Is Australia Doomed
to Become a Dictatorship?
Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar, 1 September 2018
questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You
really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do
be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly
not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but
they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while
making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who
come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.
Focus questions -
1. There seems
to be a general level of discontent with the quality of what goes on
in Australian parliaments. Can you think of a realistic alternative,
one that is actually doable? What is the best system of government
2. The vast
bulk of Australians, like any population, has a very very shallow
grasp of macroeconomics, international affairs, law, education
policy, health management, infrastructure policy ... and all the
myriad of other issues which a government must deal with. Yet they
choose politicians who are little more qualified than they are to
oversee these things. What is the actual role of a voter in our
representative democracy, and what is the role of a politician?
back at cabinet ministers and prime ministers over the last century
it is very plain that most of them would never normally get a job
running major organizations. With a few exceptions, they have just
not been of that calibre. High salaries in parliament are not
attracting the best people. How can we entice really capable people
4. It has
become fashionable, as a throwaway bit of 'wisdom' to say that we
would be better off in a dictatorship. What would a dictatorship
really mean for our way of life? [Plenty of case studies available
from around the world].
5. We are now
intimately linked, for better or for worse, in electronic networks
that give us instant access to people, information, misinformation,
assistance and attack. America's Trump thinks he is running a
government on Twitter. None of this was imagined when our
parliamentary system was designed. Suggest a better system of
government that builds in these new forms of communication.
Norwegian government by law is allowed very few secrets. It
considers that where there is secrecy there is also corruption. The
extreme openness of the Norwegian system works well. Australian
governments suck in information, but are reluctant to release it,
citing 'security' (not my security or yours..). How can we work
towards more open government?
Deliberative Democracy to supplement Representative Democracy?
reference: "Inquiry looks to random jury model to resolve section 44
8. In the
United States and Canada, only certain limited functions are given
to states or provinces, while all remaining functions remain with
the central government. Australia is the opposite. Only certain
limited functions are given to the Federal Government. Which
arrangement works best? Does it matter?
separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the
Judiciary is the foundation of Western parliamentary democracies.
Where and why has this division of powers been undermined in other
states around the world. What are the consequences? Where has the
separation of powers been put at risk in Australia?
10. Why has
the role of the 4th Estate (public information via media etc) not
been defined within the separation of powers?
11. Why does
the design of parliamentary democracies formally describe the roles
of individuals, but formally ignore the influence of other public &
private organizations, oligarchies, sources of financial
contributions to political parties, and so on? What can be done
about this unreality?
12. Our lives
now have endless distractions to fill up the day. The wider world is
becoming more and more complicated. Is it really too much to expect
people to take an informed interest in government at all?
13. There are over 200 ethnic groups in Australia as of 2018, with a multitude of different values. We can less and less take for granted what the next guy is thinking. Does this variety mean that we need more and more laws to spell out rights and obligations? What is a common set of values that can work for all of us?
<><> "The future of the Liberal Party may be best understood by looking at its history. Founded in 1944 by Robert G. Menzies, it was forged out of a motley collection of anti-Labor political parties and groups (e.g. United Australia Party, Australian Women's National League). However, its antecedents dated back to the formation of the Commonwealth Liberal Party (CLP) in 1909 that drew together the Free Trade Party and Protectionist Party, who had previously fought each other, but united to oppose the rise of organised trade unionism and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) as the political arm of the unions. The ALP split over conscription in 1916 saw the CLP unite with the former Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes and some other Labor dissidents to form the Nationalist Party of Australia in 1917. This held office (in coalition with the Country Party from 1922) until the ALP took office in 1929. The Great Depression and internal feuds within the ALP over the adoption of the "radical" new Keynesian economics saw Joseph Lyons and several other Labor dissidents split the ALP again and set up the United Australia Party (UAP). This brought the anti-Labor forces together and when Lyons died in 1939 Menzies took the Prime Minister role. However, the pressure of World War Two led to Menzies resigning from an unworkable minority government and Labor returning to power under John Curtin. The ALP successfully prosecuted the war, including the challenge of the Japanese attacks and direct threats to Australia in 1941, and held office until 1949. Menzies drew together the anti-Labor political forces in the final years of the war, and eventually took power in 1949 with a strong attack against socialism and the spectre of Communist influence in the trades unions. Since that time the LNP coalition has been essentially a counter to the ALP and trades unions. However, from the 1980s the Labor Party has moved more to the centre and the overall influence of the trades unions has reduced. The positioning of the Liberal Party as a centre-right party that looks after the "forgotten people" (e.g. average householders, small business owners, non-unionised workers) stood up under leaders like Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon and even Fraser. However, from the 1990s, starting with the rise of Howard and moving onto Abbott, the Liberals have steadily shifted to the right. This has seen dog whistle politics engendering fear over migrants, Muslims, trade union "thugs", environmentalist "greenies" and climate scientists. It is a pattern that has been seen in many other countries. For example the drift to the right of the US Republican Party (e.g. Tea Party) has taken place well-before the rise of Donald Trump. The Liberals are now in what seems to be a death spiral. Ideologically they are heavily divided and their vision of the future of Australia is confused, erratic, reactionary and seemingly devoid of any economic, social or environmental rationality. They cling to power for the sake of power, and I think the only way to resolve their problem is to have them thrown out of power for a long time, and allow them to rebuild. However, if they rebuild around a Peter Dutton or Tony Abbott, they will be building a very different political party to that formed by Menzies in 1944. It will have more in common with Marine Le Pan's Rassemblement National."
article article gives a good insight into how democracy is being
destroyed in USA: Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (24 August
2018) "There are 3 possible scenarios for what a post-Trump America
could look like, according to experts". Business Insider @
Big money usually means a big influence on politics. In the Australian case that has often (not always) been a rather reactionary, conservative influence since financial benefit for 'Big Money' has seemed to lie in that direction. A somewhat different tack comes from an Australian tech billionaire, Mike Cannon-Brookes, just 38 years old. 'a dream of dictatorship' doesn't seem to be his thing, although he does like decisive planning. So here is an interview with this guy: "The politicisation of Mike Cannon-Brookes". Brisbane Times (25 August 2018) @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/the-politicisation-of-mike-cannon-brookes-20180821-p4zyrw.html
Thor's own websites:
1. articles at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay ;
2. legacy site: http://thormay.net .
Is Australia Doomed to become a Dictatorship? (c) Thor May 2018 return to Ddiscussion