Okay so I wrote the following piece all the way back in March 2013. It feels somewhat relevant to post here now, despite it’s decided lack of up-to-dated-ness…
Last week’s ridiculous shenanigans by the Labor Party junta in Canberra have exposed two critical failings in the current state of play on the Australian political scene. First, it again highlights just how farcical our pseudo democracy really is. And second, it is another resounding reason why this country so desperately needs a credible small ‘l’ liberal alternative to the Labor Party.
So first things first. That we have made our representative parliamentary democracy system of government work for the past hundred plus years says a lot for our loyalty as a people. Like a battered spouse we have stuck with it even though it has treated us very badly in return. But we deserve better. We know we deserve better. We just haven’t quite figured out our escape plan.
At the most fundamental of levels our brand of representative democracy doesn’t even adhere to a central tenant of governance that dates back to the origins of democracy in Ancient Greece: the separation of powers. Any claims that the Australian system possesses the three independent pillars of an executive, a legislature and a judiciary are spurious. The party that controls the House of Representatives controls both the legislature and executive branches of the government, effectively leaving us with just a parliament and a judiciary. Because of this the Australian people are ultimately burdened with a leader we do not elect. Gillard has been installed Prime Minister by an apparatchik of faceless men and factional party hacks, not the Australian people. Our only alternative to her leadership is to wait until September and vote for a local representative of the Liberal Party who will then install the loathsome Tony Abbott, another leader we the people do not want, as Prime Minister.
We effectively live in a bitalitarian state, one controlled by two parties. That Tony Abbott even has a chance of leading this nation is an unwelcome consequence of this. Neither he nor Gillard would have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a presidential style election. But as it stands we are beholden to the machinations of the kingmakers of these two parties. We have no other viable choices. As a consequence of Kevin Rudd’s limp surrender it is now virtually certain the coming election will see the rejection of a woman whose judgement and leadership the majority of the Australian people find so appalling that we are willing to trust the stewardship of the country to a man whose current approach to win our favour could be likened to Dr Frankenstein’s monster in a straightjacket. When elected the straightjacket comes off. Whom do we fear less?
So what is the alternative? What we need is a truly independent executive branch of government; a President who is head of state and head of government. We need a head of government who is actually elected by the people, not some coven of faceless men.
The American system is not perfect but in many ways it is vastly superior to our own. It is easy to point to the recent gridlock in Washington as an example that it is a flawed model. But that stalemate is much more a consequence of large swathes of that country being populated by idiots with a gun in one hand and a bible in the other, than a function of bad design. They get the government they deserve. And so should we.
That the Republican movement has failed to have the conviction to call for anything other than an expensive change of letterhead by renaming our Governor-General a President speaks volumes about why we still have a Governor-General. But the American media’s recent fascination with the exploits of William and Kate tells us that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can ditch the ineffectual British Royals as heads of state and still plaster them over the cover of Woman’s Day. Two birds with one stone I say.
Moving on to my second point; that a majority of Labor MPs are willing to commit political hari-kari rather than remove Gillard from the Prime Ministership shows us just how dysfunctional the Labor Party has become. Lorded over by union heavies and stooges, the party has been crippled by factional bastardry, ego and irrelevance. The alternative party of the left, the Greens, have their place, but are they are incapable of governing. What this country needs is a credible left wing party that isn’t burdened by its dependence on the anachronistic union movement. Just 18% of Australian workers now belong to unions. The glory days of the union movement are long gone, but the Labor Party bureaucracy is so fundamentally cemented to its roots in unionism that reform seems impossible.
This country needs a party of true social liberalism; Labor’s failure to support gay marriage and its reactive asylum seeker policies are shameful. Gillard’s recent rhetorical forays into class warfare and her cynical campaign against 457 visas are politics at its worst.
Change of the magnitude I suggest is inevitably painful. And it easy to dismiss such systematic reform as impractical and unnecessary. But failure to embrace change when it is needed is fatal. For too long we have shrugged our collective shoulders, stuck our heads in the sand and said if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But it is broke. Very broke. In a year where our only two viable choices of Prime Minister are Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, the system is so fundamentally brok’n it is in dire need of fix’n.