Chapter 4:      IS THE RUDD GOVERNMENT DESTINED TO REPEAT

HOWARD & CO’S UNDEMOCRATIC MISTAKES?

 


The current shenanigans in the vanquished Coalition as of the 2007 Election, indicate just how bereft of ideas (other than more of the same ideologically driven agendas) and how out of touch with reality, that they really have become. Leadership per se is not necessarily the Coalition’s problem. What they need is to understand that the electorate rejected Howard & Co after having finally decided that they had had enough of Howard’s lies, his penchant for secrecy, his mean-ness and trickery and outright undemocratic rule. If the Liberals were to come to terms with the need for “actual democratic change” as the basis for their post 2007 Election manifesto revision, then they might begin to understand the needs and aspirations of the nation. Otherwise they are destined to allow unmitigated hubris, unjustified egomania and undemocratic power mongering, to continue to rule the roost and to repeat the mistakes of their decade past in power.

If Howard & Co had canvassed majority support for their most controversial legislation and had conducted “on-line referenda to establish specific mandates”, prior to legislating, then most likely, Howard would not have lost the trust of the Australian people as he did and would have won the last election in a landslide. Costello might then have got his reward for being loyal to the party.  Instead, Howard’s hubris failed him badly, failed the Liberal/National Party and failed the nation dismally. Strangely, Howard’s hubris does not seem to have been diminished – if that is not sufficient reason for broadening the basis of executive decision making from the egomania of a select few to the rationality of the populace at large, then Australia is destined for more of the same undemocratic government that prevailed under Howard & Co.

Consider the comments of the staunch Opposition Senator Bill Heffernan in relation to propositions that the Liberals and the Nationals ought to be merged into one conservative party under the Liberal banner to avoid the disaster of vacated National Party seats being lost to Labor. Bill reckons that a completely new conservative name would need about $100M in advertising to establish the new brand. Whacko!

Such is the terror of the prospect that the demise glad-handed to them by Howard might actually continue for a decade or so, that on the Opposition side today, Federal Pollies and some Queensland Nationals have been clamouring for an internal party vote to extend a modicum of democracy to the process of amalgamation or otherwise! A plebiscite no less! If that were to come to pass, then why wouldn’t the same rationale apply externally to the nation as well? Huh? No? Bill Heffernan reckons that merging the Nationals into the Liberal Party is so obviously the correct course, as to be a no-brainer. Bill reckons that would be an essential outcome if conservative political forces are to claw their way into relevance in 21C. Well Bill, the short answer is that what the conservative forces need most of all to get themselves into 21C is to provide the people with online access to specific votes on (a) mooted wars and (b) on controversial major legislation to establish mandate certainty. Referenda online would do the trick Bill. Do that Bill and your conservative forces, by any name that you care to nominate would win the next election in a landslide, without having to spend a cent on brainwash advertising to establish a new brand.

If real democracy were to prevail in Australia, then transparency on behalf of the voting public would be de rigueur. If that were to be true, then the interface between outgoing and incoming governments would be one of handing over the reigns with the integrity of Ministerial Offices remaining intact. But that has been not so to date. The Howard Government gave the paper shredders and incinerators a heavy duty workout after they lost the last election. Such behaviour is counter-intuitive to the notion of “doing what’s in the nation’s best interests”. Certainly, it is not indicative of “Robust Democracy” in action. If such shredding of outgoing government paperwork continues to be deemed to be essential to the integrity of our two-party preferred system of government, then it is also a battle plan for shredding democracy. Paper shredding can only be indicative of the absence of transparency in government. The obvious suspicion is that corruption is being covered up. The incoming government is thus denied access to incriminating evidence of the previous government’s mismanagement and undemocratic decision making. It works both ways of course, but that is Howard’s legacy. We can guess that he won’t be including details of that story in his memoirs.

On the ABC’s Insiders program on 6th April 2008, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith repeated the oft posed proposition that a real democracy should “Respect the will of the people”, in relation to Mugabe in Zimbabwe. A fine sentiment, but clear hypocrisy prevails considering the ample evidence that Australian governments in general and the Howard Government in particular have persisted with ignoring the will of the people, particularly on the big issues. Hypocrisy prevails whenever a government rams ideologically driven or vested interest driven legislation through the Senate without majority support. The litany of disrespect for the will of the people has been huge. But if you believe our Pollies, “disrespect is respect!”

Kevin Rudd PM, while swanning around Europe pushed the political status quo line to the effect that Australia is a democracy”. By what definition is Australia, a democracy, Mr Rudd? Australia needs something better than more of the same BS. The claim that “One vote, one value” at an election creates democracy is fatuous. An Orwellian definition would be closer to reality. “A thousand unwanted policies for one vote, one value is democracy”, or “No say in a mooted war is right and just” or “No say in a mooted war constitutes democracy, peace and freedom”. Although the new government is still in honeymoon mode, the current trend suggests that in turn, Mr Rudd’s memoirs would have to be published in Mandarin to be substantially different from those of Mr Howard, especially with regard to respect for the will of the people”. The notion is a smokescreen for nefarious political activities from supporters of “No democratic change needed thanks”.

 

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