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23 February 1996. Thought for the Week: "There is confusion nowadays about what it means to be a 'nation', and a 'nation-state' ... essentially a nation is a sort of extended family. It links individual and group, parent and child, past and future, in ways that reach beyond the rational to the most profound and elemental in the human experience."
Peter Brimelow in Alien Nation
THE POLITICIANS VERSUS THE ELECTORS
by Eric D. Butler
But the reality is that apart from the relatively few party faithful, the great majority of electors is completely cynical about party political promises. Unless Paul Keating can pull a major political rabbit out of the hat over the next week, or John Howard makes a bad stumble, Graeme Campbell is almost certainly correct when he says that he expects Howard to win. He stresses the point that a Howard win makes it essential that he survive as an Independent Member to offer some real opposition. Campbell might have added, that he will be needed to act as a focal point for the tensions, which are going to surface in the Coalition parties.
In spite of the party manipulators making every endeavour to keep immigration and multiculturalism off the election agenda that has emerged, Keating and Bolkus have attempted, with the aid of sections of the media, to charge that the Coalition is badly tainted with "racism". Federal National Party leader Tim Fischer was called upon to disown North Queensland National Party candidates, Burgess and Katter, for making "racist" remarks.
But the problem for Fischer, and for
John Howard, is that there is widespread support for Burgess
and Katter throughout Queensland, where the anticipated loss
of Labor Members is expected to benefit the Nationals more
than the Liberals. Already Members of the Queensland National
Party, both State and Federal, have made it clear they are
strongly opposed to the Hilmer Report and other manifestations
of economic rationalism".
In their desperate attempt to avoid the dreaded "racist" smear; the Liberal Party last week withdrew their support for their candidate in the safe Labor seat of Oxley, Mrs. Pauline Hanson, who made the comparatively innocuous remark that what most people perceived to be excessive welfare payments to Aborigines was causing community resentment.
As Graeme Campbell has pointed out, the manner in which a multicultural growth industry has been fostered, at the expense of the great majority of taxpayers, is causing growing resentment throughout the nation. A flood of letters supporting Pauline Hanson in The Queensland Times provides striking proof that large numbers of people agree with her. And there is a growing number of John Howard's Federal Liberal Party who privately express their concerns about the direction in which current immigration and multicultural policies are taking the nation.
If John Howard and his minders believe that they can effectively deal with the multicultural, immigration and associated issues simply by suppression of all discussion they are making a big mistake. They are attempting to tighten down the valves on a rising ferment, which will ultimately lead to a major explosion.
The current American situation contains a message. The dramatic increase in electoral support for republican candidate Patrick Buchanan is because of his strong opposition to "globalism" and the American immigration rate. Much of the social violence in the United States has its roots in the growing frustrations of the American people. The same frustrations are starting to emerge in Australia. Assuming that John Howard comes to office, he will be taking over a situation which, in the absence of constructive action, is certain to produce growing social friction and a political upheaval.
Under orthodox finance economics, John Howard cannot possibly deliver the numerous promises he has made. This can only lead to a further increase in poisonous cynicism. The only way to avoid disaster is for the politicians to demonstrate that they believe the time has come to start trusting the people, to let them have a say concerning issues which worry them. Graeme Campbell the Independent could prove to be the catalyst for a political movement across present political divisions, which would bring Australians together as a true nation.
Whatever happens on March 2nd, Australia is on the verge of turbulent developments, which will shape the destiny of the nation.
ANOTHER REBUKE FROM BILL HAYDEN
by David Thompson
It is also true that Hayden went to the job as an avowed republican, so far as senior politicians had then declared themselves. And it is true that the appointment of an avowed agnostic, if not atheist, to the vice-regal office was not in keeping with the Christian flavour of the monarchy. But Bill Hayden is a living demonstration of the truth that no individual is beyond redemption: people can and do change. This, of course, is the very crux of the Christian message.
Apart from having rejected "democratic socialism" as a political ideology, perhaps the most notable change of emphasis in Hayden's position has been on the issue of the republic. In a very pointed reference to Mr. Keating's campaign launch, in which he proposed a 'plebiscite' to ask Australians whether they would prefer "an Australian Head of State", the Governor General described himself as Australia's Head of State. Although the Constitution specifically refers to the Queen as the Head of State, Hayden obviously subscribes to Mr. Howard's argument that for practical purposes, the Governor General is effectively Australia's Head of State, and is already an Australian.
At other times, Mr. Hayden has warned that the republican proposal should be carefully and fully considered, before a system that has a proven success record like the monarchy is discarded. He has also stressed that his previously expressed republican sympathies should not be taken for granted. It is clear that the responsibilities that the office of Governor General places upon the individual have had an effect on Bill Hayden.
HAYDEN HITS OUT ON SENATE
The second point of Mr. Hayden's departure
address that must have made Mr. Keating squirm was his references
to the Senate. Keating is on record as working towards the
objective of eliminating the Senate, which he describes as
"unrepresentative swill". But Hayden emphasised the importance
of the Senate, harking back to the 1975 dismissal of Whitlam.
This, said Hayden, provided a lesson on the significant extent
of authority that the Senate could wield in response to executive
With the advent of the Democrats in the Senate, it has become clear that no Government in the immediate future can expect to control the Senate. Mr. Hayden has clearly identified the public disgust with politicians and governments, and decided that the Senate is the key to resisting the worst abuses of the system. His views, pointedly expressed in the heat of the campaign, cannot be interpreted in any way other than as a rebuke for Mr. Keating.
It should be remembered that the Prime Minister had refused to permit other Ministers to appear before Senate Committees of Inquiry. Such an outrageous evasion of public accountability deserves every possible rebuke, and it is entirely appropriate that the Governor General should rebuke Mr. Keating publicly.
REFERENDUM ON UPPER HOUSE IN QUEENSLAND
If the role of the Senate needed emphasising at all, the resurrection of Mr. Borbidge's pre-election promise to hold a referendum on the re-introduction of the Queensland Upper House does this admirably. It should be recalled that it was the Labor Party that abolished the Queensland Upper House in 1922, by having the Legislative Councillors first vote themselves their salary for life, and then vote themselves out of existence.
As a House of Review, Legislative Councils have a critical role to play in curbing the excesses of the Legislative Assembly. This is best demonstrated in States where the government does not control the Upper House. In N.S.W. for example, republican Premier Bob Carr was prevented from removing all references to the Crown from the N.S.W. Parliament because he did not have the numbers in the Upper House. For the same reason, Mr. Carr has refused to recall the N.S.W. Parliament to debate the downgrading of the role of the Governor, even though legal advice indicates that he is most unwise to proceed without the consent of Parliament. Mr. Carr knows that the proposal for a part time Governor would not be approved by the Legislative Council, which he does not control.
In other States, where the State Government does have a majority in the Upper House, like Victoria, the role of the chamber of review is corrupted by Party politics. Premier Kennett has insisted that the Victorian Legislative Council pass his draconian legislation on such matters as local government and Albert Park simply by exercising party discipline.
The one Legislative Council that is unique in Australian politics is that of Tasmania. In this chamber, political parties have relatively little influence. For historical reasons, Tasmanians traditionally elect Independents to the Legislative Council. There is no suggestion that this makes Tasmania ungovernable, or even that Tasmania is any less stable than any other State; in fact, the reverse is the case.
It should be remembered that when Dr. H.V. Evatt attempted to remove 14 key constitutional powers from the States during World War II, it was the Tasmanian Legislative Council that confronted Evatt. Refusing to countenance such a massive centralisation of power, the Tasmanian Upper House forced Evatt and the A.L.P. to the famous "Fourteen Powers Referendum" of 1944, which the Australian people rejected.
If Mr. Borbidge and his Queensland National Party colleagues are serious about a new era of consultative politics in Queensland, then the referendum for a restoration of the Legislative Council is a good start. When arguments surface about "more politicians" getting their snouts into the public trough, perhaps Mr. Borbidge could foster a debate on what type of politicians should be elected to the new Upper House. For example, if no member of the Upper House could serve in the ministry, the temptations of power might be modified.
If a genuine Upper House Committee system was proposed, which could call ministers before it to account for public expenditure, etc., widespread public support could be generated. And if Mr. Borbidge really did want to offer Queenslanders a part in the consultative process, why not introduce the opportunity for Queenslanders to initiate their own referendums, the results of which could bind the government to ACTION.
The Coalition tactic of not revealing
policy details until well into the election campaign appears
to have frustrated the A.L.P. tacticians, and mystified the
voters. But with the myriad of policies promising Nirvana
to voters, the less credible they become. By the time Mr.
Howard finally launched his campaign in Sydney last week,
the campaign environment produced a cynical response. Mr.
Alan Wood, writing in The Australian (19/2/96) was
Such a response from Wood is mirrored by other economic journalists, and has been applied to the policies of both party groups. The truth is that neither of the big parties are to be trusted with their campaign promises. The electorate will undoubtedly identify the "policy promises" for what they are - little better than simple lies.
NATIONALS ON THE FAMILY
One post election diversion that could wreck any possible Coalition "honeymoon" period is that of divisions between the National and Liberal Parties. Some National Party backbenchers, for example, are openly rejecting the Hilmer reforms, providing heartburn for Mr. Howard. And the National Party have served noticed that while they support Mr. Howard's policy pitch directed at "the family", this definitely does not include homosexual couples. It seems a pity that the conservative position that the National Party holds on some issues cannot be broadened out, and pushed up to the Liberals in the strongest possible fashion, rather than the Nationals simply tagging along with Liberal Party policy that is almost indistinguishable from that of the A.L.P.
All Election comment authorised by David Thompson, 145 Russell Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
ELECTORAL ACT NEEDS FREE SPEECH REFORMfrom The Age (Melbourne), 19/2
"I write to urge your readers to seek a commitment from all major political parties to repeal section 329A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 with effect from the date of announcement of the current federal election. "That section, in effect, makes it unlawful for one person to encourage others to fill in a ballot paper other than by completing all available preferences. "The act, by section 270, allows people to vote without filling in all preferences, but section 329A prohibits anyone from encouraging others to do what they are allowed to do. "This is wrong in principle and is an unjustifiable interference with freedom of communication essential in a democracy.
In the 1991 free speech case (Nationwide News) the present Chief Justice said:
'To sustain a representative democracy embodying the principles prescribed by the Constitution, freedom of public discussion of political and economic matters is essential; it would be a parody of democracy to confer on the people a power to choose their Parliament but to deny the freedom of public discussion from which the people derive their political judgment.'
"In that case, the present Governor General said:
'The people of the Commonwealth would be unable responsibly to discharge and exercise the powers of government control which the Constitution reserves to them if each person was an island, unable to communicate with any other person.'
"There may be good political reasons for not completing all preferences on a ballot paper. Not to distribute preferences can potentially have an important political effect on the outcome of an election.
"If there are good reasons not to distribute preferences it is essential that people be allowed to state them and to encourage others to vote in that way.
"The law that prevents that discussion is unacceptable in the Australian democracy and should be removed with retrospective effect."
(Tony Pagone, Chairman, International Commission of Jurists in Victoria)
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