Saturday 21st of May 2022

playing democracy...

There are about 800 politicians in Australia’s parliaments. According to their assessments of each other, that quite small group includes role models for lying, cheating, deceiving, ‘rorting’, bullying, rumour-mongering, back-stabbing, slander, ‘leaking’, ‘dog-whistling’, nepotism and corruption.

A recent editorial valiantly suggested that ‘toxic debates test ideas, policy and character’, but a more orthodox view is that ethics, tolerance and civility are intrinsic elements of democratic society and that the politicians’ mutual contempt and aggressive, ‘end justifies the means’ amorality erodes respect for authority and public institutions and compromises social cohesion.


By Tony Fitzgerald
December 08, 2012


Margo: Tony has kindly given me permission to publish a piece he wrote for the Oz late last year.



Even some insiders are worried by the standard of Australian public life: a former Minister, Senator John Faulkner, has said that this is ‘a dangerous moment for our democracy’, which ‘is drowning in distrust’.

However, insiders see problems with insiders’ eyes, recognise only some of the problems and few of the causes and suggest insiders’ solutions with voters as mere bystanders. The usual, and sometimes intended, outcome is a flurry of superficial activity, appointment of a suitable group of other insiders to report, lengthy discussion of their report, considerable navel-gazing, a feel-good pronouncement and business as usual.

Realistically, since politicians are unlikely to support any significant change which might reduce their power, genuine reform will be extremely difficult. However, it is not impossible if it is owned and driven by the community.

One modest, uncontroversial proposal which I favour as a starting point is a free, non-partisan website to provide voters with clear, accurate, impartial information to assist them to compare candidates for election, make better informed choices and avoid voting for unsuitable candidates merely because they have party preselection. As the United States Supreme Court observed about twenty years ago, ‘the ability of the citizenry to make informed choices among candidates for office is essential, for the identities of those who are elected will inevitably shape the course that we follow as a nation’.

‘Informed choices among candidates for office’ are especially important in Australia. The Constitution omits important checks and balances which commonly restrain the misuse of power. Australia’s version of democracy is founded on concepts of representative government and parliamentary supremacy which are in turn based on a premise that majority decisions by elected representatives constitute the collective wisdom of the community.

Those elected are not chosen to exemplify society’s flaws and vices but to act with integrity, make decisions for the public benefit and, as it was put by the late Professor Julius Stone, exercise power ‘subject to the restraints of shared socio-ethical conventions’. The cynicism and debased standards of modern party politics totally disregard those principles.

Political parties are effectively unregulated private organisations. The major parties, a coalition representing business and rural interests and an alliance between trade unions and socialist groups, include principled, well-motivated people but also attract professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.

Little-known and often unimpressive factional leaders exert disproportionate influence. Under their guidance, the major parties have consolidated their grip on political finance, the political process and political power. As a result of their own parliamentary decisions, parties are publicly funded without a binding reciprocal obligation to act in the public interest. The power of these few, surprisingly small, unregulated groups is for now impregnable. For the foreseeable future, they will dominate public discussion and debate, effectively control Australia’s democracy and determine its destiny.

That might be tolerable if the major parties acted with integrity – but they do not. Their constant battles for power are venal, vicious and vulgar.

The mantra ‘whatever it takes’ is part of political folk-lore. Parties equate their interest to the national interest, which they assume is best served by their ideology and its benefits for the like-minded. Populism, paranoia and unrealistic expectations are encouraged and the naive and gullible are made envious, resentful and disdainful of fellow Australians.

Public funds and sometimes reckless and sometimes ‘non-core’ promises are used to entice voters to support vague and often opaque policies.

Financial backers are provided with special access and influence and and supporters are appointed to public positions.

Information is withheld, distorted and manipulated and falsehoods and propaganda are euphemistically misdescribed as mere ‘spin’.

Opposition, dissent and criticism are discouraged by personal abuse, often protected by parliamentary privilege, and unwelcome ideas are condemned as ‘elitist’ or ‘un-Australian’.

The public interest is routinely subordinated to the pursuit of power, party objectives and personal ambitions, sometimes including the corrupt acquisition of financial benefit.

The role, authority and prestige of Parliament, the corner-stone of our democracy, are diminished as decisions made by the party leadership are publicly rubber-stamped by parliamentarians whose party membership and pre-selection are held at the whim of the party and who are bound by party rules and discipline to implement its policies and vote as directed irrespective of their consciences, opinions or responsibilities to their electorates.

Citizens are free to criticise and periodically entitled, indeed compelled, to vote. However, since one or other of the major parties will always win, elections provide voters with only a type of Hobson’s choice. Many people vote only because they’re legally obliged to. Because voters often know little or nothing about candidates except which party each represents, the parties gift electorates to family connections, malleable party hacks and mediocre apparatchiks. The huge gulf between governance principles and political practice can be directly traced to the calibre of those whom parties select to represent them. Unless and until that improves, the current national embarrassment will continue.

Voters who are well-informed and engaged can influence political behaviour by not voting for unsuitable candidates even if they have been pre-selected by a party. When voters demonstrate that a candidate’s party is only one factor by voting for the best candidate or at least not voting for an unsuitable candidate, the importance of a candidate’s merits will quickly become obvious, especially in marginal seats.

Once that occurs, political parties will feel pressure to pre-select on merit, more people of integrity will be encouraged to join political parties or stand for election, the quality of those elected to parliament will improve, political standards will rise and other reform will become possible.

It will take time and patience, but ultimately, if the community perseveres, it will prevail.


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To perform our democratic function we need and are entitled to the truth: Tony Fitzgerald


Unfortunately, since this excellent piece about democracy by Tony Fitzgerald, THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC HAS CHOSEN TO GO THE easy "CORRUPT" and stupid PATH. Mind you, the voters had some help in making the worst choice possible, with the Murdoch media polluting the information channels with their rightwing clever drivel... One would think that "about to hammer Tony Abbott at the next election" the voters had learnt their lesson, but but, but the deceitful libs (CONservatives) booted Tony Abbott first — and installed Malcolm Turnbull as pissy head-blancmange. Totally inept, but full of confidence, Turnbull was like a debonaire captain ordering his crew to avoid the rocks when they already had hit the shore... Then before the next election, Turnbull got turfed out by Mr Underdog Oversold, ScoMo, the soiled nappy "salesman" — err sorry: "MARKETEER" — and the Murdoch media made the DUMB AUSSIE VOTERS vote for the biggest diplomatic liar on the planet... What trick is the ScoMo and his acolytes at Murdoch media and the IPA going to use to deceive us once more? I know, I know... they're going to hammer the ABC... And attack all the Labor personnel with rubbish and this is why the Labor Party is avoiding making intelligent statements that would be turned against them like ScoMo and his "electric car that will destroy your weekend"... Idiot! Imbecile!

stopping the crap...

nobody noticed!...



July 26, 2009

There was a time, not so long ago, when you could express an opinion, go to a rally, speak to your local MP, write letters to the press, lobby your local Councillor, vote for a person and a policy that you thought fitting and somehow expect that you would be listened to, and if there were enough of you, action would be taken.

That time has gone!

We are led to believe that there are five tiers of government and they are all looking after our interests. In fact, it is doubtful under the present system if there is even one! We have an upper and lower house at Federal level, which is duplicated at State level. Below this are local councils who are supposedly there to administer the grassroots and the day-to-day running of our lives. 

This is the façade, for behind all this is the party caucus and the bureaucracy, and this is where the real power lies. In most cases, those powerful influences bear little or no relationship to the people we elected to represent us, but they firmly hold the reins of power. Most politicians, with the exception of a few Independents and minor parties, dance to the tune of these shadowy figures. Beyond this, the real influence even lies in the hands of big business and these influential power brokers who control party politics by influence, donations, lobbying and rent-seeking.

It’s not even really a secret. The whole system is set up to empower these non-voting sectors and to gain them political and monetary favours at the expense of the voters and taxpayers, while all the time the so-called leaders, through the carefully contrived spin, maintain the fiction of democracy and ‘public mandates’ etc. Looking squarely at it, we are firmly on the path to an Orwellian type dictatorship where every aspect of our life is controlled. Objectors will be met with violence and tasers.

In our two-party system, potential candidates swear an oath of allegiance to the party, rather than to their constituents. This forces them to accept Caucus dictates over and above their conscience or public duties. Both sides of politics indulge in this, and in many cases the same monetary influences are behind both parties. The bureaucracy factor is constant regardless of who gets elected. Political donations to both sides will see that certain subjects never become an election issue nor a subject of serious debate after an election. Independents and minor parties who broach these subjects automatically set the spin machine and a tame press into action. Behind the scene, votes are stacked, electoral boundaries are changed, seat numbers in parliament are reduced to exclude them and they end up being discredited and vilified for carrying out what they were elected to do, which is to represent the views of the people.

And all the while, the leaders remain smiling and effusive, and the most they will do is to try to score points off each other or appear at bland, image-polishing functions to either maintain their current position or capture the odd floating voter that may empower them in the next term.

The whole system is a farce that is almost laughable; except that the reality is that the stakes are extremely high for those involved. Control of the public purse in the form of rewards and subsidies, the monopolising of business opportunities, amendment of laws, speciality treatment, the waiving of public rights, the seizure of local and natural resources and immunity from public prosecution are the prizes for the winners.

To see the reality of this, watch live broadcasts from parliament. A person from one party will stand up and read a bill, which can potentially change your rights, your income or your future. Behind this person will be a few semi-somnolent MPs and on the Opposition benches one very bored looking front-bencher and a couple of others for decoration purposes. If the cameras had not been there, there would probably be even less attendees. Nevertheless, once the division bell is sounded, the MPs all troupe back into the house to vote – on a bill they have not read and on arguments they have not heard. The voting is purely along party lines, which have been decided long in advance, and something that should have been thoroughly considered on merits, is rubber-stamped into legislation. The house then empties again in readiness for the next round. The only thing that gains a full house is the knowledge that the whole nation might be interested, such as budgets, scandal, or a conscience vote on abortion or euthanasia, where most people have opinions. Then it is important to be seen, but even conscience votes are largely regulated. Here we have had instances of MPs being allowed to abstain, but not to vote against a motion. The Caucus wins even over conscience!

Lately, there has been an even more disconcerting move. There appears to be a concerted attempt to disempower the lowest levels of governance – mainly the councils. Already they are under strict control of state government over such things as planning laws, which are seeing that once again, large corporations are being favoured and people’s rights are being substantially eroded. Here the culprits are Forestry, MIS corporations and timber giants who have had laws specifically tailored to their advantage, which allows the conversion of farms to timber plantations, over-spraying of noxious chemicals, water control, building restrictions on residents and land owners and putting financial pressure on local communities to the detriment of both choice of lifestyle and rural living, and threatening financial ruin for dependent small local villages. All objections have been meticulously annulled by amendments to local laws to which legal recourse has been specifically excluded.

There is now talk of amalgamating councils and even central control of them, so that they become merely another aspect of state government and overseen by faceless bureaucrats. The independent RPDC watchdog has now been incorporated and amalgamated with another government controlled department, under David Llewellyn, the Minister-for-Everything. Already the water and sewage rights have been removed from them, a major source of local income. Their rights have been eroded by the new ‘Projects of Regional Significance’ legislation which overrides any input from the local councils and community, bans legal challenges, and puts all decisions in favour of corporations in the portfolio of a single person – again, the Minister-for-Everything.

Soon, the entire population will be controlled by stealth and a series of laws designed to remove any remaining rights we once had, all discussed and decided in secret and not open to amendment or challenge. The Minister-for-Everything is on record as stating, ‘There is nothing in the law that requires us to seek public input for these decisions.’ It passed without comment. Nobody has said, ‘Why not?’ The opposition and the press have ignored it as though the people are simply an annoyance and public apathy is such that nobody has even appeared the least concerned. 1984 started in 1984 and is well advanced.

Democracy has died, and nobody noticed! The obituary column is blank and there are no mourners.


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