Monday 20th of May 2024

Taking back your democracy

Hi. This is my promised, "fantasy for the site." It has been published already in the Northern Rivers Echo and on Webdiary. In terms of discussions about democracy, see at Webdiary, What price a (more) democratic Australia?, Entsch and our democracy watchdog -v- the people, What our leaders believe, Halliburton down under: taking over South Australia by stealth and The nature of democracy.

Taking back Your Democracy

I've been convinced that our democracy is a sham since John Howard sent Australians to invade Iraq on two lies - the lie that he had not promised Bush he'd go to war long before public debate began on the matter, and the lie about why he wanted war. To me, in a democracy, unlike a dictatorship, our soldiers risk their lives for us, not for our leader. Yet the process of voting every three years, the skeleton of democracy, did not punish Howard, but re-elected him.

Some say this was because many Australians thought the war was over - thus the strong opposition to Howard more than doubling our deployment this year after telling us we would not commit more troops and did not have the capacity to do so anyway. Again, he will send our soldiers to war without our support; again he has abrogated his duty as a democratic leader to first persuade his people that sending soldiers to fight a war is in Australia's national interest.

Others say that Australians knew very well that Howard was a serial liar, but also knew that the opposition would be no different in government so voted on self-interest. Others say the Opposition was simply not good enough to govern.

Whatever the reasons, true believers in democracy must face the fact that ours is sick. That's the easy part; but what to do about it? I'm discovering as I edit Webdiary and travel around Australia speaking to people that many Australians have stopped consuming mainstream media completely. They find it depressing to read the bad stuff knowing there's not a thing they can do about it, and depressing that the big issues either aren't being addressed or are deliberately being squashed. Yet this response means that those who would destroy our democracy have won without a fight.

Over the last year I've read and re-read Sir Robert Menzies' Forgotten People speeches on democracy, broadcast on commercial radio while he was in opposition in 1942 during the depths of World War II. He said this in 'The nature of democracy':

"The problem of democracy began when democracy was achieved. If government were by a despot, amiable or vicious, we, as the governed, might well shrug our shoulders and resign ourselves to fate. But when government of ourselves is by ourselves, we must bestir ourselves.

"If, then, there is tyranny, it is our own. If there is injustice, we have ordered or permitted it. If there is hunger or unemployment, we must look to ourselves for the remedy. For when we are the masters as well as the servants, we cannot either wisely or usefully blame others for bad direction or faulty planning or fumbling execution.

"To stand erect and say, 'I am one of the rulers of my country' - there is a position of dignity and of responsibility. Yet, they are a dignity and a responsibility which democracy, properly understood, gives to every grown man and woman in this nation."

My starting point is that those who rule us get their way partly by dividing us, and that the belief in democracy has the potential to unite us in its defence regardless of who we vote for and what else we disagree on. So I've started, with the help of volunteers, a new website called Your Democracy to see if this is possible.

It aims to build through citizen journalists a strong alternative media to the mainstream media, which has ceased taking its responsibilities to our democracy seriously and has instead become a mouthpiece for the powerful.

It also aims to bring Australians together to campaign hard for our democracy and its essential ingredients - ethical politicians who serve the public interest, transparency and accountability of government to the people, readily available information on what's going on so the people are informed; an independent judiciary; and civil liberties so we can participate in our democracy, including free speech.

If you have a look at Your Democracy you'll see that it's really a blank page, and a messy one at that. It will develop through reader ideas and what readers want to do with it, and the process will be transparent and open to all. (See Your Democracy Ethos.)

I'd like a series of blogs on aspects of our democracy providing information, analysis and reader input. Thus a pool of people interested in a certain topic could give us all early warnings of pending threats to our democracy and trigger Australia-wide campaigns to stop them in their tracks. (Already, the new Greens Senator for Western Australia has asked to do a blog tracking her experience as a new Senator after July 1 and answering reader questions and comments.)

I'd like local 'defending our democracy' groups in each seat to directly question local MPs and to endorse and support candidates who promise to act in accordance with democratic principles, not just say yes to what their party leaders tell them to do.

I'd like local communities not served by strong local papers like The Northern Rivers Echo to start one, for this is essential if communities are to redress the power balance a little in their favour.

In my dreams, I'd like reader donations to fund Your Democracy reporters in Canberra and the states to ask questions and research stories on behalf of readers. And I'd like donations to fund Freedom of Information requests and track the results.

OK, fat chance. Still, worth a big go, I reckon. Democracies are not stable. The people fought for them over centuries and the powerful are always trying to roll them back. As Menzies' said in 'The Task of Democracy':

"What, then, must democracy do if it is to be a real force in the new world? In my opinion, two things. It must recapture the vision of the good of man as the purpose of government. And it must restore the authority and prestige of Parliament as the supreme organic expression of self-government.

"The sovereignty of Parliament. That is a great phrase and a vital truth. If only we could all understand it to the full, what a change we would make! Sovereignty is the quality of kingship, and democracy brings it to the poor man's door."

Democracy? When did we have it at all?

Hey Margo,

Thanks for the site through your efforts and now Hamish. It's a boon to me and surely many others. I agree entirely that mainstream media is being ignored more and more or simply something to watch while having dinner or read while riding to work.

For me, the internet is so powerful as it can be used to gather people of like needs, wants and aims who in turn can " spread the gospel " to those who aren't connected up yet. To me it is like planting trees. Every tree here on this site will nag all their family and friends to death until they are converted and so it spreads. Until we make a difference.

I do take exception to the use of the word " Democracy " however, as I have written elsewhere on this site. I do not believe democracy or any other theory of government is workable once humans get involved, therefore impossible to achieve.

Of course that is what we all call it so it is a handy word to use to attract interest etc but I would prefer that we kill of the belief that it is actually workable. Call it democracy by all means but....

I've been so apathetic for so long I have sort of forgotten what excitement is. Yes, I am excited by the possibilities here. And no, I won't be disappointed if it falls over as having a try is what is needed. If this fails then it will spawn another variety etc until change does occur.

I know only a little about you but I have read some of your columns etc. But I do note your cynicism about getting what you want for our country. I want to discourage that cynicism on this site as I've had too much of that in my life and I'm sure you have too. If we are all blase and cynical then we will accept defeat before we start.

My aims I think are much higher than what you have listed above but I have a few different ideas which I will be posting soonish. I won't be content with simply having little groups of unhappy people meeting to encourage each other or report on the devious deeds done dirt cheap of the you know who's. I want to change the way they represent us. Full stop. I won't accept less I'm afraid.

And yes, I am a Pisces, dreamer, nothing but a dreamer!

So, thanks again and Let's get on with it!

Actually Margo...

Actually Margo, I am convinced, that this 'Democracy(?)' was taken away way back then when Port Arthur happened. It was a good move by Howard. I said then, that any Government who disarms it citizens has a long term plan. And I think I was right.

I am glad to read this in your post: "an independent judiciary; and civil liberties so we can participate in our democracy, including free speech." I really like that cos I know I won't be edited again <smile>, cos free speech is not edited. So I agree with you.

And why did I put a question mark against the word 'Democracy' above? Simple. As long as we have compulsory elections, and one can get fined for not voting, we as Australians have no Democracy.

Well, according to the Stars

Well, according to the Stars Pisces and Scorpions are the best match. I am a Scorpion . . . with totally different Ideas.

Hey Wolf

Hey Wolf, I have read a fair bit of this sites entries and have noted a similar approach by yourself to mine, although our approach and ideas may differ as one would expect. I'm just getting a bit frustrated by the diversions from Margo's stated aims. The pointless debates about noble topics but we haven't even built the cart yet, let alone rented a horse.

What I mean is, who cares about abortion or fluoride at this stage. Both issues have been debated to death everywhere and neither side will change, so what's the point of raising such here?

If such debates are intended to be part of this site can we at least separate the topics and have action stuff on planning, building and strategies in one section and that sort of debate in other sections so at least we can choose to avoid what we are not ready for yet?

As for Democracy, I'm still waiting for Iraq to finish theirs so we know what to copy. It's gotta be excellent!

Taking back your democracy

It seems Margo Kingston thinks Australia only became non-democratic since the precise minute PM Howard aligned Australia as part of "the Willing". What a disappointment.

Back to the French & American Future

I want to share a few articles which deserve a wider readership ...

Who Should Govern Who Governs?
Dennis Thompson (Harvard) writes:

"If in a democracy the people have the authority to choose their representatives, then it would seem to follow that they should have the authority to choose the procedures by which they choose their representatives. Yet in nearly all democracies the procedures that govern elections have been established by officials or representatives themselves.

"Legislatures, courts and commissions rather than popular initiatives or constitutional conventions created and continue to control the electoral process in most democracies. Until recently, attempts to change any electoral system were rare and rarely succeeded.
But in the past decade, electoral reform has been gaining a place on the political agenda in many democracies. In the 1990s, many newly emerging democracies designed their own systems, and nine established democracies made far-reaching changes in their existing systems.

The Role of Citizens in Reforming the Electoral System

Google: Who Should Govern Who Governs? in PDF and Word Format

The intellectual struggle worldwide today is now between the beliefs encapsulated in the American Revolution and those in the French. It is interests versus reason. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the State and Freedom therefore existed in uneasy equilibrium -- neither complete, both limited. Then, in the late 18th century two momentous revolutions destroyed this balance, triggered a great battle between the State and Freedom.

The American Vs. French Revolutions

A review of books on democracy and the judiciary. From Democracy to Juristocracy


aristotle thought democracy was a society ruled "by the people".

 his word for other societies was "oligarchy". when you start using aristotle's language discussion can be effective. until you do make this distinction, discussion is hobbled by the implicit acceptance of the legitimacy of oligarchy.

the substitution of 'democracy' for 'oligarchy' has happened gradually over the last 225 years, as it suited the purposes of the politically potent elements of society to neuter the word and it's ideal by treating it with a process quite like the 'doublethink' of '1984'. it turns out you dont need a formal ministry of truth to achieve this aim, it is sufficient for academics, politicians, and media proprietors all to prosper from the dis-education of the ordinary people.

so, if you feel that australian democracy is a sham, that is the beginning of political wisdom. of course it's a sham, shame on you for not noticing sooner!

thanks Al .....

Thanks for your feedback Al.

I agree with your view & have made similar observations regarding the "oligarchical nature" of our political system .... the most recent under the comment 'solutions', posted on October 6. 

Please contribute more .... not enough do. 

a new front .....

Welcome to Project Democracy 

Phase one of GetUp's E-Democracy project aims to help you get closer to your Senators. Click on your State or Territory above to see the Senators that represent you. Click on the "Your Senate" button in the sidebar to see the whole chamber. Click on the "blogs" and "news" sections in the sidebar to see what other Australians are saying about the political issues that matter, and what the news media's covering. 

During this parliament, we hope that the Senate can be a genuine house of review. No major party has the numbers to force its will on the Senate, and this should mean that Government legislation will be subject to proper debate and review. 

Project Democracy

Port Arthur "happened" lie

Port Arthur was an inside operation by the criminal Howard. The shooters were 2 ex SAS soldiers. It was done to push through national gun laws. Just check on the Net.

Howard should be hung for domestic and international crimes.

Menzies war criminal

Menzies as a "Moral compass" - he was actually a liar - misled parliament over Vietnam, and called an election in 63 'cos he knew they were gonna kill JFK to crank up the war in Vietnam.

Read "War for the Asking" by Michael Sexton about how Menzies lied to suck Australia into the Vietnam war.

Search the SMH / Age website for "The war we gatecrashed" by  Sexton

Wake up you people, these "Liberals" are neo-con crooks.