(Cairns... Far North Queensland)
THE OBVIOUS CHOICE!
are disillusioned with poor governance and badly behaved politicians .
In his Mackay Report, July 2001, social researcher Hugh Mackay states:
1999 Republic referendum, probably the most devastating criticism of the
republican model on offer was that this was "a politician’s
republic". Even the "Yes" proponents used the public’s disdain
for politicians by arguing that a president should not be elected because that
would produce a politician. Both sides, in effect, associated politicians with
self-serving sleaziness and corruption.
dispassionate observer of the Australian political system today could hardly be
blamed for seeing it as essentially a struggle by two mafia-like groups to
control the national treasury to distribute funds for themselves, their
supporters, special interest groups who fund them and to buy votes for the next
In 1992 former secretary to the office of Governor-General, Sir David Smith, wrote:
all this is the fact that while some 29 years ago about five per cent of voters
did not vote for the political establishment, today that figure is around 35 per
cent where the choice is available.
appears to be three groups of reasons why we have reached this level of
alienation and dissatisfaction with politicians and the political system.
underlying structural faults of the political system that exacerbates and
facilitates 1) and 2) above. Political scandals and resignations of MPs seem to
occur at increasing frequencies at both Federal and State levels of government.
infighting, electoral rorts, ever-increasing junketing, pre-selection wars,
branch stacking, jobs for the boys and girls, parliamentary abuse and bad
behaviour, endless pork-barrelling, blatant partisan behaviour and disregard for
the truth, all destroy public confidence.
spectacle of party leaders attempting to project images of integrity while
twisting and diving for years on such issues as parliamentary pensions or
campaign donations continually reinforces the self-serving and hypocritical
nature of the system – as does the continuing trend towards funding political
parties out of the public purse. Add to this the increasing nepotism and
development of a political class restricting entry to parliament. In the case of
the Labor Party the union movement from its shrinking base seems often to be
largely a vehicle to achieve parliamentary sinecures and pensions.
infighting and endlessly attempting to shift blame adds to disillusionment and
the public perception that virtually no issue can be considered except in terms
of partisan or parochial interests.
these controversies when exposed are rarely faced honestly. Instead they are
obfuscated, referred to committees or inquiries or buried in any possible way.
In fact, the more inquiries, Royal Commissions, Codes of Ethics, appointment of
commissioners of all types to oversee the system that are initiated, the worse
the system seems to become, not to mention the haemorrhaging of public funds to
pay for all this mostly ineffectual superstructure.
second group of reasons for the collapse of public faith in government is the
"future shock" of rapid globalisation and the apparent reversion to
laissez-faire 19th century capitalism. National governments, let alone the
public, seem relatively powerless faced with the trends to asset selling and
privatisation, whatever the merits. Not only do governments seem unable to solve
public problems, but increasingly, they are painted as ‘the enemy’.
avoidance has almost become a badge of honour; the rich appear to be getting
richer; egalitarianism is dead; the quality of health and education now depends
on personal wealth; co-operative and mutual public services are disbanded at an
increasing rate. There seems to be few common values and the law-of-the-jungle
attitude seems prevalent.
the truth of these public perceptions, none of these problems is unique to
Australia and public despair seems common in governments around the world.
human failings and the corruption of special interests will always be present,
nevertheless many failings are systemic. Democracy is a relatively new system in
the world’s history. In a recent international study into the level of
democracy of the 21 industrialised countries, Australia ranks almost at the
bottom based on our defective voting systems and continual minority governments.
Single-member electorates and preferential voting eliminate minority
representation but entrench minority government and distort the will of the
electoral systems and adversary politics result in truth being irrelevant.
Oppositions have little role in government except to disrupt and negatively
oppose. Failure to confront the corrosive effects of huge private political
donations combined with lack of openness and accountability encourages
corruption, both direct and moral. The failure to have proper separation of
powers, and the domination of legislatures by executive government, are major
causes of scandals and breakdowns in democracy.
winner-take-all, two-party system that has caused a political convergence of
policies (the Tweedledee and Tweedledum syndrome)
and a mutual interest in preserving a self-serving duopoly often leaves the
public powerless and frustrated.
ever ‘representative government’ restricts public political participation to
a manipulated vote every three of four years and remains largely
self-regulating, public disillusionment and frustration with government will
Ted Mack - 15 July 2001
Ted Mack was Independent Member for North Sydney from 1990 to 1996, an Independent MLA from 1981- 1988, and Mayor of North Sydney from 1974-1980.
PROFILE: TED MACK
Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870