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Politics for the 21st Century

Politics for the Twenty-first Century
by Jay Somasundaram

A couple of thoughts have been mulling around in my head. I’ve put them in point form, since some are synergistic, but others perhaps mutually contradictory.

Individual votes are almost valueless. If an electorate has ten thousand voters, that is 1/10,000. A drop in the ocean. C’mon who are we kidding that voting is that important? In any event, what do we expect from an investment of half an hour every three years or so? If we were really serious about achieving good outcomes, we would be actively participating all year round.

The Liberals and Labor are taking the Greens and the Nationals for a ride. Neither of the two smaller parties is getting the power that they deserve. If I were in these parties, I’d force their partner to start the ball rolling for a proportional representation system on the lower house as a mandatory condition for their support.

The Greens and the Nationals actually have a lot in common. They both want similar outcomes, but come at it from opposite directions. If they could work together, their joint plans are likely to get the balance just right

The twenty first century is about collaboration. Unfortunately, our system actually works against collaboration. We demand differences in policies. We demand an entertaining circus, with each party at each other’s throats.

• We actually don’t need a parliament to pass laws any more. With modern technology, every individual could vote on every Bill. Or use statistical sampling.

• Rather than just before an election, we should demand that every party choose their candidate at the beginning of the previous term. Then each candidate will have three years to prove themselves to the electorate. If I were the Greens (or an independent), I’d be building the infrastructure for the next elections now. I’d be head-hunting captains of industry who have opted for a sea/tree change, and offering them either electorates or senior party positions.

• Perhaps the party system has outlived its usefulness. Perhaps we should vote for the local person we trust the most. Have everybody run as independents. Once elected, they can get together and chose the best among them as leader. The way it works now, we have handed over power to the Big Business bosses or the Big Union Bosses. Now, if someone wants to stand for parliament with any chance of winning, they have to sell their soul, their only choice is deciding which of the two majors is the lesser of two evils. See how the big parties sell the party system – “a vote for an independent is a vote wasted.

This is the twenty first century. Why are we still driving a model-T Ford?

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So much for democracy

It's all our fault that executive pay continues to skyrocket.

tweedle dum/dee

The thing about today, is that Labor and the Greens are coming closer to a mutual accommodation, while the independent Tony Windsor, by contrast, has found a fat black hole in the costings he has finally succeeded in dragging out of Abbott.

Btw, why do we need a surplus of 11 billlion dollars when so much needs to be done, through out society and the world?

I accept that Alan Curran's scepticism comes from a sense that we would lose competitive advantage by moving unilaterally to deal with Greenhouse; nonetheless it wouldn't hurt to have the country prepared for international movements that could come later , should the current science be further verified and the sort of agreement narrowly missed or avoided at Copenhagen, comes into play internationally.

It's to be hoped also that we get in on the ground floor, as to development and marketing of alternative energy sources and systems.

How's funding for universities, CSIRO etc going at the moment - these can always do with more funding, perhaps they'll find something the equivalent of myxo for cane toads, if they get given the chance?

Concessions secured by Greens

Ms Gillard and Senator Brown have signed the deal, which ensures newly elected Lower House Greens MP Adam Bandt will support the formation of a minority Labor government.

The concessions secured by the Greens include:

  • the formation of a climate change committee
  • a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan
  • a referendum on recognising Indigenous Australians
  • restrictions on political donations
  • legislation on truth in political advertising
  • the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Committee
  • a parliamentary integrity commissioner
  • improved processes for release of documents in Parliament
  • a leaders debates Commission
  • a move towards full three-year parliamentary terms
  • two-and-a-half hours of allocated debate for private members' bills
  • access for Greens to various Treasury documents

That's what politics of the 21st century is going to be all about.

Well done Julia and Bob.

Conned again

John Pratt , I cannot believe the Australian people will fall for this con, I am sure the 3 Independants will see right through it.

Restrictions on political donations, does this mean Labor is not going to accept donations from the unions?

The concessions you have listed will do nothing for the ordinary man in the street.

The agreement includes the dumping of the highly unpopular 'Citizens Assembly' which Ms Gillard announced as one of the planks of her election campaign climate change policy. How many more promises is she going to break?.

However, the Greens did not get Labor to commit to a price on carbon or any move towards legalising gay marriage, with Greens leader Bob Brown saying the deal is still a "work in progress".

A "work in progress" means Brown has got Labor by the short and curly.

Methinks when the public have had time to digest things, Ms Gillard will regret getting into bed with Greens.

A soldier's right to say no

The Australian parliament had no say in Howard's decision to go to war, and the Australian people have never popularly supported it. Now, on the back of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and of being bogged down in an interminable and expensive occupation, and with a mounting toll of dead and injured young Australians that is predicted to worsen before it improves, there is a noticeable shift in public mood. ''Bipartisan support'' is no longer a sufficient justification for the Labor-Liberal ''bloc'' dictating policies that the proponents are too afraid to submit to parliamentary scrutiny, let alone to public criticism and debate.

Australia's two major political parties have been afraid to submit Howard's decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan to parliamentary scrutiny.

Surely in this next parliament it is time to debate our role in Afghanistan.

Some of our soldiers are refusing to play the game.

It takes courage to say no. It is about time the Australian nation at least had the courage to debate the issue.

Business is our servant

Business is our servant, just as government consists of public servants. Business is not equal to the people, and should not be treated as a partner.

Like a good master, we need to nourish and nurture business, while at the same time ensure that it serves our purpose, and does not grow to dominate or overpower us. 

One should not treat business as either an enemy to be feared, nor as a powerful being that needs to be placated. We need to recognise and exploit its skills and strengths, while recognising its weaknesses and ensuring that it is not given tasks it is poor at.

Soaring energy prices due to political inaction

Labor has said it will review the need for an emissions trading scheme in 2012-13, while Tony Abbott is opposed to an ETS and to a carbon tax.

In the absence of federal policy, state governments have been introducing a raft of overlapping and often inconsistent requirements aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.

Groups such as the Energy Supply Association of Australia say the situation is leading to higher costs for energy users. Mr King said: "We have expressed a view that if people really knew what they were doing, they would question whether we would have been better off having an ETS and a carbon price instead of a whole bunch of other policy initiatives."

Soaring energy prices have been a major frustration for energy-intensive companies in mining and manufacturing.

The Energy Users Association of Australia, whose members include Rio Tinto, Amcor and Xstrata Copper, has warned that firms could be forced to reduce other costs or cut back their operations because of higher electricity costs. In the absence of clarity on a carbon price, "you won't get baseload built, or it will be hard to tell the economics of that", Mr King said.

Baseload generators are the workhorse power stations that meet day-to-day needs.

This piece in OZ today shows that the failure to put a price on carbon by both the Labor and Liberal parties is causing electricity prices to soar.

Political cowardice is pushing up the price of energy. The longer we wait for leadership the higher the price will go.

The only party that is willing to put a price on carbon before 2013 is the Greens. No wonder over 1,250,000 voters voted Green.

It is a pity that they only ended up with one member in the house of reps.

With proportional representation they would have at least 17.

The Mad Hatters Party (The Greens)

John Pratt , The only party that is willing to put a price on carbon before 2013 is the Greens.

The reason for this is that the Greens don't give a bugger about the economy.

The one seat they did win is going to cause a lot of damage to the economy.

The only good thing is that he will be a one term MP, like Organ.

Iraq devasted in the name of democracy

“We came in naïve about what the problems were in Iraq, I don’t think we understood what I call the societal devastation that occurred,” he said, citing the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War and the international sanctions from 1990 to 2003 that wiped out the middle class. “And then we attacked to overthrow the government,” he said.

The same went for the country’s ethnic and sectarian divisions, he said.

“We just didn’t understand it,” he said.

To advocates of counterinsurgency strategy that General Odierno, in part, has come to symbolize, the learning curve might highlight the military’s adaptiveness. Critics of a conflict that killed an estimated 100,000 Iraqis, perhaps far more, and more than 4,400 American soldiers might see the acknowledgement as evidence of the war’s folly.

Asked if the United States made the country’s divisions worse, he said, “I don’t know.”

“There’s all these issues that we didn’t understand and that we had to work our way through. And did maybe that cause it to get worse? Maybe.”

Comments from General Odierno in the New York Times.

The coalition of the willing certainly were naive and more than 100,000 people have been killed. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands that have been maimed.

In the words of the General in charge, they are leaving Iraq devastated.

All this in the name of democracy.

The master minds of this disaster should be tried as war criminals.

Including our John Howard. His party of gangsters should be named as a terrorist organisation.

Wilkie says politicians need to be honest

He says politicians need to be honest about the reasons Australia is still in Afghanistan.

"They at the moment are trying to implement a policy put in place by, I think, incompetent politicians and this continuing lie about why we are there," he said.

"Let's be honest: let's say we're there to help the people of Afghanistan and to bolster our bilateral relationship with the US."

He says he did originally support the invasion in November 2001 and he still backs Australian soldiers "100 per cent", but there is no need to stay.

"I don't know the solution from here. If we stay people will die, if we go people will die," he said.

"But I do know peace will only come to Afghanistan when foreign troops are out and I think they should get out as soon as possible."

Andrew Wilke is a politician with an excellent military background, he was a Lt Col in the 6 RAR - the same regiment that is suffering loses in Afghanistan today.

It is refreshing to hear his honesty, and witness his courage to speak out.

We should listen to what he has to say.

He says that PEACE will only come to Afghanistan when all troops are out.

Hopefully this is an example of what we will see in all our Parliaments of the 21st Century.

A taxing business

It is interesting that the sales pitch for reducing business tax is that it will encourage these businesses to grow, and thereby employ more people. This seems a very dysfunctional way of promoting employment. Wouldn't it be simpler to just reduce the payroll tax? After all, the majority of businesses don't employ people.

Why can't we expect businesses to carry their fair share of the country's cost? Especially the banks (and in particular investment banks), who avoid GST loading.

Comparing personal taxes to business taxes is like comparing apples to oranges, but it seems to me that people (particularly those on PAYE) get a raw deal. True, our tax is progressive, but our maximum is far higher than company taxes. Even more taxing is that company tax is on profits while ours is on income (with relatively few deductions allowed). Furthermore, companies can largely pass on GST. Companies (and other artificial bodies such as family trusts) have a whole host of loopholes available to them.

We need a government willing to put in a tax system for the people, rather than for a few fat cats using artificial constructs to avoid paying their fair share. 

Region friendly mining tax

The mining tax is a land tax. Land taxes (rates) are collected and utilised at the local level. As such the mining tax should be collected and used to develop regional infrastructure and industries. And to top up facilities such as health where central funding based on population is inadequate.

In the early days of the tax, one of the suggestions aired was that the tax should be structured to promote the processing of products in Australia, and penalise those shipped as relatively raw  materials for overseas processing. This again, could be done in the region. However, since these industries are 'environmentally demanding', we need sophisticated, integrated policy to encourage them. From  a world view, it is preferable to have such processing done in countries with good environmental controls and technology.

Region friendly carbon tax

The solution to a region friendly carbon tax seems pretty simple to me - Like GST, ensure that taxes are collected or paid back at the border. This will ensure that our exports and imports (including agriculture) are not only competitive (and with some fine tuning, more competitive than before).

Stopping the boats is illegal

I am sick to death of the stopping the boats mantra from all the lousy tossers in the main parties.  Who the hell do the fools think they are?

Another Australian dies in Afghanistan

Iraq war whistleblower and likely federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie says Australia's involvement is based on a "great lie".

"[It is] a lie told by both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party that we have to be there to fight terrorists for Australia's national security," he said.

But Ms Gillard says the Labor Government provided Parliament with reports on Afghanistan that are open to debate.

"My view would be that it's appropriate for the Parliament to receive regular reports on the mission in Afghanistan and to debate and consider those reports as appropriate," she said.

Mr Abbott says he would support a parliamentary debate about Australia's commitment in Afghanistan.

"I'm happy to see a parliamentary debate about it but, as I say, as far as the Coalition is concerned we fully support our commitment," he said.

Defence Minister John Faulkner says he also supports debate in the Parliament and in the community about Australia's involvement in Afghanistan.

"Of course full debate should be encouraged, also frankness and transparency about our progress in Afghanistan," he said.

Another Australian soldier died today in Afghanistan, funny now that the election is over everyone wants to debate the rights and wrongs of our involvement in this war.

Why wasn't there a mention of the Afghanistan war and our support for the US war machine during the election campaign?

Andrew Wilkie is correct: we have been told lies and our soldiers are dying because or our ignorance.

Shame on our politicians who did not  have the courage to debate the war.

They do not have half the courage of the average Australian soldier.

Only the Greens had a policy to bring our troops home.

It's considerably more serious than regional politics

If anyone in this forum questions the reasons given for going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are absolutely correct.

The whole fear campaign behind the weapons of mass destruction argument put forward as a bloc by the most powerful nations in the western world, was and remains the biggest load of bollocks we have ever been fed. In Iraq, it has been proven to be wrong. Aside from some dodgy samples of WW1 grade chemical weapons, which are horrific, and the lunatic Hussein did use them against the Kurds, these weapons posed no apocalyptic threat to the world. They offend the sensibilities of every right-minded person, but so do most of the other inventions designed by man to wage terrible destruction upon mankind. In the case of Afghanistan, there was probably an awful lot of drug money being used by the Taliban to promote terrorism throughout the region and the western world. They were also being funded from many other sources, but that is another subject altogether. Isolating the hatred of the western world to Afghanistan alone is also a mistake.

We can use our empathy to try to rationalize reasons as to why we are hated by various peoples across the region, but no matter how much you empathize, there is one inescapable fact. In the eyes of the Mullahs, the devotees of Sharia law, we are Infidel. To these people, we are less than cattle. We can be taken as slaves and used in any manner they see fit. Their loathing of us does not come from years of oppression or a seething and burning envy of our standards of living and the gross inequities which set us poles apart. Their hatred comes directly from the doctrines of the Koran. It must be understood, to the ruling Mullahs, the Koran is the final and 100% unquestionable word of God, as spoken through the prophet Mohammed. A doctrine which states that apostasy is a death sentence. Genital mutilation of new born females is encouraged. Death by stoning is encouraged. An eye for an eye is taken quite literally. A very small percentage of Muslims subscribe to this rigid interpretation of the doctrine. But make no mistake, the consensus is shifting rapidly.

If you lived in a country where the strict implementation of Sharia law is enforced, you would dare not utter a single word of sympathy for the Infidel or question a single word of the Koran. To do so would be suicide, for you and death for your family. This is the true terrorism. Living in perpetual fear.

So how far has it spread?

A lot further than you think. When the mighty western media giants dare not print an image, a cartoon, of the prophet Mohammed for fear of retribution, and our legislators are rapidly passing stricter and stricter anti-religious vilification laws than we have ever been subjected to in the past, I'd say that we in the western world are already living in fear. These laws deny us our voice, our right to be heard on these issues. I am firmly of the opinion that religion of all types is the great oppressor. Gods are created by man. The three great monotheisms will eventually go the way of Zeus, Odin, Ra, Thor, Dionysus and a whole raft of other man made and completely extinct "Gods". But right now, at this very point in our history, the whole world is under threat. This is a battle which cannot be fought with reason. It is not about oil. It is not about territory or strategic alliances for the capitalization of resources. It is a war against the terrible and escalating oppression of many millions of people. It is a war against the indoctrination of future generations into this madness. The oppression and subjugation which will continue to spread like wild fire if we do not fight against it now. Above all things though, we must not allow our own, equally insane radical Christian and Jewish fundamentalist warlords to hijack this conflict and escalate it into a nuclear apocalypse. Organized religion, no matter which denomination, is a recipe for disaster. How can we possibly reason with people of faith?

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Spock

Thank you Keith, for exploring an important issue.

I would, though, contest your analysis on two aspects: firstly on religion being the cause of all our problems, and secondly on the solution being pure reason.

One of my favourite authors, Wallerstein, views history as ages of dominant world systems. He sees religion as a dominant world system that gave way to the divine right of kings, which in turn gave way several centuries ago to capitalism. To me, the common theme in all three is a small oligarchy using an ideology to maintain control over and exploit the masses.

Religion as a major tool of control, is a bit of a has-been. None of the major powers currently use it or are likely to succeed by doing so. Even at the next level, the only minor powers that do so are Iran and Israel (if one classifies being Jewish a religion rather than an racial sect). Neither of the world wars nor the middle east invasions were particularly based on religion. Bin Laden's original reason for attacking the US was because he wanted to get rid of the Saudi government, and felt that he had no chance while the US military were there. Saddam was secular, and Iraq made significant progress in gender equality and education under his regime. 

The second aspect is that while I find reason quite attractive, I don't believe it is the be all and end all for humans. The human brain is really a number of brains working semi-independently to produce sub-concious and concious thought. Even the supreme rationalists, mathematicians don't solve problems logically. More often, they intuitively grasp a truth, and then search for rational explanations. Human beings have evolved to think intuitively, and it serves them pretty well. There is some truth in Spirituality. Exactly what that truth is, I am not certain, as it is not rational. While religion has caused war, there is ample evidence in history of periods of religious rule that were golden ages, including significant growth in science and knowledge. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath-water.

The Brain

Jay, I was delighted to read, "The human brain is really a number of brains working semi-independently to produce sub-concious and concious thought."

Thank you!


The religious vilification law of Victoria, which has not a trace of honesty about it, even in the name (Racial?), and was enacted with blithe disregard of community protests, another act of the predatory oligarchy, is presumably all about trade with Indonesia.

That's where the point of attack needs to be.  The situation must be brought about that the existence of the religious vilification law is harmful to trade.

Education is the key

Keith, I think you are correct, organised religions are a big part of the problem. A look at human history shows that religion or tribalism has been at the root of most wars. When someone closes their mind and lets mullahs  priests, war lords or politicians dominate their thinking, they give enormous power to these leaders.

If they believe there is a better life after death then death is seen a a certain path to this better life. The life we have now is valued less than the after life.

Only education can change the way we think. Bullets do not change minds. We waste our time trying to change people at the point of a gun.

Religion is tribal and it is tribal thinking to think that you tribe is best.

People in your tribe are valued, while people not in your tribe are not valued.

We need to value all life and always live with our minds open.

Education is the key to an open mind.

That is why most religions fear education.

However, too many children are still forced to contend with education of poor or unsatisfactory quality. There can be no equity in educational achievement while the social distribution of quality remains uneven. Many children, the majority of whom come from the poorest of the poor, do not have access to effective teaching and learning, to a basic supply of textbooks and other materials to support learning.

Education is not just a fundamental right; there is irrefutable evidence that it creates the opportunity for sustainable livelihoods, raises agricultural and industrial productivity, provides the basis for sustained and equitable growth, improves health and nutrition levels, reduces family size and raises the level of community participation in local decision-making.

Mass public education of good quality has assumed a much greater significance in the context of rapidly globalising financial and product markets and the rapid growth in new technologies.

Education improvement and expansion is central to our strategy for social development, economic growth and peace in South Africa. I believe that education is similarly central to a strategy that can promote peace and development in our globalised world.

Professor Kader Asmal

Another unnecessary loss

John Pratt, as Marilyn Shepherd would rightly remind us, our interference in places like this only worsens our case as to refugees, since many of them flee from war zones initiated by the West, when we are usually in the posse of countries legitimating and prosecuting these events, like Britain, as to the US's dirty work.

Humanitarian considerations remain, but we can't quite void our duty of care when we are actively take part of the violence that has refugees fleeing hellholes maufactured by us.

Global Warming

Global warming possibly isn't a joke.  Possibly if there is not a serious response a lot of people are going to have a lot of pain, not to say more,  A response made conditional on not shrinking the economy is likely to be no response at all.  A response not subject to that condition might mean ending the affluent society.  That is something we can't do voluntarily.  And it is something the people in control,  the predatory plutocrats who are today vigorously campaigning for population growth, won't allow.  Is it attainable under any system of democracy?

Does politics for the 21st century mean a form of democracy?

Or, what form of government might succeed democracy in Australia?

Evolving democracy?

There is a strong argument that the best form of government is a benign dictatorship. However, we do not know how to create and maintain a benign dictatorship - often what starts up as a good dictatorship descends into a tyranny. Mugabe is one good example.

The form of government we practise is not a true democracy. We do not directly make decisions, we elect people who then make the decisions. I have read that even in the US, the creators of the constitution did not trust the public to make good decisions, and therefore created their convoluted systems. As you suggest, Michael, by and large, we don't even vote for people or even policies. The majority of us vote for parties, and a further majority stay loyal to the party (of their parents or class) come hell or high water.


The situation seems to be that we did nothing about global warming.

Perhaps 30 years ago some form of carbon pricing could have been introduced, and ten years ago, just in time, global warming might have been contained.

Didn't happen.

Now we are seeing violent climate change, with huge numbers of heat-related deaths in Eurasia  several summers in a row. Peat fires, which increase atmospheric carbon dioxide, are occurring because atmospheric temperatures are too high because atmospheric carbon dioxide is too high, a positive feedback or runaway effect.

And now there is an inconceivable Indus flood, flooding that is almost on a planetary scale.

When no practical steps were taken, when it is too late, populations may adjust to soaring death rates with a bit of mild grumbling.

Or there may be a sudden outbreak of world-wide panic, and violent action to immediately reduce the human population of each country (or of the world, employing nuclear weapons) by 90 percent.

One or the other of those two possibilities is all there is left, if there is runaway global warming seriously threatening human life, if what needed to be done to prevent that was not done.

The fiftieth floor

 As you say, Michael, a plutocracy and perhaps a retreat to a type of feudalism, as things seem to stay static. Who the bigshots are who are finally pulling the strings we are not quite sure of:  Is Murdoch a Longshanks of his century, or a robber baron further down the great chain of being?

Or something more mundane?

Is the rise of the Greens end of the two party system?

Jay, the Greens are the true winners of this election and will hold the balance of power in the senate for at least the next six years.With a member in the House of Reps they will also be able to introduce bills.

It really is a big change for Australian democracy.

The independents will play an important part in deciding our next PM.


The ALP and the Libs  swallow their pride and realise they have more in common with each other than the do with the Greens and the Independents.

A coalition of ALP and Libs would have more than enough votes to pass what legislation they liked.

The both want to stop the boats, reduce the debt, have little or no action on climate change, stop gay marriage, keep our troops in Afghanistan, screw the regions, well they have been given a mandate, they can now.

What are the real differences between Labor and Liberal anyway?  Both are hungry for power and willing to sell their soul to get it.

Well now is their big chance.

Give Rudd the job of speaker; let Abbott and Gillard have 18 months each as PM.

80 percent of the electorate would be happy with the ALP/LIB coalition.

The Greens and the Independents are the real opposition.

There should be enough talent in the Labor/Lib coalition to have some really good ministers.

A strong party with roughly 140 members would make a strong government for Australia.

They would be able to put off doing anything for decades to come.

Only foolish pride stops them!

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