imagined, has a cause - guilt. Fear reigns in the world today because of the multitude of wrongs. And no wonder. Amongst other things, ‘big boys’ not content with their toys are chasing still bigger and ‘better’ toys, with military robotics—to make war more safely!

Meanwhile our troops are quietly evacuating Iraq, having been in meek support of America for some years. Increasing numbers of troops are going into Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban. How respected are these ventures in the Arab world? And what is our reputation in the eyes of these people? We don’t want to lose any soldiers over there - standing up for the cause of freedom. But we have and we will. Is there an end which is worth it - and can it be achieved? Is what we are doing right?

The growth of China’s economic power is now being followed by an increase in China’s military spending. Does China threaten us? Hardly! What is the point? They like, and receive, large supplies of minerals from Australia – notably steel, coal and gas. Seemingly in fear of China, our bureaucrats have devised plans for the purchase of more dangerous aircraft and new submarines with missile capacity. This has not gone down well with China, and we should not be surprised. Personally, I am staggered! Who do we think we are? Do we think we should do this to help (encourage) America to ‘have a go’ at China? China?
Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Euripides - Wikiquote

We have already gone down that path with President Bush’s pre-emptive strike on Iraq - a proper mess - and to what purpose? We know of China’s latent tension with the USA, over the old issue of Taiwan’s independence. But this issue has been bubbling away for decades with no foreseeable likelihood of escalation.

Now we are in Afghanistan - another murky spot - achieving what? The sensitivity of our presence is marked by attempts to hide our troops killing half a civilian family. In this confused land, avoiding such a tragedy is no doubt easier said than done. And winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans seems to verge on the impossible, with us carrying so much American baggage, with Iraq, Palestine and who knows what else. It is far easier to acquire guilt than their confidence, as the invader.

We must look to our ways - and sensible reform of our decision-making processes - to safeguard us from a national foolishness which would ignore the many wise injunctions of the past, leading us in fear, further and further from a healthy respect for the Golden Rule. Building on the Rock of righteousness will always be much better than the sand of pragmatism, guilt and fear. ‘Righteousness alone exalts a nation’ – the way of hope. ‘When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ Proverbs16:7

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Forum Report

Free Forum Report.
I have to advise that the attempt at a free forum failed miserably on the 22nd. No one came, despite the significant interest shown in the concept beforehand. Never mind, we'll try again soon—a bit harder. On with the job of democratic reform!

To refresh; in seeking a meeting of ordinary people to discuss the issues in local forum, it was sort to initiate an important move forward in democratic reform.
The two things missing in our democracy which have permitted the slide into the dictatorial government of the party system are:
1. The open system of voting in our parliaments, which denies our representatives the freedom to function truly and fully as our representatives,
2. The absence of local forums, which must be convened by all representatives, to give a significant, effective community involvement in the decision-making process.

We thus have a stalemate. MPs think the people are not interested enough to attend. And they are right, because the people think that MPs are not interested in listening, and they are right, so what's the point—there is none.

So people are troubled and unhappy, with no power to influence important, far-reaching decisions, when the future is clearly going down the gurgler. We face the looming chaos of climate change, resource exhaustion, and world population explosion, with a monumental incompetence in the world’s democracies generally, to govern adequately, with institutionalised conflict throughout the community.

But now, massive problems of starvation and disease threaten the world’s future, with little or no prospect of competent world government to secure world order. These pressures are likely to lead to an exponential growth in world migration and a growing danger of nations seeking military solutions.

Dr Lindy Edwards, political scientist, speaking of the need to reinvent our social democracy, says: The Battle of ideas has never been more important, because where the future leads is up to us’.

So, back to the main problem—without the direct involvement of the people, we have government and people at enmity with each other. The people are encouraged by power-hungry-party-governments to be self-centred and demanding, whereas effective democratic government, in the future, will need the willing cooperation of the people to cope with decisions substantially more difficult than has been required to date.

There is thus a critical need to take the initiative in developing local forums, firstly where concerned citizens can have their ‘say’, and where ultimately, the people and their representatives can meet in friendly cooperation, to resolve the best approach to each and every problem.

We can't change a governing party's viewpoint in local forum, but the people will be able to have a very significant influence on government decisions when all the representatives become independent by a permanent move to fully balloting parliaments.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Clean Coal – An Oxymoron?

A truly apt summation! And Mr. Charlie Spears, inaugural head of Clean Coal Victoria admits as much (The Age Mon. 27/4 Business Day p3).

It is truly extraordinary how far the dream of the impossible, can persist beyond hope, when vested interests are involved, even when there are hard facts which simply deny all hope.
Paddy Manning’s G—BIZ article (p8), quotes some of those facts from Graham Brown, long time NSW coal miner, e.g.:
1. ‘Every tonne of coal burnt (creates) 2.5 to 2.7 tonnes of carbon ‘(CO2) - burying oxygen!
2. It would need to be compressed 500 times to be trucked to Cooper Basin in South Australia
3. ‘Buried one kilometre, temperature could be 65 C’ (with much increased pressure) and risk (or certainty) of leakage,
4. With regard to jobs, Brown says ‘statistics in Europe and a study by Greenpeace on the central coast of NSW show that there’s six times more jobs in the transition away from coal than there is in it.’

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Climate action

Sent To Senators on the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy
on Greens submission email form

The CPRS is complex, weak and corrupted by exemptions.

A far more effective control of the danger of climate change would be to
tax all emission materials (oil, coal etc) at the point of supply, start
at once, and at a low rate that would not panic the natives! At least
some costs will have to be passed on.

We will all have to learn how we can absorb these costs, now and
willingly, with the knowledge that they have to be steadily increased
until climate stability is realised.

Parliament (I speak advisedly - party politics must go) must not balk at
this hurdle by reason of political fears, and front the public (us)
together, fearlessly or we will be done like a dinner.


Climate action tax revenue must be diverted (not to compensation other
than the poor) to the encouragement and investment in a hefty growth in
alternative energy production - fast.

We have become profligate in the use of power. For example,
unnecessarily large homes are built on open plans causing heavy power
bills for both heating and cooling, not to mention power used in
production of materials and construction. And every tree knocked down is
a reduction in CO2 absorption.
And we'd better learn to switch off the lights!

We will simply have to all work together on this. All energy costs must
rise, to make us all reduce consumption, through efficiency measures of
all kinds - by individuals, business and governments.

By the way, the advent of the electric car, to reduce oil consumption
will be no help of itself, as it will only increase overall electricity
consumption from coal, which is worse than oil (which is partly
hydrogen). Substituting renewable energy for coal (especially), is a
desperately urgent need.

Let's 'jsdoit', as I saw on one car number plate
Basil Smith
111/100 Harold St. Wantirna, 3152.
Tel. 03 9800 2561
Author, 'A Chariot of Fire - Secret Ballots in Parliament'

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Democracy and Survival

Australian manufacturing jobs are going offshore at a great speed in the midst of the world financial crisis, with fear and uncertainty prevalent.

A tax on emissions without any exemptions, which seems fairer, has been scrapped in favour of an emission trading cap scheme, with exemptions for trade-exposed industries. In addition, industry is resisting the scheme’s commencement before 2012. Sounds like too little, too late.

The solar power industry which might have turned out a good employer and exporter, along with wind power, has suffered without government encouragement of investment! Here, it seems, another worrying provision negates the advantage of private power production. It appears that heavy polluters will be able to simply increase their emissions by the amount of private power production until 2020. Private power ‘helpers’ are not one bit happy.

All the while, science is increasingly worried that we are failing to control the damaging rise in sea temperature. Droughts and storms are exceeding historical levels, underlined by a more severe bush fire season. Polar and Tibetan plateau ice are diminishing further, beyond expectation, threatening warmer sea temperatures, which would certainly accelerate climate change.

In the middle of all this it would seem logical to have government in Canberra acting as a unified cooperative parliament, drawing relevant people and all their intelligence together, to give us our best chance of winning the many battles before us.

But no. At each and every level of government we see the principle of cooperation and unified action continually flouted in favour of that of competition— for individual and party advantage—routinely and revoltingly displayed in the television ‘show’, Parliamentary Question Time.

It achieves nothing of value, disgusts visitors and viewers, adult and child alike, and should be replaced by programs in which those government policies and actions with which we who vote are most concerned, can be sincerely and clearly explained. To that we are entitled.

Our democracy may yet survive the depredations of party politicians on our territory, if we but stand up and be counted.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Watchman, what of the night?

Reflecting on the news, the words ‘What of the … ‘came to mind, meaning something, but what? Where from? Isaiah 21:11, 12. ‘Watchman, what of the night?' Enigmatic --- prophetic. What does it mean?

From the horror night of the bush fires, in fierce winds and record heat, with many lives lost, we have been celebrating a morning, the strength of the human spirit, to meet the trauma and its aftermath in hospital ward, and determination to rebuild.

What of the night? Brief is the quiet of morning as hot winds threaten to return.

Taken by surprise, we suspect climate change has been a contributor. Not in one hundred and fifty years has there been such a dry climate. Is there worse to come? Can we win the battle against fire and flood, added to our world’s financial crisis?

Are we politically fitted to face such future onslaughts, especially if climate change is on the march? While government struggles with climate change, the world financial crisis, and virtual war in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst lesser, normal problems, the opposition tugs disingenuously at its skirts. Our democracy is being pushed against the wall.

The Age (23/2) comments: ‘Professor Garnaut anticipated the difficulties and the political preferences for (climate change) cap-and-trade schemes, over a simpler and more transparent carbon tax. Indeed, Australia first leant towards emission trading because former prime minister John Howard ruled out a flat tax. Professor Garnaut shared his assumption that business would oppose it.’
It would seem that there is a gathering concern at the government’s cap-and-trade scheme and support for a tax on CO2 emissions as more transparent and not subject to the exemptions plaguing the cap-and-trade proposals, the attraction of which was to more easily gain agreement with the world at large. Governments are failing, with populations wanting the easiest solutions, which are likely to miss the essential targets. Political pressures hinder democracy from producing the strong, clear leadership needed to rally us to the unavoidable causes which alone can win.
Democracy is failing. Intelligent, alternative views are held at bay, and significant leadership is excluded, in the conflict between rival parties, rendering genuine consensus and durable decision-making out of reach.
Leadership must be set free. And can be wide open to any member, only in a parliament operating under the aegis of the secret ballot. Any member with a worthwhile proposal could be confident of an objective hearing and fair result. A decision reached through this process could be rock solid, with decisions based on a genuine parliamentary consensus. A meager majority would probably be deferred by general agreement, for further consideration, perhaps by conference of MPs with constituents.
With the problems of the world multiplying we need a sounder basis for our democracy. It is perfectly feasible to insist by referendum that MPs vote by secret ballot. The benefits to all would be outstanding.
Parliament could institute the change but party politicians prefer to retain their undemocratic hold on power - hence the conflict, the exclusion of the power of the people and the weakness of government to secure effective outcomes.
The idiotically simple thing is that they would all be much better off under a real democracy, with better tenure, better public stature and respect, and a much greater sense of fulfillment. But those labouring within the system are blind to its faults, and to the merits of a change to a genuine democracy. But parties offer the easy path to power – and chaos!
Some think that with ballots in parliament could not reach decisions, but the ballot decides referenda and elections with calm. Why would the ballot not fairly and calmly decide each outcome of the new process of open debate? Why would members not diligently work for their constituents? Why would constituents not make their member very uncomfortable if seen as less than devoted to their cause?
Why would ministers elected by the members of parliament not be sensible and effective servants of parliament? Why would the Prime Minister, elected by parliament, not be a most honoured figure in the land?
Why would we not have the courage to change to a better, more honourable form of democracy? Should we be happy to stumble and fall in the face of the storms of financial crisis, climate change and religious extremism, when real democracy beckons?
While governments struggle in the dark night of the party system and its indecisive ineptitude, the morning light of the secret ballot offers the sweet reason of calm and sensible decisions, flowing from the innate wisdom and strength of the people.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Something missing

"Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood." H. L. Mencken. This quote my son Peter came across and kindly forwarded to me, no doubt feeling it throws light on our slow progress to a better democracy.

Who then is Mencken? I went to Google and found an American journalist/ philosopher/atheist, the ‘Bad Boy from Baltimore’, 1880-1956, ‘renowned for his rather tough, cynical style’.

His ‘creed’ has much to say about the current condition, including: ‘Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.’
Obviously a man who had very clear opinions! I would like to discuss his second point a little later but I find myself basically in full agreement with the first. Why?

Clearly there is something missing in the manner and effectiveness of our democracy to fulfil the onerous responsibilities famously assigned to it by Abraham Lincoln—government OF, BY and FOR the people. A real democracy would have a much more significant power to unite us, both socially and morally. Our fragmented society fails us in many ways.

We have the vote, to choose who governs us, what more do we want? As Mencken implies, we need to be both wise and free. Popular wisdom requires popular participation which the Athenians had in spades, but we don’t, with our system of party politics excluding any serious relevance for popular participation in the decisions to be made.

And again, the domination of the election process by party candidates, loaded with money and man power, severely restricts our choice of who shall represent us, (a situation which could be improved by ‘optional preference voting’). It has been truly said that decision without choice equates to slavery.

In 1911, Hillaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton in their book, ‘The Party System’, p 17, spelt out the essentials of genuine representative government:
1. An absolute freedom (of the public) in the selection of representatives;
2. The representatives must be strictly responsible to their constituents and to no one else;
3. The representatives must deliberate in perfect freedom; and
4. Especially must they be absolutely independent of the 'executive'.
So, that’s what’s missing! Pericles would turn in his grave!
Just how could we have got it so wrong?

Palestine

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Michael Backman's incisive article, 'Israelis are living high on US

expense account', The Age, January 17, 2009, wonders why there is no

peace in Israel. I wonder about it too. So what is going wrong?

The prophets used to blame Israel's apostasy for their defeats and

occasional exiles. Does today's Israel have any time for the wisdom of

Solomon? Proverbs 16-7 says "When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD,

He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." Obviously that

applies nationally as well.

Backman's reference to the Parsees sect in India is also completely relevant.

Although wealthy, they show goodwill toward their neighbours,

generously assisting the people around them and enjoying peace. A contrast!

Politicians generally seem to support Israel's cause? Why? The fear of being accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’ seems to have been powerful in stifling Western governments’ criticism of Israel and neutralised efforts to resolve the issues.

However, we must distinguish clearly between anti-Semitism, an irrational hostility towards Jews over an event two thousand years ago (being irrational, and unchristian in view of the words of Jesus: ‘Father forgive them’), and an objective criticism of recent and current Israeli policies, which Malcolm Fraser undertook, reasonably and well, in his article (The Age 16/1) 'That Israel's actions foster extremism'.

The problems are complex and must be resolved. With the promising new leadership in America to help turn the tide, we look forward hopefully for the fresh wisdom that can break the deadlock.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Boganism

Age journalist, Geoff Strong, makes mention (Age 14/1) of Mayor of Melbourne,
Robert Doyle's distaste for bogans (those 'not one of us'), and the many worrying incidents in
town and country - including the road toll - calls into question what
society's acceptable standards of character and behaviour might be and
how, perhaps, that they might be enhanced.
In the idea of a 'fair-go' we expect to see a natural humility, which respects
others and desires an egalitarian involvement in community which enhances society,
echoing the Golden Rule. But, disrespect for parents, teachers and
authority impoverishes the self-respect and performance of many, leading
to 'them and us' attitudes.

Noting the 'disproportionate' success of migrant children from 'cultures
where teachers are respected', Strong refuses to endorse a condemnation of
the state education system, arguing that 'a large part of the education
problem for Australia's working class lies in the lousy attitudes in the
home', quoting his own experience of family discouragement of his
further education.

If we would see our community, including our youth, growing in moral
stature (and self esteem), we need the greater, enduring challenge and
encouragement of involvement in a truly non-partisan franchise,
which can engage the people, young and old, religious and otherwise,
with an increasing
confidence, and success, in the bonds
of a cooperating people. Such an opportunity for free interaction is
the surest way to challenge the 'them and us' attitudes which can so easily
result in dysfunction in our communities. We each have a responsibility
for the community in which we live and the actions of governments we elect.
Leaving it to the politicians is far from enough.

We are, of course, speaking of the need for a revival of popular democracy.