I read an opinion piece recently by Stan Grant on the ABC news website that lit up my ‘bullsh*t’ alarm. Here are two quotes that I have a beef with…
“Democracy? Russia is a democracy.”
“The US is hardly a bastion of democracy itself.”
The problem I have with these two statements is that, without a clear understanding of what we mean by ‘democracy,’ we enter into a game of point scoring democracy where the goal posts can be moved by whoever wants to claim they have democracy at the core of their governance.
Just having a day, occasionally, when some can turn up and make a mark on a piece of paper is not democracy. Most commentators would describe Putin as a dictator. His party would say he was elected freely, but his party received 75% of seats in the Duma with only 49% of votes from a 45% turnout. So despite total control of the media and most opposition figures imprisoned or worse, support for the government is about 25% of the population.
The US is shackled to a constitution from the 18th century that has allowed for two parties to take control of executive, legislative and judicial arms of government backed by big money donors and lobbyists overriding the general public. This has split their society into two tribes permanently at war with each other on almost any topic. It wouldn’t take much effort to tip this country into the same boat as Russia.
So we must define ‘democracy’, and call out and reject the ‘pretenders’.
The simple and overriding principle in defining democracy, must be that the Executive arm of government is derived from the Legislative assembly of Parliament and that Parliament is made up of elected members in direct proportion to the votes cast for the parties or independents.
This is what I would describe as a Parliament clearly reflecting the ‘will of the people’. It can only be achieved by the use of Proportional Representation to allocate seats in Parliament. Almost immediately this would rule out China, the US, Russia, the UK, Australia and the majority of nations.
The few nations that could fit this definition of democracy are mainly in Europe and the best examples are to be found in Scandinavia and the Baltic states.
But why have I dismissed Australia’s attempt at democracy?
A review of the results of our last election tells everything. Here is a basic analysis of what we got from our election.
The big takeaway from this analysis is that we have a government (who will, without doubt, claim a ‘mandate’) who have the majority of seats, with just under 33% of primary votes from just under 90% turnout of eligible voters. Furthermore, despite the noise on election night, the Greens remain grossly under represented and One Nation was denied 7 seats and any representation at all.
Very simply, our voting system distorts the result to favour the two old power groups LNP and Labor. So, how can we preach to other nations about democracy, when a cursory examination of our system shows that the ‘will of the people’ is ignored.
We have fallen into the trap of adversarial politics and just need to look to the UK and US to see where this leads. This guarantees permanent division and the ‘dumbing down’ of policies to the usual vacuous debates on ‘law and order’,’ border security’, ’climate change’, ‘Religious rights’, ‘free speech’, “tax reduction’. I say “blah, blah, blah”( to quote a wise young woman).
The old adage goes… ’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but unfortunately, the level of apathy in Australia for our politics is commensurate with the contempt for politicians, and this suits the two old power bases of the LNP and Labor.
The fact is that the majority of Australians are unaware of the choices we could make to become a true democracy and the benefits that would flow from that decision.