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The quality of the politician depends on the quality of the vote

Ed: Thank you, Chris, for this thoughtful and thought-provoking piece. Come on, Webdiarists, we all need to be getting out here and now, saying what we expect of "our" representatives. Please take Chris Saliba as an example, and emulate him.

The quality of the politician depends on the quality of the vote
by Chris Saliba

We Australians are always complaining about the quality of our elected politicians. The complaint often finds a cynical expression, frequently seeing our politicians as nothing less than self-interested mediocrities grasping at the public purse. Or worse, as compulsive liars who will do anything to stay in office. With a world-weary groan, voters see their politicians as a generic type beyond rehabilitation. Breaking promises and rioting on tax payers’ money are seen as qualities virtually inbred into a politician’s DNA.

How did this class of people capture our free political institutions and take them over? Frequently, the language used to describe politicians hints at a patiently endured autocracy.

Yet would you believe it, we actually ask these people to sit in the nation’s parliaments and run things. Not only that, we fork over a portion of our weekly earnings to keep the whole machine running.

As a nation, we’re keen on voting, dutifully turning up to polling booths for state, federal and council elections. It’s an odd year when we’re not voting. Our democracy, technically speaking, is supposed to work something like this. We select from a list of candidates someone whose policies and values best suit us. If elected, the candidate then becomes our representative in parliament. If the candidate fails, then we may have to look elsewhere to make our voice heard, like a phone call to the local member or a letter to a newspaper.

Hopeful politicians, when you think about it, present themselves like regular job candidates. If we don’t get good politicians, it must mean we’re not paying enough attention during the interview process. When a candidate turns out to be a dud we prefer to go grizzling to pollsters and talkback radio rather than blame ourselves for a poor choice.

As it stands the system almost works in reverse. Instead it is political parties, think tanks and professional ‘social researchers’ who actually interview us. We are polled to death and more analysed than a self-absorbed interviewee on Oprah. The electorate is treated like one big patient, with professional pollsters placing a stethoscope on our collective heart to check for fluctuations and irregularities. Each little blip is reported, catalogued, and then analysed by professionals in this ever-evolving science. Our passive citizenry have now become little more than the abstract data in the graphs and pie charts that make up the polls.

Modern political parties are hopelessly addicted to the vice of polling and focus groups. Opinions, views and reactions are gathered, then written up in reports and sweated over by party strategists. Political slogans are road tested like a new advertising jingle for chewing gum or diet cola. If a particular expression goes down well with focus groups, it will be used in campaigns as it has been proved to ‘connect’ with voters. No wonder political language pitched at the electorate has the nauseous, dull, reverberating ring of a bell chamber. Politicians are speaking to us in what their polling scientists have discovered to be the ‘authentic’ voice of Australia.

Much of this poor language is fed back to us via the media and its journalists. Most political commentary seems to accept the meaninglessness of modern politics. One common description used by commentators is to refer to political parties or their individual politicians as a ‘brand’. For example, ‘the Rudd brand has been tarnished’, or ‘the Liberal brand is looking stale’. The obvious meaning is that all parties and politicians are essentially white bread packaged into meaningless commercial wrappers. Citizens who value their vote should find this offensive.

If there is anyone to blame for this mess, it is us. We have become too seduced by a diet of junk media that is high in sugar, salt and fat, but not much else. When Channel Seven’s Sunrise program took on Kevin Rudd back in 2001, the show’s producer Adam Boland did so because he thought Rudd was ‘cute’ and ‘lovable’, and therefore safe for viewers to digest without difficulty. Boland also said that Sunrise would not advertise upcoming political stories because it would cause a dip in their viewers.

This is how our democratic responsibilities slowly melt away over time. Bit by bit we find politics boring and beneath us. Armed with little information, it makes us ripe for a fear campaign or its opposite, an appeal to our greed with the promise of tax breaks and other goodies.

The good news is that our bad political situation is within reach to fix. Citizens can reclaim their democracy by taking full responsibility for their action at the ballot box. If a candidate fails us, we need to accept we made the wrong choice and judged poorly. Then we need to start thinking optimistically about the future. Pessimism and an “all politicians are crap” attitude may make us momentarily feel good, but in the end it will get us nowhere.

Democracy must be a constructive working partnership between citizens and the politicians they vote to represent them. Despite the cynical attitude of many, politicians are not installed by themselves. The quality of the politician ultimately depends on the quality of the vote. It’s up to us to ensure the political candidates we vote for are good enough to represent us.


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Vote Marginal

nbn-sandbags-marginal-seats. The message is very clear. The way to get the most bang with your vote is to vote marginal. Then all the bribes will come your way.

It could be called the politician's salami trick. Bribe each voter block. In the end, we end up paying for it all in taxes, add the bits that end up in the pockets of the middle-men, and we really pay more than we get back.

We need to come up with a new system.

Vote Black

Jay, you've almost convinced me.

It is futile to vote Green unless they have a genuine chance of winning the seat.  Even then, a vote for them is a vote for compulsory voting, and one of my obsessions (I'm sure nobody noticed) is opposition to that.

I saw or heard somewhere that Mark Latham recommended, if you were dissatisfied with both major parties, or any party with a chance of winning, you should cast an informal vote.  And Bob Brown contradicted him, saying no, in that situation vote Green.

I think Latham is right and Brown's response is self-serving, wrong.

In a democratic country if you were in that situation, rejected both major parties, you would not waste your time going to the polling booth and casting a futile vote which would be a preferential vote in favour of one of the despised candidates. Voters would thus expose the unpopularity of the candidates. The winning candidate would have obtained the preferred vote of the majority of those actually voting, but we would not have the deception that he or she was voted for by a majority of electors and validly represented them.

In our system, due to compulsory voting, parties like the Greens get small numbers of primary votes from people who refuse to vote for the major parties but are forced to vote.  Quite artificial.

Jay's suggestion, if I understand correctly, is to vote for the candidate likely to finish up with the second-largest number of votes after distribution of preferences. Anarchists all, help to make the safe seat marginal.

Not a bad idea.

The other way to come up with a new system is to make it a rule never to give first preference to a minor party, but always, if you don't favour either major candidate, cast an informal or invalid vote.

But Jay's approach can be followed in all cases, including cases where you do privately prefer one of the major candidates. Vote against that candidate anyway, if the seat is safe for him or her.

The invisible hand

Spot on, Michael. However, I don't see myself as trying to be an anarchist.  I'm just applying analysing the results of the actions of the politicians. If they reward marginal seats, then we will vote to become marginal. 

(I also suspect that your vote is more powerful when it used to vote to reduce the margin, rather than a straight vote. I haven't quite figured it out logically, but I think when you vote for a candidate, it's just one vote, but when you vote to swing, it's a two vote effect.) 

Double jeopardy and moral hazard

Michael, that is just a bit unhelpful.

Let the system's weaknesses work against it for a while. Let it show up yet more contradictions, when/if rhis grouping gets a seat ot two in the reps and can get some more influence in the senate.

Don't forget, the vested interests already have their representation.

Big Labor, Big Capital and Big Government

It was interesting watching Q&A, with a priest asking Tony Abbott why the major parties were both vying with each other in a race to the bottom. His answer was very 'Prime Ministerial'  i.e. came across as honest and from the heart, while successfully avoiding the question. He actually praised Julia Gillard, saying both were trying to make tough decisions on complex matters. 

It reminded me of quote in a book I've just started (The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of our Times).

Behind all the specific rigidities lay a rather unwieldy and seemingly fixed configuration of political power and reciprocal relations that bound big labor, big capital, and big government into what increasingly appeared as a dysfunctional embrace of such narrowly defined vested interests as to undermine rather than secure capital accumulation. 

 It doesn't really work for anybody, least of all the public. 

Labor campaign launch

Watched the Labor Campaign Launch today. Thought Bob Hawke did an excellent job of making Labor's case for being the party of choice on the economy. It was a pity Kevin Rudd didn't get a say but I guess the focus had to be on Julia Gillard. Julia's speech was good, focusing on the economy, education and health. I am sure the people in the regions will applaud the idea of being able to claim through Medicare for on-line consultations with a medical specialist. A good argument for fast broadband through the NBN.

The big holes in the speech were not one mention of the "greatest moral challenge of this generation": CLIMATE CHANGE.  Especially with Pakistan suffering from possibly the worst disaster in human history.

President Asif Ali Zardari said some of the estimated 20 million people affected by the floods may need help for up to two years.

And he said the Pakistani military and aid officials cannot reach everyone in need.

"The magnitude of the problem; the world has never seen such a disaster.It's much beyond anybody's imagination," he said.

The second elephant in the room at the launch was the war in Afghanistan: another Australian soldier killed this week and no justification or even a mention for continuing with this American folly.

When President Bush sent US forces to Afghanistan, he was effectively asking them to win a war in the Middle Ages, and therefore doomed his country to ultimate defeat. He would never have started that war except for a deep-seated faith in his country's invincibility. The almost universal belief that the "good guys always win" is the most self-destructive notion both for individuals and nations, as it conditions them to disregard the evidence of their senses – the facts.

It is a sad state when the two major parties asking for our votes don't have the guts to even mention some real issues.

More cons

John Pratt It was a pity Kevin Rudd didn't get a say,it is also a pity he could not stick around afterwards instead he was hustled out through a back entrance. I wonder why that happened?.

Consultations with a medical specialist through the NBN, come on you know that is never going to happen.

This latest con is on the same level as the Fast Train or the Parramatta to Epping rail link.

As a Greenie I am suprised you did not pick up on Gillards cutting of funds for the Green Car.

The one thing everybody should be scared of is the fact the Barmy Bob will hold the balance of power after the election.

The Second Elephant: Australia in Afghanistan

John Pratt quotes:

When President Bush sent US forces to Afghanistan, he was effectively asking them to win a war in the Middle Ages, and therefore doomed his country to ultimate defeat. He would never have started that war except for a deep-seated faith in his country's invincibility. The almost universal belief that the "good guys always win" is the most self-destructive notion both for individuals and nations, as it conditions them to disregard the evidence of their senses – the facts.

True, in the absence of such a delusion Bush would have stayed home. But the delusion that the good guys always win is inevitably accompanied by the most self-destructive notion for both individuals and nations: that we are the good guys.

The issue of Afghanistan, I believe, is fairly easily soluble. Well, hard steps to be taken, but steps there are. Of course, as quoted above, the facts, the realities, are disregarded by our deluded adventurers, so we have a problem, it's not easily soluble.

The solution to the mess that Islamists and Americans have created in Afghanistan will take more than a day to fix, but let's be reasonable, Rome wasn't built in a day, and Afghanistan won't be built in a day. Okay, get calculating. How many days?

Two generations is a reasonable number, but because of favourable circumstances it should take half that in a large part of the country.

The only necessity is preparedness to do what needs to be done.

The United States came in at the end of a long war, the war by the Pashtuns to reassert control over other races, the rest. Designated a war by the Taliban against several war lords, groups including the Northern Alliance.

Look at the map. Look at the language boundaries. There genuinely is a northern region which is a separate nation or alliance of nations with a separate language. A captive region, captive to the Pashtuns, not really Afghanistan.

The United States came in and sided with the Pashtuns, in effect sided with the Taliban, in the belief that they were doing the opposite.

What the US needs to do now is (1) become morally capable of doing what needs to be done, acquire the courage needed, (2) remove the government and take direct control of the country, (3) divide the country along racial lines, in particular divide the northern alliance of nations, Persian and Uzbek speaking, from the Pashto-speaking region, (4) create a new Northern Alliance government in the north, which does not mean relinquish all control to it, (5) frankly side with the new Northern Alliance, Persians, against the Pashtuns including Karsai or whoever might replace him as Afghani khan, (6) create and defend for three generations an international border between the Pashto-speaking country and the Persian-speaking country, obtaining international recognition of that border, (7) place both countries under Tajikistani law as it relates to state control of religion, (8) foster close relationships between Tajikistan and the region of the new Northern Alliance, or at least the Tajik parts of that region.

There are details, such as Uzbek enclaves, that I don't attempt to pontificate on.

Secular Tajikistan has won a civil war against its own Islamic militants, has developed a method of control, should be recognised and assisted, and some of its people enlisted by the Americans as guides, to pass on how to do it.

The end of this would be a probably hostile Pashtunia (named Afghanistan), a small country on the Pakistani border, kept isolated from the world, its air space kept closed... and another region, independent of it. Both of them might be troubled by militant Islamic extremism, but with that kept under control by skilled secular government, at least in the Tajik or northern region.

What we need, since we are stuck in this mess, is for Australia to push the United States along the above lines.

The getting of wisdom

Speaking at an Ideas and Society program event at La Trobe University in the lead-up to the Federal Election, Greens leader Senator Bob Brown gives his take on Australian politics today. He heavily criticises both major parties for their lack of couragein facing up to the challenges that Australia faces and presents some ideas that he thinks should animate the nation's leadership - on health, resources use, the environment and human rights. Following his speech, he talks to Robert Manne about the place of the Greens today - their rise, the ongoing challenges and the goals of the party.
La Trobe University, August 2010

Listen to this interview on Slow TV  Bob Brown talks about the getting of wisdom. If you want a vision for Australia's future that is a compassionate Australia, an Australia that wants to pass on a better future to the coming generations.

Bob is certainly a quality politician. A politician who has both courage and conviction.

It seems, probably is

It seems that the only genuine source of information on current affairs is the Greens, not the dishonestly-named Australian, not the other media, not the major parties,  We can get the genuine story only from Brown and the Greens, because they are in the middle, a kind of point of impartiality.

Dick Smith for PM

After watching Dick Smith's program Population Puzzle on ABC TV last night.  I would vote Dick for PM.  The debate Dick generated was by far the most intelligent of this election campaign.

If he couldn't get in as PM, maybe he would consider Premier of the new state of North Queensland.

Well done Dick!

Fox droppings. Any good?

An (Austr)Alien reporter has counter-attacked Dick Smith's movie on page 11 of the issue for 14-15 August 2010 of that... er, paper.  Name of Michael Stutchbury.

He starts off absurdly, taking a number of cheap shots at Dick Smith, vacuous rhetoric, mostly quite irrelevant.  If you take to that kind of nonsense you might keep reading and reach the place where he conjures with the names of "Austraiia's actual pre-eminent demographers, Ian McDonald and Graeme Hugo".

He then goes into a ramble that may or may not contain a direct and honest response to Dick Smith, and there is some hint or insinuation that what he is writing is such as McDonald and Hugo might write or did say.  Then he moves on, striking out with more and more and more verbiage.

Though I think he tricks himself out of making the point, it appears that Dick Smith has hoed into a pretend demographer, Bernard Salt, rather than critiquing what McDonald and Hugo say in support of population increase.  There might be a valid point against Dick Smith's demo somewhere there.

Of course nobody can do everything and it is no great shakes that Smith had chanced to speak to some people and not others by the time he finished up on the movie.

I don't have time now to look closely at the article and probably won't have time for a week or more.  I'm not qualified to do it anyway, and he is a Foxy economics editor.  I assume the end of the article is as worthless as the beginning, but I could be wrong.

Can anyone tell us whether there is anything valid and significant in this counter-attack against Dick Smith?  Or, can anyone demolish the article with a more honest and direct critique than the kind its author goes in for, one that he can't scrape off?

a former editor

Michael TW, the notion that Stutchbury could be capable of honesty on anything, beggars belief.

Why do you think he writes for the Oz?

Will catch up with your article tho, but only for the laughs.

Vermin's yellow behind

And on the opposite side of the same sheet of paper there is another attack, expliciitly against the same Dick Smith movie --- what a campaign! good on you, Dick! --- pursuing the defence issue, one that Dick Smith had already answered by his interview with General Cosgrove.

This employee of that ... newspaper asserts that we need 25 million new Chinese settlers because otherwise China will attack, and then we would have to suffer the arrival of 25 million new Chinese settlers.

Because that way, China would be able to get our coal.

A great saving of money for China, have a war, which it probably can't win, in order to ... er ...

The employee of course expresses the matter less definitely. The attack could come from India. A population increase is needed to prevent a population increase.

And the employee is writing this, to repeat myself, when Peter Cosgrove has already answered, and blown the argument away.

The article is a nice demonstration of the quality of the arguments of those promoting population growth. There is a campaign by this newpaper, the one that deceptively leaves off the "Anti" from the front of its name, a campaign to expressly answer Dick Smith, and this is the kind of material their employees write.

Cutting to the chase, since our fraud has been exposed, here is our very best argument in favour of population increase.

Let me concede there is a campaign to stop exporting coal, and Australia refuses of export uranium to India.  More can be said, idiots can scramble and cloak their idiocy, and their further deceptions can be ripped off their bodies in turn.

Let's not be defeatist years in advance, when in ten years India's population may be less than 20 million, and Australia's less than one. I don't wish that on them or us, but note the quality of the population increase arguments coming from the plutocracy, note that they are arguing for their own interests, not for Australia, and don't fall for it. Let's cross the bridge of attack and invasion when we come to it, rather than acting like losers in advance. Let us note, now, that every pro-population-increase argument is a fraud.

Incidentally, let's remember what Napoleon discovered, that an empty continent is the best defence. Australia is at the end of the earth, and is huge.

Tales of the Nineteenth Century

Graham Hugo seems usually to be on the conservative side with these things.

I don't think someone of RossGittins' reputation would put his reputation on anything but a true document.


Okay, have seen the movie at last.

Perhaps the most important ever made in Australia. Thanks, Dick Smith.

Everyone, I suggest, needs to download it, because it could disappear from the ABC site.

Something quite serious has brought us to this point, where we are all victims of deceptive capitalists, not all, some, top level, and there is bizarre incompetence or worse dominating, totally dominating the highest levels of the Australian parlimentary system, victimising us all.

There is something very wrong, perhaps something sinister.

Why did it need Dick Smith to expose a major truth too bizarre to be imaginable, that every argument for population increase, every one, without exception, is an empty fraud? While the counter-arguments are real and very important? Yet the leaders or both political parties are hell-bent on increase, have been driving it for years, very excessive immigration quotas, only dissembling, pretending to have just changed their minds, when caught out? 

What on earth is going on?

The movie needs wide dissemination in the next week.

How can that be done?

Thanks, John Pratt, for your effort.

Ghost Writer seen today

I'll write more on this, perhaps, when I've thought about it, but for now I'd just like to put it on record that I saw Ghost Writer for the first time today, 15 August 2010, at the 1:10 pm screening at the Palace Cinema in Adelaide, and that prior to seeing it I knew nothing and had read nothing about it other than what I've seen on Web Diary, in particular in Richard Tonkin's thread starter.

So, my remarks concerning what Dick Smith has discovered, and my sense that the words and conduct of our leading policitians in connection with and in the causation of Australian population growth did not ring true, my use of the word "sinister", were arrived at totally independently of anything (other than the aforementioned Web Diary material, independent of that, too, because I hadn't made a connection) that I knew of the plot of Ghost Writer.

I'll just repeat my sense that Dick Smith's movie should exist in many private copies, outside the ABC, as I'm sure it already does, and repeat, there is something very wrong.

And add that Dick Smith should use a helicopter, avoid car ferries. :-)

Oops, perhaps avoid helicopters, too. :-)

My "Dissemination" comment saying I'd seen the movie related to Dick Smith's movie.  This present comment saying I've seen the movie relates to Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer.

Dick Smith and the forgotten art of broadsheet

John Pratt, that was a fascinating two hours of telly. The  Smith doco has been criticised by some as being too broad brush, tabloid simplistic, but I think it was intended as that, with the subtleties explored by the Q&A panel and audience, following.

The underlying thesis was well-pursued by Brown and Dr Perera of the panel and Tim Flannery and others in the audience did well with the issues unpacked by Smith, but Elliot and the two politicians on the panel failed signally and dismally with QA, as did most of the politicians approached by Smith in his doco.

Elliot was the noise signifying the big parties' inability to come to terms with national and global economic, ecological, sustainability, resource  and population realities against graft and greed; arrogance and ignorance.

Exploiting a land mass

John, thanks. Population Puzzle: "Since the end of World War 2, Australia has received 7 million migrants from all over the world."

But at the end of World War 2 Australia's entire population was 7 million!!!

Our guardians, the class decribed by Chris Saliba that is using us, wiped out the nation that at that time inhabited the continent, the nation that they were the guardians of.

Today, there are "human resources" as required by the proprietors of the economic interests that are exploiting the continent, but no nation, no such thing as Australian nationality, only Australian citizenship.

And it continues apace. In Adelaide today 100 percent of the taxi drivers are Indian, and 100 percent of the men serving behind counters in inner city small grocery shops are Indian. Ten years ago none were, in either category.

That's not racist, or not very. The northern Indians are the true Aryans or Indo-Aryans. Hinduism is perhaps the only decent and (relatively) tolerant religion surviving on the planet. Anything monotheistic is intolerant.

But it indicates that Australia does not exist, a nation does not exist, only economic exploitation of a continent exists, and the phenomena described by Chris are part of the mechanics of that exploitation.

The fundamental corruption

Chris Saliba's piece overlooks (or satirizes) that voting is compulsory for almost every adult of the human species in Australia, regardless of fitness, competence, interest or desire.

Much of what he writes is made absurd, or obvious, by that fact.

Or else laments what are merely the consequences of that fact, is shot through with complaint after complaint of shortcomings that arise directly from that fact.

"Hopeful politicians, when you think about it, present themselves like regular job candidates."


"How did this class of people capture our free political institutions and take them over?"

See above.


Chris Saliba: " A generic type beyond rehabilitation".

Retiring ALP rep Julia Irwin's parting blast at the control by apparatchiks in vetting, selection and implementation of surveillance, for want of a better word, for candidates, particularly when once in parliament where you'd think the free flow of ides is paramount, from Anthony Loewenstein, elsewhere, was timely.

The latest "Battle for Rooty Hill", according to Fairfax, was characterised by overt hostility towards Gillard, because of the NSW government's utter rottenness. If folk get to SMH or AGE (inc online) today, read the Mungo MaCallum "take", in the National Times section.

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