Democracy needs reform - we are the unsatisfied lead by the unqualified

Malcolm Fraser: “There aren’t enough people who have done something before they got into Parliament” (ABC Radio, 9 April 2011)

The above is a comment made by former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser on ABC radio about the important of having quality people in a political system. One need just to browse through the events that have taken place in Australia politics (Federal and States) over the last few months will be able to understand why Australians are so frustrated with the lack of deep thinkers and serious policy makers in our political establishment.

Quality of leaders is not a problem in good time

In normal time when the world economy is booming, despite wide spread incompetency amongst the political leaderships, Australia is blessed by its natural resources and are able to flow along with the world trend of economic prosperity. Therefore, the issue of political incompetency within our current system of government has not become an alarming issue as it has yet to affect the livelihood of the average people on the streets. For example, Australia can simply ride on the wave of China boom such as:

1) ‘China the focus of our fortunes’ (WA Today, 27 Dec 2010)

2) ‘Good year ahead for investors, depending on China’ (The Australian, 29 Dec 2010)

The world has become so inter-connected that some problems are beyond our control

However, when the world economy has become so inter-connected that an event taken place in one part of the world could negatively impacts upon the rest of the world such as the global financial crisis ignited by the United State in 2008, and the subsequence global inflation  due partly to the then Bush’s and now Obama’s administration so-called ‘Quantitative Easing Monetary Policy’ (plainly speaking, it is a money printing policy) that flooded the world with hot money and a depreciating US dollar. (Money Market, 25 Oct 2010 - ‘Is the US. Federal Reserve Setting the Stage for Hyperinflation?’)

There are of course many other international factors that resulted in inflation beyond our control such as:

1) The US administration irresponsible policy in the sudden converting of 35 per cent of US corn into biofuel without taking into consideration the immediate impact to the rest of the world due to:

a) US exports account for about 60 per cent of the world's corn supply, hence a sudden shortage in supply of 35% of corn from US into the market  causing the price to go up.

b) Many livestock farmers are using corn to feed their livestock. Hence, inflation on meat and meat related products as well.

As a result, the Independent UK (23 march 2011) reported a complaint by Nestle boss with a heading: ‘Biofuel policy is causing starvation, says Nestlé boss’.

2)  The recent mass protests across the Middle East and North Africa have also got to do with inflation in food price and daily necessity. The political turmoil in the oil rich regions fuel inflation across the world in another front with a surge in oil price, and hence affecting the cost of transport, electricity and everything else due to such cost increment.

3) There are of course other factors that cause inflation such as the appreciation of the Chinese Currency and labour cost. Corporate greed is also a key reason, etc.

While the Treasurer claims credit on an economic figure, can you find any politician comment on the following headings?

Meantime, when our politician, Treasurer Wayne Swan was fast to claim credit over the latest unemployment figure (Herald Sun, 10 April 2011 - ‘Australia's jobless rate envy of world, Treasurer Wayne Swan says’), no politician (government, opposition, minor parties and independents) seem to comment on any of the following set of figures over the last few months:

1) ‘One in five Australians struggling with debt repayments’ (Herald Sun, 7 April 2011)

2) ‘Shock rise in mortgage default cases’ (News Limited, 28 March 2011)

3) ‘Australians raid superannuation to avoid home loss – it is as bad as it gets’ (The Australian, 9 April 2011)

4) ‘Private rental too much for many families’ (The Age, 29 March 2011)

5) ‘Going up and up - living costs outstrip the CPI, latest figures reveal’ (Daily Telegraph, 15 Feb 2011)

6) ‘Rise in middle-class bankrupts’ (WA Today, 24 May 2010)

7) ‘Health insurance hike double inflation rate’ (News Limited, 25 Feb 2011)

8) ‘Construction sector shrinks again as federal stimulus winds up’ (Construction News, 7 Dec 2010)

9) ‘Australians crippled by tax burden’ (News Limited, 7 Mar 2011) with the following information issues by the tax office: “Documents show 4.3 million individual taxpayers have "not yet lodged" a tax return for 2008-09 - a staggering 26 per cent increase on 3.4 million in the previous year,” “about 700,000 taxpayers entered into special repayment plans with the Tax Office in 2009-10 - an increase of 32 per in four years.”

The reality on the ground is, instead of having 105,000 homeless across the country during the 2006 ABS counting, the latest figure reported 4 years later by the ABC (30 April 2010) has become ‘1 in 100 homeless in past year’. That is, the number of homeless in Australia has being more than doubled within 3 years since the last count in 2006. The problem is so serious that, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “as many as 80 per cent of new applications for temporary housing by couples with children cannot be met on a daily basis.” The report also indicated that “of the total new requests for housing, 62 per cent of people were turned away, a rate stable with previous years”. (Brisbane Times, 22 July 2010 - ‘Homeless families are being turned away’)

Any solutions and policies announcement by our political ‘Elites’?

The total silence over the above news would appear to us that, none of our politicians either have a solution or have any understanding of the actual causes to the problems. Otherwise, base on our political culture, somebody would have jumped in front of the media to give themselves some free publicity.

In a time of massive poverty and suffering, this is what our politicians do:

1)  One of our independent MP who hold the balance of power in the minority government - Andrew Wilkie threaten to bring down the Gillard’s government over pokie game reform. (Herald Sun, 30 March 2011 - ‘Wilkie threatens PM over pokie reform’). Andrew has won a seat in Tasmania with a tiny margin by campaigning against pokie game. It would appeal to us that, the issue of pokie reform seems to have taken up most, if not all of his time since he got into the federal parliament 8 months ago.

2) Our former Prime Minister and now Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd appear to be still bitter with his dumping by his comrades months before the last election and has been acting strangely as a lone ranger against his own party with virtually no or little contact with the Prime Minister Julie Gillard and other cabinet ministers.

Immediately after his dumping as Prime Minister, it has been making used of his previous status and “upsetting Labor insiders by holding high-level talks in the US (and the UN) even though he is now just a backbencher” (News Limited, 16 July 2010 - ‘Kevin Rudd's one-man show haunts Julia Gillard’). He then went further to leak information about his secret deal with the Gillard government the night before his dumping to ensure that, he will be given a senior position in the new Labor cabinet if Labor win the upcoming election. ( WA Today, 16 July 2010- ‘Rudd's political ghost haunts Gillard’). [Note: there are only 4 people in the secret meeting, despite Kevin Rudd never admit that he is the one who leaked the secret deal, virtually almost everybody facing the media pointing the finger at him].

When in the position of Foreign Minister in the newly elected Gillard’s government, he use the tax payer money to jet around 20 countries in just 100 days apparently trying to get himself a high level United Nation position. This has some Labor MPs wondering: "Just what the hell is Kevin up to?"(The Daily Telegraph, 23 Dec 2010 - ‘Kevin Rudd's eye on UN hot seat’) [Note: this is published under opinion].

While eyeing United Nation job, Kevin Rudd again trying to position himself as the next Prime Minister by continue to disclose secret cabinet meeting to explain to the Australian public his decision to dump certain policy prior to the election was a result of the pressure from member of his own Cabinet. (News Limited, 6 April 2011 - ‘I'm not shutting up about my time as Prime Minister, says Kevin Rudd’).

It was then reported that, Kevin Rudd has “quietly launched himself on a one-man campaign trail, visiting electorates across the nation,” and “introducing himself to strangers, "Hi mate, Kevin. What's your name ?" (News Limited, 10 April 2011 - ‘Hi, I'm Kevin Rudd and I'm here to help’)

Apparently, over the last few months, as a cabinet minister under the Australian Tax Payer’s payroll, Kevin Rudd love only himself and working only for himself with no or little communication with the Prime Minister.

3) In a hung parliament with few seats short, the Gillard’s government cannot survive with any single member of her coalition partner or member of her own party swinging their support against her. Therefore, her government can do nothing about the behaviour of her foreign minister beside creating her own “malicious leaks designed to discredit the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.” (The Australian, 15 Feb 2011 - ‘Kevin Rudd backlash rattles cabinet’)

In order to maintain her grip on power, Prime Minister Gillard was reportedly offering the Independent MP’s Andrew Wilkie “more one-on-one prime ministerial contact than is enjoyed by most ministers and mandarins”. (WA Today, 27 Nov 2010 -  ‘Gillard's grip on power’).

The Gillard’s government is busily dealing with the Greens as well on policy direction to stay in power as she broke her own election promise on the issue of Carbon Tax (Herald Sun, 25 March 2011 - ‘Julia Gillard's carbon policy a desperate measure’). When the public form a perception that it is the Greens who formulated Labor policy, Julie Gillard again repositioning herself by publicly claiming that her coalition partners “Greens don't share Australian values” (Adelaide Now, 1 April 2011) and then criticised the Greens as “Extremists” (Herald Sun, 7 April 2011).

Within the last few months since Labor came into power, there are more news of politicking within the party; with their coalition partners; and with the opposition party than any actual policy initiative being announced so far.

4) The opposition is not doing any better, beside embroiling themselves  in a number of poll driven racial issues such as the asylum seekers issue with a decades old slogan “Stop the boats”, and migrants bashing such as ‘Morrison sees votes in anti-Muslim strategy’ (Brisbane Times, 17 Feb 2011). There is no policy to assist Australians who are struggling with the cost of living. On the contrary, there are a number of policies to chop off the welfare assistance to the most disadvantage people in the society. For examples,

    a)  ‘Libs to cut incentives for poorer university students’ (The Australian, 19 Aug 2010)

    b)  ‘Tony Abbott calls for welfare crackdown’ (The Telegraph, 31 march 2011)

5) Meanwhile, in NSW state politics, Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell managed to win a landslide victory without having to produce any detail policies (Inside, 18 March 2011).

6) While in Queensland, after years of political infighting with consistently poor poll rating, the LNP decided to change their leader again. This time, they invited an outsider (person without a seat in the State Parliament) - Lord Mayor of Brisbane City Council Campbell Newman as their leader for the position of Premier in the coming election.

This is because during the recent flood in Brisbane, Campbell Newman as Mayor of the city has exposed himself on the nation TV screen every day for weeks and is now a familiar household name. This prompt former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to “described the circumstances of Campbell Newman's foray into state politics as 'weird'“ (Courier mail, 23 March 2011).

Mr. Newman while still officially the Mayor of Brisbane, and as somebody who have just entered state politic in a sudden and “weird” circumstance decided to give a fresh start to the LNP by simply binning all existing policies formulated by his predecessors. (Brisbane Times, 29 March 2011 - ‘All current LNP policies 'null and void': Newman declares new beginning’). Apparently, he has binned those policies without spending any time to analyse and understand issues and problems relating to the State. 

The only thing that interest our politicians

As demonstrated from the above 6 examples, the only thing that interest our politicians is to stay in power. Election promise can be brushed aside; all existing policies can be binned overnight by a new leader who have the charm but no experience in state politics; politicians embroiled themselves in race base politics because they believe it is a vote winner;  cabinet minister can use tax payer money to run his personal agenda without having to consult the Prime Minister. Independent MP winning a seat with just a tiny margin who hold the balance of power in a minority government has being taken up more prime ministerial time than ministers over  a single issue “pokie reform”.

Individualism seems to rule the day. Who is going to serve the interest of the people and the nation?

Meanwhile, while a record number of Australians are suffering from poverty and homelessness, our Member of Parliaments are busily increasing their personal wealth by being the top lodgers of dodgy tax claims on the one hand (News Limited, 17 March 2011 - ‘Australian MPs top lodgers of dodgy tax claims, ATO investigation reveals’), and boosted their own pay rise by the thousands of dollars just few month ago on the other hand. (Adelaide Now, 18 Nov 2010)

Democracy Needs Reform

The world is getting more and more complex in the 21st century. Can any Tom, Dick and Harry on the street be able to understand the complexity of the modern age. Will they have the knowledge, expertise, skills and ethical values to serve the very people that voted them into the Parliament? How long can we afford to have second, third or ninth rated people in the Parliament doing nothing right for us? 

At the time of economic uncertainty, rising international conflict and global inflation with increasing pressure on the cost of living, voters become so irrational that they simply wanted a quick fix on every problem they faced. The popularity of a government is on a roller coaster. The life span of a government may become shorter and shorter. As a result, opponent party is able to win election in landslide without having to put forward any detail policy.

The charm of politicians has become more important than substance. Will such trend become a political circle that fewer and fewer deep thinker be able to make their way into Parliament?

Democracy is great! But should we begin to ask ourselves the following questions:

Is democracy in the current form the best for the survival of mankind?

Is there room for improvement?

What is the purpose of democracy if people we voted not serving the interest of the very people that voted them?

How long can we afford to have politicians not doing anything right for us?

Will current form of western democracy eventually resulted in mass poverty and humanitarian disaster?

At a time of economic uncertainty, in the US, people also increasingly conscious about the quality of their politicians. The Washington Post recently carry a report ‘2012 Republican presidential candidates all have flaws’ (30 Jan 2011). A survey by NBC News/Wall Street Journal (March 2010) indicated that the Congress enjoy only 17% of approval rating from the American public.

In the UK, the 2010 election also resulted in a hung parliament, with all 3 major parties “failed to disclose to the voters the scale of tax rises and public sector cuts required to tackle the financial crisis”. The outcome of the election has been label as “No Choice Democracy”.

China has been very much misunderstood by the Western World due to the disinformation of the mainstream Western Media. I will try to find time to write an article on democracy with China characteristic some time in the future.

In the meantime, this article in the Guardian (19 January 2011) under the heading ‘China's tentative steps towards democracy’ may interest you. The article ended with quoting a statement made by Daniel Bell, a Canadian-born professor of political theory at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who says China may be groping toward "a political model that works better than western-style democracy".

For the sake of humanity and the welfare of the Western Public, should we forgo our cold war mentality against China and begin to look into the positive aspect of the Chinese Communist Party and their progressive political ideology and methodology in an objective manner?


Written on 12 April 2011