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 The need for change

This website is a resource for Change and my view of how it might be achieved.

The ultimate goal is the betterment of the human race, and people must set up and control the structures that achieve this betterment. Hence ‘Accountability‘ is the major heading of this website and it encompasses:

  1. Government who make the rules within the constraints the people set

2. The Public Service who administer them

3. The Justice system that deals with disputes, and

4. Civil Rights, as this where the previous three aspects are being overly oppressive to individuals and straying from their betterment goal.

The Heading ‘Constraints’ refers to the things that limit the ability to better the civilisation. Some of these are practical like Education and Transport, others are resource or technical issues. I have put ‘Economics’ in this category also, as beliefs about economics are held like religions and constrain or facilitate our progress.

Other headings are;

Health, because that is my area of expertise

Environment, because humans live on a planet that we have achieved such a dominance as to threaten the existence of many species and the planet itself, so to better humanity, we must put the planet first. Hence ‘Energy’ is under this category, as its use is a major threat to the environment.

The two dominant political paradigms have been ‘the Market’, which is assumed to ideally distribute resources, and a human hierarchy view of society and ownership, which was Marxism. The view needed is a third option; We are travellers on planet earth and must govern it wisely and fairly.

There is separate category of ‘Media’, as what we know and learn are critical to our future, and who controls what we think will have an exaggerated influence on our future.

There is category of ‘The Future’ which has items of political significance, but also technology, as this is often more crucial than what the political system decides. I included articles on ‘Peace’ in this category also, as we need a lot less wars if humankind is to progress.

‘International’ has articles about the wider world as we cannot have a world vision without making a significant effort to understand what is happening.

‘Submissions’ are some of my writings to inquiries to try to influence policy. It is sad that evidence has so little power in the political process. A few other writings are included in this.

Within the framework that I have defined above, it seems that the government part of the 3 elements of society is enlarging itself at the expense of the others. The public service was a largely politically neutral body, which delivered services, but was also a reservoir of publicly available knowledge and expertise. Governments, particularly neo-liberal ones wanted it to respond more rapidly to their agendae, so changed its management to those it favoured, downgraded its expertise, and undermined its objectivity by taking its permanency of employment. This made public servants less able to work in a niche area of expertise, confident that they would have permanent employment and their opinions at least considered seriously. The privatisation of both service delivery and expertise has meant windfalls for the private sector, but also huge opportunities for nepotism and corruption in the political sector. It has also removed the concept of subculture of dedicated experts who could be called on for politically neutral long-term advice. Privatisation has arguably lowered the standard of knowledge and distorted priorities by favouring things that make profits, as well as taking resources that were publicly owned and giving them the social elite who owned shares. It has also increased the price or services by creating private monopolies.

The judiciary has also been weakened, with mandatory sentencing, systemic under-resourcing, and ministerial discretion increasing at the expense of human rights, as is most evident with refugees.

But while our Governments have been increasing their power in relation to the people, the improvements in communications and technology, added to the free trade concepts since WW2 have lessened the power of governments in relation to multinational corporations.

What is to be done?

In basic terms the formal ‘Government’ has become too powerful and the difference between the career interest of the politicians and the people has become too great. This is the situation in Australia and the English-speaking democracies. The British may have had the first democracy in recent history, but better models have come since, and Australia needs to look for new models.

The ‘winner takes’ all of our parliaments means that one party gets about 40% of the primary votes, then gets preferences to go to 51% and then do what ever they like with 100% of the power.  In European democracies there are more political parties. A single party does not have a majority and so has to negotiate on each issue to get a consensus, which produces better legislation.  When the original Australian constitution was drawn up, the major preoccupation was to get the colonies to sign up to create a nation. As we were still a colony, our constitution followed the UK tradition and the US model.

My view is that if the people could have plebiscites, unpopular government decisions could be overturned.  This is what happens in Switzerland. The Parliament passes laws, but if the people do not like them they get signatures and put up a motion.  If they get enough signatures, it is balloted at a local, Canton (State) or Federal level.  The proponent of the motion writes a case for it; the government writes a case against it and the citizens vote, once every quarter.  The politicians are all part-time so keep their jobs while they are in Parliament and when they leave.  They can only serve two terms, so neither their income nor their long-term futures are dependent on lobbyists’ money or pleasing a Party hierarchy.  They are in a temporary privileged position to help the people and they tend to behave accordingly. Three crucial differences, the absence of an absolute majority, the plebiscites and the lack of a political hierarchy deal with our problem that the interests of the politicians are not the same as those of the people.

While considering this there are two other aspects to be mentioned;

  1. People worry that ‘the people’ cannot be trusted.  This is not so.  They are already trusted to elect the government. The government often does things that the people do not want. 74% of Australians did not want to go into the Iraq war. The government went anyway- a referendum would have made a better decision.
    2. We will need a new Constitution and this is very hard to achieve.  This is true. But  our constitution was basically made to create Australia from 6 colonies and the Federal government was only given power over tax, foreign policy, defence and marriage. The States did not trust them with more.  It was not all wisdom for all time by any means.  The Federal government has been gaining power ever since.  Now, in order to get uniform legislation all the State governments have to pass identical bills that were drawn up by the relevant Ministers meeting together beforehand.  States are mostly ‘rubber stamp Parliaments.  Other problems with the Constitution is that there is no Bill of Rights, no treaty with the Aboriginals.  A major re-write is needed- and as monied interests take over the system, the Australian people need to take the power back. The Swiss system is not a pie in the sky. It is not radical. It is a well tried and better system.  And it also changes its own constitution regularly and without dramas.

In the meantime, there are many issues, which are discussed on this website.  Many are from my Facebook page, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans.  Some ideas are my own, others are posted for interest.  Items that have a lot of Personal input can be sought under the key word, ‘Personal’.  Each article is can be sought under one or more categories, and has key words.