A perspective from Perth, Western Australia

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

My world.(Elections and Afghanistan)

Current music: Coldplay "Don't Panic" (am I a dreamer?)

Well, I'm at work again. Sometimes it seems my life has become a balance of working, sleeping, eating and listening to the problems of others. Not that any of those are bad things, just I don't seem to actually get out and do anything else.

Well, it's been 3 weeks to the day since my last entry. Why? Realistically, because nothing worth reporting has happened - it's either unimportant, too personal, or whatever.

I was reading a discussion in someone else's journal about the honesty etc of livejournal - I mean, we write here, with the full knowledge that anyone we give this link to, or who stumbles upon it, will read what is here. So yes, when writing here, one does leave out some personal stuff, and does to some extent present for an audience. However, I agree with whoever said it's a release sometimes - I find it very constructive to work through my thoughts and read some of the replies I get.

The only things really worth emphasising that have come up over the last three weeks are generally:

(1) Australian election campaign. I believe strongly that electing Howard for a third term would be a disaster for Australia. We have a government who puts money above any kind of social program. While Labor are certainly not *good*, just *not as bad*, their social programs and policies are certainly superior to the Liberals', and at least if they get in, things will not get worse (even if they only get a little better).

(2) I've become more and more convinced that this bombing campaign on Afghanistan is both fruitless and morally wrong. I have nothing against the punishment of terrorists - in fact I hope they're made to face up to the terror - but by bombing, we are killing hundreds/thousands, making millions more hungry and homeless, and I heard today they *still* don't know where Bin Laden is. And they don't even know for sure he did it - all they can prove, from his own statements is that he agreed with the actions. The weak justification I've heard for the campaign that the above is enough, doesn't explain why the US and other Western countries seemingly have no problems with terrorist organisations in a range of other countries who have done dastardly deeds against civilisation.

I also firmly believe violence breeds violence. Anyone, it seems, who points out that past actions by the US and its allies in various parts of the world amounted to interference and possibly even terrorism, and that this may have led, amongst other things, to the terrorists feeling the way they do about US and its allies, is denounced. This "for us or against us" mentality belongs in the Stone Age.

I do not believe "the US brought it on itself", because those who died were civilians who didn't authorise and weren't involved in the actions committed overseas by their government. Because of voluntary voting, any administration elected in the US can only claim 20% of the population even voted for them in the polls. But I think it is short-sighted not to see that if US foreign policy had have respected the rights of other nations, the terrorists who attacked America might well have not become terrorists, or at least stayed within that region of the world.

(3) The US need to fix their phone system badly :) It was a great system when it was first developed in the 50s, but hasn't really been changed since then. Any system where three neighbours have three different area codes, mobile numbers look the same as local numbers, and people who are still trying to work out how to use ATMs and VCRs are being asked to dial 11 digit numbers to call people in their own area, needs a *lot* of work. Have a look at http://www.lincmad.com for some ideas.

Originally posted at personal LJ.


Anonymous adrian t said...

Although I'm not old enough to vote, I would vote for the ALP (Labor) if I could... like you I don't think anyone in politics is even remotely angelic but I think Labor have better education, industrial relations and welfare policies.

A lot of it is just verbal tit for tat right now and it annoys me, because now is the time for serious discussion of Australia's future. It's a pity we are a two party democracy, which isn't a real democracy because of its polar nature. It's money politics because in order to maintain their positions they have to accumulate wealth, and in order to do so have to attract "sponsorship" (but would they call it that? oh, no...) from big business. Let's say the money isn't unconditionally just handed over - the big business *realises* they're not dealing with a charity, and that they should get something if they give something.

Countries which have real democracy really have to watch their electorates and we see that the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland have this sort of system.

I think the way to go here in Australia is (but this is my opinion, everyone has one, so feel free to disagree)

(a) keep the compulsory voting we have at present
(b) impose a spending cap on political campaigns
(c) impose a ban on political ads for say 7 days before the vote
(d) make it a jailable offence to accept more than a set amount of cash as a political party without publicly declaring or disclosing it (public notices section of the paper, web site?) Set up a watchdog to monitor it with real powers, and the ability to use the Federal Police to conduct investigations (this would be dependent on expanding the AFP's funding and role)
(e) maintain the Electoral Commission funding arrangements for candidates that presently exist
(f) multi party debate once a week on the TV during the campaign, where questions can be submitted by the public and chosen by a mixed-composition panel. Transcript of debate to be publicised.

Do you think it will work? if they want to be corrupt power mongerers, they'll still find a way to do it regardless, I guess ... but at least if you could monitor and limit it, it should end in a slightly better outcome for all Australians.

Just my thoughts...

10:31 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Adrian,

the australian ALP is like the democrats here (US), correct?

I don't think it's possible to make politicians totally accountable - you put any body or group of people in supreme power in a country or even an organization, there will ultimately be power-plays, personal motivations and of course corruption.

On a scale of things I think countries like the USA and Australia pale in comparison to many African and Asian states who think sending in the troops is an appropriate way to quell this evil thing called dissent, which we take for granted here as our right.

But on the whole I think your ideas are positive and I hope more people get to hear them as part of a full and free debate.

So you know, I'm from Tacoma, Washington, but I spent 2 years in Perth and Melbourne on a working visa and was very impressed with the Australian people I came across there, very open minded and willing to embrace diversity, a lot different to many other places I've had the opportunity to visit.

Andrew has my email address, feel free to use it when you have the time.


10:32 am

Blogger Andrew said...

I agree with D, I hope your ideas get heard by more people. Although I would say there's no such thing as a "real democracy" (I actually did an essay on this topic about 5 years ago, and concluded that democracy in its truest form is neither possible nor desirable) I believe that making parties accountable and giving the minor parties an equal playing field would be a good outcome.

I also feel that preferential voting and the resultant "vote buying" that goes on should be abolished in favour of a more representative system, and that How To Vote cards should be done away with for good, as the Democrats have already suggested during this campaign.

Also, someone in the West Australian the other day believed that a large number of voters simply were not qualified to vote. While he got blasted for this view in the letters pages, I actually saw his point.

But that's why I think voter education is essential. They have this in a number of countries in a formal sense and it has proven very successful for them.

10:33 am


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