Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saving our System - CIR

Seeing government, here and around the world, is in such a horrendous state, I think we should examine some of the current options to improve it.
The US state of Arizona, apparently has a constitutional provision that, after the government has passed a law, there is a period in which the population can object by petition. If the required number of signatures is reached, the matter must be resolved by referendum, possibly at the next election.
There are other American states, perhaps twenty or so out of the forty nine, which have adopted similar provisions, possibly with variations. It is not unusual to see car stickers – e.g. ‘Vote NO for number 5’, referring to a referendum to be held based on CIR
The notion of CIR springs from the Swiss ‘Initiative’ which has been in vogue there for many years. Considering that they have three major ethnic groups, German, French and Italian and have managed to stay calm and clear while two world wars raged around them, their government has worked very well with this very real involvement of the people.
New Zealand has also recently adopted CIR. It is usual that a matter passed by a CIR becomes law automatically - only alterable by referendum, but in this case enactment is not mandatory! Nevertheless, a government taking no notice of such a widely expressed popular viewpoint would be foolish to ignore it. Thus the power of the people through CIR can usefully constrain rash government even if it is but rarely used. CIR requires a degree of responsibility on the part of the people not to misuse its power – e.g. to cut taxes. It is recently reported that California has financial problems, with its law, (passed by CIR), preventing any increase in tax without a two thirds majority in the legislature.
One problem with CIR is that it makes no provision for discussion in local forums to deepen the peoples understanding of the issue, leaving the media to be too influential. But it does give some involvement of the people.
What do you think?

Friday, March 26, 2010

President Netanyahu’s visit to President Obama

The reports of this visit indicate that President Obama is not inclined to give Israel just what it happens to want. Good for him! This is plainly upsetting to Israel, and some of its friends in the West. Israel has become accustomed to getting whatever it wants.

At particular issue at the moment is the area of East Jerusalem which Palestine sees as essential for its eventual capital. Israel sees it as just another bit of their land, pretty much the same as any other, e.g. Tel Aviv they say— nothing special to Israel just another part of their land—but very important to the Palestinians. To Israel it is plainly ‘dog-in-the-manger’ stuff.

What is very plain is that the reasonable Palestinian desire for a sovereign state will never be possible without refusing some of the Israeli demands. It is hoped that President Obama will be able to stand fast on a just solution. That is a tall order as there are far too many ‘friends of Israel’, not only in the US, but here as well. I was startled to hear Rudd say: ‘I’ve been a friend of Israel all my life!’ Exactly, why is that?

Do the sufferings of the Palestinians from the invasion of their land sixty years ago mean nothing to us? Sure, the UN was justified in helping the Jews. But the UN has quite reasonably sought to help the Palestinians too over many years, but has been consistently blocked from doing so. Why can that be?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unproductive conflict

The state of the world and the incompetence of the present standard of democracy—based on competition and conflict—here and worldwide sadden me. With politicians doing to each other ‘whatever it takes’ to gain or retain power, ethics, morality go out the window. And the last resort is guns and bombs.

Leaders in conflict achieve far less than a cooperative team in our parliament would be able to do—with far less personal angst and far more positive outcomes.

Ballots in parliaments can cure all this, by opening up the decision-making processes to the people. Non-party government based on a secret-ballot system of voting in parliament will certainly be much stronger, much wiser, and longer sighted than all current democracies.

Ministers would be free to devote their full attention to their departments, having been elected thereto by their fellow members. Parliamentary debate would be free of invective, very objective, and swiftly arrive at the best solutions to difficult problems, gaining the respect of the people; including many members of the population, at various levels, who are in practical revolt against authority, requiring an escalation of laws and increased problems and responsibilities for law-enforcement agencies.

This vision awakens hope for representation by independents, chosen by the people, each in a practical partnership with constituents in regular local forums, involving significant numbers of concerned citizens, and a much better informed electorate.

The Secret Ballot Party seeks members from among responsible citizens to pursue this vision of open, sensible, and effective government. Membership is presently free. Apply by email or telephone 61 03 9800 2561.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Israel hardens stance against US demands

There are two fallacies in the above heading (The Age 18/3).
Firstly, Israel’s hard-nosed insistence that it was chosen by God to possess all of Palestine has never changed in sixty years. What has changed is that the Obama administration is putting a new pressure on them to agree to a two state solution, and

Secondly, ’Demands’ suggests that the US will be able to insist on a satisfactory solution. Let’s face it; the idea of a Palestinian sovereign state terrifies Israel. A sovereign Palestine would have an army and exclude the IDF, leaving the settlers at the mercy of the new state. But successive American presidents (and the UN) have tried their best to turn around Israel’s refusal of a two-state solution and the tide of aggressive settlement in the West Bank, to no avail. So Hilary Clinton’s claim ‘that the two nations “shared common values and a commitment to a democratic future for the world”’ is ridiculous!

The majority of Americans would certainly want to see a just solution, but why is it that ‘the most powerful democracy on earth’ can do nothing? Do these ‘shared values’ include a religious conviction that God did indeed promise the descendants of Abraham all the land from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates? God's promises have never have been unconditional. So,let’s remember the times God directed their expulsion for ignoring the conditions of the promise – godliness.

The outcome of the ‘US demands’ will be informative.

‘Power but no passion’

‘Power but no passion’ Shaun Carney writes (The Age 17/3), about our fearless leader, Kevin Rudd. But power and passion are the hallmarks of those in history responsible for the most mess—and carnage—Napoleon, Hitler etc. Lesser people have to pick up the pieces and start again.

Tony Abbott, criticised on all sides over his ‘paid-parental-leave’ extravagance, insists that ‘the government’ is the main issue—i.e. the policies are not so important—the real policy being to attack, disrupt, and dislodge the government—and take power, banking on the help of a fickle electorate

Presumably, passion is all you need to win the ‘hearts and minds’.
Is it any wonder that governments never have the political capital necessary to successfully conquer the hard problems? Charismatic leaders may (temporally) win our hearts and minds, but intelligence; drive and ethics would surely be preferable qualities for leadership.. However, our present system of government does not lean that way.

In fact, although politics is a mess, and generally regarded with something like contempt—sometimes amused, sometimes angry—the ‘politics industry’, whether in media or academia, studiously avoids any question of a need for change— in contrast to every other field of human endeavour.

Democracy needs revision from time to time, to keep up with changed social and economic conditions. Well, this has always been the responsibility of the people or, shall we say, of responsible people.

Knives at School

With the government proposing random search for knives etc, the opposition cries foul, for stealing its policy. How ridiculous, and childish! Moreover, it makes plain that the parties‘competition for political success and power takes preference over the serious need for good governance. Will the politicians ever pull together, short of the country being invaded?
We live in a world with a desperate need for good governance, but the best we have come up with so far is a tainted and corrupt democracy.
The Secret Ballot Party is a call for the reformation of parliament, for a much Better Democracy, which alone can, with a significant opportunity for involvement of the people, provide the good governance we need, and can proudly show the world how strong government and ‘the fair go’ are compatible goals - (having resolved the plight of our indigenes of course). ‘The love of democracy is the love of others', refusing power for the wellbeing of all.
When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will finally know peace. Jimi Hendrix US rock musician & singer (1942 - 1970)

Taxation + Climate change

In an intriguing article, Chris Middendorp (The Age 22/2/10) claims that taxation is a privilege of membership in our society, because of all the services undertaken by government to enhance our quality of life.
Despite the elaborate efforts of many to reduce their tax bill, what he says is quite true. The problem of course, boils down to this - what does the government do with the money it collects. As has been said, people would be happier about taxation if they were more confident about the way governments spend it.

Here we see the age-old problem of our dissatisfaction with our democracy. Good though it is, there is still far too much room for our politicians to push ahead with their own ideas without listening to the public point of view.
Our democracy is badly in need of revision, to enable the people at large to have some real say in government, during the period between elections, making government far more accountable - all the time.

This,of course, as we have said so many times, requires a radical revision of the voting system in parliament to make all representatives independent, and the ministers all answerable to the vote of all the members.

To indulge in a little fantasy, people might then be proud to have their tax contribution to society open to the public gaze, their contribution to society being just as honourable as large charitable donations.

Climate change
'Political power plays deliver short-sighted policy stand-offs’ (the Age 22/2 p 10). How can we get good government, with good long-term policies being embraced and implemented, while we still have the nonsense of party politics? Isn't it about time to wake up Australia, and deal with this nonsense?

Where is the trumpet blast calling us to national revival?

Our future problems – population etc.

Our future problems – population etc.
Kerry O’Brien quite reasonably tackled Kevin Rudd on the 7.30 Report tonight over the government’s acceptance of a high level of population in coming years.
There are many concerns over water sufficiency, land use and food, urban planning, schools, hospitals, and transport infrastructure, not to mention green house gases, and pressures on social cohesion, all of which raise serious questions about the wisdom of allowing the increases in population mooted -35m by 2050.
Such an increase means sustained migration levels are likely, but economic benefits can also follow, including a mitigation of skills shortages and the economic effects of population aging.
Then again we have an important role to play internationally as a leading, stable democracy, which will benefit from such increases in population.
With regard to social cohesion Rudd was able to draw attention to the number of times we have received waves of migrants from various countries but difficulties have generally vanished in the next generation. This reflects our solid social stability which manifests itself through the schooling of the young.
However, what really stands out is that there are a mammoth number of problems to be resolved in the coming years and raises the question of how these had best be faced. The style of our politics is reflected in the aggressive nature of the questioning of the Prime Minister on the 7.30 Report. The business of holding the government to account, which is the nature of our adversarial system, prompts the question: can we afford the hindrances and distractions created by having two sources of political power, in what appears to be a useless competition for the privileges of power.
We hear good reports of Singapore and its government, tackling the modern problems of youth disorientation, having long ago resolved the problem of rubbish in the streets!
What can we do to have a more efficient mode of governance, to successfully deal with the many problems looming – without conflict or resort to limiting the freedoms we hold dear. There must be a way – surely.