Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) is making a final plea to voters to realise that their political leaders and an incoming Government needs to support the Koala Protection Act, before it’s too late, as the Government’s recently released Koala Recovery Plan does not go far enough!
Dr Joo-Cheong Tham, a legal scholar and campaign finance expert at the University of Melbourne, has just had his new book published by UNSW Press called:
'Money and Politics: The democracy we can't afford'
The book highlights in Australian politics, the massive private donations made to the major politcial parties - Labor, Liberals, Nationals and The Greens. It highlights that some $60 million has been spent on election advertising toward the 2010 federal election, of that $40 million by Labor and Liberal parties - no wonder they get re-elected.
How can minor political parties, new political parties with no election history and so no AEC funding, or independent candidates stand a hope of getting elected, when such wealth bias exists in the Australian electoral system?
Australia simply does not have free and fair elections. The AEC only facilitates a duel contest between Liberal and Labor, which have similar ideologies and policies anyway. No wonder there are so many informal votes and so many who have become disenfranchised with Australia's electoral system.
Dr Tham questions the secrecy of the funding of the parties' campaigns, and why Australians have to wait until February 2012 to have this information disclosed to the voting public - "a full year and a half to find out who paid the piper at the 2010 elections.".
Dr Joo-Cheong Tham
Dr Tham in his book, examines the weaknesses of Australia's rules on political donations, and to call for an overhaul of our campaign finance rules. He offers serious proposals for electoral reform across Australia. For the many of us dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, his suggestions are vital reading.
An outline of his book has been provided in an ABC Radio interview today on the programme National Interest by presenter Peter Meyers with Dr Tham. The programme is called The democracy we can't afford. It ought to be available for replaying by podcast on the ABC from tomorrow.
In the meantime, the following related websites should be of interest:
2004 Election Funding Payments (AEC) (2007 seesm to be still not available and this is 2010!
'Election funding transparency: Australia has a lot to learn' on Inside Story website
'Election funding 'broken', by journalist Brian Robins, Sydney Morning Herald, 1st February 2010
Two weeks out from a federal election and the range and depth and vision on the two major parties - the LibLabs is woefully simplistic and shortsighted.
Both Lib Lab economic rationalist factions are selfishly limited to an 'ends justifies the means' approach purely to get elected. Both are indulging in election-term economics, lobbying marginal seats, pork barreling the swinging voter and trying to differentiate themselves from each other. Neither are relevant to the future governance of Australia.
They are not about the many departmental portfolios they take responsibility for. They are simplistically about two personalities - Tony and Julia.
Tony thinks it is simply about 'ending the waste, repaying the debt, stopping the big new taxes and stopping the boats'. [Tony Abbott website, 28th July 2010].
Julia thinks it is simply about 'moving Australia forward', and motherhood statements like 'securing our future with responsible economic management', 'delivering fairness for working families', an education revolution, and 'tackling climate change' (somehow). [Labor Platform].
It's dumbing down the issues as if the Australian electorate is a crowd watching a football match.
Have a read:
These policies are on the fly, tokenistic pork-barrelling for media sound grabs. They lack robust research and are reactionary. They are outputs of overpaid consultants advising the major parties to focus only on the key 'push-button' re-election issues. They are only about getting re-elected and getting the pollsters to push them a few percentage points ahead of the other.
The offerings are hollow. The LibLabs are short-sighted simpletons. They reveal the lack of ideological vision once characteristic an inspiring of politics over 30 years ago. One has to return to the Whitlam era to recall ideological vision in Australian politics. These days the LibLabs have created a political vacuum in Australia.
No wonder many Australians just tune out. We've heard it all before. We've seen the promises become conveniently forgotten and dishonoured. We've seen successive LibLabs grow on the nose four years down the track.
Where are the long term strategic visions, direction and investment plans for this great nation?
Where's the badly needed long term investment into the big picture issues?
Here are some of Australia's big picture issues that demand longterm political vision:
* TRANSPORT: Public transport infrastructure - a national fast rail network for both freight and passengers;
* ENERGY: Transition strategy into clean and renewable energy;
* POLLUTION: Carrot and stick strategies to reduce pollution particularly in industry and private transport. (climate change and greenhouse gas emissions pare just fancy words or 'pollution');
* DOMESTIC INDUSTRY: Strengthen Australia's domestic industries to restore international competitiveness, stem the flow of industrial entrepreneurship and investment offshore and to curb the unfair market controls by big business over small business;
* EDUCATION: Vocational education (TAFE) aligned to industry needs for the next 20 years, where industry is made to financial contribute and play a key role, to realign the local skills shortage epidemic;
* Public schools to bring the educational standards up to private school standards so as to address the Dickensian class inequity across Australian schools;
* University funding so Australian universities are not beholded to international student fees for their financial survival;
* HEALTH: New major hospitals to fill the chronic bed shortages in all capital cities, and nationalise health with training and infrastructure to stay one step ahead of demand, and to address the inequity of rural health.
* INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Fair financial compensation for the stolen generations and the stolen wages to redress the 20th Century government treatment of Aborigines as slaves;
* Strategies and resources to address the indigenous inequity of access to essential public services and to address the shortcomings in life expectancy and living standards
* Constitutional recognition of the prior occupation and sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their rights and obligations as owners and custodians
and to self determination, political representation and equity in developing and implementing public policies, programs and services that affect them. (Refer The Greens policy)
* SUSTAINABLE AND ACCOUNTABLE IMMIGRATION: Not a population policy, but a sustainable immigration policy - one that is accountable to the full social costs (costs of living, public infrastructure supply, homelessness and unemployment), one that is aligned to our Australian value system, one that is accountable to the full environmental costs, and one that is accountable to the complete immigration lifecycle - where new arrivals become self-sufficient and integrated into the broader community;
* ENVIRONMENT: Strategies for sustainable crop selection, sustainable agricultural practices (irrigation, fertilizer, land clearing, salinity, runoff), Murray-Darling irrigation buy back and local community transition support, new national parks, sustainable forestry that makes the AFS certification a national minimal standard, sustainable fishing initiatives.
* THE ARTS: Arts and culture policy to provide opportunities and encouragement of Australian home-grown talent
* DEFENCE: A defence policy that is wholly about defence of Australia aligned to the interests of our immediate regional security and peace in the Oceania region, not the current offence policy that is wrongly aligned to the militarist interests of the United States - Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan.
* EMERGENCY SERVICES: Overhaul underfunded volunteer emergency services national-wide (ambulance, fire and those dealing with bushfire emergencies, storm emergencies, and other natural disaster emergencies) to give Australians a 21st Century chance of survival and recovery
* POVERTY: Addressing the causes of Australia's growing underclass - homelessness, unemployment, record incarceration and recidivism, those affected by mental health issues and substance abuse, family breakdown and domestic violence;
* ELECTORAL CONTRACT: An electoral contract to make electoral promises accountable to the people
I am sure there are others.
At least the Greens offer alternatives, but they have many shortcomings with their policies too, such as where is the economic case to show that The Greens could run the economy?
This uncertainty is why the Greens don't get a leg in.
A vote for any other party offers the hope of change.
A vote for Lib or Lab, promises more of the same crap.
'A people who are sheep get a government of wolves.'
Rudd's Ministry after being sworn in on 3 December 2007
Irrespective of Rudd's failings, and we should not understate his leadership in saving Australians from the demise of the GFC; no leader deserves a factional coup d'etat.
Sudden leadership spills are unsettling to all concerned. What happened to Rudd was equivalent to a CEO being suddenly escorted from the company premises.
It was an humiliating and disrespectful act characteristic of oppressive regimes and revolutions, both uncharacteristically Australian. In the interests of good governance, probity, electorate accountability and civility, the process of leadership replacement needs review. What would have been wrong for instance with a two week notice period allowing for civil measured transition? What was the rush? We are not at war.
The process of leadership replacement where a political party can suddenly replace a Prime Minister or a State Premier without electoral involvement is undemocratic. Political parties are elected on the merit of their leader. That merit earns an electoral mandate. If that mandate is not fulfilled, it is for the electorate to judge.
Australia now has an unelected prime Minister and an unelected Premier of the country's most populous state, NSW - both appointed by the Labor Right factions. Irrespective of the personalities or gender of these two leaders, that they may be seen as factional appointments should be cause for concern by Australians that a undemocratic process and an unaccountable political group can control government at federal and state levels simultaneously. Where does the real power and control lie?
Such power must be realised, then properly curbed and restored to the people, even if such a leadership change were to be trigger a compulsory election. Until there is a general election Gillard's Government is not credible.
On the back of these two issues, Australia has its first female Prime Minister in Julia Gillard. This is an historic achievement, but it shouldn't be. What has take us so long? This is 2010 and all Australians are supposed to be equal and feminism has been fighting since the suffrage movement on the 1880s. Gender shouldn't even be a factor in a mature civilized society, just like ethnicity or age. It is an indictment on Australians that few indigenous people are in politics and that it is probably many generations away before we can celebrate an Aboriginal woman as Prime Minister.
That our socio-political mindset is so hung up on the abilities and performance of one person in the role a leader is a rather vulnerable insecure position for the electorate and the media to be in. It means that the success or failure of the entire nation hinges on the whim of one personality. In Rudd, we trusted him on his promises, but even though he was quickly distracted by the GFC and then lost focus on key issues, he didn't end up being an axe murderer, luckily. American voted for George W. Bush and look what they got - someone who condoned torture and sent Americans to invade another country!
Our dependence on one person to lead the nation poses an unnecessary 'key man' risk. It is the Government and specifically a Cabinet team of ministers who should be running the country, not Rudd, not a gang of four, not just Julia Gillard. Running a country is immensely complex. It is a shared responsibility that of course demands leadership, but for effective delivery requires layers of delegation and good governance.
Gillard would be wise to better utilise the talents of her elected representatives than trying to do everything herself like Rudd tried to do but failed. Gillard should be about leadership of the Cabinet. Gillard's Government should be about managing the national interest as directed by Cabinet. The two functions are distinctly different. Rudd' experiment with autocracy should be learnt from. He started off with a progressive approach to listening to the electorate in his 2020 Summit. Perhaps his incapacity to interpret criticism constructively saw him become insular - lessons we can all learn from.
If we consider some of our more longer serving leaders at both federal and state levels who were popular with the electorate and not divisive, we may learn from what works for Australian political stability. Deakin, Menzies, Hawke, Wran come to mind. Liberal and Labor are ideologically the same so it matters little which is in office. Listening and consultation followed by decisive action is a good start and this is one of the first indicators of Gillard's style she announced on taking the helm.
I wish her new government well. It would be reassuring for voters to think they can look forward to a long period of political stability in Australia, without the usual cycle of new leader euphoria...disappointment...complacency...anger...contempt...followed by let's give the Opposition a go.
But we must have an election soon. Until we do, Australia does not have a 'government of the people, by the people, for the people.' [Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 19th November, 1863, Pennsylvania, USA].
The Australian group Citizens Electoral Council who promote the political program of Lyndon La Rouche is certainly a group with which candobetter has serious differences. They could fairly be described as extreme techonologically optimistic#main-fn1">1 cornucupians. Examples of media releases which illustrate this include: Populate or Perish: Australia needs 50 million people plus! and "Lies, damned lies, and 'global warming' statistics" of 6 Jan 10.
Nevertheless, we aim to give credit where credit is due. If we can put aside the CEC's environmental myopia, it does have some ideas of merit. These include proposals for radical reform of our monetary system. Of Lyndon Larouche, Ellen Brown wrote in "Web of Debt":
[Lyndon La Rouche proposes] to make cheap national credit available for putting the unemployed to work developing national infrastructure. La Rouche has launched an appeal for a new Bretton Woods Conference to reorganize the world's financial system, a plan he says is endorsed by many international leaders. It would call for:
- A new system of fixed exchange rates,
- A treaty between governments to ban speculation in deriviatives,
- The cancellation or reorganisation of international debt, and
- The issuance of "credit" by national governments in sufficient quantites to bring their economies up to full employment, to be used for technical innovation and to develop critical infrastructure.
La Rouche's proposed system of exchange rates would be based on an international unit of currency pegged against the price of an agreed basket of hard commodities. With such a system, he says, it would be the currencies, not the commodities, [which are] given implicitly adjusted vaues, as based upon the basket of commodities used to define the unit.#main-fn2">2
In accord with La Rouche's fourth point, the CEC's media release of 14 January calls for the re-establishment of a national bank as the (now privatised) Commonwealth Bank was prior to 1960, when Prime Minister Menzies took away its central banking powers that are now vested in the Reserve Bank which uses these powers secretively beyond any scrutiny by Parliament or the Australian public.
Candobetter would certainly want to join in the CEC's "fight to re-establish a national bank," referred to in the media release below, but we could not recommend a vote for CEC candidates should they choose to stand in the Federal elections, because of their extreme anti-environmental stance.
However, we see no reason why such policies could not be adopted by other parties with stances less hostile to the environment, such as the Greens or the New Australia Party.
If such parties, seriously wish to be considered as serious alternatives to both of the two major pro-big-business parties, then their adopting such a proposal would almost certainly add enormously to their electoral appeal.
However, after two and a half decades of their existence, the Greens, for their part, have failed to adopt any policy which challenges the fundumental economic direction of this country, so we don't hold out any hope that that will change any time soon.
The full media release from the Citizens Electoral Council is included below.
Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
Media Release 14 January 2010
To defeat the Money Power and guarantee Australia's economic future:
Re-establish a true national bank
Fifty years ago today—14 January, 1960—Prime Minister Robert Menzies committed an act of treachery on behalf of his private banker friends, and neutered Australia's national bank, by removing the Commonwealth Bank's central banking powers, and reducing it to a mere trading and savings bank.
The powerful central banking function, by which the Commonwealth Bank had regulated and leashed the private banks, was renamed the Reserve Bank of Australia, and placed under the control of a private board of directors; its first Governor, H.C. "Nugget" Coombs, boasted that he was a member of "the international freemasonry of central bankers".
The City of London-directed private banker fraternity, including Menzies' best friend, financier Staniforth Ricketson of J.B. Were & Son, whom the patriots in the early Labor Party called the "Money Power", had finally achieved what they had strived for since the Commonwealth Bank's establishment in 1911—the end of sovereign government control over banking.
Today, Citizens Electoral Council leader Craig Isherwood called on Australians to rejoin "old" Labor's fight against the Money Power, and demand the re-establishment of a true national bank like the Commonwealth Bank.
"If Australia is to have a prosperous economic future, we must harness the nation's credit to build large-scale water, power and transport infrastructure, and foster essential agricultural and manufacturing industries, which means we need a true national bank, owned and run by the government for the common good," he said.
"The early Labor Party fought against the Money Power's private control of banking, because they understood that a government only had true sovereignty, if it exercised ultimate control over the monetary system through a national bank.
"Thanks to the influence of pro-American forces in the early Labor Party and among the writers of our Constitution, Australia is a unique country, in that we are the only nation outside of the U.S. to have had a true, Hamiltonian-style national bank, which was expatriate American and Commonwealth Bank architect King O'Malley's intention when he created it, going so far as to proclaim, 'I am the Hamilton of Australia...'" [Alexander Hamilton was the 1st U.S. Treasury Secretary under President George Washington, and the inventor of national banking.]
In the two periods when the Commonwealth Bank was able to function as a true national bank under government control and directing finance for the public good, 1912-1923#main-fn3">3 (under the governorship of Sir Denison Miller) and 1941-1945 (under the Labor government during WWII), its achievements were stunning:
- The Trans-Australian railway;
- Financing the national wool clip in WWI;
- Stopping a run on the private banks during WWI;
- Financing Australia's miraculous war-time economic mobilisation in WWII;
- Zero war-time inflation during WWII.
In 2001, the CEC published its book, What Australia Must Do to Survive the Depression, which includes ready-to-enact legislation for a new national bank, the Commonwealth National Credit Bank Bill, and an explanation for how a new national bank would function to be as successful as its predecessor.
Mr Isherwood concluded with a challenge: "Next year, 2011, is the 100th anniversary of the 22nd of December, 1911 passage of the Commonwealth Bank Act, the single most important piece of legislation in our history," he said.
"Join the CEC's fight to re-establish a national bank, and let us set that anniversary as the deadline to achieve it.
"God knows we need it," he said.
Craig Isherwood, National Secretary
PO Box 376 Coburg VIC 3058
Phone: 03 9354 0544 Fax: 03 9354 0166
E mail: cec [ AT ] cecaust.com.au
See also: Cut Wall Street out! How states can finance their own economic recovery of 3 Nov 09 by Ellen Brown, How a state-owned bank could make Queensland asset fire sale unnecessary based on original article by Ellen Brown of 29 May 09 by Ellen Brown, Call for the re-establishment of a true national bank of 17 Jan 2010
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. #main-fn1-txt">↑ The CEC does have some worthwhile ideas about technology. An example is their media Isherwood: Australia & India should cooperate on thorium nuclear power of 11 Jan 10. However, we regard their apparent belief that such technologies can fix all possible ecological, social and economic problems is reckless in the extreme.
#main-fn2" id="main-fn2">2. #main-fn2-txt">↑ The Web of Debt(2008 edition) is a towering work which blows apart the mystique of the worldwide monetary system. Its core thesis is that money has no intrinsic value and is no more than a means to exchange goods and services. As such, all money should be created as a service by the Government, whether as coins, paper, or electronically and not by private banks. The book shows how the undemocratic usurping of this function by private banks in most countries, principly the United States, has been the cause of almost every major economic crisis for the last 300 years. (This somewhat casts doubt on the Marxist thesis, that I had previously accepted, that capitalism, in and of itself, has an inbuilt dynamic that inevitably leads to economic crises.) The book does have flaws, including its implicit argument that monetary reform alone can fix nearly all the world's problems. As an example, it fails to acknowledge that China, which does have essentially the kind of monetary system that Brown (rightly) advocates, faces serious ecological crisis and may well be the casue of global ecological collapse. Also precisely because China's own economy works so well, other economies largely crippled by private banking system, such as Australia's face the threat of colonisation by China.
#main-fn3" id="main-fn3">3. The achievements of the Commonwealth Bank during this period, including enabling Australia's participation at a cost considerably less than would have been otherwise possible has to be somewhat tempered by the ongoing controversy about our participation in that war at the cost of 60,000 Australian lives. Another cost, not widely acknowledged, is the Armenian genocide, largely triggered as a consequence of Australia's participation in the attempted invasion of Turkey at Gallipoli. The Armenian genocide was swept under the carpet during rapproachment between Australia and Turkey following the war. The outcome of the First World, in paricular the Treaty of Versailles, was unjust and laid the basis for almost continuous conflict since then including the Second World War.
See also: Call for the re-establishment of a true national bank of 17 Jan 2010.
James Sinnamon, an independent candidate for the seat of Brisbane in the forthcoming 2010 Federal elections asks Senator Bob Brown and members of the Greens Party to pledge to introduce into our Federal Parliament bills for Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda, Swiss-style. This would strongly guarantee against politicians ever again being able to abuse their office in order to enact laws overwhelmingly opposed by the people, in the way Senator Stephen Conroy is now attempting to ram his Chinese-style Mandatory Internet Filtering Laws through the Senate.
See also: "Conroy will be censoring people, not the internet" of 23 Dec 09 on Online Opinion and discussion forum, "Australia's shadowy wisp of a democracy" of 19 Dec 09 on Online Opinion and discussion forum, cir-australia.net, efa.org.au, greens.org.au. See article for links to other articles, on other sites, on Mandatory Internet Filtering. See, on candobetter.org, "Federal Government threatens Internet censorship" of 16 Nov 08, "Stop Internet Censorship!" of 4 Dec 09, "Rudd - just a control freak with his little book or are we witnessing the emergence of the 'Rudd State'?" of 15 Dec 09.
Appendices: Reply from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, 22 Dec 09 and my further replies.
Originally published 20 Dec 09. Updated with appendix 23 Dec 09.
Dear Senator Bob Brown and all members of the Greens Party,
Australia may be weeks away from having our democracy irreparably and terminally harmed if the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy gets his way and has his Mandatory Internet Filtering legislation passed by the Senate.
This is in spite of the following facts:
- Mandatory Internet Censorship was not put to the electorate in the 2007 elections;
- Opinion polls show consistent overwhelming public opposition to
Mandatory Internet Filtering;
- Senator Conroy has rarely been prepared to defend Internet Filtering in
open public debates and, where he has, he has lost the argument;
Senator Stephen Conroy has obstinately ignored public opinion in order to pursue his goal of imposing on Australian Internet users, a Chinese-style firewall that will give the Government virtually unlimited powers to censor any Internet material it considers a threat.
The ability, that ordinary citizens now have to use the Internet to tell the truth and show up the deceit of the governments and the corporate news media and to organise to rectify Australia's generally woeful current political situation, could well be lost forever.
All that stands in the way of this becoming the reality are the votes of a handful Liberal and National Party Senators.
To their immense credit, the Liberal and National Parties have held the line and prevented this rotten legislation becoming the law until now.
However, can we allow ourselves to forget that many of these are the same people who voted again and again for retrograde legislation such as "Work Choices" and the privatisation of Telstra and for the Iraq War when they were members of the Howard Government? Can we be sure that such political representatives will hold the line indefinitely in the Senate against Mandatory Internet Filtering?
All it needs is for just a few members of the Opposition to change their vote, for this rotten bill to become law. It is not difficult to imagine one or two proclaiming that the imperative of protecting children, as the bill purports to do, as a justification for changing their vote.
And even if the Opposition does hold the line against the Bill, what sort of choice will ordinary voters face at the likely Double Dissolution elections early next year?
The only realistic chance they would have of defeating Mandatory Internet Filtering, would be to embrace, even if only on a two-party-preferred basis, the parties which gave them "Work Choices", the Iraq War, Telstra privatisation and slash-and-burn budgets and which sent Rottweillers and mercenaries into the wharves in an attempt to break the Maritime Union of Australia in 1998.
This is simply not good enough.
If we are to end, once and for all, the kind of elective tyranny that now threatens us with internet censorship, then this country needs a law that gives to any ordinary citizen, if he or she can demonstrate a minimum threshold of public support, the right to initiate a national referendum, the outcome of which is binding upon the national goverment. Such referenda are referred to as Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda (BCIR).
In Switzerland any proposal at the national level supported by a 100,000#main-fn1">1 of its 4,915,533 registered voters, including proposals for the recall of any elected official, can be put to the vote at referenda held every three months.
There is no way that the citizens of Australia would have permitted Keating's deregulation of the finance sector, the privatisation of retirement income, the privatisation of QANTAS, the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the State Banks and State Insurance companies, the imposition of the National Competition Policy, the forcible amalgamation of local governments, the Bligh Government's fire sale, etc. if BCIR had been law.
And there would be no way today that Senator Conroy could hope to get his Mandatory Internet Filtering bill passed today.
The choice we face at the end 2009 is between the continuation of our current system of elective tyranny which may well turn into a totalitarian police state if Conroy's bill is passed, or giving back, to ordinary citizens, the right to determine the course of their country.
If the Greens chooose to emphatically campaign for BCIR laws, as well as against Mandatory Internet Filtering, in the coming 2010 federal elections, there is every reason to expect that at least a firm majority voters will support those policies enthusiastically and that far more of them, than have in past elections, will vote for Greens candidates. As the case for BCIR laws is so clear and overwhelming, this could well cause either or both of the major parties to also promise to support the implementation of such laws to shore up their own electoral support.
Whether they do or not, neither the Greens nor the Australian electorate could lose as a result.
As an independent candidate, who intends to contest the Federal Lower House seat of Brisbane in the coming Federal Elections, I will be putting to Brisbane voters my proposal for BCIR laws. I intend to make known to Brisbane voters and voters in all other electorates the stance, or lack of stance, as it may turn out to be, of each and every candidate on BCIR's and urge them to use their primary and subsequent voting preferences accordingly.
I hope, as result of your receiving this open letter, you will immediately give the BCIR issue the urgent consideration it deserves and that I will soon be able to inform electors through our web site that every successful Greens candidate has pledged to introduce BCIR legislation into our Federal Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity in 2010.
I also hope that affirmative, even if belated, responses, are similarly sent by the Greens to the group CIR Australia, which, in late 2008, surveyed every Parliamentarian and political party in the country about their intentions towards BCIR's. Only two Greens, Nicholas McKim and Timothy Morris from the Tasmanian House of Assembly, have responded so far to that survey. The responses can be found at www.cir-australia.net/index.php?id=12 and www.cir-australia.net/index.php?id=13.
This open letter has been published on our website at candobetter.org/CitizensInitiatedReferenda I intend to also publish there, with their permission, any responses from the Greens as an organisation or from Senator Bob Brown and other individual members of the Greens as soon as I receive them.
Brisbane Independent for Truth, Democracy,
the Environment and Economic Justice
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. #main-fn1-txt">↑ The 100,000 signatures can be collected in up to a maximum of 18 months. In Australia, this would have been the equivalent to requiring signatures of 277,621 of its 13,646,539 voters registered in 2007. Given Australia's geographic disparity and less than universal access to e-voting a somewhat lower threshold would be justified.
According to the Swiss government web site (24 July 2013 - I am advised: "Document not found! -- The page you were looking for could not be found." - Ed), voters also have the power to rescind legislation carried by their Parliaments:
The people are entitled to pronounce on parliamentary decisions after the event. Federal laws, generally binding decisions of the Confederation and international treaties of indefinite duration are subject to an optional referendum: in this case, a popular ballot is held if 50,000 citizens so request. The signatures must be collected within 100 days of a decree's publication. (www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/ocea/vaus/infoch/chpoli.html , also cited at www.cir-australia.net/index.php?id=24)
Some Further Information
For more on Mandatory Internet Filtering, see: "Federal Government threatens Internet censorship" of 16 Nov 08 on candobetter.org, "Save the Children opposes internet filter" of 9 Jul 09 on ABC Online, "Internet filter plan 'wasting time, money'" of 2 Sep 09 on ABC online, "Stop Internet Censorship!" of 4 Dec 09 on candobetter.org, "Undermining the American People's Right to Privacy: The Secret State's Surveillance Machine" of 11 Dec 09 on Global Research, "Rudd - just a control freak with his little book or are we witnessing the emergence of the 'Rudd State'?" of 15 Dec 09 on candobetter.org, "ISP filter to block worst net nasties" in the Australian of 15 Dec 09, "Green light for internet filter plans" of 15 Dec 09 on ABC Online, "Why the Internet filter is not the solution we wish it was" of 16 Dec 09 by Penny Sharpe, Labor Party member of NSW Legislative Council (and related article, "First Labor politician breaks filter ranks" of 17 Dec 09 on ZDNet), "Filtering coming to Australia in 2010" of 17 Dec 09 on Electronic Frontiers Australia, "Internet filter will not stop child porn peddlers" of 17 Dec 09 in the SMH, "Australian Government approves Internet censorship plan" of 18 Dec 09 on infopackets,"Australia's great barrier" of 19 Dec 09 on Index on Censorship, "Conroy will be censoring people, not the internet" of 23 Dec 09 on Online Opininion and discussion forum.
#ludlam-22dec09" id="ludlam-22dec09">Appendix 1: E-mail from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam - 22 Dec 09
Subject: Re: Internet censorship threat confirms urgent need for Binding
Citizens Initiated Referenda - An Open Letter to the Greens)
Thank you for your email. The Australian Greens are deeply concerned about the Federal Government's announcement that it is proceeding with plans to introduce compulsory internet filtering.
The Government has released the long-overdue test results for mandatory net filtering, alongside a discussion paper seeking feedback on increased accountability and transparency in blacklisting websites (see http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/media/media_releases/2009/115).
Despite the release of a discussion paper that tacitly acknowledges the huge concern this proposal has raised and the flaws in the existing blacklisting process, the Government is intent on ploughing ahead.
The pointless nature of this proposal is set out in the report itself, which admits that the filters will be circumvented by people seeking blocked material.
Testing showed that the filters used for the ACMA blacklist only were more easily circumvented than other more complex filters used to cover a wider range and volume of material.
The Government has also indicated the open-ended nature of the filter by acknowledging they will be importing blacklists from overseas to supplement the Australian list. As many people have said, this is the thin end of the wedge. The policy is simply misguided.
The 'discussion paper' only asks for input on one aspect of the policy, with the rest apparently locked in. I encourage people to communicate the full range of their concerns to the Government rather than being deterred by what looks like a done deal.
Unless the Government changes tack, the Greens will be moving significant amendments to this legislation if it is introduced to the Senate.
If you would like to voice your opposition, email Minister Conroy via minister[AT]dbcde.gov.au
22 December 2009
Phone (08) 9335 7477
Fax: (08) 9335 7499
Local call (WA country callers): 1300 733 450
#sinnamon-23dec09" id="sinnamon-23dec09">Appendix 2: My reply to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam - 23 Dec 09
Editorial note: Please also see Appendix 3 immediately below this e-mail for subsequent e-mail that I sent after I belatedly noticed in the above e-mail that the Greens apparently intend to amend this legislation instead of trying to defeat it outright. This is of great concern to me, so I quickly sent a further e-mail. I received an "Out of Office reply" response which told me that no-one would be able to attend to that e-mail until 19 January. I resent the e-mail to an alternative suggested e-mail address.
Subject: Re: Internet censorship threat confirms urgent need for Binding
Citizens Initiated Referenda - An Open Letter to the Greens)
Dear Senator Scott Ludlam
On Tue, 22 Dec 2009, you wrote:
> Thank you for your email. ...
And thank you for yours. I have published it at http://candobetter.org/node/1725 .
I trust that you will approve.
> ... The Australian Greens are deeply concerned about
> the Federal Government's announcement that it is proceeding with plans to
> introduce compulsory internet filtering.
Of course, I appreciate the great work that you and the Greens have done in opposing this rotten legislation. I apologise if I did not make that clear.
However, that is not the main point of my letter.
My point is that the defeat of the legislation may still hang on a knife edge.
If not, why is Conroy proceeding as if the laws will be passed? And why are the newspaper reports implying that it will be passed?
Perhaps it is just bravado on Conroy's part, but can we afford to assume that it is not just that? Can we afford to assume that he knows something that the Greens and the rest of the community are unaware?
We can't afford to gamble the whole future of our democracy on the whim of a number elected Senators, who are largely beyond the control of those whom they purport to represent for up to six years.
Australians need a stronger guarantee against ruthless and unconscionable politicians abusing the power they have been given in the way that appears to be happening now and which has happened on almost countless other occasions in the past three decades.
The only guarantee against further such abuses is Binding Citizens Initiated Referenda.
I believe this must be urgently considered then adopted by the Greens.
If this occurs, Australians will immediately grasp the necessity of BCIR's and this could only be to the advantage of the Greens as well as the Australian public.
As a first step, could you consider introducing, by whatever means, legislation into the Senate that would force Conroy to put his Mandatory Internet Filtering to a referendum?
Even if it were to be defeated, at least the undemocratic means by which Conroy is attempting to have his bill passed will be too obvious for anyone to deny.
> The Government has released the long-overdue test results for mandatory net
> filtering, alongside a discussion paper seeking feedback on increased
> accountability and transparency in blacklisting websites (see
Thank you. I haven't had a chance to check that.
> Despite the release of a discussion paper that tacitly acknowledges the
> huge concern this proposal has raised and the flaws in the existing
> the Australian list. As many people have said, this is the thin end of the
> wedge. The policy is simply misguided.
I agree with all this, but I think the main objection must be that these laws
are a mortal threat to democracy.
> The 'discussion paper' only asks for input on one aspect of the policy,
> If you would like to voice your opposition, email Minister Conroy via
I may choose to do this, but I am sure we both know that Senator Conroy is not interested in my views on this, nor in the views of the overwhelming majority of the public.
> Senator Ludlam
> 22 December 2009
Appendix 3: My further reply to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam- 23 Dec 09
Editorial note: See above at start of #sinnamon-23dec09">Appendix 2 for explanation about this e-mail.
Subject: Do Greens no longer expect Mandatory Internet Filtering to be defeated by Senate?
(Subject was: Re: Internet censorship threat confirms urgent need for Binding
Citizens Initiated Referenda - An Open Letter to the Greens)
Dear Senator Scott Ludlam,
Before I sent my last e-mail, I hadn't fully comprehended the meaning of the words:
> Unless the Government changes tack, the Greens will be moving significant
> amendments to this legislation if it is introduced to the Senate.
A few months ago, I gained the understanding was that the Greens were confident that a majority of the Senate was committed to defeating the bill.
Does this mean that the Greens no longer believe this to be the case and therefore the Greens accept that Mandatory Internet filtering will become law and are now only hoping to limit some of the worst excesses of the legislation with amendments?
On 18 December 2009, Queenslander's were greeted with yet more bad news by Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper in the story "Monster power price hike" (in 19 December printed edition):
The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) has just announced a draft decision that would see prices rise by 13.83 per cent between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
The decision would add an additional $276 to the average annual household bill of $2000.
It is the fourth successive jump in electricity costs since the State Government claimed deregulation of the industry would put downward pressure on prices.
The heavy price, already paid Queenslanders for former Premier Peter Beattie's decision, made without their consent or any electoral mandate, to privatise the retail arm of the state owned electricity utility, continues to climb.
The Courier-Mail's editorial of 18 Dec 09 attempted to rationalise this. It's title "Using less power is key to beat price rise" gave a clue as to what its tack would be.
It began by appearing to empathise with, but at the same time diminishing the grounds for outrage against this decision.
PRICE rises, particularly when the hand of government is involved in some way, are always going to be politically contentious.
As such, yesterday's draft decision by the Queensland Competition Authority ... sparked the predictable howls of protest from consumers and the Opposition, and grumblings from the Government.
Then it immediately proceeded to provide its own wholely predictable justification for the increases.
With the massive investment required to maintain and expand Queensland's electricity network to cater for a growing and increasingly power-hungry population, rises such as this were always inevitable -- ...
If price rises were 'inevitable' as a result of population growth actively pursued by both the Queensland and Federal Governments, then why weren't the people who are now being made to pay the costs, first asked?
As we have shown in other earlier articles, the Courier-Mail newspaper like the state Government has been playing a double game with the Queensland public on this issue.
For years both have been shifting between the outright encouragement of population growth and then, when the detrimental consequences have become too obvious to deny, a pretence that it is beyond our own contol. This has been described elsewhere in the articles "Exposing Queensland Government population growth duplicity" of 1 Apr 09 and "How Government and the Murdoch press deceive Australian public on immigration" of 27 Oct 09.
Whilst, in more recent years, Courier-Mail avoids explicitly stating its support for population growth, the same is not true of the national daily newspaper the Australian also owned by Rupert Murdoch. Examples of promotion of population growth and high immigration are listed in the abovementioned article. Another is the editorial with the lofty and pretentious title "Population is destiny" of 19 Sep 09 which enthusiastically endorsed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's stated goal of increasing Australia's population to 35 million by 2050.
The editorial makes sweeping claims about how such population increases will be of enormous indisputable benefit to all, but, of course, no-where does it mention the environmental, social and economic costs that Queenslanders are now being made to pay for population growth. No-where does it warn that charges for services such as electricity, gas and water will rise as a consequence.
For their part, the Courier-Mail's reporters and editors write of the effects of population growth as if unaware of the role played by the Australian in bringing it about.
If it chose the Courier-Mail could use, very effectively, its voice towards stopping population growth and the consequent harm, only one example of which that this editorial addresses. I have demonstrated that it has shown that it is able to on other political questions in the article "Courier Mail spins news of 79% opposition to fire sale to reveal its privatisation colours" of 11 Dec 09, but in regard to population growth, it chooses not to.
It lets off the hook the politicians whose undemocratic unpopular decisions have so harmed the public interest and continue to do so. In regard to former Queensland Premier Beattie, the editorial Courier-Mail's editorial contines:
... and former premier Peter Beattie was foolhardy at the time of the Energex retail sell-off to talk up the prospect of cheaper power.
The possibility that Beattie's long since discredited promise of cheaper power, rather than having been 'foolhardy' may have been judged necessary to achieve his goal of bludgeoning public opinion into accepting the deregulation and privatisation of the retail arm of the state's electricity utilities sector, is not considered.
Beattie's claim is only one of many examples of similarly baseless claims of the benefits of privatisation made by politicians. The possibility that claims made by Premier Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser today in support of their current bid to flog off $15 billion worth of public assets may be similarly groundless is, of course, never raised by the Courier-Mail with its readership.
The editorial argues against aginst any direct Government intervention to reject or curtail the price risese approved by the QCA:
Not only would this undermine the authority of the QCA itself, it would also be a recipe for disaster for commercial entities in Queensland's power sector, many of whom are operating on very thin and competitive margins as it is.
In fact, such a move would likely drive away participants from the sector, resulting in less competition and ultimately even higher prices.
So, the fabulous competitive energy market is apparently economically unviable, that is unless it is allowed to charge massively more than what the previous Government owned electricity retail arm charged for the same service!
Instead, the editorial argues that the Government act to modify consumer behaviour:
As was demonstrated during the water crisis, a concerted public information campaign can result in an enduring behavioural shift when it comes to consumption patterns.
Our love affair with airconditioners and other power-hungry appliances has resulted in average household consumption rising from about 6400 kilowatt hours to 11,000kWh in the past decade. And in the past five years the network has been expanded to cater for an extra 4200 megawatts of electricity at times of peak demand -- enough to power South Australia and Tasmania combined.
This additional capacity does not come cheap, and the costs must ultimately be passed on to the end user – and these are consumers who, on average, have increased their electricity consumption by 70 per cent in only 10 years.
Of course, the Courier-Mail now conveniently forgets its own past role in encouraging ever greater per capita consumption of energy and other resources.
One of the principle reasons for "our love affair with airconditioners" as the editorial puts it, is the shoddy designs of housing crammed together on sprawling suburban developments with little tree cover in between the concrete, the often black-coloured tiled rooves, guaranteed to absorb the maximum possible amount of heat and bitumen roads. Whilst the Courier-Mail clamoured to expand the housing development industry and the importation of customers for it, the Courier-Mail showed little leadership of which I am aware, towards at least ensuring that what was built would not be so energy inefficient.
Now people who paid so dearly to buy these dwellings may have be forced to swelter without air-conditioning in the summer heat or pay probibitively for it.
Before the Global Financial crisis, the Courier-Mail fed to Queenslanders expectations that the economic boom would last forever and, not that long ago it was considerably less circumspect in its support for population growth. It openly clamoured for ever greater numbers of people to move to Queensland to fill what it insisted were critical labor shortages as I described in the article "The Courier Mail beats the drum for more Queensland population growth" of Jan 07.
Now we have discovered, to our cost, that this state never had the unlimited capacity to cater for new arrivals and ever higher per-capita levels of consumption that the Courier-Mail insisted that we did have, the Courier-Mail's own past consumerist propaganda, at least in some respects, is turned around 180 degrees.
The editorial concludes:
Without altering our behaviour, the only way to keep a lid on electricity prices is via government subsidies. And then we all end up paying more -- no matter what our individual usage -- through higher taxes.
Of course, we know better than to expect of the Courier-Mail to argue to end reckless Government policies of population growth and privatisation that created the shambles that the electricity secore has been turned into.
Instead, we are expected to fix the mess by reducing our consumption whether through smart means or by brutal means which will reduce our livng standards.
But even if we achieve this, it can only provided a temporary reprieve until we achieve population stability.
What you can do: Queensland citizens can sign the e-petition calling for the resignation of the Queensland Government and new elections. See "Anti-privatisation e-petition calls on Queensland government to resign" for further information.
Peter Garrett's decision to stop the building of the Traveston dam is to be heartily applauded. However, he did no more than what should be expected of a Federal Minister for the Environment when faced with such an environmentally reckless proposal.
This is the second significant occasion, that I can recall, on which Garrett has acted in favour of the environment, that is, in other words, treated his statutory obbligations seriously. The other occasion was when he blocked the Bligh Government's similarly environmentally reckless plan to build a coal loader in Shoalwater Bay..
Garrett's overall dismal environmental record
On every other significant issue that I can recall, he has acted against the environment.--- Uranium mining, the Dredging of Port Philip Bay the Tasmanian Pulp Mill, the Car Rally in the environmentally sensitive Tweed and Kyogle Shires, failure to act to protect the Murray Darling system, the building of a massive deslanation plant on Victoria's Bass Coast, the North South pipleline, the overall massive expansion of Australia's coal exports, not to mention his failure to take a visible stance against the Federal Governent's reckless plans to grow our populaiton, etc., etc.
If Garrett's decision is truly a sign of him changing heart back to become the environmentailst he once claimed to be, then we would explect to see him, from now on to act consistently in favour of the environment and to find ways to reverse previous decisions harmful to the environment.
I hope to be proven wrong, but I am not expecting that to occur.
If I am right, then it would be more accurate to conclude that Garrett's decision against the Traveston Dam was the result of a political calculation concerning how much he needs to do for the environment in order to retain any political credibility.
The Save the Mary River Group had no plan B
One alarming aspect of this controversy is that the Save the Mary River Group had no strategy for dealing with an adverse decision from Peter Garrett.
Environmentalists should never put themselves in a position where they have to virtually beg of our political representatives to do the right thing. If the Minister for the Environment does not fear environmental groups such as the Save the Mary Group and does not go out of his way to meet their reasonable demands, then they are not doing their job properly.
Prior to that Save the Mary River Group's principle strategy was to campaign for the Liberal National Party (LNP) and against the Labor Government at the 2009 state elections, thereby alienating many environmentalists who had good reason to be concerned about some of the LNP's poor environmental policies.
The Save the Mary Group explicitly damned the Greens in their election literature for their reluctance to give their preferences to the LNP when the Greens were (for all their considerable faults) at least as consistently agains the dam as the LNP.
With the re-election of the Bligh Government, and a cross-bench not holding the balance of power, that strategy got them nowhere.
In the 2008 local Government elections they failed to back the Integrity Gympie team, which was committed to fully utilising the resources of the Gympie council to fight the dam, and, instead allowed candidates who were prepared only to pay lip service to the fight against the dam, to win.
Astonishingly, in a referendum held in Toowoomba in 2006, anti-dam campaigners, together with the Queensland Greens, campaigned, ultimately unsuccessfully against community activists for the imposition of recycled water by the City Council. As a result, relations between them and a group of people in South East Queensland, who would naturally have been sympathetic towards them have been poisoned ever since, including during the critical 2009 Queensland State elections.#main-fn1">1
At the moment, the Save the Mary River Group can count themselves very lucky that, this time, Peter Garrett's political calculations came down on the side of the environment.
Brisbane Independent candidate for
truth, democracy and economic justice,
Australian Federal elections, 2010
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. #main-fn1-txt">↑ For their part, anti-water-recycling and anti-fluoridation campaigners largely reciprocated the Save the Mary Group's counterproductive stance, and this appears to have also harmed, rather than helped them at the ballot box.