Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Leader, regime failure continues. What's new?

Richard Haass has hit the nail on the head, (The Age 28/12).

One leader, one regime replaces another, without real solution of the deeper problems of governance. Parties, leaders, factions all pursue power, not democracy – the rule of the people. It was ever thus, the mediaeval, the Machiavellian way, when power came from the muzzle of a gun. Time after time in history the people have been at the mercy of the whims of the powerful. Why?
The answer lies in the absence of an intelligent system of decision-making enabling a direct involvement of the people. The introduction of the ballot for elections has been partially successful in giving some power to the people, but stopped short at the election of ‘representatives’, whose representation is limited to party objectives making them ‘Busy, Yes. But effective?' as James Panichi explains in ‘Inside Story’, Swinburne, Number 7, 2011.

While prominent in Primary School graduations and the like, they are nevertheless able to stand aloof from the aspirations of an increasingly educated and thinking populace. So we, in our ‘advanced democracy’, are no useful model for the confused rebellions of the Arab Spring or any other. We have frustration with ineffective party governments. They have despair and death.

The power of modern weapons presents us with a crisis of world governance which can never be resolved until we face the challenge of real democracy—with each country having an increasing participation and authority of the people in the decision-making process.

An essential step forward is to determine that every deliberative assembly in each country is governed by the ballot of members — all being independent and holding regular forums for the growth of their constituents in political maturity.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Question Time in the House

Katherine Murphy (the age 25/7/11) compares the recent Question Time in the House of Commons (re Rupert Murdoch) with our usual rowdy effort, and we come off second best. Why? Good question! With 650 members vis-a-vis our 150, it would have to be more disciplined. With 5 year terms to our 3 it is more stable. With an election turnout much lower, as voting is not compulsory, English politics is not so intense perhaps.

Party control of members is far less strict than ours (with 1-3 line whips), and after all the English are rather more civilised perhaps!

Murphy believes Question Time should be retained despite the virtual contempt in which it is held, probably more so because, with being on TV, the party tigers are playing to the gallery. To suggest that parliament can do better is like asking someone to lift off by yanking on their shoe laces! The cause of the problem lies in parliament itself. It needs the secret ballot for the members to take back control, restoring real representation and parliamentary government.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Mess we are in

As the problems of state and the world multiply, the only means of their solution, the capacity of the public to respond constructively through parliamentary representation has crumbled and declined to a sideshow and a joke—it now being suggested that its stupidity could make entertainment in parody as a reality TV program!

Long recognised as a democratic failure the allegiance to party politics is a triumph of public mental laziness over moral principle and stupidity over intelligence.
Hillaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton spelled out in 1911 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'.

In 1911 Belloc and Chesterton made a scathing attack on the party system in England. As they saw it: 'Instead of the executive being controlled by the representative assembly, it (the executive) controls it (the parliament).' This has always been the inescapable result of the formation of political parties—the common experience of all democracies.

Lindsay Tanners’ new book ‘Sideshow – the Dumming down of Democracy’ is a scathing condemnation of the way our democracy has deteriorated. When the best of our politicians depart in frustration, despair and bitterness, we had better brighten up. They retire defeated and their frustration and failure is to our peril. And the tone of Barry Jones’ current Age article ‘Intelligent discussion all but extinct’ merely repeats a recurring news theme.

Includes Extracts from new book:
‘The Battle for Democracy – The Secret Ballot vs the Party System’

Friday, April 15, 2011

Open letter to Pauline Hanson.

Pauline, Many admire your personal leadership strength and very real concern for the prosperity of government, which currently has little relationship with the principles of democracy so ably stated by Abraham Lincoln long ago—as government of the people for the people by the people. Democracy has not fulfilled that dream. But it can and it will, when we wake up and identify the cause of the problem.

Briefly, a different political genre is required that could give intelligent strong leaders, such as yourself, full scope to lead, but without the power and responsibility of domination, which so often proves the undoing of the best. The aphorism: ‘Power corrupts’, is just so familiar, its outworking having been seen with monotonous regularity. Its corollary: ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is just so familiar in many lands.

So, what is the solution, this political genre which might benefit leaders and the people as well? Pauline, the scene in which you could prosper, to your own and everyone else’s benefit, is a scene of parliamentary democracy in which every member is given the freedom, and the responsibility, of a secret vote on every debated issue in the parliament,

Everyone then has the freedom to be a leader when it is ideas and concepts that are the stuff of leadership, and their success is completely in the hands of the whole parliament. In this case there is much room for power, and pride in contribution, but absolutely no room for arrogance, as the ballot exercises a logical restraint.

It is clear that, with the ballot ruling in parliament, all members are very vulnerable to their constituents, opening for them a direct connection of participation, contributory power, and the ongoing ability to introduce alternative candidate. All this will happen in public forums each member will have to institute. Thus the power of the people to originate and influence policy will be continually felt in parliament, all matters being there submitted to the ballot.

Now this is the political genre in which political leadership can flourish without the strain and stress that now distracts and inhibits party leaders from giving of their best. This is the genre for you Pauline, the one in which you will shine and realise your full potential, unmolested.

So, if you want to form a new party, have one policy only – a referendum to establish the (electronic) secret ballot as the permanent norm for voting on all debates in parliament. Go, go go – and good luck.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sheep hang in flocks, eagles soar alone!

As I was handing out Campaign literature I met a man standing by his Harley Davidson, in all his leathers (!)
Suspecting that he was a member of one of the bikie gangs, I asked him.
His reply was illuminating. He said: 'Sheep hang in flocks, eagles soar alone.'

What a perfect representation of party politics – 'sheep hang in flocks'. No wonder our political system has been corrupted by politics with ineffective government - like a flock of sheep, each looking sideways at each other to see what they can or must do. Political parties, like flocks of sheep, make weak, contestable decisions, being bogged down in conflict, ineffective at getting things done and failing to satisfy our need for effective solutions to the many problems increasingly infecting our horizon – haunting our future with failure after failure.

On the other hand, the vision is of a balloting parliament with its members all independent, each member achieving a close and instructive collaboration with the constituents. As a result they can become strong and effective in parliament, on behalf of their constituents being answerable to noone else. Each member will gather strength following a demonstrated intelligent, closeness with them in the regular public meetings they will convene, so soaring like eagles in parliament in the freedom and power of statesman-like effectiveness.

A great analogy Mick!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

United we stand - Divided we fall

The truth of Aesop’s fable of the four oxen and the tiger, with their demise following their failure to use a combined strategy against the tiger, is starkly revealed in the failure of democracy to assist the rebels in the Libyan crisis. The democratic countries’ feeble failure to respond to the cries of the rebels for a no-fly-zone means that one more dictator gets off the hook. Democracy thus proves ridiculously incompetent to provide realistic support for a people in desperate need against a tyrant when the going gets tough. Yes, in the absence of the unity of a real democracy we fall. We fall short, we fall down on the job, we just fall.

Then again, where is the needed democratic structure of the UN which should be able to ensure that timely help can be given when so much needed? The UN is still held captive to the veto power of the permanent members (at Soviet insistence), being those which participated in the allied victory of WWII. Each member with the power of veto renders the UN practically useless for the most needed function of a world democratic government—putting right the many anti-democratic anomalies in the world today. What then is the remedy? Well, real democracy in the nations claiming that title would be a start.

The myth of the need for strong leaders to make the ‘tough’ decisions must be laid to rest. It is not strong leaders we need. In Australia today, there are four (maybe five) leaders touted by various groups as the answer to the nation’s problems. So party power interminably delays and distorts national decisions. The ‘too-hard’ basket overflows, to the discouragement and demoralisation of the nation.

We need parliamentary government based on the ballot - real democracy.

Australia could have been a world leader in a success story of efficient, progressive democratic government, making good progress in all areas, instead of the uselessness of the leadership squabbles which so preoccupy parliament, the media and popular attention. What a mess, compared with the world leader Australia could be.

We, who are each entrusted with a secret vote, are afraid to release our members to the same freedom in parliament, apparently being too thick to realise that as soon as they are made free in parliament they become the virtual property of their constituents - accountable to us. We are then in a position to ensure that that occurs.

In 1856, in Victoria, the diehard conservatives feared that the free vote would create chaos. It didn’t. It led to an era of prosperous democratic government. The chaos arrived later, with federation and the advent of party politics.

The fact is that we, politically, are just too mentally and spiritually lazy to embrace the advantages of a real, working democracy. The issue is whether we will face up to the responsibility of personal involvement, in holding our representatives to account — possibly once a month in public meeting! It is just a question of faith in ourselves and our ‘fellow Australians’ - perhaps really in God - thinking about the issues — as seriously as we think about sport! Or home and garden!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unrest in the Arab World

The Arab world has been set alight by long suffering people held captive in dictator regimes by the ‘peaceful protest’ writings of the elderly American layman, Gene Sharp. Following, in effect, the teaching of Mahatma Ghandi, whose leadership ejected the British from India by peaceful protest following World War II, his suggestions have struck a chord of possible action, which has been spectacularly successful in Tunisia, then Egypt, and have now caused turmoil in Libya.

Unfortunately, it can be that courageous and successful protest movements eventually fall victim to the need for a constructive answer to the question of ‘what now’. No-one wants to see a rerun of the French Revolution or anything like it. The American revolution, with far different motivation (the British parliament was the villain, more than the Monarchy), was able to learn lessons from the French experience, in forming a republic, but still struggled to find a satisfactory answer to the same inescapable question. Unlike France they had the separate state legislatures to unite in a federal system, from which we subsequently, and substantially, derived our own federal system.

What about Egypt? They need an answer in the form of a new constitution and government suited to their country’s need. What sort of democracy will result?
Would American or Australian democracy be good enough as a model? Hardly! Who would want to see the confusion and ineffectual conflict of Western democracies resulting in Egypt or any other of the disturbed Arab states? They need better. The world too, has a stake in their success in devising governments OF the people. FOR the people and BY the people!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Democracy and Moral Influence - Of Ants and Men

Ants do not know of danger, or fear. We humans are blessed (or is it cursed?) with knowledge beyond limit that ants do not have. But knowledge creates responsibility, accenting our duty to others, while failure opens the door to guilt and the fear which raises barriers, leading to dislike, to hatred, to cruelty.

We are far from emulating the ants in any of our human, fear-traumatised environments. How then can we hope for successful global government and harmony in the world?

There’s no doubt that fear destroys empathy, resulting in various arrangements for self defence – politically, socially, from family to friends to factions to parties to nations, to empires – and personally, in diverse religions.
Yet it is true that in all of these defensive arrangements, relationships fall over, basically through selfishness. The laws and rules of dogmatic religion, designed to keep selfishness in order all tend to failure, as avoidance of conflict becomes a selfish end in itself.
Now faith, whatever its basis, is the opposite, and is a hopeful product of experiences created by received love (whatever its origin), giving empathy and inspiration. (By far the greatest inspiration of all is the cross of Jesus which calls us to a faith in the love of God and to a death of self).
Love begets love, breaking down barriers with positive thinking and solutions to problems. Individually, the reach of love varies enormously, according to individual inspiration and faith. For most it is the family. For a few, with a deep faith, it is the world, with many in between. We can each be part of the problem or part of the solution, as we are inspired, or not.
Politically, all democracies are bedevilled by the structures of political power which defeat democracy’s moral influence, killing its empathetic equality of power and political opportunity for all citizens. Power structures create fears of disadvantage and loss in an adversarial system which, instead of empathy, creates hostility.
A healthy start was made with elections by the secret ballot, in 1856, which has enabled the appointment of governments with greater fairness and much reduced violence, but selfishness and fear still stand in the way of honest, popular government, with the unethical influences or factions, parties and other powerful minorities.
Only the extension of the controlling influence of the ballot into all government decision-making can ease the fears that divide and antagonise. If we can win the democratic battle at the state and national levels there can be hope for the world. The question is: Can we, will we?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Reading their minds

Our fearless leaders have come in for intense analysis. In the pursuit of power there is the suspicion that what they say and aim to do may spring rather from ‘whatever it takes’ than sincere personal conviction.

Much is made of a previous statement of opinion or intent, with the idea that trust demands continual adherence to opinions once stated. But this does not leave much room for mature thought and changed circumstances..

Kevin Rudd is much maligned for his ‘desertion’ of his claim that climate change is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’. He probably still thinks that. Then why did he change? In the face of very considerable public and politician reluctance I guess he was not determined or strong enough to press on with it. Bad choice! His subsequent unceremonious dumping, though spectacular, is not abnormal, given our political system and climate.

Julia Gillard, shows strength of purpose and, unhindered by religious profession, may well prove that successful ‘politics is the art of the possible’ – the Bismarck principle, which lives on still, ensuring that cynicism and the idea that ‘morality has nothing to do with politics’, will continue to dominate. Her goal, “the ‘possible’, will be an uphill fight.

Will it be just the best possible with climate horrors continuing to escalate, because the ultimate solution could well cost enormously and without the unity of the nation behind a leader it may all be of little help. We can only hope!

Meanwhile, it’s a case of God help the politician who believes in the ‘could be’ in place of what ‘is’.

There is an interesting article on the Obama presidency by Jon Taplin in May last year - . Obama could do with our prayers!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day and 'our flag' .

Our flag’s use-by date really stands out.

Founded in the nineteenth century, at the height of British Empire arrogance, Australia has long drifted away from all emotional and social, political and legal, ties to the ‘Motherland’ (how quaint is that word!). Certain similarities exist in our parliamentary and legal systems, but who is enthusiastic about their adversarial nature, apart from the lawyers? These too will come under scrutiny in their due time!

We are an independent nation, justifiably proud of our standing in the world.

The Union Jack, symbol of the expired British connection, still featured on our flag, has long been an offence to many, especially to the dispossessed original inhabitants’ descendants. Our flag, with its strange, foreign symbol, utterly fails the central purpose of a national flag—to inspire and unify all our citizens, so many of whom have come from many different countries, but are now real Australians in thought and deed. It’s time to shake our flag free from the Union Jack which in no way symbolises Australia’s unity.

What then? The answer is simple. We have a national symbol recognised the world over. We should just replace the Union Jack with the kangaroo, a move which can appeal to all Australians, including our Koori people.

There are many other important things which could well be changed, but one thing at a time will suffice, to get the ball rolling.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Constipated democracy

The release of another batch of leaked documents reveals the uselessness of the last ten years of negotiations to settle the Palestinian cause. The reasons for the inexorable annihilation of the Palestinian people’s hopes for the minimal justice of a separate state are quite evident, when any such state would have to be under Israeli army control—says Israel.

In the face of the unstated Israeli dream to control all of Palestine, the Palestinian negotiating position is hopelessly feeble and desperate, being entirely dependent on the effective support of the democratic international community—the UN.

But America has sabotaged the UN with its strongest-nation-in the-world stance, and proved itself a broken crutch to the Palestinians by its submission to Jewish influences within America. Thus Israel will have what it wants regardless, but without the entire security it has long craved. Only justice can entirely silence the restlessness of injustice.

Western democracy has a constipation problem. Imagine an American referendum on justice for Palestine! Is it possible that the American people, as a whole, would ignore the longstanding suffering of the Palestinians? I think not. But, like every other Western democracy, with the exception of Switzerland (and recently perhaps, New Zealand), the people are not invited to say. A pity—because the problems of the world, which linger on unfixed while the decades multiply, can only be peacefully resolved by good government—of the people.

Without the ballot solution of the present unrepresentative style of parliamentary governments, there remains only the (Swiss) Citizen Initiated Referenda initiative to have a chance to resolve the hiatus that exists between the feeble unrepresentative ‘democracy’ that the world is enduring, and the one which could bring the peace and prosperity the world so badly needs—good government at all levels—national and international.

Constipation! that’s the problem with our democracy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Democracy - and social morality - at risk

As retired. Justice Jebhard, late of the Victorian Country court, said democracy is a moral influence in the community. I believe that is both true and a neglected truth.
It applies quite literally in the state, the nation and the world. The only reservation as to its validity is the degree to which democracy practise corresponds to the theory.

Thus we have a problem, as the theory of democracy has never been settled, with differing views proposed to suit the preferences of those to whom morality is less than a clear and urgent objective.

In fending off suggestions that the hate rhetoric of the tea party movement in America could be an underlying cause of the near death of the Arizona senator and the deaths of a judge, a nine year old girl (born as it happens on 9/11 2001) and others, Herald Sun correspondent Andrew Bolt sneeringly insisted that the rhetoric used in the clash of politics is a normal face of democracy. In so arguing, he unintentionally and ignorantly proved the Jebhard point.

We need an advance in democracy to lessen the conflict, with better attitudes than that prevailing in politics, remembering that politics also inevitably reaches out into the international sphere, either leading to peace or war.

To advance democracy will require a different approach, to encourage, and eventually even establish, mutual respect and cooperation as the normal attitudes of society to advance democracy, and enhance the moral life of our nation, and indeed, our world?