Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Religion and Democracy

1. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of ‘Nomad’, was interviewed on ABC TV Lateline last night. She is in constant need of security, due to criticism of attitudes, associated within some Muslins in her book. She spoke of weak attitudes in government circles with regard to Muslim cultural practices, such as ‘honour killing’ and female genital mutilation.

2. Ali reports that it has been said: ‘But we must respect their culture!’ In such a context such timidity in government is very concerning. The idea that people of any religious persuasion can be considered above the law is quite untenable, calling into question the authority of democratic government.

3. Democracy, was defined by President Lincoln: a style of government making us all equal before the law: in submission to the law, in power and responsibility for making law, and in individual rights.

4. But, in fact, as Tony Fitzgerald, well known ex-judge, and leader of the Fitzgerald Inquiry in Queensland, acerbically points out in a politics damning speech to the Accountability Round Table in March, our democracy fails miserably on each count.

5. Fitzgerald, quotes a comment by Chief Justice Earl Warren of the US Supreme Court years ago: ‘law “presupposes a broad area of human conduct controlled by ethical norms and not subject to law at all”’. While religion may have a role to play in enhancing the spiritual life of individuals, as citizens, it cannot seek independence from the authority of the law.

6. Ballots in parliament, to decide all debates, will clear corruption and strengthen government, by making MPs accountable to the people.

7. Can anyone deny the urgent need for democratic reform of the voting system in parliament

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Citizens Assembly – Yes or No?

Tony Abbott, on the run yesterday, rejected Julia Gillard’s policy of having a Citizen Assembly to help clarify the problem of Climate Change. He claimed we already have a citizen’s assembly—parliament. But party politics has amply demonstrated that it cannot be relied on to define the objectives and sieve the arguments, to reach solid conclusions in any satisfactory time frame.

In fact, our democracy, with its manacled attachment to political parties and loyalties, ensures parliament is a place of unseemly behaviour, deliberately aggravated obstruction, ludicrous confusion, and wasted time and talent. And the election process suffers the same problems. After the election the new parliament will be the same.
The actors’ roles may change but not the plot.

Serious matters, which parliament cannot resolve, will linger on undecided, subjecting concerned people to prolonged angst, for no other reason than the incompetence of parliament. The ballot for elections must be replicated in parliament to control all voting. Then, a change of government will never be needed—and in fact will never happen. The members, all independents, will see to it that the will of the people will influence parliament continuously—true parliamentary government.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Citizen Assembly!

Many loud voices are demanding instant action on climate change, but neither the Coalition nor Labor under Julia Gillard, are in a hurry. She intends to create a Climate Change Commission to study the science, and randomly select one hundred and fifty citizens in a ‘Citizen Assembly’ to decide on the Commissions findings. More
In fact there is a considerable reluctance to face this issue throughout business, and in the community. To imagine there is a wonderful cost-free solution is to believe in fairies. Pay we must, and to find the most acceptable answer a ballot process in parliament – or inclusion in a referendum may be needed to give the required certainty.
‘Australia needs “deep consensus” before taking action, (Penny) Wong said, since “This will transform our economy for decades to come.”’

Something new! On-line Senate representation

A new political party is fielding Senate candidates, operating on line, offering direct contact with voters,and so enabling them to vote on line on matters before parliament --

'Senator on Line' is a newly registered, unaligned party, which will field candidates who will take the results of on-line votes and represent these voters in the Senate. A vote on anything before the Senate will be available on its website, so that the people can express opinion on matters before parliament by having a vote directly via the internet at any time. The party undertakes that their unbiassed senator will thus represent the results of on-line voting directly in parliament.

Now that's something new and constructive to keep an eye on!

Democracy still a Muddle

Michelle Grattan (Age 23/7) highlights the endemic problems of rolling issues and leadership together, with Abbott confusing IR direction and Gillard looking shaky on Asylum Seekers. Elections cannot resolve issues, nor can this debate.

Our system demands strong leadership, with the power to decide many issues, and we are stuck with that (for the time being, anyway). The debate this Sunday night will be an opportunity to judge the contestant's ability to lead - plus their intentions on a few issues (which can easily change).

But there will be many more controversial issues, requiring an intelligent, calm appraisal, individually. But without a system of secret ballots in parliament, to control the debate, the useless conflict of party loyalties will continue to defeat sound, prompt decisions by parliament, on issue after issue, to the frustration of both the members and the public.

The public must be involved!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A new (female) Prime Minister ! (Revision)

So, we have a new Prime Minister! May God bless her efforts, on behalf of us all.
Tony Abbott marked the event in Parliament, quoting: “A ‘Knock on the Door at Midnight’, saying this should not happen to any Australian Prime Minister”, a remark fraught with all the historical significance of the Holocaust. Was that empathy, or perhaps a judgement?
However, the true character of Kevin Rudd is evidenced by his humility and immediate willingness, with some understandable tears, to serve his party’s government, in any capacity that should be decided.

Psycho analysis of the new and the former PM will undoubtedly continue for some time, being not dissimilar to the reasons for the rise and fall of nations, empires and civilisations—and religion. In the big issues, the questions relate, of course, primarily to the characters of leaders, in which two mysterious factors work in parallel—the mind and its brilliance, and the heart and its compassion.

Oh, the heart, whatever is it? Decisions are made in the wisdom of both heart and mind. Our armies invade to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of intransigent peoples! How successful can that be—where is the compassion?

Although we don’t fully understand these things, we can still confidently say: ‘The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing about’. Surely this is the difference between a false religion and the true, which comes from the heart, with minds subservient. ‘Musick has charms to sooth a savage breast’, but real love ‘never fails’.

But back to prime ministers!
In a secret ballot parliament the prime minister, or premier, will always be the dear, respected mentor of all the colleagues, once able to be elected to that high office by all the members from their own ranks!

And with no authority, or power, beyond that of all the other members, by virtue of the honour conferred.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Concentrating our Minds

It has been said that hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully.
An election also concentrates the mind of the nation—as if there were such a thing!
But decisions have to be made, and thanks to (comparative) fairness of the secret ballot we are more able to accept the result, even though uncertainly, and for many in the population, with considerable reluctance That’s not a recipe for a happily united nation, is it?
We are all individuals, confused people, led by confused people with views emanating from past experiences and loyalties, and now, with the added complications of the enmities of past leaders thrown into the mix. May God help us!
The problem appears to be that we are all individuals, employing the ballot at elections, to appoint individuals to rule over our affairs, when we more and more want to have a say in our affairs, as a self-governing people, which, after all, is what a democracy is supposed to be. But to do that we need to catch up in understanding many things—i.e. we must be participating.
The Swiss employ the ballot to have the people decide things—a decided advance in popular participation, by Citizen Initiated Referenda—where topics arise from ‘the initiative’ of concerned people. Quite a few states in the US do likewise.

But this leaves the people’s choice to an unacceptable degree to the ‘mercy’ of the media. We need local meetings to enable the people to advance to an active self-governing role. This cannot happen without independent representatives creating such venues, which again cannot happen until we have parliament under their (and our) control.
This requires the ‘mechanics’ of the electronic secret ballot in our parliaments, to be established by referendum.
Then we can all concentrate our minds wonderfully, on issue after issue, as they are important to us, and see a new, constructive relationship, embracing everyone, which will lead to national unity and strength, to deal with all our problems, climactic and economic, national and international, ethics and health, rights and duties, public order and crime, and anything else which rears its head—efficiently and free of rancour.

Some say: ‘When a real crisis occurs the people will find an answer.’ Sorry, revolution and war cost far more than they resolve. We need intelligent reform now!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bjelke-Petersen -

A (really) ODD SPOT

Bjelke-Petersen governed as Premier of a State in which his party received, in one election (1972), only 20% of the votes.

In 1984 Bjelke-Petersen was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (postnominal "KCMG") for "services to parliamentary democracy".

Thanks Peter

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Common Sense Democracy

Having established in Part I that a ballot provision for all decisions debated in parliament would make all members genuine independents, it remains for us to think of the impact on the executive. Clearly, all ministers forming the executive will be under the authority of parliament, emphasised by censure motions if not already obvious.

Each minister, having been established or confirmed in that role by parliamentary ballot, will soon acquire a very durable tenancy, and a greater accountability of the relative public service department to both minister and parliament. The strong relationship between parliament, ministers and public service departments will effectually dispense with the role of personal ‘ministerial advisers’.

Again, both parliament and ministers will be set free from the ‘political pressure’ that minority interests constantly exert on party governments and their politically vulnerable ministers. Minority interests will then have to take their place in the queue to receive appropriate consideration of parliament to their claims.

With parliament working cooperatively (in contrast to the inane conflict of the party dominated parliaments with which our society has been so long afflicted), and truly representative, statesmen-like independent members, in constant dialogue with their constituents in public meeting, we will have achieved a genuinely exportable democracy—without sending troops abroad!

This is a durable, effective, fair and just sample of what a democracy could, and should be; a prelude to a distant, democratic world government, without which injustice and wars will continue to dominate and ruin our planet.

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