Political parties in the future: The role of parties

Last week, Radio National’s Future Tense program did a show on how political parties might change over the next decade or so. You can read the transcript or listen to a podcast of it at this link

I was interviewed for the show and they used a few comments of mine in their final broadcast.

Given how central political parties are in our political system, I can’t see them disappearing anytime soon. But how they change over the coming years will still be very important.

In general, membership numbers in political parties are declining. When looking at the role of political parties into the future, I think the key issues are:

  •  transparency and regulatory standards for political parties;
  • how parties are funded and structured;
  • opportunities for particiation in key decisions within a party.

Given that political parties effectively decide who gets put forward as a candidate, in many cases the party can play as significant a role as the voter in influencing the outcome of who gets to be elected to Parliament. Yet the requirements for the operation of a political party are very thin – much weaker than your average sports club or other community run organisation.

The potential impact of large donors on decisions made by a party is also well recognised, and there are reasonably promising indications that some significant progress in this area will occur.

Giving members a direct say over matters like policy, pre-selections or party leadership positions may help maintain membership numbers, as it gives members a direct role of influence. Whilst there is occasional talk in Australia of exploring US-style primaries to determine who a party’s candidate will be, there is not really any discernable momentum towards giving greater power to members of political parties.

In fact, in many cases, the Australian Democrats used to be subject to ridicule for having what were seen as overly democratic processes. I don’t think that complaint is valid, but it was certainly made a number of times, accompanying suggestions that having party members decide on an issue is too cumbersome and time consuming.

But there are examples of how involving members in decision making can work. It can take a bit longer, which often frustrates those who want instant answers, but it a valuable way of ensuring a wider legitimacy for the eventual outcome.

A fascinating example I read about recently involves the Green Party in Ireland.  The Irish Greens have been part of a coalition of parties constituting the current government of Ireland. After the fallout from the global financial crisis – which hit Ireland particularly badly – there was a need to negotiate a new accord or agreement between the parties which would keep the government together. This required the Greens to decide whether or not they would continue to be part of the government, or quit the governing coalition.

Even though it was effectively a decision as to whether the party would stay in government or not, Green Party members were allowed to vote in this enormous decision about whether to accept the new agreement with the main governing party or not – which they did, by 523 votes to 99.

Giving your members a direct say in key policy and other decisions might be seen as cumbersome, but it gives a more meaningful role for those members and provides a greater mandate for the decision that is endorsed.

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36 Comments

  1. I think the way major political parties enforce slavish adherance to strict party discipline or risk losing the endorsement of the party is an area where Australia has a less functioning democracy than other major democracies, such as the US and UK. It also means that representatives are not representing their constitutents, but are representing their party.

    It effectively means that, at least in the Lower House, the party in power is certain that every piece of legislation it tenders will be passed, making that house a rubber stamp rather than an effective legislative body. When the Senate is also controlled by a single party, the country enters a state of “partyocracy”, rather than being a democracy.

    Happened as recently as your last term in the Senate, and I would tender is a significant flaw in our system of Government, at least for anyone interested in democracy.

  2. I very much agree David – although it does seem the voters are prepared to put up with this.

    As you say, we have seen some of the very bad outcomes of this in the last Parliament, where bad policies became law because some people who were clearly aware they were bad still voted for them.

    This approach not only produces some bad outcomes, it reduces the level of personal responsibility that individual MPs have to take for the decisions, as they can just say they had to toe the party line.

    I think having scope for occasional differences of opinion/conscience votes puts more responsibility on party MPs and candidates, as they can be personally as well as organisationally held to account for their decisions. This also creates a greater obligation for MPs to make an effort to understand what they are voting on.

  3. Parties have their use in the political system because they impose a discipline.

    I think the major problem is in the pre-selection process. Particularly now that parties recieve subsidies from the public purse could it not be insisted that the pre-selection process have a high degree of governance performance.

    Perhaps the NSW Anti Corruption body could develop guideeines in the first instance.?

  4. I also agree with David, and would say that the most recent example of this shortcoming was during the Liberal leadership spill and subsequent debate and vote on the ETL in the senate. That two crossed the floor is significant, and probably brave in the context of the Party in which they operate. I can only begin to image the pressure and backroom debate taking place over those two days in Parliament House, with rumors fluctuating almost hourly about how many might cross the floor. Putting aside discussion about the merits or not of the legislation itself, if we had a culture of ‘constituent representation,’ rather than ‘Party representation’ I wonder what the outcome might have been.

    Transpose that to all such decisions and suddenly your local representative becomes more powerful and frankly more significant to each and every voter in Australia (even if you didn’t vote for them).

    Yes, votes on the basis of the Party would still be fundamental, becasue that sets the frame for the individual being elected, but active participation in our democracy would be far greater, I believe, if all decisions were more fluid and able to evolve. It would also force the Parties to communicate more fluidly with their constituencies – if only to remain relevant.

    I am not so sure that voters are consciously putting up with the current situation. I suspect they don’t realize that there is an alternative.

  5. Andrew:

    What you’re discussing here is democracy within parties.

    As far as I’m aware, people on the National Executive can overrule a party leader at any time, and members have very little input into policies.

    I think transnational organisations probably have more say in large political parties than anyone else.

    Major parties certainly don’t care what the constituents want unless there is a major backlash which would put them out of government.

    Julia Gillard has announced on national television that she is here to make decisions for nearly 22 million people. She doesn’t care what we think at all.

    I would like to see more ordinary people elected to the parliament – those who know what life is really like for the general community.

    I see no need to have political parties at all. I have certainly never found ANY political party whose ideas and policies are ALL the same as mine.

    All parties probably have at least a few good ideas.

    What’s wrong with the government funding all interested candidates, with no political donations or personal wealth to be used? With equal air time and advertising opportunities?

  6. I would very much like for our legislation to be reviewed by an upper house that is not controlled by parties. My preferred reform in this regard would be to appoint senators by sortition instead of by election. Essentially any adult citizen could nominate to be an Australian senator and senators would be selected from the pool of nominations via a lottery instead of via election. Such a system would be more representative and less stratified than almost any conceivable system that is based on voting. Those that were appointed in this manner would be beholden to no party so they would have no incentives towards party unity. They could inform themselves of the facts specific to any piece of legislation and vote purely according to their conscience. Essentially the house of review would be like a jury consisting of a broad cross section of society. In the senate we would generally get close to 50% women, 23% smokers, 2.4% indigenous Australians and a heck of a lot less lawyers. And all this without quotas.

    Elections provide some useful performance incentives so I would keep them for the house of representatives and change the rules so ministers (ie those that run executive government) are from the house of representatives only.

    http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2009/10/30/an-upper-house-by-sortition/

  7. I would not mind restrictions that insist that only individuals can donate to parties (ie no union or corporate donations). And I don’t mind restrictions on how much one individual can donate to a party in any given year ($5000 perhaps). However I remain appalled at the notion that political parties receive government funding of any sort.

  8. Interesting that Donovan and you appear to have concerns about a lack of democracy when a “partocracy” is in power through a process of free and fair elections?? – Which is of course the absolute fundamental basis of democracy.

    I wonder if that concern would be of such significane if the “partyocracy” just happened to be one which was aligned wiht the political viwes of those expressing their concern- i doubt it.

    More interetring and what shoudl be alarming is this piece

    http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/31650

  9. Lorikeet,
    Unless you start your own political party I don’t think it is possible to agree 100% with everything. I have been a member of 2 political parties now and whilst I agree with the vast majority of policies there are some I don’t. But guess what – I put up with it for the sake of a cause that is larger than me. Life is like that. Political parties do care what people think, just recently in the liberal party the so called rebels were trumpeting the deluge of emails they received urging them to vote down the ETS. At the end of the day a lot of politicians are just ordinary people who happen to have rather extraordinary jobs. Our friend Andrew is a case in point. ( Although Andrew your level of activism is far from ordinary).

    One of the reasons I joined the Democrats was because of the membership voting on party matters and also because of the conscience vote in parliament. Highly involved people like myself used to specualate as to why when policy ballots did go out to members so few actually bothered to vote and yet the democracy was a point of attraction for many. (I have been gullty too) Also the number of members who were only seen around election times. I know people lead busy lives but really the bulk of the work in I suspect all parties falls to a very committed few. I can’t see this changing at least in the short term.

  10. Ken:

    Thanks for the excellent link. I think we have some of those issues right here in Australia.

    I don’t know what makes you think we have free and fair elections in this country.

    Firstly, the major parties seem to manage to snaffle up all of the media time and space.

    Secondly, they receive huge amounts in donations which they can use for various forms of advertising.

    Thirdly, they have a huge amount of manpower to deliver flyers and give out how to vote cards.

    Fourthly, they can afford to hire big halls for political rallies and fundraising events.

    Fifthly, if they are being sponsored by a mining magnate, huge teams of supporters turn out wearing very flashy outfits designed to impress.

    What’s free or fair about any of that?

    Terjep:

    In Queensland we don’t even have an upper house of review.

    Using your random lottery method of selecting Senators, there might be no way of controlling the election of a Senate loaded with nincompoops. (Some might argue that we have a fair few already.)

    I don’t know what makes you think we would get 50% women etc. A random selection might be nearly all men.

    Also, what’s to stop a huge number of people from a particular interest group overloading the lottery with their names?

    James Bennett:

    Yes, I think you are right on most of those points. I belong to a political party, but no one has ever sent me a policy ballot. Perhaps they are afraid I might write “No” on it.

    I would like to belong to a party which doesn’t involve itself in Middle Class Welfare, giving out money to those who are comfortably off, instead of giving some thought (and money) to the many thousands of people living on the streets, or lining up in long queues for food.

    Most of the large supermarkets currently have huge cages outside their stores in which you can place donations of food and toiletries for the poor at Xmas.

    The Salvos say they don’t have enough toys to go around this year, and are asking for further donations.

  11. Lorikeet.

    A random selection might be nearly all men but it is just as likely to be nearly all women. Neither outcome is probable but neither outcome matters a whole lot anyway. If you assume that there are 76 senators and that men and women nominate in equal number than the probability of getting under 30 women (ie less than 40% represenation) is below 5%. Or to put it another way there is a 95% probability that there will be more than 40% women in such a senate. And likewise a 95% probability that there will be more than 40% men.

    Perhaps of more concern is your mention of nincompoops.

    To be truely democratics nincompoops deserve representation just like everybody else. There would most likely be just as many nincompoops in an elected senate as in one where senators were selected by sortition. If nincompoops are 5% of the population then the make up of the senate will tend towards 5% nincompoops.

    If you really want to pre filter nominations to limit nincompoops then you could insist that nominees collect 20 signatures from neighbours and friends willing to vouch that the candidate would make a good senator. It would provide a pre-selection culling process of sorts.

  12. .The experience I have had with minor political party’s is that although people can present new policies for consideration most wont participate. A lot of expense and time is wasted preparing for meetings and at bigger meetings we have guest speakers who can speak on the subjects or if requested by branches will endeavour to find a balanced view on the policy being presented.

    Members rarely attend branch meetings and the ones that do may push for policy change in a certain area which eventually gains acceptance or is voted down. If the state except the policy it is often put to the Federal conference for acceptance across the country.

    Recently we started to form groups that will assist in policy making while educating members in these areas. We now have an Education group, A science and technology group, a Pro Life group and so on.
    This has added strenght in certain areas to our policies and will continue to do so.

    On top of that we we will always have talks on the policies we have and explain why and from what principle they were drawn.

    Party’s like the DLP do help to educate while giving you the chance to participate. We have held meetings around SE Qld nearly every month and all members can attend and or learn.

    Currently the Federal policies are under review and will be presented sometime in the new year. Many are outdated and or irrelevant these days and they need to be tidied up before presenting new ones.

    So I think minor party’s are representative of the community. Its a big job and with few resources it can take time. Perhaps if people were more involved with their party’s they would understand the difficulties in policy agenda.

    Indepedents and other minor party’s also converse on policy from time to time adding a good overall acceptance of their members,

    Tony

  13. Terjep:

    I think the general community contains numerous nincompoops, which could pose a problem.

    James Bennett is right. I feel like starting my own party, but I don’t think I could do it.

    I think there is plenty of scope for a labour party which doesn’t support the Middle Class.

  14. Lorikeet

    Lorikeet says: I think there is plenty of scope for a labour party which doesn’t support the Middle Class
    Lorikeet:

    I think you need to move past the two worker combined income of $70-$150,000 families who are bearing the brunt of taxation.
    With the average mortgage now well over $350K mark in the cities most of these families are doing it tough and paying far more than their fair share of the taxation. Lets face it if we continue to attack this group who funds the lower income families. This group usually are the young families and are struggling to make ends meet and have the dream of owning their home.

    I dont know of any labor party or any party for that matter that would attack this group which consists of your outer suburban Policeman with maybe a teacher as a partner, or a Truck Driver with the wife trying to make ends meet by working 2-3 days a week and so on.
    No let them put in the hard work and hopefully they will get to own the almost nowdays impossible dream of owning your own house. (perhaps even sending your child to a private school)
    Remember they are penalised if they dont take out private health.

    Tony

  15. Interesting that Andrew should have put up this thread when he did, given “Mr Militant”, Sen.Conroy and his latest pokings away with his pet internet censorship bill.
    Before some who frequent this site weigh in, I should like to add that am not fussed that they should clamp down on the more vicious forms of exploitative porn, altho I accept the argument that serious porn will always be imported thru means that Conroy’s technology can’t yet deal with (a bit like boat people versus aircraft people, with the refugee issue ). Porn is a stalkinghorse for somehing a bit more sinister- and you can’t get more sinister than Sen. Conroy!
    I beleive that Conroy’s policies are actually about using porn as a mask for the real reasons behind the so called policy: a perceived opportunity to
    to increase monitoring and include a mechanism that can be later employed to censor information on politics and social issues.

  16. I recently read a comment somewhere that most of the smaller parties are pseudo-Liberals. I think this is true in lots of cases.

    Tony:

    I think you need to move past the idea that people on $150,000 household income are broke.

    I think it’s very selfish and greedy for parties to want to increase Middle Class Welfare, especially the plan to pay comparatively wealthy men’s wives the equivalent of a pension to stay home with 2 kids.

    While we have high levels of foreign debt and sole parents being sent out to work, I cannot understand why you would even consider such a preposterous irresponsible proposal.

    I know a nurse (sole parent without a car), who has now been put on the permanent evening shift (2.30-10.30pm) when she still has a primary school child. She has had to send her daughter to live with an aunt, but the nurse is still not available in the evenings to supervise her 2 teenagers.

    I spoke with a neighbour who said he has run as a candidate for Family First. This guy is a recently retired teacher from the public sector. He says greedy parents from the private sector have completely screwed our public schools with their demands for ever increasing funding. I know this to be a fact from my own personal experience.

    You don’t have a clue what poverty is. You said you married at 30, and had your only child at 35. Your household contains 2 middle income earners who can afford top private health insurance, rental property and 12 years of education for your child at the most expensive school in the district.

    When I told you that 2 students from 2 different public schools in your area got up in the National Press Club and complained to Kate Ellis, Minister for Youth, about the parlous state of the public system, you were on the defensive.

    For Christ’s sake, learn to walk a mile in the shoes of the disadvantaged or average person.

    Otherwise don’t complain to us about foreign debt, school amalgamations, inadequate public hospitals or homeless people!

  17. Lorikeet:

    Lorikeet Says:Tony:
    I think you need to move past the idea that people on $150,000 household income are broke

    I have never said that. We are talking about families with dual income rangeing from $70k to $150K

    Yes I did struggle through with a large mortage in small business during a recession with less that $200 per week.

    My wife stayed at home and helped with the books during the recession we had to have brought on by Mr Keating.
    Yes we had to sell down and eventually move hear with massive debts and yes a couple of years ago My wife managed to get a good job in the government.

    As you know I had too work 7 Days a week for many years to get over the recession. This affected my eyesight and probably had a detrimental effect on my marriage.

    I have never taken social secruity. I have paid for all education myself with my own money working many hours some years up to 20 hours a day.

    I find your comments absolutely horrific and can’t understand why you as a pensioner would savagely attack the people who pay the bulk of the taxes that support you.

    Its clear that you have no idea of the problems people face in small buisness today, or young couples struggling with mortgages (that draw more of their wage then ever before in history)

    If you want to put forward a policy that will rip the heart out of younger people trying to get ahead with massive tax bills. Go for it.

    Dont sit on blog talking nonsense when so often you fail to attend any policy meetings.

    Tony

  18. Tony:

    As I remember, you gave ordinary members only 24 hours notice of a federal conference. If they couldn’t access their email through the day, they wouldn’t have even known about the meeting until the evening. That’s the next best thing to exclusion.

    As for policy meetings, most of them are held in remote locations that are hard to get to using public transport. As you are aware, I missed one meeting because the person you said could give me a lift wasn’t even going. Otherwise I would have caught 2 trains.

    You might remember that I gave out your how-to-vote cards at the State election, when almost no one else wanted to do it.

    I don’t like your reference to me as a pensioner “attacking” anyone. The facts are not attacks, and I am not to blame for having a disability.

    We shouldn’t just be looking at your personal circumstances or mine. Most people are working for employers, not running small businesses.

    There’s a huge difference between a $70,000 household income and $150,000. You said you supported the Liberal position of leaving the Health Insurance Rebate in place for those on $150,000 income.

    You also said you supported Ron Boswell’s idea (National Party) of paying stay-at-home wives a Child Care Rebate, which for 2 children amounts to almost a full pension.

    You said you supported equal funding for private schools. That would take more money out of the public schools, when you know they are suffering. You said you were against any kind of performance based funding, but there was something in your proposal which sounded like performance based funding to me.

    The success of a society is judged on the well being of its poorest members, but you want to give out even more money to the Middle Class when we have sole parents doing shift work in menial jobs, thousands of people living on the streets and a huge foreign debt.

    I have no plan to “rip the hearts out of the younger people” at all, but I wouldn’t give money to those who don’t need it.

  19. Hmmm. This thread seems to have got somewhat off topic (again).

    Might I suggest that internal DLP disputes be carried out somewhere else? It’s probably better for you folks as well as for the rest of us.

  20. Andrew, I’m not so sure that the Lorikeet-Tony stoush is all that far OT.

    Seems to me more like a useful case study of the dynamics of internal party politics, and – without taking sides on the merits of this particular argument – of how rank and file members can come to feel that they have been co-opted into agendas that they didn’t think that they had signed up for.

    Surely disputes like this are a major disincentive to many people considering becoming actively involved in party politics. While I’d agree that this is not the place for the DLP to air its dirty linen, I think that it may be germane to consider – in an abstract & generalised manner – the effects of these sorts of issues on rank and file perceptions of ownership of party policy and direction

    DISCLAIMER: Although I disagree with Lorikeet on just about everything, I must say that I sympathize her POV here, with its mix of policy and procedural disagreements. I hope too that Tony and other parts of the DLP hierarchy are listening and taking note.

    Ditto for the upper echelons of the other parties.

  21. Great to read TFA’s take, almost posted something the like, but much more clumsy, last night meself.
    Actually find myself liking these people so much more, now that I know who they are, where they’re coming from and the adverties that shaped their approach to politics.
    I’d endorse TFA’s disclaimer almost to the word.
    But in the wake of some of what was shared during a close to excruciating exchange, I no longer resent them, they are way too much like me for me, as to “human,all too human”, to feel comfortable in attacking them just now. Battlers like me, bleeding in parts and disempowered and disenfranchised in many meaningful ways, but despite that trying their best also to contribute something of life that they beleive is positive.
    Tony, I truly accept you story and it explains so much of why you feel in certain ways about about certain things. Basically I identify with the story, held up against my own history and sometimes also probably reactive intolerance and politics, as “blue collar”.
    We are both people who need to temper righteous anger with patience and tolerance. We both need to shout less qand listenmore ina spirit of tolerance.
    My lesson from above discussion is that I be more open to unexpected sources of illumination, as to the “Desiderata” suggests, not least in aid of understanding my own condition.
    For there is so much to respect in both Lorikeet’s and Tony’s stories, much that explains so much about them, and hopefully about me also, by inference.
    Their politics may not be my cup of tea, but both have tried to think out their ideas in a society not always encouraging of independent thought amongst the proletariat, they are battlers and probably better people than I’ll ever be.
    From now on, I’ll not be able to consider their comments outside this new lens that relates to their humanity and that’s surely good for me.

  22. re last post, sorry for spelling errors. particularly meant “adversities” rather than “adverties”, in early sentence.

  23. The Feral Abacus:

    1. In 2007 the DLP promoted the progressive expenditure tax combined with a universal living allowance for its tax policy. This is under review and we have been discussing the option of income splitting for families with young babies/children. IE mother would be able to claim 2nd tax free threshold Low cost and non inflationary and saves on child care.
    2. We have for many years pushed for the re-establishment of a federal development bank that could provide a continuous infrastructure revenue stream while removing billions of dollars of state and federal governments in interest and borrowing costs.
    Profits held here for Australians not offshore with no long term benefit.
    Savings could then be poured into other areas of social security, health and education.
    3. While there can be some argument that very wealth schools are cashing in on public funding the poorer church schools certainly aren’t and are providing far more than the funding top up’s that the federal governments allows them and state public schools to access.
    As for the examples I previously showed on disposable income for lower to middle class earners… it shows how hard it is for young couples today to make ends meet and that we should be looking in other areas to tax grab. The idea that we should collapse the poorer schools and place all the burden on health on the public purse is nonsense and is not an option

    Tony

  24. I have now resigned from the DLP and my resignation has been accepted.

    I do know what it is like for younger people to pay a mortgage. My son and his wife get a bit less than $150,000 between them, but they have already paid off their 4 bedroom home, and they have 2 children. My daughter-in-law works 3 days a week.

    Although my son earns $100,000 on his own, his wife gets the equivalent of a pension to go out to work, and they also get the Health Insurance Rebate.

    They got unneeded baby bonuses for both children under Howard, and thousands of dollars in stimulus money from Rudd.

    The level of Middle Class Welfare available today is quite ludicrous. It is clearly being delivered at the expense of the poor. I suggest all politicians redress this untenable situation.

    When I was 22 years old, my husband and I both had to work in low paid jobs just to keep a roof over our children’s heads. There was no government assistance with Child Care and Family Payment was only $1.50 for 2 children.

    I don’t remember any Health Insurance Rebate being in place, but we still had Intermediate cover.

    We were young and strong and did what we had to do without ANY government handouts – and without the whingeing which now comes from the spoilt Middle Class.

    I think some people may have forgotten that I have been trained in Social Psychology and Group Dynamics – also Mind Control & Manipulation.

    The National Civic Centre, The Catholic Leader and News Weekly are all owned by the Catholic Church. I know the News Weekly misrepresents the RE status of public schools.

    It is my view that the Catholic Church wishes to take over the education system completely – also reversing government funding to grammar schools (non-catholic). The Catholic sector has the lion’s share of private schools and students.

    Paul:

    I guess you missed the part about double middle incomes, rental property and 12 years of education at the most expensive private school in the district.

  25. Tony. That’s not a reply to my comment, it’s political advertising. Does it relate in any way whatsoever to the three key points in Andrew’s post? Or anything at all?

    Lorikeet. Sorry to hear that you have felt the need to sever your ties with the party, but I guess you can only be guided by your principles and objectives.

    OTOH I suspect you’ll have greater freedom to comment here. From my perspective, its been rather peculiar – and a bit sad, actually – to see you and Tony posting such similar comments in recent months. And more often than not posting them at pretty much the same time.

    Made me wonder whether the two of you were acting on instruction (which, if true, seems mighty incongruous for a couple of people who so strenuously insist on seeing the world in terms of global conspiracies, and who repeatedly allege that those who hold other opinions are the victims/perpetrators of group think).

  26. Tony:

    Then why do you keep saying that if the private school students went back to the public sector, it would collapse the system? Only so you can get more money for the well heeled, I think.

    You have no intention of collapsing the private system. You want to privatise (even Catholicise) the whole system, to remove government control. Removing government control will never happen, even if they decide to provide NO FUNDING at all. You are having a naive pipe dream on that one.

    The public school system is already collapsing, especially in lower socio-economic areas.

    The latest report said our schools are continuing to slip backwards against OECD countries, with the worst effects on aboriginal children and children from other poor families.

    Your voucher system which would give equal funding to private schools would crush the poor, while the wealthy thrived and received all of the university places.

    Income splitting would give a lot of families a good way to avoid tax, in circumstances where there is a big discrepancy between the parents’ incomes. It would not help those on equal incomes at all, and those earning $35,000 each would go further backwards against the more privileged.

    Middle and high income earners already receive far too much Middle and Upper Class Welfare.

    Most people don’t have children when they are young any more. They need to become more financially responsible and lower their expectations of living in huge mansions with only 1 or 2 children.

    Instead of giving “younger” people (mostly not that young at all) more and more unneeded handouts, the government should implement a savings plan for young people, as previously suggested by Andrew.

    It should also build more public housing, and bolster public hospitals and schools financially.

  27. Feral:

    I say anything I like, anytime I want to. No one has any control over what I say on blogs, unless it is the moderator.

    I joined the DLP because I shared a lot of their ideas. I’m just not into Middle Class Welfare. Instead I am a strong supporter of public schools and help being made available only to those who need it, especially when we have a massive foreign debt and are expected to compete/trade with Asian economies.

    In Brisbane, we have a grossly unacceptable number of people living on the streets. Some of these are ordinary families who can’t find a place to rent. Each week, charities are having to feed long lineups of people.

    You might say I would like to see equal opportunity for all.

    I would like the government to do something about limiting what can be charged by child care centres, aged care centres and private schools – also more government control of banks. That should automatically ensure that people aren’t ripped off by large transnational private companies, including churches.

    I would like to achieve the same result as the DLP in some ways, just using different methods, e.g. paying RE teachers in public schools.

    Most people have come to realise that there is a link between Green and corporate agendas. A lot are well aware that transnational corporations have most of the say these days. Some of those pushing Green agendas the hardest are from the corporate world.

    There is no conspiracy, but there is a global plan. The Greens have a policy on Global Governance, and the Copenhagen Treaty, if it should get up at a later date, will lock us into Global Corporate Communism using high taxation and limitations on every conceivable activity and commodity.

    Over 30 years, both Labor and Liberals have supported and encouraged control from outside of our own country. “Money is power.” They have increasingly had Greens riding on their backs, which has really come to the fore with the ETS and high taxation on water/electricity.

  28. Lorikeet – thanks for your reply. Not quite 95 theses there, but its good to see you affirming your independence.

    My guess is that most of the commenters here would share most of your concerns, even if we differed on our interpretations of the factors that gave rise to those problems.

    I’m not going to argue with you on the contents of your contentious final three paragraphs. Rather, I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas, and look forward to taking up the debate again in the new year.

    Regards, TFA

  29. Lorikeet

    Lorikeet says: In Brisbane, we have a grossly unacceptable number of people living on the streets. Some of these are ordinary families who can’t find a place to rent. Each week, charities are having to feed long lineups of people

    Lorikeet you’d be aware of the work some of our members have put into this.

    Lorikeet Says: I would like to achieve the same result as the DLP in some ways, just using different methods, e.g. paying RE teachers in public schools.

    Our current policy is • The DLP believes in maintaining and extending the current school chaplain programme, and would push for the re-introduction of religious instructions in schools with opt out option for parents who wished to do so.

    Enjoy your time down south.

    Tony

  30. Tony:

    Public schools already have religious education. The News Weekly is wrong about this. There is no need to push for its re-introduction.

    As you may be aware, it has become really hard to find volunteers for any kind of assistance in schools, since Howard decided:

    1. that married mums had to work to receive their parenting payment.
    2. to send sole parents out to work.
    3. to send people with disabilities out to work.

    Those who might normally be available to teach RE and perform other voluntary duties have had 20% of their superannuation stolen by TNCs and are therefore continuing to work or going back to employment.

    None of the items 1-3 have been reversed by Rudd. In fact, I heard they were going to try to dump more DSP recipients on the dole.

    The government needs to pay religious education teachers, preferably priests/ministers/pastors. Most church ministers aren’t well paid and could use the extra money.

    I know the DLP has a small number of people doing charity work, but I would prefer the reversal of items 1-3 instead of pushing for even more Middle Class Welfare i.e. channel more money into supporting the poor, instead of having them end up on the streets and/or on drugs.

    The Church of Scientology has a charitable arm, even though it is one of the world’s most destructive commercial cults.

    I think Tony Abbott said he wanted a referendum on Health, including Aged Care. I would like to see the government cap the huge fees charged by aged care centres, private schools and child care centres.

    My daughter-in-law said it costs $700 a week to have 2 children in full-time day care. That’s 50 weeks @ $700 and 2 weeks @ $350 (half price for 2 weeks holiday). Total cost for the year is $35,700 at an ABC Learning Centre.

    Huge profits are going somewhere that is not for the benefit of anyone’s preschoolers or babies, elderly relatives or private school children.

    I hope you and everyone else have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  31. Andrew, many in the Democrats are shocked and stunned that you have joined the Greens and run as a candidate for them. Andrew your actions while in the Democrats were the major factors that lead to the party’s downfall from the Senate, these actions include not resigning when under your leadership the party had repeated state election failures and then to top it all off you discrace yourself in the Senate chamber further distroying any chance of the party moving forward. Then rather than helping the party get back on it’s feet up after you join the very party you accussed of re-writing the Democrats history. Is there no end to your behaviour Andrew? Many in the Democrats who are working hard to rebuild the divisions are stunned to hear what you have done……. I only hope you can add the same charm you gave the Democrats to the Greens.

  32. Interestingly lorikeet, the free access to public schools non means tested is as least as much middle class welfare as support for private schools.

    Free public services should be confined to passive assets open to all, ie. parks, roads etc, or regulatory public services that we can’t escape, eg police, immigration etc.

    For some reason, unlike Health, public education seems to have been always seen as a free service although it is an exclusive public service ie. it excludes members of the public who pay fro it. For instance, you and me and my mother etc can’t access our local school, so by definition it excludes certain members of society.

    Accordingly, in any rational application of principles of funding and charging for public goods and services there should be a progressive rate of taxation etc directly applied to those who benefit directly from the service.

    The number of middle class wealthy parents taking advantage of this free service without a progressive contribution to it, akin to say the Medicare levy, is one of the prime if not absolute reason schools struggle for funds from government, even though they already consume such an enormous amount of the State budget.

    At least non means tested private school parents only get 30c of every tax dollar I pay and pay the rest themselves, whereas non means tested wealthy parent’s access 100 cents at their local school and pay nothing.

  33. Ken:

    High schools here in Queensland offer courses for mature age education. I once attended a high school at night to learn Senior subjects. A friend has more recently enrolled in a night course in Indonesian at the local high school.

    To my knowledge, we adults can learn just about anything we need to know in a TAFE college or university. There are also programs such as SPELD which help people with their English. I think similar help is available for Maths.

    Public education is not entirely free, and never was. There are charges to cover disposables and photocopying, and of course, there are excursions, uniforms and books to pay for – also various programs such as Sports, Debating and Music.

    The public system has become more reliant on fundraising by parents since Principals have had to manage their own inadequate budgets.

    I understand what you mean about some middle class or wealthy parents sending their kids to public schools. But if so-called “free education” was only made available to the poor, you would probably find that the government would only be educating the poor.

    As a person who has worked extensively with children in the public education system and The Scout Association, I know that if your school/group only contains children from poor families, they will not gain the benefit of the company of a substantial number of brighter students.

    Parents in a lower socio-economic school don’t have the financial wherewithal to help lift the school’s performance across a number of areas, including academia. Schools comprising only the poor are also likely to suffer more from behaviour management difficulties due to stresses occurring in family units.

    Performance based funding would make matters even worse.

    Education is compulsory. Sending children to private schools is a choice. If parents want to have a separatist/exclusive attitude, they can pay for it themselves, instead of taking more and more money out of the public sector.

  34. Ken said : “For instance, you and me and my mother etc can’t access our local school, so by definition it excludes certain members of society.

    WHAT?!? Firstly, should you wish to go back to school, Ken, as far as I am aware, it is possible to do so at any age. Your state may be different. You’d possibly have to undergo a police check nowadays .. and rightly so. Schools are for people who want to learn at that level and probably get formal recognition for it. Every year or two there are stories in the paper of people well over voting age returning to school for various reasons.

    If you mean that you can’t just rock up and sit down in some chair or other at a school without a formal acceptance, then yes .. and why would you wish it otherwise?

    Hospitals are for sick people – is that exclusive? Jails are for crims. We taxpayers pay for those services, but nobody expects to be able ot turn up and take possession of the place simply becuase they are a taxpayer.

    Duh.

    The whole point of having free secular education is to enable the entire community to have on hand literate people who are capable of work, support for the rest of us and taking part in the duties of citizenship.

    Sadly, that has slipped away in recent years .. nowadays poor families, even ones whose children attend public schools, are slugged for fees. We are paying for this now and will continue to do so whileever the will of the nation is not directed towards giving itself the best educated and trained next generation that it can afford. We can manage to run hundreds of horse races around this country every week and we pour millions into poker machines, but we can’t manage to educate all our kids.

  35. It looks to me like you’re the one with the “charm” issues, “Karl” (not to mention the one doing the “rewriting history”). I have no idea if I know you “Karl”, but I can’t imagine you’re representative of the remaining Democrat members and you obviously know nothing of even recent Democrat history. It would be sad if the Democrats, who have such a proud record and legacy in Australian politics, ended up just being inhabited by snarking smear merchants just throwing a bunch of tropes and half-truths in an effort to discredit other people or parties – especially given the Democrats’ old ethos of attempting to do politics differently (though we obviously fell short of our ideals now and then).

    I can’t imagine why anyone in the Democrats would be “shocked and stunned” by my leaving the party. Since the 2007 election I made my views quite well known within the Democrats as well as occasionally in the wider public domain – including on this blog – that I thought the party and its legacy would be best served by winding up. Obviously some had different ideas (although I notice that a number of key people who even just a year ago thought the party had a chance of revitalising have since resigned).

    Your attack on me for “not resigning” the leadership of the Democrats (which went from 2002 to 2004) is ludicrous – particularly given that in effect I did resign it by not recontesting it after the 2004 election.

    In addition, the Democrats did not lose any seats in any state election during my time as leader. This is not overly surprising, as the Democrats rarely did well at state level except in SA, occasionally in NSW and once in WA. The only significant state election during the time I was feral leader was in NSW, and seeing the NSW Division were given significant funds and total control over what to do with them and what messages to run with, it would be rather spineless to try to pin all the blame on the party federally.

    As for the media controversy over the Senate incident at the end of 2003, you are ignoring that (a) all of the other Senators decided I should stay as party leader, (b) just as importantly, just 100 of the party’s members could have easily signed a petition to spill my leadership position, something they did not do despite the media giving publicity to someone publicly urging and my public invitation for the do so should they wish. (c) In addition, if members had seriously thought that “it was my actions that led to the party’s downfall from the Senate”. The members also would not have overwhelmingly endorsed me to the position of Deputy Leader after the 2004 election, let alone that I could have stayed in the position of Leader if I had wanted to, rather than stepping down.

    The simple fact is that in the period after the GST vote and subsequent poor selling of that decision, the Democrat vote plummetted. It was resuscitated when the party members decided to change leaders to Natasha Stott Despoja – saving a number of Senate seats at the 2001 federal election. The Democrat vote then disintegrated again after the long drawn out period of public attacks, destabilising and the eventual forced resignation of Senator Stott Despoja as leader in August 2002. As part of the Senate team throughout that period I share some responsibility for not managing to prevent that 2002 meltdown (although even now I find it hard to see how it could have been prevented).

    However, following that I put five very exhausting years doing all I could to “helping the party get back on its feet” and retain even one of its seats. But the simple fact is the party’s vote never recovered from that point on. It bounced around the 1-2 per cent mark from then on for the next five years until all its Senate seats were finally lost at the 2007.

    There are plenty of areas and organisations outside of party politics for people to direct their energies that can lead to positive social change. If people want to stay involved in party politics, I think their efforts are far more likely to have benefit if they put their energies into strengthening the Greens, as they are now the clear progressive alternative to the major parties. In the same way, I argued many times in the past that it would have been better for people to have joined and broadened the Democrats, rather than establish or join the Greens to compete for the seats the Democrats were likely to win. The same argument now applies in the reverse.

    However, obviously some people think diffrently and I don’t wish those who remain in the Democrats any ill. I will certainly defend myself against any attacks or correct inaccuracies, but it is better to direct my energies towards highlighting why there needs to be viable alternatives to the two major parties. And frankly, I will have far more and better opportunities to publicly highlight the Democrats’ strong record and history in my current roles. That chance to be able to better remind people of the Democrats’ legacy isn’t why I decided to run as a Greens candidate, but it is a positive consequence.

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