There is a disturbingly authoritarian trend in Australia, an insistence that out-of-touch politicians know best. Decisions are made reducing or even taking away the savings, businesses and property of law-abiding, tax-paying Australians without free and open discussion and without those targeted having any genuine chance to make their case and have it seriously considered. And without the people being able to review those decisions. Had this been done in relation to superannuation, it would have been realised that a solution to the alleged problem had been found years ago, and as polling confirmed, proceeding like thieves in the night would destroy the trust that people of all ages had that governments would never stoop to using superannuation as a money bank. Had this been done in relation to greyhound racing, errors in the McHugh report would have been exposed, reforms put in place and law-abiding peoples’ rights not be taken away. Had this been done in relation to stopping live cattle exports, subsidising foreign owned wind farms, imposing native vegetation or water controls, imposing mining onto prime agricultural land or separating water rights from the land, the lives of so many farmers would not have been ruined. Had this been done in relation to NSW Council amalgamations and the secret KPMG report released, the suspicion that this is being rammed through to advantage powerbrokers’ clients would be negated. Had the Treasurer raised the backpacker tax in a country pub, and after farmers stopped rolling on the floor with mirth, he would have learned the obvious – like the mining tax, it would produce next-to-nothing.
As they survey the destruction wrought by their double dissolution, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne should develop a vaudeville act about their ‘victory’. This could include a ditty about the $50 billion on obsolete submarines which won’t even be ready for the 2045 centenary of V-J Day but which didn’t save Mayo. This could include Mark Textor’s insult that conservatives have nowhere else to go. And just imagine the mirth when they mention that Turnbull was forced to copy Clive Palmer and stump up millions for election advertisements because Liberal Party members, fed up with what they saw as his treachery, had firmly closed their wallets. Recalling his 1999 republican ads which helped the No case, the audience would be rolling in the aisles when reminded that these ads told Australians not to vote for Pauline Hanson. Her vote shot up.
Because it came without any deaths or even violence and through the votes of the people, the achievement of our Federation is still unparalleled in world history. This was because colonial society was then exceptionally sophisticated politically, while Sir John Quick worked out how to take the process out of the hands of the warring politicians and give it to the people. His Corowa plan for an elected convention drafting a constitution which would then be voted on by the people worked superbly. Every school student (and every immigrant) should know how remarkable this was, as well as the fact that this is the only continent in the world not to have known slavery. But they don’t, no doubt because there isn’t enough time between learning about the 1788 ‘invasion’ to establish a ‘British gulag’ and that Marxist programme about gender fluidity, penis tucking and breast binding.
At the last Premiers’ Conference, known by the hideous acronym, COAG, Turnbull put off for years any chance of restoring the Federation as the Constitution intended. Although this would have ensured better governance and a significant increase in GDP, the commentariat played down this disaster by their protégé; pretending it was nothing compared with that harmless knighthood or Bronwyn’s helicopter flight. There’s still hope. One organisation still seriously campaigns for the restoration of our federation, the Samuel Griffith Society. With speakers including Tony Abbott and James Allan they’re holding their annual conference in Adelaide, 13-15 August. It promises to be one of their best.
The founders borrowed the Swiss referendum so that the people − and not just the politicians − would have to approve any constitutional change. South Australian Premier Kingston wanted to go further with citizen-initiated referendums allowed on any new legislation. Clearly the Constitution must mean what reasonable people intended it to mean at the time it was adopted. Otherwise we’d be signing a blank cheque to activist judges. The danger can be seen in the 1857 US Supreme Court Dred Scott decision which found the Constitution upheld slavery. It was a catalyst for the civil war. All this is relevant today. The much maligned Pauline Hanson points out that rather than a non-binding plebiscite on same-sex marriage, we should have a referendum. She is right. Until changed by a referendum, ‘marriage’ in the constitution obviously still means what it meant when the constitution was adopted. In the meantime, a campaign is being waged to stop the people having any say on this. Wasting money, they say. But they don’t worry about the fortune that is wasted on disability pensions for jihadists and the able- bodied, or to fund polygamous marriages. Nor the billions filched from the defence budget to buy votes, or the billions spent to stop the global warming that stopped years ago. Every year the Swiss vote in several referendums including those they initiate. The result is Swiss politicians are not some privileged class hypocritically endowed with enormous CO2 footprints, as well as vast staffs and sumptuous offices operating from some distant Versailles. Swiss politicians are mostly part-time, low paid and without separate gold-plated superannuation and health schemes, accountable to the people all of the time and not just in confected elections with candidates too often chosen not on merit but for their allegiance to some powerbroker. And although they’re not sitting on vast mineral wealth, Switzerland’s GDP per head is about 25 per cent higher than Australia’s. I’d say that’s because decision making is not the preserve of the elites but is in the hands of the rank and file.
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