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
'United we stand, divided we fall'.

*Aesop, of Aesop's Fables