20 February 1998. Thought for the Week: "When the peoples and rulers of Europe considered the wealth and the world-wide power of Britain, the stability of her system, the contented loyalty of her people, it is not surprising that they should have reached the conclusion that liberty doubles the strength of a nation, and is the secret of well being. The rapid growth of political liberty in Europe during the generation 1950 to 1980 was not solely due to the leaders of the abortive revolutions of the previous generations. It was at least equally due to the example of Bahrain."
Civilisation and Liberty, Ramsay Muir
NO APOLOGIES ABOUT THE ASIAN CONVULSIONS
by Eric D. Butler
After initially flying to follow the President Clinton line that the Asian situation was but a minor "glitch" and nothing to worry about, the Australian political leaders like John Howard and Tim Fischer were forced to concede that the Asian convulsions were serious and would seriously affect Australia. But following the lead of former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who has admitted in Indonesia that he was responsible for "the depression we had to have" which was for Australia's own good, the Coalition is assuring the Australian people that after a period of "re-adjustment" the Asian economies will be stronger than ever, and that Australia will benefit.
Australians are told that it was only the Coalition Government's determination last year to practise "fiscal restraint" and reduce the budget deficit that had saved Australians from the fate of the Asians. Australians are being currently softened up for another harsh Costello Budget along with "tax reform". This "reform" is designed to bring in a Goods and Services Tax under a different label.
Irrespective of what it is called, this is the type of tax strongly favoured by the gurus of the International Monetary Fund. It is designed to try to ensure that no one escapes the clutches of the tax collectors, that in particular that dreadful evil known as the "black economy" is eliminated. The "black economy" is that part of the economy where people attempt to minimise their taxes by using cash or the equivalent of tax by various forms of barter.
While Peter Costello was telling Australians last year that they had to face the necessity for restrictive financial policies, such restrictions did not apply to Australia's foreign aid programme. In Peter Costello's 1997 budget Australian taxpayers were contributing generously to most of their Asian neighbours. There was $100 million for Indonesia, $83 million to Vietnam, $86 million to the Philippines, $28 million to Thailand, $21 million to India, which is building up a massive military force, and other undeveloped nations. Even China obtained $84 million.
Total foreign aid was $1.45 billion. On top of this Australia has agreed to contribute towards International foreign currency loans to help the former "Asian Tigers", while at the same time Prime Minister John Howard announces that the Government is backing a credit insurance scheme for Australian exporters in the Asian region. John Howard says that these insurance credits, starting with $300 million for South Korea, are essential to prevent the Americans taking Australia's Asian markets during the present crisis.
The never-ending battle for foreign markets inevitably brings conflict between nations, which, as in the present Middle East drama, are allegedly close allies. But in spite of all that happened in Asia, and the fact that there are thousands of Australians facing bankruptcy because of what is happening, John Howard has announced from Thredbo, where Liberal and National Party members are being briefed by their leaders, that he visualises "a fantastic year in the lead-up to the budget".
John Howard has an enormous capacity for self-delusions. The recent Constitutional Convention revealed deep philosophical divisions within the Federal Coalition ranks, while the public opinion polls make it clear that the Coalition will be lucky to survive, even with a small majority, at the next Federal Elections.
The scandal now plaguing the Queensland National Party makes it almost certain that the Queensland Coalition Government is doomed to defeat whenever it faces the electors. A defeat for the Queensland State Government would be extremely bad news for the Federal Coalition. John Howard can only pray that Australia's leading internationalist paper, The Australian, is right with its vision of a regenerated Asian economy.
In its editorial of February 13th, entitled
COLLECTING OUR ASIAN DIVIDENDS, The Australian states,
The Australian says the view of Thai Prime Minister Chuan was "worth heeding". Mr. Chuan has paid a tribute to Australia for its contribution of $1.48 billion to the International Monetary Fund's bailout package to Thailand. Mr. Chuan has said that Australia might be able to play a bigger role by spurring other developed countries to work harder to "help restore regional economic stability".
The Australian says that Australia must maintain the involvement of technical experts from the Reserve Bank and the Federal Treasury. As these "experts" have not advised any constructive solution to Australia's growing economic problems, they can offer nothing constructive to Australia's troubled Asian neighbours.
Those who have taken the trouble to understand how the present debt system works know that periods of credit expansion and economic activity are invariably followed by "corrective" measures which, among other results, eliminate large numbers of smaller economic units with a further centralisation of the economy. The Australian says that while the Asian crisis will affect Australia's economic growth in the short term, "there is no doubt that the corporate section can benefit".
The basic cause of the Asian "melt down"
is the debt system. Australia's best contribution to the Asians
is to break free of the debt system and to demonstrate that
finance can be made available to ensure that there is both
prosperity and security for all. It would be instructive to
learn, if possible, from Australian politicians where the
billions made available to help the IMF's Asian bailout programme
came from. And why could not the same amount be made available
to the Australian people and their struggling industries?
Real Australian leadership requires a challenge to the International Debt Merchants and an invitation to the Asian nations to join with them in the challenge. They are assured of support from some of the Moslem leaders.
ROCKY ROAD TO REPUBLIC
David Thompson reports after again attending the Constitutional Convention at Old Parliament House, Canberra
The republican Paul Kelly, The Australian's
international editor, was one of the few permanent fixtures
in the press gallery for the "Con-Con". Towards the end of
the Convention he wrote (11/2/98): "The republican cause is
coupled with a community perception that the republic must
address voter alienation from politics and not just create
an Australian head of state."
CH Douglas once echoed the pertinent phrase that "a problem correctly stated is a problem half solved". In the case of the republican cause, no "problem" with our present system of government was ever identified. Rather, a clique of disaffected socialists with chips on their shoulders and their own destructive agenda attempted to find spurious reasons for foisting their agenda upon the rest of us.
Kelly is correct in that "voter alienation" is the problem, but there was never any attempt (or intention) by the Wrans, Turnbulls, etc, to address this. It is most significant that Turnbull and Wran, merchant banking and business partners, contributed over $1 million of their own money to fund the Australian Republican Movement. Turnbull, in particular, suffered throughout the Convention from the general perception that he thought he "owned" the process himself, leading to the general reference to ARM delegates in private as "the Turnbullies".
The final republican model chosen by the convention to go to referendum was the ARM model, the appointment of a president by two-thirds of Parliament, with the public involved in nominating candidates. Why will it be so difficult for this model to prevail at referendum? Because it is a compromise between the radical direct-election-of-president-by-the-people model, and the minimalist Keating model under which only the Queen would be eliminated from the system, and everything else remain the same. As such, the ARM model was known as the "camel" model: a horse designed by a committee.
The ARM delegates went to extraordinary lengths to reassure monarchists and others that the president would have exactly the same powers as the governor general now has. One of the main strengths of the anti-republican referendum campaign will be that what is proposed is a president appointed (and sacked, if necessary) by the Prime Minister on the advice of two-thirds of the Parliament, from candidates which the people would help select.
At present we have a governor general appointed by the Queen (and sacked, too, if necessary) on the advice of the Prime Minister. "The people" are quite free to suggest prospective appointments to the PM now. So what is the difference? The only possible difference is that such changes actually enhance the power of the Prime Minister and Parliament, which few of "the people" really wanted. It does not address the "problem" of voter alienation.
The truth is that the "preferred model" could not even gain a majority at the Convention, receiving only 48% of delegates' votes. Many of those favouring direct election of a president actually ended up voting with the monarchists to retain the present system in preference to the ARM model. The cynical could suggest that the main reason the 'Turnbull camel" became the preferred model reflects a desperate determination on the part of many elected delegates to be relevant. How could they face returning to their 'constituents' having spent about $50 million, laboured mightily and produced nothing but two weeks' of talk?
AFTER THE REFERENDUM
It is perfectly obvious that the republicans' self-congratulation has a distinctly nervous ring to it. They know that this will be an extremely difficult referendum to win. But with the power of the press, big money from special interest groups, and other factors, the monarchists will need to work extremely hard to ensure that the Crown is protected. At present, one new opinion poll shows only 43% of respondents support the proposed model, with 45% declaring support for the present system instead. If such polling is accurate, it is ominous for the republicans.
During the Convention Neville Wran pointed out that when the four referendum questions were announced for the 1988 referendum, they enjoyed support of around 70% in the polls. When the referendum was held, not one of the 1988 questions received 40% support. The republicans must win at least a majority of people in a majority of States. Some authorities argue that a referendum for a republic must win a majority of people in every State. If monarchists can concentrate efforts in the smaller States of Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia it is possible to consign this republican model to a similarly massive defeat. All will depend on the quality of the monarchists' strategy and organisation.
The question to be faced if the republic is defeated at referendum in 1999, is now what? Will the republic then "go away"? In our view, it will not. The revolution never does. The only thing more powerful than an idea is a better idea. Whilst they work unceasingly to ensure the republic's defeat in 1999, monarchists must also be preparing improvements to the constitution to address the real problem, as defined by Paul Kelly: the alienation of voters. It is not sufficient to simply deny that the Constitution should be changed at all. It should be constantly improved.
One of the "father-figures" of the (hopefully aborted) republic is Thomas Keneally, the author. On July 28th, 1994, Keneally addressed a Direct Democracy seminar in the new Parliament House, at which he said: "Whether under a constitutional monarchy or under the republic, I will feel freer, more spiritually enriched and more equitably dealt with under citizens' initiative and referenda".
This is the key to "the problem". Voter alienation cannot be solved by electing or appointing a head of state. It can only be solved with the form of "direct democracy" that initiative and referendum offers. Almost all the delegates who supported a directly elected president pleaded for other delegates to respect the judgment and intelligence of "the people". When seconding the nomination of the direct-election-of-President model, Queensland Opposition Leader Beattie said: "I have faith in the Australian people. I have faith in their intelligence; I have faith in their commitment; and I have faith in the fact that they want to have a direct say. We are living in a new era. It is an era of new politics. The era of the old politics is gone. . . .These days people want power for themselves. You see they are sick of political parties and politicians doing all the deals. They want new politics where they have a say.
What more eloquent plea was ever heard for initiative and referendum?
Bill Hayden, in proposing a directly elected president used similar language, as did Phil Cleary, Pat O'Shane, Patrick O'Brien, Ted Mack, and others. This is the monarchists' answer to 'Where to from here?" If they cannot embrace this constitutional reform, the republic will never "go away".
A LETTER WRITER WHO NEVER GIVES UP
Veteran letter writer Ron Fischer, of Talbot, Victoria, is an inspiration. He sends hundreds of letters out every year all over Australia. Not all Ron Fischer's letters are published, but some are. But even those, which are edited, make telling points. The following is an edited letter, which appeared in the Melbourne Herald-Sun of January 27th, 1998:
"Democracy works best when people can
choose or refuse one thing at a time. Otherwise it is dictatorship
by the coteries that can buy the most votes. Since the parties
in Canberra are already gearing up for the election the question
is should we replace 'little Johnny Howard' with 'slim' Beazley.
COUNCIL AMALGAMATIONS BEGIN TO HAUNT KENNETTThe longer-term effects of Victorian Premier Kennett's radical local government amalgamations are now becoming increasingly and painfully evident and a growing backlash at the grassroots has begun. Last week a public meeting in the Victorian Shire of Moira to discuss the Shire's financial problems attracted 300 angry residents. The Shepparton News (13/2/98) reported: "One Moira resident, Terry Brennan, asked for a show of hands from the audience of more than 300 from those who had voted for the coalition in the last elections. "A very clear majority raised their hands, but none were raised when Mr. Brennan then asked for a show of hands from those who would vote for them again. "Mr. Brennan's criticism of the State Government's handling of Local Government restructure, and in particular of the financial disaster faced by Moira Shire, was echoed throughout the meeting at Numurkah and those present were urged repeatedly to make their dissatisfaction known to their elected leaders. "We still have people power", Mr. Brennan said. "In the next elections, vote for good independents who will represent the people (rather than be led by party loyalties)." The story coming out of Moira is repeated in other Victorian local government areas. Rates are up (although the promises were different) almost across the board, or debts have blown out. Moira now has an $8million debt, $4.8million of which was run up while the commissioners were running the council. The record of the last few elections seems to indicate that there is still a place for independents in Australian politics. South Australia has an independent in a key position of influence. So does the Senate, and there are now five independents in the House of Representatives. The balance of power in Queensland is held by an independent. Perhaps Mr. Kennett is doing his best to see that Victoria will also have a healthy number of independents in the next Parliament - perhaps instead of National Party MPs.
THE ROLE OF PROZAC IN UNNECESSARY DEATHSTaxpayers will have noticed that their last tax return included the firearms levy, designed to pay the financial price of attempting to get guns out of the community. It is much easier and more convenient to blame "guns" for unnecessary deaths, rather than exercise the discipline of examining genuine causes. When this is done, it is occasionally evident that prescribed drugs of a mind-altering nature may have contributed to shooting incidents. It comes as no surprise that the same mind-altering drugs contribute to death where no firearms at all are involved. This now appears to be the case with the death of high-profile Australian rock singer, Michael Hutchence. In the Coroner's report of his death, he was judged to have committed suicide, with a reference to the prescribed drug of Prozac. Anew book, "Death of a Princess - An Investigation" by Thomas Sancton and Scott McLeod, is the publication of what is described as the most searching journalistic investigation yet into the death of the Princess of Wales. The authors reveal that the driver of the car in which the Princess was killed, Henri Paul, was also using Prozac. Substantial evidence exists to suggest that Prozac does alter mental outlook. There is strong evidence to suggest that it affects the body's impulse control mechanisms, and that side effects can include excessive stimulation, violence and suicidal tendencies. It is inconceivable that the British authorities in charge of protecting the Royal family would permit anyone on such medication from protecting or driving their charges. Had the Princess of Wales chosen to continue to take advantage of the British protection services, which were still available to her, she may have been safer.
WHO IS ERIC BULLMORE?One delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Eric Bullmore was elected by the "Victorian Shooters Party". Does the Victorian Shooters Party know that Eric Bullmore voted for the republic? Do Victorian shooters know that someone purporting to represent them voted against the Crown?
NATIVE TITLE AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCHWhile much debate has taken place on the merits or otherwise of native title, little attention has been paid to the origin of the idea. We now have information that gives a clue. An article by Father Brendan Walters entitled "Church shouldn't back native title campaign" indicates that the church might have been the origin of the campaign. Walters writes: "Actually, the native title campaign began as a project of the Christian Brothers through their Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education at Balmain [Sydney]. "As the Christian Brothers are a religious order within the Catholic Church, you could say the Catholic Church initiated the native title campaign, but it is not something which came directly from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church so far as I'm aware. "I once worked at the Edmund Rice Centre. I resigned that position because, as a member of the Catholic clergy, I objected to being asked to take sides in a political campaign Fr. Walters is a lawyer as well as priest, and is originally from Gooloogong, in the Central West of NSW. A more complete report on his views will be published in the Intelligence Survey for February, published next week.
FROM THE PRESSCHOOSING A LOSER, The Weekend Australian, 14/2/98. "This 'winning model' for a republic is patently absurd. A single nomination put by the Prime Minister to his lap dogs in Parliament? This is a Soviet practice. "Dismissal at any time? For Anything? Ex-post-facto support from the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister's stronghold is meaningless. This model makes the Prime Minister a dictator. "This republican will not be voting for this model." Michael Davis, Rose Bay, NSW "We will have a referendum next year, and I am an avid republican. It is to be a choice between Mr. Turnbull's model for a Clayton's Republic or the Status Quo. I'll take Mr. Quo." Bear Stanley, Atherton, Qld. "If Malcolm Turnbull and his mates think that Australians are going to allow them to choose this country's president rather than the people, they must be naive. "Most of us may be in favour of a republic, but it will be a case of 'Long Live the Queen' while we sort this little con-job out. Don't you worry about that." Ash Forward, Shelley, WA.
"On Target" is published by the Australian League of Rights, Box 1052. G.P.O. Melbourne 3001.