Friday, November 19, 2010

A Conscience Vote in Parliament

Can there be such a thing? Really?

Not if it is a public vote. Because there will inevitably be some Members who will be persuaded by various pressures and political considerations steering their vote away from a pure conscience response. A genuine conscience vote demands the secret ballot in parliament.

Think about it. We have a secret (conscience vote) ballot at each election. As a result politicians must be careful to avoid hubris and other offensiveness in their stance for election. But, what happens in parliament? Push comes to shove and the votes are regimented on party lines, and the House is notorious for its worse than schoolboy behaviour and, let’s face it, less than complete honesty. With a secret ballot in parliament, the behaviour in the House would equal MPs civility during elections.

The resulting equality of voting with the secret ballot would not hinder passionate advocacy on each issue as necessary, but give each decision to the whole parliament. Thus each issue, no matter how serious, would be fully and honestly canvassed without any undue delay, with all the final voting clear, as all the arguments would have already been heard. In any event, in such a freely arguing and voting parliament, any issue could be revived if some change indicates that should be considered some time later.

Our democracy gained international respect because of the secret (Australian) ballot.
Its only shortfall is the need for ballots in parliament to govern all our decisions and enable our parliaments to decide—not parties leaders.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Activism is democracy's failure. Ballot NOW!

So many problems there are that governments (and we) face and so long do they take to decide, and how often the decisions are so unsatisfactory, for the simple reason that the people are far from involved in preliminary discussions.

On Monday Age/Voice 8/11, reports 2010 John Barry Memorial Lecture on 11th Nov. 'The role of activism in criminal justice reform' by the Vice Chancellor's Fellow Peter Norton AO.

My problem is this. It is calmly assumed that 'activism' is the important necessity to get such a problem duly attended to (along with dozens of other government problems).

Under the existing circumstances one could not be surprised but, isn't that a terrible indictment on the state of democratic government and the disconnect between a caring people and their government. So we have to rely on loud noise in the streets for harassed government to be pushed to act.

It is the isolation of the people from government by the party system - and their dis-empowerment, that produces a defeatist despair in the face of so many problems which cannot be truly solved without the widespread concurrence of the community. Retired Judge Gebhardt once said that democracy is a moralising force in the community. But it is plain that aspect of democracy is working feebly and incompetently at best, when we consider the crime among youth, the irresponsible, and often fatal, manner in which cars are seen (or just heard in the wee small hours) hurtling through our streets.

Moreover, law abiding citizens are now less inclined to be involved in incidents for safety sake. Gebhardt's viewpoint is underlined by the comment of Al Smith, Governor of New York in 1923: 'The solution to problems of democracy is (simply) more democracy!'

The point is plain. Our democracy's intimate connection between people and government has never materialised to bring the community unity that can extend the moralising process community wide. Gangs and murderers should be terrified, not law abiding citizens.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Stress, stress and more stress.

Higher interest rates add to the consumers’ burden.

Yes, they will, and may dampen Christmas sales, which is why this comment heads the business Age commentary by Lucy Battersby on the Cup Day interest rate rise.

Heavy advertising and consumer/borrower debt, urge the economy to ever higher dependence on credit living, with all its wants. Heavy advertising of things new and expensive drives the excessive consumer demand that endangers the calm and confidence of the modern community, with a heavy mix of need and greed. We need the feverish economic activity to make the jobs to fuel the demand—and the faster the better, because slowing down is dangerous.

The constant competitive demand for lower prices drives high powered production with cost cutting and across-the-board tension in our ‘affluent’ society, whose affluence is a basic myth. We are a ‘wantitnow’ society which cannot save nor wait because without spiritual fulfilment immediate material satisfaction is the urgent need.
It gets me when I hear so often, a child asked: ‘What do you want? Instead of “what would you like”’. Do we really want to see our children caught in this wellbeing-destructive mindset? Twiggy Forrest made an interesting comment on QANDA last night: ‘I know many rich people who are no happier than you who are here’. He thus gave his vote for the satisfaction of doing—contributing, rather than ‘wanting’ and ‘having’.

Compare also the words of David in Ps 23: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I will not want. Some may think that means ‘I’ll never be in want’. It doesn’t. He meant that knowing and serving God satisfied his deepest needs. He therefore refused to want. His refusal to grab the kingdom after being anointed king was entirely in that character. It’s a good read—1 Sam. On.

In the early days of America, Europeans complained of the ‘damned wantlessness’ of the Indians. And once upon a time it was said that if you invented a better mousetrap the world would beat a path to your door.
How things have changed! There must be a better way than stress, stress and more stress.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Nil desperandum!

Despite all, never despair!
Some pertinent remarks in the Age today (2/11/10), point to the basic problem the world faces in the future of governance, at every level, and the world.
Above all, the world looks and hopes for peace but, there can be no peace without order and there can be no order anywhere in the world without good government.
While we ardently subscribe, in theory, to the principles of democracy, we are still like children at play. Refusing to accept our participatory role, we prefer the ease of trusting in strong leaders. We are fools and blind!
Andrew Norton (p17) makes the simple point with regard to university allocation of places: ‘we should trust the wisdom of the crowd’, noting that enrollments in various disciplines tend to follow the needs that ‘the crowd’ sees in the economic trends of the time. Fair enough!
Tim Colebatch (p15) headlines his report on the Gillard visit to Indonesia with: ‘Indonesian reforms hit a roadblock’, commenting that Julia Gillard and President Susilo Bangbang Yudhoyono: ‘both began as reformers but gradually have shelved the big changes to keep interest groups happy. Both are no longer rocking the boat. Both are drifting.’
Similarly, Tom Switzer, research associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and editor of The Spectator Australia, determines that ‘the roots of US despair stem from expectations about America’s right to economic prosperity and world leadership that no administration or congress may be able to meet. …They (Americans) are in a foul mood, suffering from a lack of confidence and overwhelmingly believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction … (giving) rise to rapid mood swings within the electorate.’
Although the world’s people all long for the sanity of good government, and peace, the democratic dream of ‘government by the people’ is denied by the dominance of interest groups.
The parliamentary rule which will ensure that all MPs are independent and connect with the people, can never come other than by the adoption of the electronic ballot for all parliamentary decisions.
There is light at the end of the tunnel!