Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point

Today’s Guest Poster is Paul G. Dellit, from The Australian Independent Media Network. It is a good summary much of what many us have been thinking and saying for a long time.

(Image Credit: Otiose94)

Well, we may well have reached the tipping point between genuine democracy in Australia and the beginnings of creeping fascism. You may think this to be one of those ‘shock-horror’ attention-grabbing opening sentences. It is. And I also believe it to be an unalloyed statement of the danger we now face.

History is littered with hindsight surprise that those with power and those who might have opposed those with power didn’t take action to avoid an obviously looming disaster. Of course, the ‘loomingness’ of disasters is often not appreciated by its contemporaries. It would be naïve to expect otherwise. Couldn’t they see that the South Sea Bubble would burst? Couldn’t they see that a grossly overheated investment market populated with stocks that were either massively overvalued or worthless would result in ever-widening ripples of market failures and a worldwide Great Depression. Couldn’t they see you don’t fix Depressions by reducing the size of economies. Obviously they couldn’t see any of those things. And with the dawning optimism of a new century, they couldn’t even remember them, or if they could, they were playing that ‘main chance’ game of ‘I’ll make what I can make out of this and bugger all of the rest of them who lose the lot’.

Prime Minister Abbott and his acolytes, Ministers Dutton and Morrison, propose the passing of a law that would create a precedent for the end of the rule of law in this country. It would invest a Minister with the powers of policeman, judge and jury to act upon an untested suspicion of guilt to deprive an Australian of his/her citizenship. Following current LNP practice, the reasons for stripping someone of their citizenship would be deemed secret for security reasons. So this Ministerial power would be exercised covertly and absolutely beyond judicial or other form of independent review. The Minister would be required to form his suspicions on the basis of the intelligence provided to him. The name Dr. Haneef immediately springs to mind. But even if our security organisations and the foreign security organisations with whom they trade information were as infallible as our PM believes the Pope to be, and even if they had no self-interested agendas, the Minister invested with this power could exercise it to suit his own ends – say, just before an election – to manufacture a terrorist scare and then appear to be the ‘man of the hour’ who restores our peace of mind (coincidentally winning the votes of a few more undecided Alan Jones listeners to save his marginal seat).

The proponents of changing Australia from a common law country, based upon the separation of powers, to rule by ministerial fiat, as their proposal would enable through the precedent it would establish, argue that they are honourable men who would exercise their new powers dispassionately, wisely, and in the public interest. Of course, this is irrelevant. Laws are not made to fit the character of current holders of high office. They are intended to safeguard against, as far as possible, abuse by those who are partisan, stupid, and prone to act in their own self-interest.

The proposed new law deliberately excludes those safeguards.

Consequently, we need some way of ensuring that the current and all subsequent Ministers, thus empowered, will ensure the intelligence they receive is impeccable, and will interpret that intelligence dispassionately, wisely, and in the public interest.

So let’s run an eye over the proponents of the new law, just for starters.

Malcolm Fraser considered Tony Abbott to be perhaps the most dangerous politician in Australian history. You may have thought that a little hyperbolic. I did. There can be little doubt that our current Prime Minister is the least equipped for high office since Sir William McMahon. And the record also shows that Prime Minister Abbott was able to pass through one of Australia’s finest schools and one of England’s finest universities untouched by exposure to academic research methods, the principles of logic and dispassionate evaluation, the values-free acquisition of knowledge, and even by the evidence that compassion and empathy are fundamental to social cohesion. It is apparent that his academic success is based upon often uncomprehended rote learning, the way he learned and then recited his Catechism as a small child. These are flaws in the makeup of the man that speak to his lack of intelligence and general incompetence.

But as we began to see in the run up to the most recent election, and as more information about Tony Abbott’s past was revealed, we began to understand that Malcolm Fraser’s assessment of him was, if anything, an understatement. We began to see his pathological need to win, we read of his violence against a woman when he lost, we observed his relentless, dishonest, misogynistic attacks upon Julia Gillard as part of his strategy to win office, we heard the litany of lies he told to win office, and the lies he has told about lying and about anything else to suit his purpose, after he had won office.

How could we ever contemplate granting power without safeguards to a person with such a pathological need to win, to get his own way, and to retain power regardless of the consequences for anyone else? Can we imagine Peter Dutton having the stomach to independently exercise his discretion against the wishes of Tony Abbott? It wouldn’t matter if he did. Tony Abbott has the Captain’s right to sack him and bestow that office upon himself if he needed to to get his own way. And can we imagine Scott Morrison doing anything that would compromise his leadership ambitions? Smug self-satisfaction was his only reaction to the human tragedy unfolding daily as the result of the exercise of his Ministerial discretion?

It was some small relief to know that the more intelligent members of Cabinet objected to the extreme Abbott proposal that second generation Australians could be stripped of their citizenship based on nothing more than a Minister’s suspicion, as we have said, covertly exercised and beyond judicial or other independent review.

But now, two thirds of the LNP Back Bench have signed a letter in support of the proposed Abbott law. They may be distinguished as a group for being considered not good enough to serve on the most incompetent Front Bench since Federation, but they may just give Tony the support he needs to make another ‘Captain’s Call’.

If Prime Minister Abbott does cross this Rubicon, so will Australia and God help Australian democracy when Ministers of any stripe use the precedent set by this law to expand its operation into other aspects of our lives to suit their own personal ends.

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600 thoughts on “Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point

  1. Very true, Gravel. The things I’d missed most were this site, Andrew Elder, and Loon Pond. Dorothy Parker has been unwell so that Loon Pond couldn’t have given me much. Fortunately she is now back and in great form. Andrew’s postings are lees frequent enough for me to catch up fairly quickly. But The Pub is essential.

    I had a big backlog of Twitter and Facebook stuff, but that is less important than the blogs to me.

    I will post a little from abroad, probably on how I view things there. I am under strict instructions not to get too political in the US. Sim’s son-in-law and his family are diehard Republicans, something I find a little puzzling the way they’ve been in the past three decades. Lovely people in general of Italian-American stock. I’ll be as civil as I can manage.

  2. gorgeousdunny

    I just couldn’t imagine you being uncivil. Looking forward to your reports, especially how they view Australia’s actions in the last almost two years.

  3. Passing thought for the moment …

    * Mr Abbot said “Anyone who lifts a gun or a knife to an Australian because of who we are has forfeited any right to be considered one of us – that is the fundamental principle.”

    * Australia already has laws about lifting weaponry against Australians, particularly in Australia.

    * Mr Abbot is (apparently) still lodging with the AFP cadets in Canberra rather than in the salubrious and luxurious establishment hired to substitute for The Lodge.

    * What has Mr Abbot learnt about the AFP that he would not have learned if he had not been so humble as to live such a monkish lifestyle as he leads this (once) great nation of ours?

    I propose that we change Mr Abbot’s soubriquet to “the barber’s cat”, as he is surely as full of wind and water like the aforementioned beast (though that’s probably insulting all barber’s cats).

  4. GD
    It’s good to have you back in action. Looking forward to your overseas perspective.

  5. As a response to Brandis taking over arts funding some clever people launched The George Brandis Live Art Experience on Facebook. It has been very successful, now they have taken to Twitter as well. Brandis’ ugly mug is now appearing in all forms of the arts with occasional cameo appearances by The Idiot and other well-known fools.

    Here are some samples.

    George as a gargoyle, Piazza del Pantheon, Rome). Love the dribbling!

    Australian Gothic

    Napoleon Brandisparte

    More here –
    https://twitter.com/ArtOfBrandis

  6. Just a question about paranoia, and how it affects political action.

    I spoke to a friend last week who is on a disability pension. They would love to get involved with political action of some kind, and would occasionally like to write “rude words in Anglo-Saxon” to various politicians.

    But they don’t, because they are convinced that by doing so they would loose their pension.

    Occasionally, given the demonisation of those on pensions and benefits I find myself agreeing with that point of view, especially whilst between contracts and having to attend “job skilling” computer classes at which I have to help the ‘teacher’!

    So, what is the truth? I very much doubt I can find out if anyone has been tossed off the DSP or aged pension for taking political action, but how to confirm that, or convince my friend that the populace being fearful is what these kleptomaniacs of tranquillity want?

    It makes me wonder if one of the reasons that some people are poor is because they are afraid to challenge those ‘set in authority’, as well as being too beaten down and tired of it all.

  7. curioz
    I used to be on DSP, I know/knew many people on it who are, or have been,very politically active , on both sides of politics. No-one has ever been been tossed off for taking political action. There would be some very interesting discrimination legal actions if that ever should happen.

    I don’t know how these ideas take root, and I’m always surprised by the rubbish people believe, usually without question. I was once told by someone with an adult disabled son that the family had to make sure all his DSP was spent, because if it wasn’t ‘they’ would take back whatever remained at the end of the fortnight. Absolute garbage, Centrelink doesn’t have access to bank accounts and can’t make withdrawals from an individual’s account, but this myth was believed by several families I had dealings with at the time. I worked out where this myth came from – these young adults were receiving NSW government funding at disability services, if all their package money was not spent by the service by the end of the year it had to be given back. But this was funding given to a service on the client’s behalf, not DSP money. I suppose the usual Chinese whispers thing caused someone to get the wrong end of the stick and then pass on misinformation.

    Tell your friend to go for it, but to avoid the Anglo-Saxon words. You get much further and make much more impact by being polite. If he/she wants to have a swear at politicians then it’s best to use a fake name or remain anonymous.

  8. The adults in charge are doing such a wonderful job – of destroying the economy.

    Australia’s trade deficit of $3.9b its worst on record

    Australia has posted its worst monthly trade deficit on record, with imports exceeding exports by nearly $3.9 billion.

    Bureau of Statistics data show the deficit of $3,888 million in April just edged the previous record of $3,881 million set in February 2008 as commodity prices slumped during the peak of the global financial crisis.

    The data shocked economists, who had been expecting a poor result but nowhere near as bad as the actual figure.

    The typical forecast in a Reuters survey was for a deficit of $2.25 billion, which would have already been almost twice the previous month’s trade shortfall.

    The actual result is more than treble March’s downwardly revised $1,231 million seasonally adjusted deficit

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-04/trade-deficit-more-than-trebles/6521468

    A couple of tweets –

    Hockey says economy stengthining? Huh? Annual GDP growth Mar 2014 2.9% Jun 2014 2.8% Sep 2014 2.7% Dec 2014 2.4% Mar 2015 2.3% #qt— Stephen Koukoulas (@TheKouk) June 4, 2015

    @JoeHockey pic.twitter.com/1O20giPC1e— Bill Shaw (@BillBillshaw) June 4, 2015

  9. Abbott’s strategy of the “terror” threat is designed to save his own political skin. It was the only political card he had left.
    It is to take the spotlight off the budget and economy and also to try to boost his flagging poll ratings.
    The problem for the libs as a govt is that while it may help TA’s poll ratings in the short term and fend off a challenge, in 2016 electoral terms he’s played his only card way too early.
    Like most things, voters will gradually switch off and not hear any “terror” messages closer to the election. When over exposed to something all of us tend to become immune to it.

  10. abbott’s problem is that Bill Shorten won’t bite at the bait he keeps dangling in front of his nose. I can’t help thinking that abbott did the leaking of the Cabinet National Security discussions and he did so because he’s desperately trying to get Bill Shorten to oppose it so that his next slogan that Labor is soft on National Security will give him some brownie points.

    I think Labor has twigged to this strategy which is why he asked abbott in QT why he is undermining the National Security bi-partisanship.

  11. To think that Julia Gillard had to deal with such a devious man for so long. I believe Shorten hasn’t quite shown his true colours yet. The time will come, I hope. He might be just as cunning as Abbott without the evil.

  12. This is appalling. What on earth is wrong with us, that we sit by and do nothing while a child suffers. This poor kid has been suffering with a broken arm for a month now, that’s right, a whole month, with nothing done apart from some Xrays, while bucks are passed back and forth and our politicians try to find a way to treat him anywhere but on the Australian mainland.

    Boy may be sent from Nauru to India
    http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/the-project/top-stories-june-2015/boy-may-be-sent-from-nauru-to-india

    Background
    https://newmatilda.com//2015/06/03/private-health-provider-brushed-concerns-about-11-year-old-refugee-nauru

  13. I remember when my boy was 11. He always received good care from the medical profession in Australia. Only because he wasn’t a refugee in the Abbott govt.

  14. Another triumph for the self-declared Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs –

    PM unaware vital Aboriginal legal service is about to lose Commonwealth funding

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was unaware the service was about to lose its funding.

    “You are putting a matter of detail to me that I haven’t been briefed on but we are very determined to ensure that we fund the services we need, provided they’re working well,” he told NITV News at a press conference in the Canberra suburb of Holt on Thursday.

    “Just because a service has previously been funded doesn’t guarantee it will always be funded. It’s got to be working well and it’s got to be supplying a contemporary need,” he told the media.

    The Aboriginal Legal Service said the need for continued funding for the CNS was urgent

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/04/pm-unaware-vital-aboriginal-legal-service-about-lose-commonwealth-funding

  15. Leone,

    I can imagine only too well the self-righteous tone in which the prime sinister said, “Just because . . .”

  16. Hello CK
    I have watched the first three episodes of the Fawlty Towers series with John Cleese providing the commentary. He did this quite recently by the sound of it. It has been very funny and interesting as he tells us where he got the characters and plots from and shows us where they could have done better.

  17. BK

    Last night I watched Bernard Cribbins giving Basil a bit of a going over in the Hotel Inspectors, I find it hard to see how it could be improved.

    Tonight I’m watching Gourmet Night and you know how funny the beating up the car scene is.

    I must have look and see if I can find the commentary online and see what JC and CB (if it includes her input) and see what they have to say.

  18. BTW

    My wife had a Mrs Richards moment the other day when she was looking for her reading glasses, of course they were perched on top of her head.

  19. CK
    I’m just right now watching the en of the Bernard Crimmins one. Cleese could not speak highly enough of him.

  20. Our idiot government, or its contractors, are pulling NEW COPPER on Bribie Is, Qld! New FUCKING copper! WHAT is the fucking POINT of that?

    Party politics, of course. If they started pulling fibre where ever the copper is inadequate there won’t be much copper left. But it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth, it is still a waste of (tax payers) money and it still can’t boost our economy, it IS still outdated and will still start deteriorating once everything is in place.

    Pulling new copper, I give up!

  21. BK

    The speaking to her but looking at you part is pure gold and Cribbins did so well for his part that it flowed perfectly.

  22. C K Watt

    Re “she was looking for her reading glasses, of course they were perched on top of her head.” . Reminded me of a veeeeery old physics teacher at high school . He was a ‘frequent flier when it came to that. We’d spot him feeling about his desk and cry “On your head sir !’ , queue much laughter .

    How old was he ? Goodness knows but “Chalky” spoke of teaching a couple of classmates’ fathers but the true gob smack moment was when he berated one of us for being a real slack arse…………………… unlike his grandfather wot he taught.

  23. puffytmd and kaffeeklatscher

    Mrs Richards and Basil the rat will be treats for the coming days.

    I will however take great delight in showing OH the scene with Mrs Richards and her glasses. Ooh! I am norty arn’t I????

  24. The government’s small business asset write-off legislation was passed by the reps just before 10 o’clock this morning after the government voted down Labor’s motion to pass it yesterday. We are being governed by clueless, vindictive idiots.

  25. 2gravel – Thanks for that article earlier.

    What strikes me most about the LNP at the moment is that they’ve lost all sense of what a clear attack line looks like. I think they all know they’re off message, but they’re having a hard time finding agreement over what the message is supposed to be. And increasingly, they’re not trusting Abbott to deliver that clear attack line. The more Shorten wrong-foots them, the flakier they get.

    They’re a PR unit (or a dirt unit, more accurately), so losing a PR battle is going to cut to the core of who they are, and cause a whole lot of soul-searching. If they decide their strategy is failing them, they’re in a whole world of trouble. They wouldn’t know good policy if they fell over it, PR is all they have. That they’re finding it impossible to do their retooling behind closed doors just adds to their troubles.

    I’d love to know the truth behind that so-called petition from 40 backbenchers to go harder on asylum seekers. It can’t be as it seems, but there are two plausible explanations I can think of:

    1. They got together and said they expect Abbott to win the political battle on the national security issue. They probably know from their constituencies that Abbott is poison on just about every other issue, so they’ve just begged him not to lose that one, or they’ll have nothing to fight an election on. And then the inference was drawn, by the media via Abbott’s office, that this is supposed to mean ‘get tougher on asylum seekers’. In other words, his backbenchers just said, don’t lose that argument for God’s sake’ (any way he can, which for all they know might mean softening his position), and he decided that meant ‘get tough’.

    2. They were told by Abbott’s office to get the petition together, as a PR stunt, to give the impression that the party is united on the issue. And to give Abbott and Dutton the green light for more bastardry.

  26. Aguirre,

    I thought the backbench “petition” was about stripping “terrorists” of citizenship.

    Happy to be corrected.

  27. No, you’re right Fiona. Apologies for that, just me going off on a jag without checking my facts. Probably the same motivations behind it though. Most likely a hamfisted attempt to get the political conversation back on Abbott’s only safe territory.

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