Sunday 21st of July 2024

What is this Website About?

It's a strange thing, democracy. Different people have different roles in keeping it strong, because the essence of a good democracy is that there are checks and balances in the system to stop unhealthy concentrations of power and encourage ethical behaviour.

Politicians make the laws. No-one can throw you in jail or take away your property without a law to back them up. This is what "the rule of law, not of men" means. The police enforce criminal laws, and a plethora of regulatory authorities enforce laws for competition, consumer rights, companies and the like. The courts decide whether or not you've broken a law and what the penalty should be. That's why they have job security until retirement, so politicians can't pressure them to decide things THEIR way. The media keep the people informed as much as possible of the truth about what is going on, so people are informed when they elect their next government.

We, the citizens of Australia, are in theory sovereign in our democracy, because we decide who will make the laws on our behalf. In deciding who to elect, we also give our representatives the power to oversee the police force, choose the judges, and appoint the people to our key watchdog bodies.

But the health of our democracy depends on the integrity of the governments we elect and the public servants who serve them, and us. Their job is to act in the public interest, for the benefit of our nation and its people. But what say they don't do that job?

The problems are legion.

  1. Political parties are backed by big business money which guarantees preferred access to political ears and special favours. This is despite getting funding from us for elections, which they got after promising that this would mean less reliance on corporate donations. Instead, we've got more of it.
  2. Governments tend to stack government authorities with people close to them who will do what the government expects them to do. They do the same with judicial appointments.
  3. The system of ministerial accountability to Parliament - the embodiment of the people's sovereignty - has broken down. It is now OK to lie to Parliament, because the so-called people's representatives are, in reality, creatures of their party, and will vote with the government as a matter of course without regard to the truth or the long-term damage backing a liar will do to the system.
  4. Many candidates put up by the parties are professional yes-men and women who are not in the business of performing the sacred role of representing the people, but of getting promotions and ensuring their financial security.
  5. Journalism is in full-on retreat, with numbers constantly cut to increase the profits of the big media. Fewer journalists mean less competition to get the news, and make it easier for media bosses to refuse to run the truth when it could hurt their relations with government or their business. In opinion, the range of alternative views is both ever narrowing and ever decreasing its commitment to basing opinion on fact rather than abusive propaganda.
  6. The principles of liberalism which have underpinned ours democracy since federation are disintegrating, as politicians turn their backs on science and facts to protect the short-term interests of corporations whose brief is maximising profit, not the public good.

What can we do? History tells us that democracy is not a natural method of governance. It has been fought and died for for centuries, by the people, to wrest power from kings and dictators. It constantly tends towards concentrating power in the hands of unelected elites, with politicians as their salesmen.

So when a democracy is in trouble, as Australia's is, only the people can turn the tide, in their role as citizens. I wrote Not Happy, John! as a contribution to that task.

I have two aims with this website, which will replace

  1. To build an alternative media platform in collaboration with readers to get news out which is being suppressed and publish views which are not being heard. This could involve help to whistleblowers whose lives are destroyed by having the guts to care about the public interest. It could also involve annual your democracy awards. I can also imagine readers developing online newspapers in local areas, for example, linked from the site.
  2. To bring together Australians of all political persuasions committed to improving our democracy to facilitate people's movements to make public breaches in our democracy's ideals and work to have them reversed, and to push for important changes in our institutions to bring back honesty and impartiality to the enforcing of our laws. I can imagine pieces on how a local group got together and made a difference on something. I can imagine networks of readers being formed on particular issues. I can imagine 'democracy watch' readers in every federal seat, even every state seat and local government area, letting us know when something fishy is going on.

I have no overarching plan of action to achieve these goals. As such, yourdemocracy will begin with a blank page, as did Webdiary, and develop organically through reader ideas and commitments to participate.

I have employed my brother Hamish for a year to get the website going. I hope that at the end of that year, our site will be such that people will want to "subscribe" to allow it to continue and grow, although the site will remain open to all.

I want the site to develop through a transparent process with maximum reader involvement. So if you're on our mailing list be prepared to be asked lots of questions, and there'll be a section on the site for reader's ideas, complaints and queries. I take full responsibility for the site's content, and will make the final decision, after advice from the yourdemocracy board, when there's a major disagreement. I'll explain my reasoning to you.

But essentially, this site is bottom-up, not top-down. It's yours just as much as "mine". After all, it's up to all of us who care about our democracy to do something to repair it. And the process can be fun!

Let's have a go, eh?

Margo Kingston, December 2004.

Let's have a go, eh?

Yes let's! I am looking greatly forward to my involvement in this site.

Work, you stupid weblog thing

Work, you stupid weblog thing!  I'm afraid I'm a bit challenged here Margo - too used to the ease of WebD.

Hang in There

G'day Phil. I'm sure a lot of things can be improved, but exactly what is causing the blockage? At this early stage it's the sort of feedback we really need. Hang in there mate.

A bit confusing

It's just that I'm a bloke, and I don't like to look for things.  It's a bit cluttered and I couldn't work out how to get the comment posted - couldn't find the button.  I'd already had trouble getting into the 'make a comment section'.  Managed to wipe out my original comment by pressing the wrong button (pressed reply again)- that was the worst part.  It makes my feel like I'm my own grandfather.  It's probably just a matter of getting used to the site construct as it's quite different to WebD.

Do we really need to review a comment when we can see it direclty [Editor: thought we should leave this mistake for its special irony] where we're typing it?  Seems like an unnecessary complication.

Also, the preview seems to eliminate paragraph breaks.

Oh, very funny...

What's wrong with 'direclty'?  That's how it's spetl isn't it?


My original comment was going to be something along the lines of wondering how this blog would differ from Webdiary. Would it be the events section?

Webdiary's Events Section

For as long as Webdiary survives it will be supplemented by this site in various ways, and yes I suppose you've crisply stated one of them.

Broadly speaking it is intended to be a site like Webdiary in many ways, and certainly in the tradition of Webdiary in its editorial position, but it is intended to provide tools for activism and organisation as well as journalism.

How this site works

Hamish, I'm interested in discussion and organisation of the grassroots. I really believe that politicians reflect rather than drive social formation (although it's a feedback loop too).

I'm also interested in how we keep discussion both civil and open to new ideas.

What sort of material do you want for the events page? National events only? Town Hall Meetings?

Great to see yourdemocracy.

Great to see up and running Margo et al. I believe this site, and others like it, are long overdue and sorely needed. I have been an avid Webdiary reader for several months now and hope Your Democracy excels in getting peoples voices heard and encouraging people to be involved in furthering democracy, debate and integrity in Australia. Kudos for using open source software too.

Re: How this site works

Hi Bryan, thanks for your contributions so far.

At this stage, post any events you feel are relevant. For my money, especially Town Hall Meetings, as that's where democracy should finally find its home, in my opinion.

Everlasting Sunlight


Just a quick note to draw to your attention the following links which might come in handy for archiving purposes:

The launch of a pioneering project: OurMedia provides free storage and free bandwidth for videos, audio files, photos, text or software.

Interesting study: John Hatton used to have a metaphor for democracy - sunlight being the best disinfectant. Well, now there is an index on the Right To Know Theme:

New University of Florida Study Ranks States' Records Access Laws - The project's panel of experts, known as the Sunshine Review Board, compared the state laws for 30 categories of legal provisions related to records requests and ranked them on a Sunshine Index for openness Sunshine Week: Study Details Public Access to State Records

Margo's blog

Hey Margo and others,

I am so glad you are starting with the basis that our system of Government is a buggered/corrupt, or whatever word you choose, system. I have grown so tired of writing and talking to people who still "believe ". And there are so many of them too, otherwise how would Howard have got elected so many times?

I don't have a political preference but couldn't vote Liberal nationally In QLD where I live I would vote Liberal if they had an actual party here! I regard myself as neither left or right. I'm outside the political landscape and just want honesty and decency to rule.

So, big hugs and encouragements from me. I've been looking for somewhere like this to talk with others that know how bad things may become and want to do something about that. It's bad enough already but 1 July looms largely to me.

One thing about the word democracy. We as Australians don't have it and never have. I'm so glad it's being introduced in Iraq as we can copy theirs when it's ready.

One problem I always seem to have with web sites is too many people using language that most do not understand. That is why you will find me using simple language. One word instead of a paragraph etc. That's how I was taught English and any other use seems to me to be simply a method of displaying your EduKayShun. It actually displays your intolerance and ignorance (my opinion). I am though somewhat verbose when the flow gets running so BEWARE of that please.

I am not uneducated and don't decry others achievements as any language is relevant and a must when you are talking to others with the same experience, job, school or whatever.

So I guess I'm just saying, please keep the language simple so anyone can actually understand what is being said. If there's a word or phrase some don't understand then let them ask and don't put them down. If that happens people will simply disappear or become angry and offensive.

Lastly for now, a sense of humour is greatly appreciated but also easily misunderstood until you know the writer/speaker. My sense of humour is unique as is everybody's but you will find me writing here mostly as if I was Serious Sam only. That's just the starting point OK!

Simple Language

Well said Pegasus. I`m with you.


Hey Hamish and Bryan,

I agree that public events are good but is it not a touch too soon to be having such events when we don't even know what we ( the current users ) want? What would an event consist of if we don't know what we want?