Reclaiming representative democracy during these dire times
DRAFT – UNDER DEVELOPMENT
Australia needs an urgent return to genuine representative democracy that involves every Australian. And we need the re-affirmation of basic freedoms and human rights – rights that have been trampled since March 2020.
Many Australians live in fear today, fear not of the virus but of governments that seem to have lost their way. Many of us have a sense of foreboding about creeping state totalitarianism.
These fears can be traced back to the excessive response by the federal and state governments to the covid pandemic which have exposed systemic problems with the way our big political parties operate.
1. Big parties have become unaccountable dictatorships
Australia’s big parties – the Liberal and Labor parties – have behaved during 2020 and 2021 like unaccountable dictatorships. The way the Liberal Party has crushed dissent – exemplified by the treatment it has meted to Craig Kelly – suggest that these parties exist solely to promote the interests of their donors (such as big pharma), the global elites – and even the interests of nations like China – at the expense of the interests of ordinary voters.
These parties represent in every way the concept of a “swamp” that was popularised by Donald Trump in the USA – in which the self-interest of party members overrides the interests of the people.
Representative democracy in Australia is effectively dead. Constituents are left with no real representation. These MPs do not respond to constituent’s letters. If they do so, they merely provide a proforma response that says nothing meaningful. And being pawns of their party, they are not permitted – nor are they willing – to undertake due diligence around the legislation that they are voting for, and how it affects their constituents.
Members of Parliament who have voted in the States for draconian emergency covid laws in 2020 have no idea that their actions violate the basic constitutional rights of Australians. They have rubber-stamped the party diktats for fear of reprisal by the party machine. Hitler would have been proud of the control exercised by Australia’s parties on their elected members. The big parties have no values or integrity – they are happy to betray the people of Australia for pelf and short-term political gain.
Further, the talent pool in these parties is selected for obedience and lack of critical thinking. Young students are often recruited directly from university into advisory roles. Such advisors without any diversity of life-experience – who have not built a business in their life or undertaken any serious policy work – are then catapulted into leadership positions. Many of these party’s leaders cycle in an out of government, corporate or super-national interests – far removed from the average Australian’s reality. In this way, these big parties represent careerist organisations, not collegial bodies where independent citizens are enable to debate complex matters amicably.
2. There is no effective opposition to ruling parties at the federal or state level
The adversarial system of democracy (“to keep the bastards honest”) has failed, given strong party-hierarchies and a complete clampdown on dissent within the big parties.
The Parliaments of Australia should always include a strong opposition party that argues against the sitting power. But Labor has outdone the Liberal party at the national level and the Liberals have outdone Labor in many States. For instance, the Liberals want a “hard lockdown” but Labor say that the government “should have locked down harder and sooner” – a terrible choice: a choice between two authoritarian regimes that directly mimic CCP’s playbook.
In the 1970s ex-liberal Don Chip established the Australian Democrats party, which became the major cross-bench balance of power party in federal and state parliaments from a platform of ‘Keep the Bastard’s Honest’, but today there is no effective opposition.
Australia’s Representatives intends to form government and invites scrutiny of every aspect of its functioning. We will also have internal mechanisms to ensure our elected members remain honest.
3. Cabinet system subverted
In addition, the Westminster Cabinet system itself seems to have failed during 2020. The point of having the Cabinet system is to ensure diversity of perspectives but the National Cabinet has short-circuited deliberative democracy itself, by giving in to pressure from state premiers, premiers like Daniel Andrews who are committed to CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative and take advice from the Chinese consulate. In states like Victoria a Star Chamber of a few Ministers has been created in 2020 to dictate policy.
KEEPING THE BASTARDS HONEST
Australia’s political scene has increasingly become tribal. Some of us are “Labor people”, others are “Liberal people”. Even swing voters only swing between these two parties. That is because of habits formed during times of reasonable governance when the two-party system somehow worked well enough.
But over the years the big parties have not just become replicas of each other, they have united in 2020 against the basic human rights of the people of Australia.
Democracy becomes particularly dangerous when there is bipartisan support by major parties against the human rights of the minorities. James Madison had been very concerned about factions (parties) that can – if they unite together – “sacrifice both the public good and the rights of other citizens”. That has come about in 2020 in Australia. Madison had considered options to address the violence of factions:
Among the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.
If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.
To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.
We need to be bold and break with this pattern of politics. The time has come to design a new type of political party – a party that not only listens to constituents but responds to them, and is accountable to the electorate. We need a party in which elected members have the right of individuality, a party that allows informed dissent. We need a political party with broad principles and values, a party that does not restrict informed dissent.
Australia needs an urgent return to representative democracy and a re-affirmation of basic freedoms and human rights. That is why we call this party Australia’s Representatives – a party that provides a platform for new, honest citizens to step forward to contest elections and fight tyranny and corruption.
Conscience voting by the elected members of Australia’s Representatives is the signature feature of this party. Our candidates will also sign a Public Pact to serve the best interests of their community.
The party provides a values-based filter over any policy proposals. It does not prematurely rule out any policy ideas that are otherwise consistent with the basic values of the party. As people’s party we embrace and welcome the views of all constituents, which means we remain flexible – but within the range of ideas supported by our shared values.
Focus on indigenous issues
We particularly stand together to affirm the indigenous communities of Australia who have suffered much over the past two centuries. Australian Representatives are committed to honouring 60,000 years of indigenous culture and involving indigenous communities in the national conversation, even as all of us seek to take advantage of modern science and technology.
In particular, lockdowns are not consistent with indigenous culture. Such “public health” policies have caused further trauma to the indigenous communities as they have effectively become yet another continuation of imposed values of a few powerful politicians under the guise of protecting the people.