For Like minded people who like to see-
In response to queries from fellow Agmates, following is a paper I wrote a while ago on CIR which has been updated. It is a bit long for which I apologise but this is not a subject which can be condensed into a few sentences. All constructive comments welcomed.
The word "democracy" usually pops up in any half-serious conversation about political issues and few politicians make a public pronouncement without using the word at least once. But what does it really mean?
Certainly, when you compare Australia's system of government with many others, this is practically Utopia. However, the times are a'changing and there are many aspects of life now which deserve serious contemplation before we wake up one morning and find that, through apathy and ignorance, we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated into serfdom without realising it.
Call me idealistic if you wish but my idea of democracy is that the people of Australia should have the right to throw out any politician who is not performing. After all, pollies are paid by us, the taxpayers, so shouldn't we have the right to remove them if they are not doing what they are elected to do? What was that old saying about "He who pays the piper, calls the tune"?
In the late nineties the One Nation Party tried to promote the concept of Citizens' Initiated Referenda (CIR) which is merely another way of saying "People Power". Under such a system, the people have a direct voice in the making of the laws under which they must all live. In addition, any public official, elected or unelected, who does not perform to the expected standards can be removed - and the government is compelled to carry out their wishes. Just imagine if the people of Australia had such power! The NSW State Government would have been tossed out long ago and the Federal Government would be held to account for all its pre-election promises, most of which so far have turned out to be empty symbolism. An important side benefit of CIR, of course, is that the standard of government and the calibre of individuals generally is raised as each is very much aware that their performance is being monitored by the people. ONP, of course, was derided and ridiculed for even suggesting such a notion.
But long before One Nation was conceived, there were many people in Australia who tried to promote the idea of CIR. In Queensland in 1914-19 CIR came close to being adopted but was blocked in the upper house; "Direct democracy" was in fact part of the ALP party platform up to 1963 when Don Dunstan removed it; and in 1988 the then Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith, was keenly interested and tried to arrange a public seminar in 1999 but, disappointingly, nothing came of it.
However, on the other side of the world, the Swiss people had embraced CIR as long ago as 1874, although some of the Cantons introduced it even earlier. Switzerland is now regularly described as being possibly the most peaceful and prosperous country on earth. In addition, I understand that twenty-four states of the USA have a variation of it, Canada has CIR at the local government level, plus Italy, Denmark and Austria. Here in Australia, the compulsory and undemocratic two-party preferred system ensures that we have to distribute our preferences to all those whom we might not want. And when we go to the polls we only know as much about the major parties' intentions for the ensuing years as they are willing to tell us. Often that means we are in fact voting blind - hoping that whoever wins will do the right thing by the country but knowing at the same time that, in the long run, the elected government will do whatever it wants and there is nothing we can do about it. I believe that this partly why apathy continues to be alive and well at election time.
If, however, all politicians knew that they would be kept fully accountable and responsible for their actions, how different life would be. Critics say that it would be prohibitively expensive to introduce CIR into Australia but these days this is not a valid argument. Not only can referenda be held in conjunction with general elections at minimal extra cost but present-day computer technology would greatly facilitate the whole process. In any case, the cost of CIR hasn't ruined Switzerland where everything has to be printed in three languages.
Let us not forget that our present cumbersome system of electioneering in Australia is wide open to fraud and manipulation and is already extraordinarily expensive with democracy itself the biggest casualty, yet the government always manages to find the money to fund schemes of lesser importance or to send overseas as foreign aid.
It is not generally known but our own Federal Constitution, which is said to be one of the most democratic in the world, was originally adopted by referendum whereas the constitutions of most other countries were imposed on the people without a vote. And s.128, which deals with the method of its alteration, was included as a direct copy of the Swiss system. I have always found it ironic that our nation's founding fathers so wholeheartedly embraced democracy and yet here we are in the 21st century with the power of the people so weakened by successive governments that we are denied the opportunity to voice our wishes by means of referendum on anything of any importance, implying therefore that we are not to be trusted.
No country which has introduced CIR has ever voted to abolish it. At the very least we should investigate their experiences and learn from them. Until we do, the use of the word
"democracy" has a rather hollow ring to it.
Beverley, My wife worked for an organisation, based in North Sydney around the mid nineties called Centre 2000, this was a main advocator for CIR. The late Ben Lexon was one of its sponsors. I am sure that a similar organisation if not active, may exist today.
I am still not 100% convinced that the coalition will repeal the carbon tax, I feel that we may be appeased with all sorts of sweetners to keep the money rolling in. I am from UK many moons ago and voting is not compulsory, it should be that way here, ie true democracy and if you dont like what you get its tough if you cannot be bothered to vote. People have a choice.
Beverley Prescott said:
Janet - from another discussion - remembered that we had had a discussion on CIR some time back and we found it to put it forward for comment again.
Sorry to confuse the issue.
I feel thaT if mandatory voting was removed,the greens would dominate the government regularly. Remember Getup and the other groups like them,if we didn't vote they'd have a field day. I feel that every green group would dominate the polls in that enviroment.
I feel given the current situation,that we would not have trouble getting the support of Australians to change the Constitution in this manner,if we could get it through parliament as this is where all the previous attempts to change it have been defeated(to my knowledge).
Peter Heuscher said:
With all due respect - I don't care who is in goverment if I can control it (with the instruments of "direct democracy").And may be it is difficult to change the Constitution - but nevertheless - do we have a chance
if we don't do it ?
alan mikkelsen said:
Peter and Michel, international analyses have always shown that Compulsory Voting, a la in Oz, always favours the Left of politics. As does Preferential Voting. Crikey!! Could that be why Labor and the Greens, plus some Independents, just love our system? Two - time winners??
I certainly don't oppose the democratic principles as have now been debated here for well over a year, with some names dropping out and nw ones coming in, but it is a big ask to change the Constitution. Getting a large political concensus is essential, and obviously very, very complex.
Cheers bro' al