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23 October 1998. Thought for the Week: "There exists in civilised society in all countries today an institution whose business is to issue money. This institution is called a bank. The banking business is in many respects the exact opposite of the Social Reform business - it is immensely powerful, talks very little, acts quickly, knows what it wants, chooses its employees wisely in its own interests."
C.H. Douglas, Control and Distribution of Production
STRIPPING CHOICE FROM DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
by Jeremy Lee
The "opinion-makers" would have us believe that, without elected party representatives, this large vote will subside into silence. Their own propaganda role has conditioned them to believe such nonsense. The conclusion is, if they are to be believed, that the views of large minorities don't matter a hoot if they can't elect politicians. This conclusion is the outcome of a long period of erosion, through manipulation, of the democratic process.
True democracy is - or should be - about choosing policies rather than people. As C.H. Douglas stressed, freedom is well defined as "the ability to choose, or refuse, one thing at a time". The two-party game, on the other hand, is about removing as many mechanisms for true choice as possible. Compulsory voting is a restriction on freedom of choice. It can be argued that Australians are forced to attend a voting booth, not to vote, which is technically correct. Preferential voting can enlarge choice to some degree if it is voluntary. Make it compulsory and it is an attack on freedom. This is the difference between the Queensland State election, where preferential voting is voluntary, and the Federal election, where it has been made compulsory. As result, tens of thousands of votes by people who strongly object to both major parties ended up tipping Labor or Liberal candidates - not to mention National- over the line.
There is no connection between this sorry
state of affairs and a fair, democratic system. However,
every action breeds an equal and opposite reaction. If John
Howard and the Coalition believe the protest vote has gone
away, they will be disappointed. The situation was clearly
foreseen by C.H. Douglas in the early 'twenties. Consider
this (page 174, "Social Credit"):
The period between elections can be much more constructive than elections themselves, where the scent of battle often overrides common sense. It is a truism that "Elections Divide, Issues Unite". The one-thing politicians have not been able to counter, and which they mortally fear, is the emergence of an issue of sufficient potency to unite people of all walks of life, and from every quarter of the political spectrum. Such was the case with Howard's ill-fated proposals to force the elderly to sell their homes before qualifying for old-age accommodation. The roar of anger forced him to back off hurriedly. The same occurred when the public learned of the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments), which produced a tidal wave of popular feeling that frightened the Government. It was seen a few years ago with the proposal for the ID Card.
To win such battles neither parties nor elections are needed. Australia may well be on the verge of a new dimension in politics - the emergence of "Issue Coalitions", in which people from otherwise opposed quarters find each other and join forces on "one thing at a time", forcing their will on whichever party happens to hold government at the time.
It is interesting to look at the diversity of people who spoke out against the MAI. Trade Union leaders, environmentalists and former politicians such as Don Dunstan and Clyde Cameron found common ground on this issue with conservatives from the right. The submission to the relevant parliamentary committee from the ACTU - available on the Internet - was one of the most cogent. Leaders who have previously believed that new parties and seats in parliament were the only alternative -people with the qualities of Graeme Campbell, Pauline Hanson and others - who could design a format for "Issue Coalitions" - might find a much more effective tool than a seat on the backbench in a controlled and manipulated parliament.
ECONOMIC FORECAST LOOKS GRIM
Two weeks before the election The Bulletin (September 15th) carried two major articles - one by Dr. Peter Brain, of the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, and the other by veteran economic reporter Max Walsh - dealing with the situation facing Australia between now and the end of the century. Both were agreed, as are a growing number of commentators, that we are facing a major world recession.
Peter Brain's conclusions were:
Max Walsh said: "Suddenly, what was an Asian financial crisis has become a global crisis. The contagion is affecting nearly all emerging markets... Australia will be caught up in the crisis before the US. The deepening global crisis virtually assures John Howard of success at the October 3 election. While election debate and rhetoric will continue to focus on the alternative tax proposals advanced by the major parties, this debate is destined to become the secondary issue to that of economic competency for the tough times ahead. Just how the crisis will play itself out is beyond prediction at the moment because a great deal depends on the way in which political and financial leaders around the globe respond to developments as they occur...
Since then, news has broken of a "secret
deal", as the Australian Financial Review described
it to reflate the Japanese economy by what must be the biggest
"money-printing" creation of credit in world history.
This, coupled with a further interest-rate cut in the US, has resulted in record gains and losses on the world's stock markets. The Australian dollar has risen dramatically during the past week. Why? The Australian (October 16th) said: "The dollar shot to levels not seen in three months yesterday, closing firmly above US63c and looked set to rally further, dealers said. Solid hedge fund buying lifted the currency to a high... Since Friday last week, the dollar has gained US2c. Westpac Bank chief foreign exchange dealer Peter McGrath said the dollar was driven by substantial demands from US accounts "
So the "hedge-fund gambling bubble" is temporarily fleeing from the United States to Australia. Any cut in Australian interest rates - as has been predicted - will probably set it off looking for somewhere else to settle. The damage done in the process is incalculable.
The same issue of The Australian commented in a further article: "Risk management expert Heinz Riehl believes the blame for unprecedented global financial volatility cannot be sheeted home to international hedge funds primarily. Mr. Riehl says it is the investors and the bankers who give the funds money in the first place who should take a good hard look at themselves. 'You could almost go as far as to say that it is the investors who are to blame, not the hedge funds,' he said yesterday. 'Because people, and that means ordinary investors, as well as the bankers who extend credit, have been stupid enough to give them the money without asking what the risk is.' Many experts regard the funds, such as recently bailed out Long-Term Capital Management, as accessories to the global financial crisis "
ELECTING A "PIG IN A POKE"
by David Thompson
For a politician who has recently been stressing the importance of a political "mandate", his sudden change in direction (if that is what it is) could be somewhat unnerving. An electorate that rather grudgingly gave Mr. Howard and his colleagues another term in office would reasonably expect to continue to see at least the same pretence of a conservative approach to issues from the Prime Minister as previously. While he claims a mandate for such things as the deeply unpopular GST, Mr. Howard appears to be unaware of the inconsistency in remaking himself after the election. Does he have a "mandate" to change direction completely, and begin to embrace the thorny issue of aboriginal reconciliation in a way that he has avoided so far? And is there the suggestion that Mr. Howard may be content to actually foster the introduction of the republic, rather than continue to resist it?
The Prime Minister did couch his "new man" transformation in terms of "a new era" to which he needs to respond. One of the elements of that "new era" is, of course, the new millennium. This could become a dangerous social and political period, in that the fairly pedestrian matter of changing the prefix on our dates from "19" to "20" could become an excuse for all sorts of rat baggery.
The police forces and emergency services in many parts of the world will testify that the human being does strange and unusual things at the time of the full moon. Could the new millennium become a kind of extended "full moon" environment, in which peoples not immediately dominated by urgent matters of physical survival, turn to aberrant behaviour that would normally be rejected? Could it become a kind of extended Christmas period, when normal disciplines are relaxed during a "silly season" of universal (if shallow) "peace on earth, and goodwill to mankind"?
There is nothing wrong with peace and goodwill, but these things need to be anchored to a clear perception of the underlying issues, or else there is painful readjustment when reality later intrudes. Mr. Howard's turning to a new found enthusiasm for aboriginal reconciliation and the republican process on the eve of the new millennium suggests, albeit faintly, that there is an element of "full-moon fairy floss" in all this that may lead Australians into commitments that we may later bitterly regret.
ACTIVIST'S AMBIT CLAIMS
Already Mr. Howard's declaration that he is ready to re-examine the question of aboriginal reconciliation, and resolve the issue, has produced a response from the hard-line "aboriginal" activists. The Australian (15/10198) published an article by Mr. Peter Yu, executive director of the Kimberly Land Council in WA, which appeared to draw the battle lines. Whether Mr. Yu's demands were more in the nature of an "ambit claim" that permit future concessions is impossible to judge. But he did insist that reconciliation depended upon the right of aborigines to participate in the process "on their own terms".
What are those terms? He suggests a Document of Reconciliation (since Mr. Howard has ruled out a "treaty") upon which Australians should vote in the centenary year of federation. As essential principles for such a document, he includes: constitutional recognition and protection of indigenous rights; recognition of traditional law within the legal system; the development of an agreed document on Australia's history; the recognition of "special status" of aborigines in Australia; the establishment of a long-term capital fund to compensate indigenous people for dispossession; regional indigenous governance arrangements for a new political relationship between aborigines and Australian governments and the establishment of a national funding formula to deliver aboriginal infrastructure and services.
This is more than just a wish list for government largesse. It is in fact a potent and highly flammable summary of the most revolutionary claims. Mr. Yu makes the extraordinary claim that any "settlement" reached must be between "citizens of a united Australia and recognises that we are one people". His demands are based on the very opposite: that we are two peoples, and that the aboriginal people cannot become part of the mainstream without permanent special status and separate identity. The Yu demands rest upon a most deceptive suggestion - that an agreed document on Australia's history be developed. This means that the entire basis of nationhood be revised, with our history re-written in such a way that the new version becomes acceptable to a coterie of revolutionary activists.
If Mr. Howard is to revisit the reconciliation issue, it will need to be done with a clear head, and an understanding of the realities encountered by country people - aboriginal and non-aboriginal. The activist wolves like Peter Yu are quite prepared to howl long and loud if Mr. Howard approaches this issue in a "full moon" frame of mind. To agree to a reconciliation agenda on their terms is tantamount to permitting the activists to drive the programme. Further and deeper national division is the result. In this case, Mr. Howard simply gives new life to a rather demoralised One Nation, and other groups like them.
LEADERSHIP AT THE GRASSROOTS
It is inevitable that there is something of a slump in morale after the "smoke and mirrors" of the election campaign, among those who worked hard to give that "roar of anger" expression through a vote for One Nation or Australia First candidates. In the heat of the election campaign, some wildly unrealistic expectations were generated, which were, naturally, not fulfilled.
The loss of Pauline Hanson and Graeme Campbell from the Parliament robs the grassroots rebellion of a form of leadership that was invaluable for purposes of demonstrating that the present political dissent is much more than just the "lunatic political fringe". Readers of On Target will not be shocked at the defeat of Campbell and Hanson, as we have warned that consideration should be given to this possible result. What is required now is a realistic assessment of post-election conditions, and a return to the basics of grassroots campaigning that is the core of the League's activity. In particular, attention should be given to assisting those supporters of One Nation and Australia First to overcome their disappointment, and stress that the longer view of politics is not well served by a surrender in the face of short-term setbacks.
It is clear that Graeme Campbell and Pauline Hanson were giving ringing expression to a deeply felt resentment that will not go away. This resentment, as we have previously stressed, can only be properly addressed by either a change in policy, or a sensible and credible explanation of why our sovereignty should be sacrificed on the altar of "globalism". The latter is impossible; it is a contradiction.
Since it is clear that neither Mr. Howard's Team nor Mr. Beazley's Team propose a genuine change in policy direction, we can predict that further erosion of sovereignty is absolutely inevitable. What has happened to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) for example? Has it "gone away"? In our view, it has not. It is on the "back-burner", because Australians of both the political "left" and the political "right" combined for once to hammer our political representatives on this monumental sell-out. This sort of activity is essential for future constructive grassroots activity.
Now is the time for actionists to provide the traditional grassroots leadership that has made the League a force of some influence in Australian politics. The necessary tools are to hand. We draw particular attention to the recent post-election address of Jeremy Lee's, which places the question of elections and long-term political direction in brilliant context. This tool should be most widely used; it is constructive, positive and hopeful. At present, it is "just what the doctor ordered".
"ROSE-COLOURED-SPECTACLE" REACTIONS ON ELECTION RESULTS
There have been the inevitable "rose-coloured-spectacle" reactions from political commentators on the election results. Former Labor Minister Graham Richardson (The Bulletin, October 13th) naturally saw the main achievement as Labor's: " If you cast your mind back just two-and-a-half years to the last election, who could have envisaged Labor clawing back upwards of 20 seats? John Howard blew a nine-year lead in one go and next time round, a swing of 1% will give Labor victory ."
Andrew Robb, former Liberal Party organiser, on the other hand (same issue of The Bulletin) took the opposite view. John Howard's victory is without precedent. Howard defied history within the democratic world by winning an election while proposing to introduce a wide-ranging tax " Which, of course, is NOT what the Liberal Party ads said. They told us it was not a new tax, but a new tax system: the sort of sophistry, which only PR men can dream up.
But Andrew Robb conceded, in his last paragraph, something of the problems that lie ahead: " The big political issue coming out of this election result is the question of a government's right to govern, and its right to introduce the program that it took to the electorate - the mandate... Much of the sense of betrayal, which fuelled the rise of One Nation stems from the failure of our governments to govern in today's Australia. The abuse of power by our upper houses around Australia is the issue. Unless this matter is confronted and resolved, I suspect Australia faces a political roller-coaster in the years ahead."
Andrew Robb seems to believe it is the duty of the Senate to rubber-stamp the legislation from the Lower House. Nothing could be further from the truth. No government can claim a mandate on one selected policy from the package it presents to the electorate. The Senate's responsibility is to review and, if necessary, discard inappropriate legislation. The Constitution lays out precisely the powers at the Senate's disposal for this task.
The idea that the ruling party in the House of Representatives should be free to legislate, as it likes is authoritarian, and right against our constitutional process. The idea has grown with the intrusion of dictatorial party politics, now strongly at variance with the democratic process.
GUN ISSUE GRINDS ON
It is clear that one of the issues underlying the election campaign was the continuing resentment about the Prime Minister's firearms action of last year. Although the issue is unlikely to have directly cost the Coalition any seats, there is no doubt that it was one of the contributing factors to the swing against the Government. The primary vote that groups like One Nation and Australia First generated was assisted by their stance on the firearms issue. In fact, the Sporting Shooters' Association provided considerable campaign funds for One Nation, and the One Nation vote would have been boosted by this.
The Sporting Shooters Association has documented the fact that the guns buy-back scheme has not prevented further crime. Their journal carries the statistics, and shows that, in fact, the incidence of armed crime has risen rather than fallen. There is every chance that a future tragedy involving firearms will haunt Mr. Howard, and do further electoral damage, because it is clear that the criminals are now better armed than their prospective victims. This has been driven home by the war that has erupted between rival bikie gangs in Western Australia. At this stage, the conflict has been between two "criminal" groups, who apparently neglected to hand in their semi-automatic and other "banned" weapons.
The WA press has been dominated last week by shootings and violent deaths as a result of well-armed gangs. Unless this is somehow addressed by effective police action, there is every chance that innocent victims will eventually be caught in the crossfire. This illustrates the reality of banning guns; the criminals will not hand them in, and the law-abiding will progressively become more defenceless.
The NSW Parliament has been forced to address this issue, legislating to permit the ownership of firearms for personal protection from events like home invasions. At the time of the firearms buy-back, Premier Carr's NSW Government attempted to make a virtue of their position that personal protection was no reason to own a firearm. Events have clearly forced a reconsideration of this position. If it continues to be demonstrated that the firearms buy-back scheme served to deprive the individual of protection (real or even psychological) from violent crime, Australians are justified in asking, as they now are in Western Australia, where they might apply to get a refund on their gun levy payments. It might be a question asked of our political representatives in the new Parliament.
Australians might also ask their Members
of Federal Parliament to confirm that the Medicare levy, through
which the buy-back scheme was financed, has been reduced again
now that the scheme has been discontinued. Perhaps one could
also ask whether any competent analysis exists that shows
whether criminals ever handed their banned firearms in to
be destroyed? In view of the bikie gang war in Western Australia,
would it perhaps be effective to ban Harley Davidson motorcycles
as well? It makes just as much sense as banning the firearms!
REPUBLICANS IN THE NEW ZEALAND CLOSET
The drive to undermine the Crown in Australia has an echo in New Zealand where the republican movement is much weaker, but nevertheless of considerable significance. New Zealand does not have the same written Constitution as does Australia, but as in Australia and Canada, the Crown is the central pillar of constitutional arrangements. Republicanism in New Zealand has largely been associated with the rat baggery of the political fringe, but again, it is typical of the social rot that it also enjoys "conservative" support.
Early this month former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, who led the "conservative" National Party, published an autobiographical book, A View from the Top, in which he revealed the strength of his republican ideals. Bolger, who must be described as a small "1" liberal, has always favoured republicanism, but had muted his views because of the considerable depth of resistance within the National Party.
If a comparison with Australian republican sentiments was required, Bolger's position could best be compared with that of former Prime Minister Paul Keating. Of Irish family background, Bolger casts his republican sentiments as a misplaced form of nationalism, as did Keating. It is not surprising that Mr. Bolger trod carefully with his republican views whilst in office.
The grassroots of the New Zealand National Party would encompass some of Her Majesty's most loyal subjects in any part of the realm. They would not be impressed with a Keating-type assault on the Crown of New Zealand, even if Mr. Bolger's language was less inflammatory than that of Mr. Keating.
POWER STRIKES - WILL QUEENSLAND BE NEXT?
Queensland is poised for the fourth major
power disruption this year. The Courier-Mail (October
16th) reported in its leading article:
This raises the question - why should a utility, which has a complete monopoly in its field, have to concentrate on marketing? We have seen through the years massive promotional budgets for such giants as Telstra and Australia Post. Now, as water and electricity bodies are corporatised prior to being privatised, similar advertising campaigns are appearing. Yet essential aspects of these services, i.e. maintenance, are pared to inadequacy so that profits are improved. This was the case in Auckland and Sydney Water, and apparently in Queensland.
It is only one step away from the claim that very hot days which result in power-strikes are "an Act of God" rather than human failure. Which reinforces yet again E.F. Schumacher's "Small Is Beautiful". The whole concept of centralising energy systems and other essential services into massive monopolies needs re-thinking before it's too late.
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