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9 October 1998. Thought for the Week: "If you haven't suffered enough, it is your God given right to suffer some more."
Premier William Berhart of Alberta
WHAT IS A MANDATE?
by Eric D. Butler
The author of Social Credit, C.H. Douglas, echoing the political wisdom of the centuries, observed that true democracy was only possible when electors had the opportunity of voting on one issue at a time. The virtues of genuine democracy, where customers can cast their money votes freely, is that both majorities and minorities can obtain what they want. The higher the degree of decentralisation, the less the prospect of minorities being penalised by the manipulation of majorities.
John Howard and his supporters have made it clear that they do not support genuine democracy. Even before the Senate vote had been counted, John Howard and Coalition Members were suggesting that they were not going to tolerate any obstruction to the GST in the Senate. Such Coalition Members reflect the famous claim by Paul Keating about the Senate being an "unrepresentative swill".
A study of Australian political history reveals that over the years a majority of electors have consistently voted differently in the Senate than in the House of Representatives. Australian electors have traditionally taken the view that while they are prepared to support a party to form a government in the House of Representatives, they want checks on that Government, and thus vote differently in the Senate. Once again a Federal election has demonstrated the deep wisdom of a sizeable minority of electors. John Howard will be courting political disaster if he attempts to ignore that political reality.
But, as I have observed on a number of occasions, John Howard's history provides a number of examples of what can only be described as invincible stupidity. During his term as Treasurer in the Fraser Governments, he was highly regarded by the bureaucracy as a man who could be relied upon to advance any legislation they felt necessary.
As one senior financial bureaucrat told a League of Rights businessman, John Howard was the bureaucracy's favourite Minister: he could be thoroughly briefed on the legislation required, put in front of the television camera and relied upon to faithfully present the views of the bureaucrats. The bureaucracy persuaded Howard that taxing of books and magazines was desirable. The proposal even included Christian Church magazines.
I well recall the group of Christian publishers who sought an interview with the man purporting to be a Christian and pointing out the great damage his proposed tax would have on Christian publications. I met, in Brisbane, representatives of these Christian publishers upon their return to Brisbane. They were in a state of deep shock. They felt that their arguments and facts had no impact upon Treasurer Howard. "We felt we might have saved our breath." said one of the delegation. "It was like talking to a brick wall." Howard's legislation was eventually defeated by a Senate influenced by a special campaign conducted by the Australian League of Rights. The great value of the Senate was demonstrated.
Howard also demonstrated his invincible stupidity when the financial bureaucrats persauded Howard that some industries were using "fringe benefits" to pay employees outside the system. For example, cheaper and subsidised housing was being used to ensure that enough workers would be encouraged to work in the Queensland coalmines. The earnest John Howard went out to the Western Queensland coalmines to talk to the miners to persuade them to see the virtues of paying a fringe benefit tax. The reaction was rather dramatic: John Howard physically thrown out of a Queensland hotel by an irate coalminer.
As John Howard attempts to move towards imposing a taxation system rejected by the majority of the Australian people, claiming that he has a "mandate", he is going to move Australia further down a revolutionary road. He and his financial masters have set in motion a programme, which will inevitably produce a revolutionary ferment, which has not been eased by an election result.
SOWING THE WIND WITH POLITICAL ARROGANCE
by David Thompson
Any observer with an impartial eye can see that the prospect of a new tax, endorsed (if not imposed) by the International Monetary Fund, was the key element that very nearly delivered the keys to The Lodge to Mr. Beazley. In fact it was probably only the prospect of another Labor Government with the memory of Paul Keating not sufficiently dimmed, that saved Mr. Howard's administration.
The unconscious arrogance of Mr. Howard was not an isolated feature of election night. Perhaps one of the outstanding offenders was Treasurer Costello, who took part in the Channel 9 election coverage with Labor's Simon Crean, Liberal Michael Kroger and the Democrats' Natasha Stott-Despoja. The clear impression of this panel was that, while only days before they were at each others' throats at the least excuse, on election night they were "buddies" in the face of a common enemy - the electorate.
When a dispute developed between Costello and Crean about the validity of the Coalition's "mandate" for the GST, a scornful Costello announced that the purpose of the election was to decide the issue. According to Costello since the Coalition had achieved a majority in the House of Representatives, however slight, the "mandate" was assured. But is this assumption about elections valid? Surely the purpose of holding elections is to choose representatives, rather than choose policy?
Can even professional politicians claim
to be so certain of reading the minds of voters, as to be
able to determine why they voted as they did? Does the arrogance
extend so far as assuming that a narrow victory in only one
House of the Parliament is a ringing endorsement of the plethora
of policies advanced during political campaigns? It would
seem clear enough that a narrow victory in only one House
of the Parliament by a Coalition polling less than 50% of
the overall vote is by no means a "mandate" to introduce a
revolutionary new taxation system.
Australians need to prepare for what may be one of the stormiest periods in recent politics as Howard attempts to ram the GST through the Parliament, and impose it on a resentful electorate, probably feeling the financial effects of the same Prime Minister's determination to expose us to the debilitating effects of the "global market".
With such a small Parliamentary majority, one of Mr. Howard's most difficult tasks is bound to be enforcing Party discipline upon some of the more realistic backbenchers who know in their hearts that the GST is dreadfully unpopular. Every method of coercion available to him will be required to force dissidents like Bob Katter and Deanne Kelly in Northern Queensland to toe the line. And there will be others, too, who know that if they fail to resist such Party discipline, they will certainly be swept away by the tide of resentment of disgusted voters at the earliest opportunity.
The ultimate contempt must be that of Gareth Evans who, after imploring his constituents to return him to the House, has now turned his back on those who elected him only hours after the polls closed. What goes on in the minds of such people?
THE STATE OF THE NATION
by Jeremy Lee
Tim Fischer claimed during the election that Australia had been built into a "safe harbour": a refuge from the financial chaos around us. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is Fischer himself who has claimed that Australia succeeds or fails with its export achievements. Perhaps Trade Ministers are forced by their portfolio to think in such terms. If there was any truth in the suggestion, Australia would be doomed. Month by month the foreign debt climbs - up by over 30 billion during the 2½ years of the Coalition's first term. As the debt rises and the dollar falls the percentage of export income needed to service this debt grows. Yet export potential is contracting drastically.
With the current crisis in Japan and the expected devaluation in China, Australia's main export partners are in trouble. The US, forcing de-regulation on everyone else, is doing nothing to remove subsidies from its own primary producers and in some cases is increasing protection. It uses aid programmes as a way of expanding export markets. Every area of Australia's primary production is in crisis. The sugar price is tumbling. Wheat prices have dropped significantly. Wool is a cot case. Meat is not much better. Likewise, mineral commodities are facing "fire-sale" price drops, and manufacturing is retracting.
Mr. Howard was right in refusing to commit himself to any reduction in unemployment in the period ahead. In truth, without a change to the wholesale philosophy of his economic programme there can be no improvement. Unemployment is likely to rise in the months ahead.
Without the massively funded advertising campaign on distracting issues, which the election provided, the Howard Government is likely to find itself naked and alone in the period ahead. Its victory claims will appear increasingly hollow.
Although the final figures are not in, results in the election are a little different to the assumptions publicly trumpeted by Howard and Costello. On a two-party-preferred basis, Labor had 51.8 percent of the vote - up 5.4 percent - while the Coalition had 48.2 percent - down 5.4 percent: hardly a ringing "mandate" for the GST. Why, then, is Labor not in office? The answer was described in these words by Melbourne s Herald-Sun the day after the election: ". . . Minor parties and independents polled more strongly than in any election in the past 50 years, yet have not been rewarded with seats
THE FUTURE OF THE MINOR PARTIES
There has been instant crowing from the likes of Tim Fischer about the claimed demise of One Nation and similar parties. It just may be a little early to crow too lightly. Papers, both in Australia and overseas, have claimed that Pauline Hanson and One Nation are dead and buried. They may not have achieved anything like the seats expected. But dead and buried? Pauline Hanson obtained far and away the highest number of primary votes in Blair - 46.6 percent. Across Australia the Party polled remarkably well - over 14 percent in Queensland, and over 10 percent nationwide. Tim Fischer might reflect that far more Australians voted for One Nation than for the National Party.
With any failure of the Coalition to deliver, the swing to minor parties can only increase over the next three years - assuming the Coalition can remain in office that long in the tumult ahead. One Nation is well cashed up expecting to receive over $3 million from the October 3rd election.
A factor in its dramatic growth has meant that electoral success always surged ahead of the in-depth research and education such a movement needs to build the solid philosophical foundations for long-term success. If it can curb its disappointments, using the time ahead to concentrate on better research, policies, education and grassroots organisation, One Nation can still be a big factor in Australia's future.
A far-seeing and more charitable co-operation with other groups of like mind would serve Australia well. The real test of service, leading to a longer view of the real crisis facing the nation, lies ahead of One Nation.
"BACK TO BASICS" TO DEAL WITH POLITICAL HURRICANE
Now that the voting is out of the way, genuine political representation is the next objective. We suggest that constituents establish a proper relationship with their representatives, perhaps congratulating them on their victory. It might be an issue to raise the question of a Member of Parliament being the servant of the voter. After all, Mr. Howard in his victory speech declared that it was a privilege to be a "servant" of the Australian people. Surely his Parliamentary colleagues would feel the privilege just as keenly.
All "servants" need some idea of what their "masters" require from them in order to be effective servants. These are the basics that need to be established in order to deal with what is bound to be an increasingly unstable and confused political environment. Every effort should be made to deal with the issue of "mandate". Neither Mr. Howard, nor anyone else, can be a good servant if they believe they are free, because of some mythical mandate, to do virtually as they choose, in line with pre-election promises or policies.
A "servant" serves - one thing at a time. A master makes his own judgments about what is necessary - one thing at a time. The two roles are mutually exclusive, and any confusion results in friction and resentment. Perhaps the first issue that needs to be dealt with is that of the GST. Mr. Howard seems to have a confused notion that his political masters endorsed the GST last weekend. The case for this is very slim, as we have pointed out in On Target. In particular, every new Member of the Parliament needs to be equipped with feedback from their electorate in order to establish a position on the GST.
The constitutional authority for the GST does not rest with Mr. Howard. It rests with the Parliament. This includes the Senate, and although it is as yet a little uncertain which Senate seats might be occupied by which Senators, it is still the Senators from the last Parliament who carry constitutional responsibility. They occupy the Senate until June 30th, 1999. They are still our servants. We predict that Mr. Howard's evident determination to ram the GST through the Parliament will meet with spirited resistance. This needs to be ensured by grassroots political action.
SEASONED CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERT INTRODUCES SANITY
A feature of the League's 52nd Annual Seminar was a magnificent paper by constitutional expert Dr. David Mitchell of Hobart. The debate over a republic has led to some wild, invalidated claims over the legality of the present Constitution, with one theory that power was never legally transferred to a sovereign Australia, making much modern legislation invalid. People have been told there is no need to pay taxes, because taxation legislation flows from a flawed constitutional base for the making of laws. Without defending the merit of existing legislation, such claims do not hold water. Bad laws existing are, nevertheless, still valid laws.
In a beautifully crafted address, Dr. Mitchell dealt step-by-step with the real position.
|© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159|