Having just seen the stage play, 1984, I have been spurred on to comment on recent events that give me some foreboding for our shared future. The ongoing attacks on freedom of the press and personal freedoms has some parallels in the dystopic world imagined by George Orwell. But Orwell could not have imagined the ease with which our modern day citizens can be manipulated using the digital platforms of social media and news services.
Some recent events that illustrate the perils of our world include-
-The arrest in Russia of investigative journalist Ivan Gulunov on trumped up charges of drug possession leading to a police backdown when the remaining free press united with identical front page headlines.
-The massive protests in Hong Kong against extradition laws demanded by Beijing and the ongoing stories of facial recognition and surveillance being used in China for social engineering. Add to this the stories of up to 1 million people of minority ethnic background being held in re-education camps and a clear pattern of behaviour emerges.
-Trumps non- stop attack on America’s media, labelling them as “The enemy of the state” and his continuous blatant lying leaving everyone to question,’ what is the limit of misinformation?’
– The raid on the ABC by the AFP chasing leaks that embarrassed the government and
– the New York Times correspondent, Damien Cave, describing Australia as the most secretive OECD society.
All these developments point to an ongoing trend towards authoritative control of the masses whether it be in known repressive regimes or societies claiming to be bastions of the democratic ethos.
So I must conclude that an end state of total repression and control is inevitable in the future for any society that fails to develop and hold sacred, true democratic institutions starting with parliament and a government derived from parliament.
Only democracy can protect us from the worst of human desire to dominate and rule over others.
We are deluded here in Australia to believe that our system of government is a true expression of democracy. As the late Prime Minister, Bob Hawke suggested in his 1979 Boyer lecture-“ I find it inconceivable that a form of government that originated more than 700 years ago, in an island off the coast of Europe, is necessarily the best form of government for Australia as it moves toward the 21st century”.
Britain is in shock and denial at its parliament’s inability to deal with the question of Brexit. The Westminster system has been shown to be inadequate to deal with the complexity of the challenge thrown at parliament by an ambiguous referendum.
In contrast to the division and disarray in Britain, our recent visit to Denmark, Norway and Iceland revealed societies working calmly and confidently and most importantly, happily, towards tackling current challenges. Note that Norway, with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund of around 1 trillion dollars in investments, has chosen to divest all investment in coal based industries.
There are other models of government that lead to better outcomes.
So what is special about these happy, cohesive and prosperous societies that we overlook from our isolation in the Pacific?
They have Proportional Representation.
This produces multiple parties that more accurately capture the will of the people. Governments are always multi-party and, before you raise the question of stability, think hard about the last 10 years of upheaval and leadership changes here in Australia. Consider for instance our lack of energy policy over this time. 10 years of wasted time. The concentration of power here in Australia parallels the same two party bias that afflicts our two major allies, The USA and the United Kingdom. We scoff at the ‘Democratic Republic of China’ for having just one party to choose from but what real choice are we offered?
There are so many articles on the ABC online bemoaning the state of our ‘democracy’ but none seem to address the ‘nuts and bolts’ of building a resilient, representative democracy. I have previously proposed steps we can take to build just such a ‘democracy’.
1. Proportional Representation to allocate the seats in the House of Representatives to broaden the views in Parliament and increase the number of parties.
2. Establish an advisory body to review the strength of our democracy and make recommendations on improvements.
3. Establish a Federal Crime & Corruption Commission, with broad powers to investigate corruption and monitor lobbying, both internally and internationally.
4. Make a Year 10 subject, ‘Democracy’, compulsory, so all citizens can feel that they understand how our system of government works and how they can be involved.
I am dismayed at the lack of leadership on this matter despite the loud calls for action. No-one seems to be able to ‘step outside the box’ created by misguided beliefs that our system of government fulfils the conditions needed for democracy.
Our archaic system is ‘broken’ and needs repair.
Discussion seems to revolve around demanding our crop of politicians to behave better and consider the national interest before their own personal gain, and guess what…
Working within the present political framework is, as the saying goes, ‘Like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’.
And the iceberg that awaits us is repressive authoritarianism, maintained by manipulation of data, widespread physical and digital surveillance and in the end, brute force. We need to choose our course now, either ‘steady as she goes’ with the slow death of our ‘democracy’ or, preferably, a brand new setting to a brighter future.