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|Australian Body Politic||Corroding Australia's Democracy|
|Politics and Business Consuming Australia||The Behaviour of Global Corporations||
Declining Ethics in Australian Politics
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Australia in July 2006, and the passing of legislation by governments at state, territory and federal level has become a political adversarial contest not a public interest exercise. Of course there are the administrative and regaulatory laws and functions that go on largely unnoticed but I am referring to the publicly debated significant matters. In South Australia the Premier Mike Rann, has beeen cautioned about bringing the judiciary into disrepute. Austalia's politicians have a history of pandering to prurient interests in their self obsessed worlds and they have long abandoned the respect for separation of powers. The executive of governhments control, and manipulate the parliament and the respective democractic processes.
The people who inhabit these places engage in hollow rhetoric supported by factional apparatchiks and acquiescent senior public servants. Policing and detention is an exercise in punitive pandering and the criminal justice system is captive to discrimination, those with money, racism and other influences. The performance of the hired police of the Australian Department of Immigration is testimony to this proposition. There is no right without remedy as David Hicks has learnt. Politicians of the calibre of John Howard, Philip Ruddock and Aleaxnder Downer have placed pragmatic political intrest against the more valuable tenets of human rights, the right to face ones accusers and the legal system. The Australian people are weak in the face of this corrosive administration. Too many people swallow the explanations, justifications and cant expounded by Australia's Premiers, Cheif Ministers and Prime Minister, the diatribe of many desk bound theoretically and ideologically inspired journalists, the lies of pubic relations companies and media spin doctors in political offices around the nation. The is no questioning because leadership in Australia, whether it be corporate, political or other, is judged by the succes in gaining and holding ontopower or vanquishing the opponent. The Work Choices legislation enacted by the federal government enshrines this precept as legislative doctrine and devalues human potential in Australia. It is extraordinarily damaging across Australian society because work pervades the greater part of many peoples' lives and commerce and employment drives, and shapes communities. Australia's senior politicians, and most employers, are under performers in harnessing the nation's talent. The focus is on utility not engaging the broader talent. Public policy is framed to meet vested interests not public interest. The Australian community stands mute. They are scared to challenge the employers less they lose their jobs. They are captive to debt. Only the union movements raises its voice but it falls on deaf ears. The Australian union movement has been neutered by a mix of government action and the myopic individualism that permeates society. People have become self delusional and inwardly focused. They beleive they are self sufficient and that they only need the government to provide the things they cannot get themselves. having benefited from the work of unions over the decade, at little cost to themselves, the individual has no historical memory. The Australian comunity is disengaged with governments and as such has surrendered its power over democracy to the major political parties and career politicians. There is an argument to be said for limited tenure in Australia's parliaments. Individualism has eaten away at the collective political power of the masses. Greed, and obsession with the here and now, immediate pleasure and consumerism occupies the life. Debt, has neutered the citizen and they live in fear of rate rises believing wistfully that the Australian government can deliver low rates as against the other low value choice, the Australian labor Party. In truth Australia is at the mercy of the global marketplace and the central bankers.
The Prime Minister of Australia used the fear card on interest rates when at the last election he claimed that if the nation elected the labor government then interest rates would go up. The voters believed him. He was returned and interest rates went up under his government anyway. Decision making by majority opinion may be democratic but it rests on the talent, reasoning and intellectual capacity of the majority of voters whic is declining if it ever was high. The theory is that those who disagree wil surrender to the majority and conform.
There is a duopoly in Australia. Australian Governments are, much like in America and the United Kingdom, the domain of two political parties. Neither are very enlightened or creative. The Australian career politician is with little variance, an uninspiring model of atrophy and ideological beliefs. They want to try the same thing over and over, rehash the theory and the experiment. There is little incentive for anyone in the two parties to change the system. They just wait their turn for promotion and patronage. There is one revloving door for members of the two major political parties. Common tactics and policies, indistinguishable ideology and theory, a few demarcations at the edges. Both adopt plausible deniability, polls, jettison accountability and responsibility, and engage in propoganda. The governments, having more resources can do a bang up job of manipulation in state, territory and federal arenas than the opposition parties. They can, collectively, spend billions on promoting their image but whinge that they have litle for hospitals and schools and none can solve the problem of the existence of a third world in Australia. There is sharp decline in the health of the nation's democracy under the incumbents of the nation's political systems and governments. "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible", Orwell, G., 1946.m The question is, when will we have had enough?
June 2006 and the Victorian election campaign for the November election is underway. Ted Ballieu has been elected leader of the Victorian liberal opposition party. He occupies the state seat of Hawthorn. It is alway interesting to examine the seats, the incumbents and candidates. One might look at all seats but the safe seats offer little prospect of intrigue except for the electorate occupied by one questionable labor member whose parliamentary career has been the subject of media coverage and examination. He apparently does little in parliament but runs a very lucrative set of community enterprises where it seems the funds go, amongst other things, to paying party branch memberships and employing relatives.
One state seat of interest is Clayton. This state electorate also crosses into the federal electorate of Hotham. This federal seat is currently held by federal member Simon Crean, former leader of the Australian Labor Party. He was subject to a nasty, and bitter, preselection challenge and I suggested, in direct contradiction to the predictions of party pundits and commentators, that Simon would retain preselection on a margin of over 70%. State labor member for Clayton Hong Lim, is on the public record as opposing Simon's preselection and actually predicting his demise. Hong Lim supported the challenger. Mr. Lim was very wrong about Simon's chances. Mr. Lim's judgement in these matters might be questioned.
Hong Lim presents an interesting dilemma for me when I try to work out what he does in the role he has. He is a Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Communities. Now in most jurisdictions a parliamentary secretary is a junior minister. Yet there is very little material in the parliamentary web site to indicate what it might be that Hong Lim does in this very well paid role. There is in fact little in the Victorian government w eb site to indicate what any member might actually do. It is a difficult site to navigate. Thus a citizen will be hard pressed to work out what value the members might be rendering.
Mr. Lim has been called a "factional numbers" man in the media. Such a role in an multicultural community is of great value to the labor party and the Premier, Steve Bracks. Thus it is not surprising that the public is paying for his loyalty and skill in this regard and not the party. Governments seem to reward mates with well paid jobs from the public purse.
But what is Hong Lim's value to his electorate and the wider Victorian community? What does he do around the state and where does he do it? The Hansard parliamentary record shows Mr. Lim makes a few speeches largely applauding the Bracks' government and talking about the odd festival conducted by some local government body or other. These speeches are quite elementary and they lack content and substance. This raises the question what does the parliamentary secretary do? Does he use an interpreter in parliament or in his public office role and who writes his sppeches? The media statements attributed to him do not seem to come from actual personal media interviews but from some office spokesperson.
The liberal candidate for the seat of Clayton is Michael Carty. He by comparison is prominent in the media. Hwoever ebcause Hong Lim holds this seat by almost 24% margin, Mr. Carty is starved for resources and party support. Mr. Balieu does not travel that far into the suburbs and party members nearby are very busy getting their resumes to read that they worked in successful winning campiagns. Not for them the hard task of unseating a parliamentary secretary for communities even if one cannot find what this actually means in terms of a job description. The federal party members such as Petro Georgiou or Peter Costello do not come down for state elections apparently. Yes sure I believe that. I have seen federal members travel extensively for high profile candidates. But Carty is neither high profile or a mate in terms of party structure. He will make gains on his own. If successful well then it will be a different story.
So here is Michael Carty versus Hong Lim. The question is which candidate would actually deliver value for the individual elector without owing his election to others? The one who stands all by himself to fight on issues or the one who is in the fold of powerful interests and is called a parliamentary secretary? An examination of the two, including their last two years in the local media and their wok at the electorate level would seem to favour the liberal candidate Michael Carty. Hong Lim tried to take Simon Cream down perahps Simon owes Lim a favour or two? Of course I always am willing to be corrected if I ever get to find out what Mr. Lim's title means and what his skills and contribution to public life and parliament actually are.
It is June 2006. The quality of Victoria's government is mirrored in a gentleman named Mr. Cargill. A senior strategist within the office of the labor Premier Steve Bracks. A diary owned by Mr. Cargill has come to light. In that diary he makes notes to check the backgrounds of the opposition liberal leader's wife and children, to seek out something that can be used for the degrading of Mr ballieu. The Premier Steve Bracks is comfortable with this. This is consistent with my perception that the Premier lacks a moral compass. It seems that everything for him is a moving feast of political convenience. Disposable fundamentals are the modern way of Australia's governments moreso in the states and territories which are the province of the Australian Labor Party. Mr. Bracks responds, to media questioning, that this practice is both defendable and justifiable in the closeted world of the political sewer that people such as he helps to maintain and add to. The media let him off lightly, they like him. Mr Bracks does not experience accountability questioning on a deep scale. he like his counterparts in the political world employs sophisticated medi and issues control, from the public purse. They add no public value and are there solely to manage the peoples' democracy in the interests of the incumbent government. To my mind they border on criminal activity by fettering the individual role of the elected representatives of parliaments. hey create barriers to the engagement of the people with their democracy. Is it reasonable to see them as predominantly criminals and parasites of the public purse?
There are a litany of examples of Mr. Bracks' apparent lack of moral compass since coming to office. He is large on rhetoric and small on example. The media machine promotes a squeaky clean, and wholesome, image. The Victorian state government is spending millions to maintain the facade and misrepresentations. I think that Mr Bracks gets away with accountability of matters of questionable morality and fairness because his colleagues with some exceptions are of similar ilk and the voters in the state are as limited in their demands for quality and integrity in government as he is. Why single out Mr Bracks and the Victorian government? The style and persona of Australia's labor leaders are remarkably similar across Australia. This is not to say that the liberal party leaders are any different. They are just accident prone to foot in mouth and lack the where with all to get into the arena of electability.
In concert with this degradation of our systems of government, political and corporate decision makers, employers and short sighted entreprenurs and economists display a poor judgement, and understanding of good management practice. Australia is under developed through failure to use the talent of the nation. Australia could be performing well above the ideologies of mediocrity that grip the nation at every level. Our best and brightest go elsewhere.
Those who influence our economy and society, every day in their work, are squandering Australia's human talent. We are units of utility in the production schema. To our detriment the nation as a whole seems to undervalue learning. Education is dumbed down to simple competencies. Life long learning snot a staple of governments' public policy. It is not embraced by the individual.
In what is a scandalous dereliction of their roles and responsibilities they undervalue the nation's human talent. The Australian government's "Work Choices" devised by the Prime Minister and the Minsiter for Workplace Relations, among others, is a patchwork quilt of documented ignorance. It is the work of people who have little conception of the national interest. The politicians who voted this rubbish in are poor role models reinforcing, and perpetuating a very mediocre, and archaic, view of productivity. One only has to listen to the stumbling Minister, Kevin Andrews, and look at the contradictions between his version, and outcome, to see evidence of this. Every day we see the damage an ideolog, with limited people and managerial knowledge and skills, can do when they turn their narrow mind to defining employment conditions and peoples' livelihoods. The obsession with unions, and enemies, defined in the punitive legislation is immature. The federal legislation that governs Australian corporate workplaces is not something to be lauded, for it is substandard and quite damaging in intent and implementation. It was concocted by people who are illiterate in human resources management. They exhibit a lack of awareness as to how tro go about getting the best out of the nation's talent. It is divisive and inflammatory. The legislation is based on the ancient principle of chattel, ownership of the person. It reflects the notion that the organisation is more important than the human individual. The notion that it is better to have a job, no matter how menial than to not have one. Only the most untalented, and myopic, of employers would embrace it. It seems, unfortunately that there might be a lot of them in Australia, as time will show.
In 1985 the Australian federal liberal party, lead by John Howard, came to government. One of their first acts was to abolish the labor party's Working Nation initiative, closing the Commonwealth Employment Agency offices across the nation. They privatised the operation of employment services to Employment National and the Job Network agencies. The government appointed board of Employment National, under direction of Minister Tony Abbott, did not perform well and Employment National went broke. The Howard government does not allow economic, and social, evaluations of its performance by the public service or any public agency and controls the office of the Auditor General through contracting out and limitations on funding. Thus, there can be no strong independent critique of their administration by anyone who has access to real information. Job Network has similarly gone broke on a number of occasions.
Apart from the substandard performance of the government's planning and administration of public agencies and monies, the additional negative impacts have been a loss of training focus and degradation of Australia's skills base. The government stripped out the $1,000,000,000 allocated by labor to training people. It also stopped state further education and training agencies from participating in employment services delivery. It was ideological bastardry, not a decision based on careful evaluation and thought. It is typical of the Howard government. Incompetency is masked and results fabricated until the truth is out. A government is one of manipulation, lies and hypocrisy. This is an abuse of the oath of office.
Some years ago the Australian government decided to implement its own Technical Colleges across Australa. An admirable idea. These twenty four newly created institutions, run by private enterprise, industry and quasi community partnerships, would solve the problem. They would compete against the state and territory owned institutions. Guess what? There were no takers, industry was not interested because the government assumes that it is the party of entrepreneurialism. The technical colleges have all but failed to materialise and they have definitely not delivered.
"New technical colleges in crisis
Samantha Maiden, Political correspondent April 25, 2006, The Australian
John Howard's vision for 24 federally funded technical colleges to tackle the skills shortage as soon as possible has unravelled with the Government threatening to strip some regions of the training centres promised at the last election.The vocational colleges, which fall largely in marginal electorates held by the Coalition, from Darwin to coastal Queensland and regional Victoria, are being set up in competition with state-run TAFE colleges."
The government minister Gary Hargreaves was told that the initiative would fail, as was Minister Peter McGauran and other senior members of Australia's federal government. The thing is they do not take any advice that contradicts their view on board. They dismiss criticism, or alternative, opinion. For them critics are coming from an opposing political side, not from knowledge or experience. They see bias where it does not necesarily exist. The casual, and caustic, dismissal of others' views is the measure of the man. "Just plain wrong" is the common retort of a federal minister regardless of the ministers own capacities to present a coherent argument. They are not swayed by well researched argument or by people more experienced, and intellectually capable of reasoned analysis, than they are. The public service has learnt to tell the minister what she or he wants to hear and they do so accordingly. Despite evidence to the contrary pointing to ultimate failure, they go ahead, lose a million, tens of hundreds of millions. Then then they will roll out the spin doctors to tell us lies as to the intention, status and the outcome. The government used to rig the Job Network figures till they were caught cheating and then they simply stopped reporting. As a result ten years on, Australia's skill base is fragmented and the nation importing skills. The government's training agenda has been lampooned by education experts and now by industry. Still they persist incredulous that everyone does not embrace their ideological stupidity. (The author Kevin R beck, is a Master of Education, University of Melbourne 2004 and holds to other post graduate qualifications in education and training from the same University, 1985 - 1999 and a Diploma of Teaching from Mitchell College of Advanced Education, Bathurst Australia, 1980).
The Minister for Communications and the Arts in Australia is Senator Helen Coonan. She announced on Friday 24th March 2006 that she would be abolishing the staff elected position on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Board, the nation's premier public broadcaster and probably the nation's premier broadcaster. This immediately elicited cries of from the usual suspects. The vocal staff members of the ABC cried foul and the federal labor party spokesperson said that bit was yet another example of the government stitching up the ABC. The fundamental question I want answered is, why do the staff of the ABC get to elect a board member, when no other staff or particular interest group get to elect a particular self interested position on any other public or private board, listed or unlisted, in the nation? What is so special about the staff of the ABC that they should have an internal election to make a partisan appointment? One might argue that the federal government of the day, whether it be labor or liberal,makes partisan appointments and there are no elections. The people of Australia do not get a vote and they pay for the thing. So why isn't labor and every other critic harping about that anomaly. We get what we are given, and have to lump it, by an elite few who dole out the cream positions according to political criteria and narrowly defined but very blatant self interests. In the USA such key public roles are elected. Here they are simply orchestrated. It is a recipe for corruption in which both major parties indulge themselves.
Let me put the proposition that Australian politicians, John Howard and Peter Costello are actually no friends of the battlers. This is a media managed process and with constant and sophisticated reinforcement it can be made to look as such. I do not imply they are enemies. It is just a strategy to gain the support of swinging voters. It is aimed at reducing the power base, and influence, of the Australian labor Party and the Trade Union movement. se two seasoned leaders in the Australian government, with the support of the bureaucracy and consultants have made an art form of creating, or using, selected statistics to misrepresent economic management credentials to the electorate at large. They reinforce their illusions by giving tax breaks and monies in large buckets every annual budget. The majority of Australian voters are gullible, and seriously naive, and do not bother to spend the time informing themselves on issues. Many preferring to swallow a diatribe of self promoting advertisements from the governments of the nation or to get their shallow processed information from the Sydney Telegraph and the Herald Sun and the opinionated, radio talk back hosts. Deeper reading, and analysis, is a hard task for many people.
Australia taxes ordinary wage and salary earners higher than most of the nations of the developed world. For two years now Howard and Costello have continually misrepresented Australia's position in relation to taxation. From my perspective the selected use, and manipulation, of statistics, if it distorts fact and presents a false picture, is lying, to the electorate. However people cannot complain if they do not bother to fully inform themselves. as to the truth about the Australian taxation system and its effects upon the economy.
In 2004 the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress published a report of their in depth research into taxation within advanced economies, including Australia. The report states that Australia taxes companies lightly and wage and salary earners highly. Workers in the USA pay 28.93 percent tax and in Australia it is 41.57. Costello would probably reply that there are additional taxes at state and local levels to add to this They are included. The GST is the second lowest in the world behind Japan but when Howard put in his "never ever" GST tax it was implied that this would reduce PAYE. It has not. The 15% tax charged on putting money into superannuation is a scandal. It effectively robs people of tens of thousands of compounding dollars on their retirement savings. There are no equivalent taxes overseas. Only economic illiterates, and vandals, would have it in. That is why Senator Nick Minchin, and others like Malcolm Turnbull, want it scrapped. They are not illiterates nor vandals. John Howard, and Peter Costello, want to keep it. It is stupid and irresponsible. Howard has no idea about economics and tax policy, one only has to read the Hansard records of his political career to know this yet his spin machine, and diatribe, to the contrary rolls on.
Labor is as economically illiterate with Kim Beazley, and his spokesperson, who is it Wayne Swan (?) mute on the Congress Report and mute on the taxation issue. They can only bleat about tax cuts or spending it on one of their pet policies. The labor party policies (actually they are Kim's policies) are not interesting, cohesive or innovative. They should be hammering the lying and misrepresentation on economic matters every day in the federal parliament. However this is difficult when you have all the states and territories under labor governments and they are tarred with the same brush of misrepresentation, spin and economic fraud as to their performance.
Peter Costello imposes a double tax on low income earners. He effectively allows some families to pay no tax by giving them backl grants and baby bonuses because they comply with the John Howard social engineering model.
Australia lags behind the world on employment generation yet John Howard and Peter Costello imply some other imaginative benchmark. They misrepresent how their policies are positioning Australia in relation to the rest of the world. The average citizen is not going to go looking and research to see if they are telling the truth or skewing the data to suit. Complex words, and carefulyy crafted dissembling statements, are used to confuse and bamboozle a gullible, and uneducated, public. The minister of the Australian government label critics of their tax policy as unsound types who should be disregarded. They dig in stubbornly as the cost mounts. Peter Costello cannot claim that he is fabulous economic manager when he cannot generate real employment and he taxes the "battlers" at 20.7% which is greater than the United Kingdom, Canada and our near neighbour New Zealand.
As Costello, and Howard, suck the monetary life out of the ordinary worker, people seek out negative gearing and pray like hell that their house, for which they have leveraged their livelihood and future, produces a financial miracle. The Liberal Member, Malcolm Turnbull, should be Australia's Treasurer. Realising that he has a credible challenger highlighting the misrepresentations of policy and outcome, and effectively putting a light on hiis inept performance Peter Costello has announced a taxation review (March 2006)
I have a healthy distrust of politicians and an open disdain for the unelected advisers who act as gatekeepers of democracy.
The reason that the Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers and Ministers can claim not to know
what is happening within their portfolios is that these advisers, and political activists (paid by the Australian public)
, decide what the elected official is to know. We actually pay to be kept in the dark.
I believe that Australia's parliaments, and the greater number of politicians (labor, liberal and nationals) are failing their duty, and simply ignoring their oaths, of public service. They are demanding at state, territory and federal levels, that the public service, industry and community, follow codes of conduct that they themselves breach day after day. This corrosion has resulted in public servioce officials across Australia being influenced by, and conforming to, unethical practices and principles. The heads of Australia's public services continue to present the hollow sounding argument that public servants are providing frank, fearless and independent advice and are not politicised. The reality, ate the end of the day, as they are so fond of saying is something different. Chiefs of Staff, and advisers to the Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers and Ministers, wield enormous, and mostly unfettered power, literally directing the senior public service.
Political advisers, media and other staff, other than electoral officers, serving the constituents, should not be paid through the public purse. They should be paid by either the politicians who employ them or the political party to which they belong. The one exception ebing administrative support personnel. There should be no allowances for employing political manipulators. The system encourages corrosion and corruption. Those who work for the personal political interests of a member of parliament, are degrading democracy in Australia. They demonstrate questionable moral conscience and compasses. Political staff, other than administrative and clerical, performing office and parliamentary systems support functions, work against the public interest and should be rooted out of the system.
Australia's political leaders, and political party machine men and women, present little example of selfless leadership or ethical behaviour that their political advisers, spin doctors, departmental secretaries, public servants, business leaders, employees and individuals might emulate. Quite the opposite. The Ministers, and senior public servants, appear inept on a scale that boggles the mind, with billions wasted on poor administration, political interest and self indulgent pork barrelling and corruption. They play loose with the truth and are slippery eels when it comes to accountability and responsibility. The degradation, and decline, in public governance, in Australia's institutions, and the lack of political attention to public interest (versus their own) is driven by a cosy political duopoly. This duopoly is predominantly engineered, and managed by the Labor, and Liberal, party machines and faceless people in the party structures. They control all Australian key government, federal state, territory and local positions across the nation. Indepndents and other minorityy members sometimes get a look in if the major parties need to form a minority government.
Australian public opinion surveys rate politicians on a very low scale. According to surveys, critical opinion, and research, Australia's federal government, under John Howard, has made us a lesser nation in every value except economics. According to surveys and research, we are, under Howard, a meaner nation. It is not so much that we as a people are meaner. It is that we allow people such as John Howard and Philip Ruddock to inhabit Australian politics, creating divisiveness and fuelling ignorance, shaping the nation's language, policy, actions, laws and the legacy, of shameful acts that will endure.
The Australian population is disengaging from politics. The only people who are really interested area few party hacks, with dreams of preselection, journalists, bloggers and the odd, very odd perhaps, citizen, like me. The disengament, and marginalisation of critics suits the major party politi9cains and leaders of Australia. They can disingenuously imply that the people can express their feelings at the ballot box. The problem is that by then the legislation is in and the ballot boxes around the nation are being stuffed wth pork barrels. How can we express a decision if there are only two candidates who, for all intents and purpose, "political twins"?
Public policy has evolved to be synonymous with political benefit policy under every government and council, in Australia. There are no clean, wholesome and outstanding, governments in Australia to admire.
The citizens of the nation should vote for independent candidates in the coming elections, and allow a bit of chaos to reign in government for a while, to see how the Labor and Liberal party members perform. There are a number of electorates who have done this and have very high performing and quite selfless members of parliament as a result. The duopoly might have to swallow ego, and self interest, and learn how to negotiate, debate and administer parliament. The debate on RU 486 abortion pills, in February 2006, showed how the parliament should function. The debate was about belief, constituents, conscience and credibility. The little men, and women, were exposed for all to see along with the fools. It was, for a week or two, a breath of fresh air. Then it evaporated back to the control of the few egotistical farts and boring monocolourists that inhabit the corridors as incumbent career politicians.
Austarlia's parliaments cannot function as intended. The time because the leader, and the advisers and the select few who run the party system, must exercise control. They are besotted with the antiquated theories of discipline and figurehead. They are besotted with the archaic, single focus - Howard's government, Brack's governmment, Iemma's government, the Beattie Team. Why not save learning the names and simply select a standard label for each term of their office and type - "Monocultural", "Monocolour", "Bigots", "Boring - Unimaginative", "Mind Numbing", "Liar" Government. Let your imagination run riot and laugh at them. Humour, sarcasm and mockery, are things that politicians cannot abide. They whine that they do their best. Imagine if they did their worst. We do not have to, we can see, and read about, it.
Political solidarity, and discipline, and the single act - one man (sometimes woman) show, have become the mantra and the bible of winning, and holding, government. It is the same across federal, state and territory, across the land. What about a bit of talented representation and robust debate that arises from conscience, belief and commitment to the people? This would be prerential to a constant "merry go round" of either major party (labor and liberal) falling into power across every parliament of Australia because the opposition leaders, and party members, of the day, on the other side are ineffectual. The Australian labor (federal) opposition is lack lustre. All state and territory liberal and national coalitions are similar to labor at the federal level. The question is why? Is it the calibre of the people within, and entering, politics? Hundreds of millions of dollars of Australian tax payers' money is going on mediocrity and they are apathetic about it? They only bleat if interest rates rise and their house mortgage goes up.
Then the voters could alter the mix once the arrogant and pompous members of the current parliament have had a taste of humility. The acid can then be applied to state, and territory, parliaments by voters choosing independents. It seems to work okay for the citizens of the electorates of Calare and New England in NSW, and other places across the nation, where independents are representing electorate. Level headed, logic, would say that we cannot afford independents because they would diminish the stability of Australia's governments. Rubbish! This is a piece of tripe promulgated, and reinforced, to maintain the power base of the political duopoly and their supporters. Australians should take back their democracy. Vote for the independents and for the minority parties. Spread the power of the parliament and make the members earn their money.
Employment, and participation, in Australian democracy is governed by powerful interests who decide who will be the candidates. Selection is not based on merit. There is a dangerous indifference to, and disengagement from, Australian politics and government. The greater population treat the political system, and their governments, with cynicism and even contempt. There is a common bond between a large number of politicians, public service and corporate executives, it seems to be the decline in in ethical practice and effective management and decision making. The Executive of Australian governments abuse their power by blurring the lines between the three elements of democracy - the executive, parliaments and the judiciary. It is an abuse of powerr when a government directs public servnats and others not to answer questions before parliamentary committees. The Labor and Liberal parties have agreed not to enforce the real powers of the upper houses (where they still exist), so that each, when in government, can remain safe in the knowledge that they are really immune from exposure and accountability. They will not call political advisers and will not threaten to jail people who refuse to appear or answer questions. The Senate, of the federal parliament, meekly accepts people treating them with contempt. The CEO of Australia's communication company declines to appear. Labor, and the minority parties, huff with feigned indignity but will not subpoena him. They are hypocrites.
Forget the proposition of parliament, and politics, being about the public interest. The governments of Australia are partisan, choosing what suits their political interests, and carefully stpeeing around anything that might rock their cosy duopoly and power sharing. They fail to represent the interests of their diverse constituencies. Parliamentarians, on the backbenches, could be described as the monkeys dancing to the executive pied pipers, and the party machinery, the organ grinders. Although the choices are limited why do we vote for a Labor, Liberal or National candidate? We know why we should not vote Green because they are simply off the wall with most of their ideas and policies. The Greens exist in the twilight zone.
Independents might offer a modicum of hope, but many argue that we vote Labor or Liberal to maintain stable government.So in place of a vibrant democracy, we apathetically, accept cloning, what's the alternative. the Italian model?
Legislation, Debate Records
and Legal Systems
Saturday 25 February, 2006, whilst sipping the cafe latte and reading the Weekend Australian, I came upon a feature about the Howard government's tenth anniversary in office. Reading this shallow and poorly researched, and written article about the legacy, and legend, of John Howard one might be forgiven for thinking that the aura surrounding him is a eutopia of the fevered imagination. Among the diatribe was a particularly irksome piece of drivel. It was Howard reminiscing about "pulling gas" at his father's garage on a Saturady and Sunday for no pay. Howard was a student and he was doing what a lot of members of families do. However for John Howard the article implied that this was a life long shaping experience. It was an epiphany, a time of learning. For it was this experience that apparently shaped Howard's view of the value of private enterprise and working for a living. One can find similar diatribe from other politicians, whose careers span decades in th politics. They denigreate a career of public service whilst trying to imply that they are not part of that "ooh so nasty and lazy lot" who have never pulled gas on a weekend. What a peice of work John Howard is.
John Howard did not work to pay for his university studies. In his day it was free courtesy of Labor's Prime Minister, Whitlam and Liberal's Prime Minister, Frazer, who continued the policy. Every one of Howrad's closest political cabinet colleagues, who have a degree, received their education at public expense. Howard worked for a time as a suburban solicitor. The greater part of John Howard's life, and earnings, like his colleagues, has been at the expense of the public. He is. like his colleagues, the essence of the public service, he so diligently tries to distance himself from. I do not think he is a good public servant. He does not deliver value for money and is in fact quite expensive. His time in office as Prime Minister is confrontational and divisive. He goes to war. He appoints, and presides, over ministries that are not stellar performers. They are grossly incompetent .and inefficient. On his watch the government, and public services, have committed many illegal, immoral and unethical acts. They have detained, jailed and deported Australians who have done nothing wrong. They have abused people behind wire fences and tortured children in detention. These are not one off events. These are sustained long term policy and action. There are a litany of lies and questionable things in Howard's landscape. However most Australians tell lies. They believe all politicians do, some think particularly John Howard might do this as a matter of habit. However electorally, this is no big thing. John has retained his seat of Bennelong even though candidates seeking to unseat him have portayed Howard with facts and data. It is not something for which they that they will kick Howard out of office. The greater number of voters care little for the propositions of democracy, integrity and truth in media, politics and government.
Now, blow interest rates and cause their mortgage and consumer liftseyle to collapse and that is different. So Howard has only to concentrate on the economy. This is his central plank on which all else rests. The ideology of the market economy defines his values and politics. Ethics do not matter for they are not electorally sensitive.
John Howard, and his ministers, do not follow a code of conduct similar to that which they demand of the long suffering bureaucrats who must swim in and swallow the Howard government's sewage and remain silent. I research extensively but it seems to me that John Howard, in fact, cannot point to an ethical code of conduct that he has actually followed. at any stage of his public life. He according to his own statements "knows nothing about a lot of things that go on. He has lived off the public purse for most of his working life, not off thye sweat of his own endeavour and creation. JohnHoward has no original thoughts in public office. Have a look and see if you can find one original policy, idea or theory. There are none. His record of speeches in the federal parliament record known as Hansard, from the time he entered parliament clearly show this as fact.
Despite the dreamtime musings in the Australian newspaper article, he has no more worthwhile, and deep, private sector experience other than that which he concocts in his fantasies. He was admitted to the NSW bar in 1852 and entered federal parliament in 1854. That is the grand total of twelve years in the private sector. So how has this shaped his strong belief in the worth of private enterprise as against some other implied career? Doesn't take much to impress and fashion John's beliefs, does it? It seems to be a trait of Australian politicians that they mouth ideological platitudes with no concept of how hypocritical or illogical they are. Their own circumstance, and history, too often belies their statements.
His ramblings as to the whole private sector thing and what shaped his beliefs seem to be the typical delusion, or fabrication, of many liberal political ideologs inhabiting Australian politics. John Howard will retire on a multi-million dollar benefits package, not the product of the sweat of private endeavour, but the product of an overly generous self indulgent superannuation and benefits programme that he, and others like him, have developed for their personal reward. It must be very gratifying and relaxing to know that when he loses his job or decides to quit he will not have to do iot hard.
Therea re examples of John Howard's private sector belief successes within parliaments. Malcolm Turnbull is a liberal politician, in the Howard government. He is in his first term. He is the essence of private endeavour that Howard can only dream of. Turnbull was a merchant banker and businessman. Still is, he conducts politics efficiently and with a managerial sense.
So let's not let Howard portay himself in the same manner or cliam to be something he is not. The media, and public, lets him get away with pretending he is something other than he really is.
The journalist who wrote the piece did not challenge Howard's little fantasy.
This article is largely a lie, just as Howard's government is mired in fantasy, corrosion, lies and corruption. John Howard is lauded for his political instincts and skill in reading the electorate. He is good at this and he has a dream run of fateful events that have kept him in office. However there are things that even John Howard cannot master and manipulate and they are things beyond his control. They are the actions of others, beyond his political control and manipulation. When he gets a whiff of them he may well abandon the ship to Peter Costello.
A Personal Overview of Australia's democracy and political duopoly
By Kevin R Beck
The Australian democratic system is one of the finest in the world. It has served us well over the century even though the foundation, the Australian Constitution is technical and dull. It offers little inspiration and has is silent on citizens' rights. To this end the Australian government of John Howard, and the Coalition members of federal parliament have been able to incarcerate people for as long as they wish and to undermine civil liberties and freedoms. The nation granted the vote to women before any other country, brought in compulsory voting indicating that democracy was something to be valued, even if some of us are too ignorant, and apathetic, to realise this. Australia brought in the secret ballot and preferential voting. Australia had a history of innovation, and experimentation. That is until the nineties decade when uninspiring, self interested, leaders of the duopoly, Labor and Liberal, took over. Today, the leaders of governments and oppositions, at federal, state, territory and local government levels, have diminished our democracy and stunted its growth. The pool of talent is diminished. Australian politics has become self focused. Like Enron, the Australian Wheat Board, and many corporations, the senior personnel of the Labor and Liberal parties are consumed with hubris, managerialism and secrecy. The minor parties are as atrified but due to size and capacity lack seriously credibility and talent. The Greens Party is on the one hand quite socially advanced but on economic issues, industry and globalism they are not credible, are bizarre and unyielding. The fact that their vote is on the rise either reflects disenchantment with the major parties or a lack of awareness and thought by Australian voters.
Human nature is such that people will not surrender to the truth that they are not capable. Kim Beazley persist in delusional belief that he can lead the Australian labor party to victory. Similarly Robert Doyle in Victoria, and Peter Debnam, in NSW, believe that they are terribly talented and can manage the state of Victoria for the liberal party. In Queensland and In South Australia, lack lustre career politicians continue like atrified figures in some biazrre play. The problem is that it is not a play. It is the vital heart of Australia.
The list of those who cannot render valuable contribution is vast across the spectrum of Australia's governments. The parliaments of Australia no longer hold the executive and the governments of the day to account. Partisan politics, and the vested interests of the Australian Labor, Liberal and National parties in maintaining control of the system have denigrated, and eroded, our democracy and institutions. This, and other matters within the political arena, are of concern to many Australians. There is a great irony in the pontificating, hollow rhetoric of Australia's senior political leaders, who try and dress their exploits, policies and efforts, up as something noble and self sacrificing. On the one hand they lecture and cajole us about the value of family, whilst largely putiing their own on the back burner or abandoning them. They lecture us as to morality whilst presenting an immoral face every day of their working lives. They lecture us about exercising self control, following laws and accepting lesser wages in the economic good, whilst enjoying all the fruits of a luxurious lifestyle. They justify this by simply hanging around at work for long, long hours, well beyond the point of being productive. They do not measure their productivity by normal standards. They have special rules and measures.
These are the corroders, and corruptors, of Australia's democracy.
Australia needs constitutional reform and to grow up from its ties with the empire. Howard scuttled the republic effectively confining Australia to an aged monrachy that is of no value to Australia and costs a fortune. John Howard, and his coterie, reflect the dull mediocrity of career politicians, and the very average myopic Australian. An anglo-celtic, british remnant view. "We will decide who comes here and under what circumstances", (John Howard, in the orchestrated lies of the children overboard incident). These inimaginative weights on Australia's progress are solely focused on individualism, and economic wealth.
Once Australia had institutions that questioned and challenged. Australia's governments have effectively brought these institutions to heel or persuaded them to foundations of common thought and understanding. The nation's governments, democracy and its institutions are being managed in the same way that centric borads and chief executives manage corporations. Governments, and political parties, engage in vindictive silencing of critics, in secrecy and diminution of access.
Australia's media, generally, appears to be partisan to the holders of government office. They cowtow to the political will or to threats of exclusion from access. There is evidence of a growing self censorship within the mainstream media. One of compliance to mass opinion that we should not rock the boat lest interest rates rise. Australia is captive to interests rates and everything else is disposable. To their peril, a large number of Australians have swapped their independence, and quality of government and freedoms, for the shackles of "aspirational wealth and consumerism". John Howard knows how to play the "interest rate" fear card.
"Interest Rates Fear Cost Labor Election: Gartrell, November 10, 2004
The most important factor contributing to the ALP's 2004 election defeat "was whether people had a mortgage", according to the National Secretary of the ALP, Tim Gartrell. Addressing the National Press Club, Gartrell highlighted the difficult position the ALP now finds itself in: "Because of the ALP's] two consecutive poor election results, from July next year the Government will take control of the Senate, and the outcome means in the lower house we now need to gain more seats than either Whitlam required in 1852, Hawke required in 1983 or Howard required in 1985 to win the next election."
In pinpointing interest rates as the key factor determining the election, Gartrell said: "Of the 15 seats with the highest proportion of mortgagees, 11 had a higher than average swing against Labor. For example, the most mortgage-sensitive seat in the country is Holt, where over half the voters are paying off a mortgage. In Holt, the two party preferred swing against us was 6.1 percent, almost three times the national average."
In bondage, many Australians will turn a blind eye to what governments, and others, have done in our name and Australia's commercial and economic interests.
So what everyone does it now? This is the way the world works. Do not rock the boat. The majority of Australian public opinion mirrors that of the developed world.
The media, in every developed country, has to some extent become slave to commercial interests, owners and the profit imperative. This is apparent in the United States and is growing in Australia. Business, which should take a citizenship role, instead tries to walk a middle path or actively engages in the corrosion and corruption. Its employees, and service providers, are held in check lest their activities interfere with the over arching interests of the company. Business ethics are seriously suspect.
Publishers, and owners, of major media are damaging the reputation of independent journalism. The commercial imperatives of media, and the concentration of ownership, limits the media, and journalists, from engaging effectively in holding the governments to account. Media ownership and rights of access are core issues that go to the heart of a fully functioning democratic society. There is a view that Australia's governments, particularly, that of John Howard and the coalition, are likely to propose legislation that restricts diversity, in favour of political incumbents and interests.
The Australian people pay an exorbitant amount for their parliamentary members, parliamentary operations, advisers, senior public servants and public services and the value is questionable.
The media failure to maintain its traditional roles of investigative journalism, and in keeping governments honest and accountable, is reported extensively across the Internet. Stories are invariably revisited, with the most glaring being the shallow, and emotive reporting, of how much politicians spend on travel and stamps. Parliamentary Press galleries focus on analysing the worthless gladiatorial stupidity and comedy shows that take place in our parliaments. Deep analysis is beyond the scope of the commercial media's talents, objectives and article size of 800 words. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is sliding into a similar morass as federal government politicians, and myopic Ministers, intefere in its independence. Instead of devoting the lion's share of ABC public funding to paying journalists, and indepndent creators, to produce compelling public documentaries on how we are governed by the duopoly, and our parliaments, and on investigative programming, into how our culture is shaped by tehse corrosive politicians, and systems, the ABC is spending their money on web technology and commercial shops.
The newspaper, and television, editors, and producers, have accepted that concentration of readers, and viewers, is limited to a paragraph or two and a thirty second grab. SBS Television is a rose blossoming in a desert. Think Tanks are replacing the media. As well as independent creators and web site aggregators are entering tradional media domains.
Gone are the heroes who create the great newspapers. television stations and the institutions. The checks and balances, previously provided, by these people and their media, public services, institutions and courts have been seriously eroded or have gone. In many arenas they have been replaced by mercenaries, sycophants, pragmatists and cowards.
The judiciary is not performing its guardian role through failure to protect our civil and human rights protecting citizens against the excesses of government executives.
Senior public servants now see their client as the Minister and, a seen in the examples of the Australian Wheat Board scandal they deliberately keep the Minister isolated from awareness and events that might cause them political problems. If a bureaucrat sends a document to a Minister, it first goes through the adviser. This unelected official checks it for contentious parts. If it contains anything that it is "politically" risky or poses a situation where the Minister might become aware of something that could later cause that Minister to be held accountable for a questionable decision or event, such as the Australian Wheat Board scandal and payment of bribes, the document will be returned with a demand to doctor it, by removing the offending sections. No document is deemed to have been seen by a Minister of any Australian parliament if it has not been stamped by the Minister's office.
. This allows the Minister, Chief Minister, Premiers and Prime Minister an escape hatch, to say that they did not know. How many times will John Howard use this excuse before the public no longer believes him? It allows them to slide awat from accountability and responsibility.
The public service performance, across Australia, is declining due to politicisation, and then low standards of leadership reflected in the governments. Restructuring and redundancy has robbed it of its knowledge and experience base. There is poor training in ethics and a genuflection to the Minister, regardless of talent or morals. There is a lack of resources and systems applied to public accountability, freedom of information along with a degradation of parliamentary enquiry. This degradation arises due to a bi partisan agreement not to pursue members of governments before parliamentary enquiries, such as Senate and Upper Houses. There is an agreement between the Labor and Liberal parties that there will be no investigation of the previous government's actions. The records are sealed for thirty years.
The decline in parliamentary standards, ministerial accountability, leadership, and public service, reflects the general decline in the nation's education and harnessing of talent and decline in ethical values.
We can see that public policy and government's are actively degrading Australia. On February 3, 2006, the Prime Minister became angry that his reputation was being traduced by people following the Cole Enquiry into the payment of bribes to the Suddam Hussein regime for wheat contracts, in contravention of Australian criminal laws and the United Nation's sanctions. What of John Howard's traducing of Australia's reputation through his efforts as Prime Minister and those of his Ministers? What of the scandals of the immigration policies, putting refugee women and children behind razor wire, on islands or in the desert camps? What of the deportation of Australian citizens, altering of pictures (Children Overboard) and the expanding corruption and poor administration? What of the disgraceful culture that has arisen within the Australian Department of Immigration, under the stewardship of John Howard and Philip Ruddock?
Australian politicians, within the Labor, Liberal and National parties, are abrogating their public duty, and oaths, by conveniently taking advantage of "the system", and not demanding that they be told all important matters so that they are informed and able to do their public jobs effectively. Instead it suits them. They hang onto power at all costs, even the state and national interest.
Non elected persons, advisers and senior public servants, are determining what elected public officials should know. What we need from our parliaments are a set of standards by which they agree to abide, and better, are legally forced to comply with. We also need a bill of human rights. Politicians, in their ignorance and self interest, will give us neither, although the Labor government of the Australian Capital Territory (2005 - 2006) are developing a Bill of Rights.
One might expect value when they go and watch our parliaments in operation or when they deal with, or use, their public services. Not so.
What Australians get is a institutional hubris where measurements of performance of ministers, and members, are erudite and alien systems of measuring performance. They get a political executive (labor, national and liberal) so enamoured with its power and status that loves to hear their own hollow voices. They all too often get a bombastic prancing, and gladiatorial diatribe of relatively worthless substance that passes for question, and debate, in the parliaments. Australia's governance, and public service, systems fail to deliver value commensurate with the cost as every Auditor General, and every annual report of the various operations, attest.
Do the backbenchers, and members of the upper houses (where they exist) have any self worth, respect or conscience? Do public servants at any level have self-respect for themselves and for public service. It appears not. Rather they seem to be acquiescent puppets willing to accept the rule of their superior political masters. If this is the case then we may as well just have a government executive, a handful of self serving career politicians, such as we have now and get rid of the rest of the trappings and facade.
One only has to listen to John Howard when he talks of his backbench members negotiating with the "government". This is code for we are in charge and they are something else, they are not part of the government. One can observe hot air, lots of paper and travel, hard questioning, derision and stupidity, pomp, and circumstance, as they try to make themselves relevant through committee processes.
The greater part of question time is worthless as Ministers of the Crown, and others, rise to their feet to talk about the "dorothy dixers" and to stroke their egos and bait their opponents in some bizarre, and sick comedy, that passes as quality government across the nation in every house of the people. The description of "these places" is surely a breach of the Trade Practices Act and a joke. The Hansards of Australian parliaments record all of their statements. You can access them below in the links section. They give credence to my claims of corrosion of our democracy. Where is there one eloquent speech, response or presentation of worth by any member of an Australian parliament in question time in the past fifteen years?
Australian public policy and public service
yesterday and today