This article explores why Australians are so frustrated with the lack of deep thinkers and serious policy makers in our political establishment. It asks why politicians only discuss peripheral issues and never seriously address homelessness. It comments on some recent flagrantly anti-democratic political acts, including the way LNP leadership has been hired out to Cambell Newman in Queensland. In the spirit of relocalisation, it offers some insights into local power in China.
One only need browse through recent events in Australian politics (Federal and State) over the last few months to understand why Australians are so frustrated with the lack of deep thinkers and serious policy makers in our political establishment.
In normal times, with a booming world economy, despite widespread incompetency in political leadership, Australia, blessed by its natural resources, has been able to flow along with the world trend of economic prosperity. Therefore the issue of political incompetency within our current system of government has not been sufficiently alarming to affect the livelihood of the average person on the streets. For example, Australia can simply ride on the wave of the Chinese boom, to go by these examples: (WA Today, 27 Dec 2010) and (The Australian, 29 Dec 2010)
Global connections; global problems
The world, however, has become so inter-connected that some problems are beyond our control. An event taking place in one part of the world can negatively impact upon the rest of the world. One such event was the global financial crisis ignited by the United States in 2008, which impacted in the subsequent global inflation. This global crisis was due partly to the then US President Bush’s and now Obama’s administration so-called ‘Quantitative Easing Monetary Policy.’ Plainly speaking, this is a money printing policy. This policy caused the world to be flooded with hot money and a depreciating US dollar. (Money Market, 25 Oct 2010 -
There are of course many other international factors that resulted in inflation beyond our control. These include:
1) The US administration's irresponsible policy in the sudden converting of 35 per cent of US corn into biofuel without taking into consideration the immediate impact to the rest of the world due to:
a) US exports accounting for about 60 per cent of the world's corn supply, hence a sudden shortage in supply of 35% of corn from US into the market caused the price to go up.
b) Many livestock farmers use corn to feed their livestock. Hence, inflation on meat and meat related products as well.
As a result, the Independent UK (23 march 2011) reported a complaint by Nestlé boss with a heading:
2) The recent mass protests across the Middle East and North Africa have also got to do with inflation in food price and daily necessities. The political turmoil in the oil rich regions fuels inflation across the world on another front with a surge in oil price, which affects the cost of transport, electricity and everything else.
3) Other factors also cause inflation, such as the appreciation of Chinese currency and labour cost. Corporate greed is also a key reason.
While the Treasurer claims credit on economic figures, can you find any politician commenting on the following topics?
Whilst our politician, Treasurer Wayne Swan, was quick to claim credit for the latest unemployment figures (Herald Sun, 10 April 2011 - , no politician (from government, opposition, minor parties or independents) seemed to want to comment on any of the following sets of figures over the last few months:
1) (Herald Sun, 7 April 2011)
2) (News Limited, 28 March 2011)
3) (The Australian, 9 April 2011)
4) (The Age, 29 March 2011)
5) (Daily Telegraph, 15 Feb 2011)
6) (WA Today, 24 May 2010)
7) (News Limited, 25 Feb 2011)
8) (Construction News, 7 Dec 2010)
9) (News Limited, 7 Mar 2011) where the tax office raises the following issues: “Documents show 4.3 million individual taxpayers have "not yet lodged" a tax return for 2008-09 - a staggering 26 per cent increase on 3.4 million in the previous year” and “About 700,000 taxpayers entered into special repayment plans with the Tax Office in 2009-10 - an increase of 32 per in four years.”
Homelessness in Australia
The reality on the ground is that, instead of having 105,000 homeless across the country during the the latest figure reported 4 years later by the ABC (30 April 2010) has become That is, the number of homeless in Australia has being more than doubled within 3 years since the last count in 2006. The problem is so serious that, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “as many as 80 per cent of new applications for temporary housing by couples with children cannot be met on a daily basis.” The report also indicated that “of the total new requests for housing, 62 per cent of people were turned away, a rate stable with previous years”. (Brisbane Times, 22 July 2010 -
Any solutions and policies announcement by our political ‘Elites’?
From their complete silence in response to these news items, it would appear that none of our politicians have a solution or have any understanding of the actual causes of the problems. Otherwise, based on our political culture, somebody would have jumped in front of the media to give themselves some free publicity.
In a time of massive poverty and suffering, this is what our politicians do:
1) One of our independent MPs who holds the balance of power in the minority government - Andrew Wilkie - threatened to bring down the Gillard government over pokey game reform. (Herald Sun, 30 March 2011 - Andrew has won a seat in Tasmania with a tiny margin by campaigning against pokey games. It seems that the issue of pokey reform seems to have taken up most, if not all of his time since he got into the federal parliament 8 months ago.
2) Our former Prime Minister and now Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd appears to be still bitter over being dumped by his comrades months before the last election. He has been acting as a lone ranger against his own party with virtually no or little contact with Prime Minister Julie Gillard and other cabinet ministers.
Immediately after his dumping as Prime Minister, he began to make use of his previous status and “upsetting Labor insiders by holding high-level talks in the US (and the UN) even though he is now just a backbencher” (News Limited, 16 July 2010 - He then is suspected of having gone further to leak information about his secret deal with the Gillard government the night before his dumping to ensure that he would be given a senior position in the new Labor cabinet if Labor win the upcoming election. ( WA Today, 16 July 2010- [Note: there were only 4 people in the secret meeting. Although Kevin Rudd never admitted that he was the one who leaked the secret deal, nearly everyone in the media is pointing at him].
When in the position of Foreign Minister in the newly elected Gillard’s government, Rudd used tax payer money to jet around 20 countries in just 100 days, apparently trying to get himself a high level United Nation position. This has some Labor MPs wondering: "Just what the hell is Kevin up to?"(The Daily Telegraph, 23 Dec 2010 - [Note: this is published under opinion].
While eyeing United Nation jobs, Kevin Rudd again tried to position himself as the next Prime Minister by continuing to disclose secret cabinet meetings to explain to the Australian public that his decision to dump certain policies prior to the election was a result of pressure from members of his own Cabinet. (News Limited, 6 April 2011 -
It has also been reported that, Kevin Rudd has “quietly launched himself on a one-man campaign trail, visiting electorates across the nation,” and “introducing himself to strangers, "Hi mate, Kevin. What's your name ?" (News Limited, 10 April 2011 -
Apparently, over the last few months, as a cabinet minister under the Australian Tax Payer’s payroll, Kevin Rudd has been working for himself, with no or little communication with the Prime Minister.
3) In a hung parliament with few seats short, Gillard’s government cannot survive with any single member of her coalition partners or members of her own party swinging their support against her. Therefore, her government can do nothing about the behaviour of her foreign minister beside creating her own “malicious leaks designed to discredit the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.” (The Australian, 15 Feb 2011 -
In order to maintain her grip on power, Prime Minister Gillard reportedly offers Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie “more one-on-one prime ministerial contact than is enjoyed by most ministers and mandarins”. (WA Today, 27 Nov 2010 -
The Gillard’s government is busily dealing with the Greens as well on policy direction to stay in power as she broke her own election promise on the issue of Carbon Tax. (See Herald Sun, 25 March 2011 - When the public form a perception that it is the Greens who formulated Labor policy, Julie Gillard again repositioned herself by publicly claiming that her coalition partners, “[the] Greens don't share Australian values” (, 1 April 2011) and then criticised the Greens as “Extremists” , 7 April 2011).
Within the last few months since Labor came into power, there is more news of politicking within the party, with coalition partners and with the opposition party than any actual policy initiative being announced.
4) The opposition is not doing any better. For instance, they have embroiled themselves in a number of poll driven racial issues, such as the asylum seekers issue, with a decades old slogan “Stop the boats,” and migrant-bashing such as in (Brisbane Times, 17 Feb 2011). They offer no policy to assist Australians who are struggling with the cost of living. On the contrary, there are a number of policies to chop ofests across the Middle East and most disadvantage people in Australian society. Some examples: (The Australian, 19 Aug 2010), , (The Telegraph, 31 march 2011)
5) Meanwhile, in NSW state politics, Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell managed to win a landslide victory without having to produce any detailed policies (, 18 March 2011).
6) And, in Queensland, after years of political infighting with consistently poor poll rating, the LNP has decided to change their leader again. This time, they invited an outsider a person without a seat in the State Parliament - the Lord Mayor of Brisbane City Council, Campbell Newman, to be their leader for the position of Premier in the coming election.
This is in part because, during the recent floods in Brisbane, Campbell Newman, as Mayor of the city, has received exposure on national television every day for weeks and is now a familiar household name. This situation apparently prompted former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to "describe the circumstances of Campbell Newman's foray into state politics as 'weird'" (, 23 March 2011).
Mr. Newman, while still officially the Mayor of Brisbane, and as somebody who have just entered state party politics suddenly in circumstances described as “weird” decided to give a fresh start to the LNP by simply binning all existing policies formulated by his predecessors. (Brisbane Times, 29 March 2011 - . Apparently, he has binned those policies without spending any time analysing and understanding wider issues and problems relating to the State of Queensland and the LNP.
The only thing that interests our politicians
As demonstrated from the above 6 examples, the only thing that interest our politicians is to stay in power. Election promises may be brushed aside. Existing policies can be binned overnight by a new leader who has charm but little experience in party leadership and state politics; politicians embroil themselves in race base politics because they believe it is a vote winner; cabinet minister can use tax payer money to run his personal agendas without having to consult the Prime Minister; an independent MP winning a seat with just a tiny margin, holding the balance of power in a minority government, may take up more prime ministerial time than ministers over a single issue “pokie reform”.
Individualism seems to rule the day. Who is going to serve the interest of the people and the nation?
Meanwhile, as a record number of Australians suffer poverty and homelessness, our Members of Parliament busily increase their personal wealth by being the top lodgers of dodgy tax claims on the one hand (News Limited, 17 March 2011 - ), and boosting their own pay rises by the thousands of dollars just few month ago, on the other. (, 18 Nov 2010)
Democracy Needs Reform
The world is getting more and more complex in the 21st century. Can any Tom, Dick or Harry on the street understand the complexity of the modern age? Will they have the knowledge, expertise, skills and ethical values to serve the very people that voted them into the Parliament? How long can we afford to have second, third or ninth rated people in the Parliament doing nothing right for us?
At a time of economic uncertainty, rising international conflict, and global inflation with increasing pressure on the cost of living, voters become so irrational that they simply wanted a quick fix on every problem they face. The popularity of governments is on a roller coaster. The life span of a government may become shorter and shorter. As a result, opponent parties are able to win election in landslide without having to put forward any detailed policy.
The charm of politicians has become more important than the substance of their policies. Will such a trend lead to political process where fewer and fewer deep thinkers will be able to make their way into Parliament?
Democracy is great! But should we begin to ask ourselves the following questions:
Is democracy in the current form known to the US, Australia and other English-speaking nations the best for the survival of mankind?
Is there room for improvement?
What is the purpose of democracy if people we have voted in fail to serve the interests of the very people that voted for them?
How long can we afford to have politicians not doing anything right for us?
Will the current form of western democracy eventually result in mass poverty and humanitarian disaster?
In this time of economic uncertainty, in the US, people are also increasingly conscious of the quality of their politicians. The Washington Post recently carried a report, (30 Jan 2011). A survey by NBC News/Wall Street Journal (March 2010) indicated that the from the American public.
In the UK, the 2010 election also resulted in a , with all three major parties failing The outcome of this election has been labeled
Other systems exist and China's, with which I am familiar, has been very much misunderstood by the Western World due to the of the mainstream Western Media. (I will try to find time to write an article on democracy with Chinese characteristics some time in the future.)
In the meantime, this article in the Guardian (19 January 2011) under the heading, may interest you. The article ended by quoting a statement made by Daniel Bell, a Canadian-born professor of political theory at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who says China may be groping toward "a political model that works better than western-style democracy".
For the sake of humanity and the welfare of the Western Public, should we forgo our cold war mentality against China and begin to look objectively into the positive aspects of the Chinese Communist Party and their progressive political ideology and methodology?
Written on 12 April 2011
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