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Australians disillusioned with our vested interest democracy should look to the Swiss model

[Swiss Confederation Institute]

Australians voting at each level of government, invariably become disillusioned by the two major parties, Liberal and Labor, promising and not delivering. We supposedly have representative democracy in Australia, in which Members of Parliament are supposed to represent their electorate in the three levels of government. But Parliament is dominated and controlled by Party politics and over 90% of parliamentary members are patsies of political parties, which are beholden to vested interest groups.

Party politics and rules and mandates and vested interests (big business, wealthy individuals, labour unions, property developers and the like) donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to these political parties to shape political outcomes to what they want.

Democracy in Australia is a vested interest democracy, and this has unsavoury similarities to the overtly corrupt political culture of many Asian countries to Australia's north.

What Australians deserve, have fought in wars for and rightly expect is true democracy, not the vested interest democracy that we put up with today.

Since Australian federation, the Libs or Labs (or variants thereof) have taken alternating turns of governing, invariably following voter rejection of each incumbent in the governing cycle. The Lib-Lab pendulum of power for over a hundred years has reinforced voter disillusionment with Australia's political process.

Australia's proportional representation has been corrupted by the Party system. MPs are beholden to Party policy, Party rules and Party discipline. Voter representation has been undemocratically supplanted by Party Representation and this extends to the Greens and to the Nationals.

No more blatantly obvious was entrenched Party control and intimidation of its member patsies was on 20th October 2010, in which during Independent MP Andrew Wilkie gave his famous speech to the Afghanistan debate, and only one or two members of the Liberals or labor even turned up. The Lib, Lab and Nats factions of Laborals all blindly are all the way with Obama and Clinton in the US strategic crusade. They were told not to attend the debate, so the Laboral patsies obeyed.

Australian politics has long been a de facto two-party system. The Australian Labor Party supposedly representing the urban working class, although that class has become middle class and comfortable. The Liberal Party is centre-right leaning broadly represents business, the suburban middle classes and is in coalition with the Nationals, supposedly representing the 'Bush' (outside the capital cities). But demographic changes and urban-centric funding have seen a steady move to bigger and bigger cities. Both Liberal and Labor are both Centre-Right leaning and spend most of their campaigning trying to differentiate themselves from one another. They have effectively become one Party of two dominant factions, the 'Laborals' and increasingly less representative of the interests of ordinary Australians.

The remaining Labor Lefties have defected to the Greens - now a diluted soup of disaffected urbane bohemians; a shadow of the Greens once noble environmentalism platform.

All the while, traditional Australia has been cast aside - rural communities, the unemployed, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the poor. Australia, once a proud classless nation, has now a growing underclass of poor.

'In Australia we do not lack the ability to solve poverty; we lack the will.

'We have been unable to make the necessary changes to social structures to reduce poverty because of the majority's preoccupation with protecting their own incomes, a preoccupation nurtured every time a political party declares that its priority is more growth.' [Hamilton, Denniss 2005, 'Affluenza']

Once one of the major parties is elected, the ability of the individual to exercise democratic choice ends. The new Government's agenda dictates what happens for the next four years. The Party goes off and serves the vested interests of the powerful elite who have donated large sums to the party. McConnachie (2000) has termed this an 'elected dictatorship'.

Between elections, the government can be unaccountable and typically is. The electorate is powerless. Electoral promises are commonly broken, trust is broken, and power is exploited on a loose legitimacy of having 'electoral mandate.'. The political party, whose turn it is at power, claims that it is authorised by majority vote to do anything - even take the nation to war as history has repeatedly shown.

What to do about it? What is the alternative?


True democracy is more than simply "one-adult, one-vote'. True democracy is empowering - it enables individuals, communities and the nation to exercise control over the direction of their collective lives.

'Direct Democracy' is the name of a system where the people are empowered to call a referendum either to initiate, or to block, legislation. This operates in Switzerland and in some States of the USA. Since the 1850s there have been almost 500 national referendums in Switzerland. If a petition signed by 1% of the electorate is submitted calling for a referendum on an issue under consideration by government then a referendum must be held. The signatures of 2% of voters are enough to call a referendum on an issue not under government consideration.

Direct Democracy puts the steering wheel of government in the hands of the people, and it takes it out of the hands of an unresponsive elite with its own agenda.

* It re-invigourates our democracy and enlivens our political debate. It counters cynicism and apathy.

* It raises issues the elites want to suppress.

* It restores authority to we the people. It makes the people responsible for policy, not the Parties. It means government is people-driven, not elite-driven.

* It removes power from the hands of elites and affirms that power lies with the people.

* It allows the politicians to represent the will of the electorate, not the will of the Party.

* It is a curb on the imbalanced use of power. It makes the politicians responsible to the people, not to the two party system, big business, pressure groups and power groups. It returns them to their proper role as servants of the people.

* It generates community involvement.

* It provides a way to repeal bad legislation and makes for better legislation. It gives us a mechanism to say Stop, and Try This.

* Politicians are forced to act on petitions received, instead of throwing them away. No more wasted time collecting signatures.

* It allows us to regain control over Parliament and the direction of this country. It allows us to determine our own destiny. It allows the people to decide what kind of country we are to become, rather than the spin-doctors and the media.

* It contributes to a sense of national ethos.

* It restores representative parliamentary government, where the members re-present the policies of the people.

* It restores accountability to the politicians. We call the tune. Politicians are more inclined to be responsive to the demands of the people.

Direct Democracy is restoration of a truly representative government of the people, by the people, for the people. (Abraham Lincoln)

The alternative is the continuation of national political parties deliberately suppressing and avoiding policies which the public want and which are essential if the nation is to survive as a nation at all. The alternative is the continued disenfranchisement of the public on issues vital to the future of our country.'

[Source: Alistair McConnachie, Sovereignty, March 2000]

Real democracy is 'Direct Democracy

What is direct democracy?

Check the following links:


Direct Democracy in Switzerland

Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe

Direct democracy comes to Australia

Direct Democracy UK

DIRECT DEMOCRACY: Government of the People, by the People, for the People

Direct Democracy on ABC Radio National's Rear Vision program of 17 Nov 2010. (Link added belatedly on 1 May 2011.)

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