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Monday Message Board

February 24th, 2014

It’s time for another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please

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  1. Troy Prideaux
    February 24th, 2014 at 08:37 | #1

    Last Monday, the ABC’s “The Business” ran this report on the Government’s potential changes to Labor’s Financial Advice reforms that were implemented to protect investors from losing their retirement investments from advice that’s provided that’s not in the interests of the investor.
    If the financial sector has this much lobbying power, I truly worry about where this government can take us [sigh]

  2. February 24th, 2014 at 09:29 | #2

    I preferred “Post comments on any topi”, as it read in the announcement email, no doubt before proofreading. “Topi”, or “topee” in older spellings, is a loanword from India for a hat (or helmet, e.g. a moti topi is a motorcycle helmet, and you probably know what a solar topee is – a sturdy sun helmet, typically made of lightweight pith).

    I am sure other readers could tell you more about the topi.

  3. February 24th, 2014 at 10:30 | #3

    Andrew Bolt simply does not understand Marxism; The article linked to below takes Bolt to task for misapprehending Marxism and failing to acknowledge the Social Democratic Marxist Left – and its critiques of both Stalinism and Bolshevism. PLS Read – and feel very welcome to comment at the On Line Opinion website. (and here too!) 🙂
    See: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16050

  4. Paul Norton
    February 24th, 2014 at 12:57 | #4

    This year and the next couple will mark the 20th anniversaries of various affairs in Australian intellectual and cultural life in the mid-1990s. To mark the anniversaries, Helen Garner, Virginia Trioli and Jenna Mead have combined their literary talents to produce Leave No Turn Unstoned, a rivetting and revealing account of how Helen Demidenko earned the Order of Lenin for her role in the sexual harassment scandal that engulfed the Quadrant Editorial Committee.

  5. Paul Norton
    February 24th, 2014 at 13:31 | #5

    Arithmetic: 2+2=4.

    Pragmatism: 2+2=4 works so it must be true.

    Durkheimianism: 2+2=4 is functional.

    Karl Popper: The hypothesis that 2+2=4 has yet to be falsified.

    Karl Marx: The slave mode of production gives us II+II=IV, the capitalist mode of production gives us 2+2=4, under socialism 2+2 will still equal 4 but in the higher stage of communist society the achievement of absolute material abundance will render arithmetic unnecessary.

    Joseph Stalin: 2+2=5.

    Friedrich Hayek: the correct value of 2+2 will be determined by the unhindered operation of free market forces and attempts by governments to direct that 2+2=4 will inevitably end in Communist totalitarianism.

    Climate change deniers: 2+2=3.

    Postmodernists: 2+2=whatever you like.

    Tony Abbott: Under a Coalition government 2+2 will always be lower than under Labor.

    Bill Shorten: One extreme in this debate says that 2+2=3 while the other extreme says that 2+2=4, therefore Labor takes a responsible moderate position between these extremes and says that 2+2=3.5.

    Green Left Weekly: The US armed forces and the Israeli Defence Force use arithmetic, therefore 2+2=5 is a legitimate form of resistance to Zionism and imperialism and a model for the left everywhere.

  6. February 24th, 2014 at 14:11 | #6

    Scott Morrison: Addition is an operation and the government doesn’t comment on operational matters.

  7. February 24th, 2014 at 14:56 | #7

    @Paul Norton
    There’s room for a numerical analyst joke in there, Paul:

    For small values of 2, 2 + 2 = 3 for large values of 3
    For large values of 2, 2 + 2 = 5 for small values of 5.

  8. Troy Prideaux
    February 24th, 2014 at 15:37 | #8

    Climate change deniers: 2+2=3

    Dunno… Can Climate change deniers get a rational number from adding 2 rational numbers?

  9. Tim Macknay
    February 24th, 2014 at 15:57 | #9

    Climate change deniers: the value of 2+2 has not increased since 1998. However, if the value of 2+2 has increased since 1998, there’s nothing we can do about. (Also, the surface area of the Earth = Pi * [the radius of the Earth] squared).

  10. Ikonoclast
    February 24th, 2014 at 17:37 | #10

    @Tristan Ewins

    Bolt is not interested in understanding anything. His game is telling lies for self-interest and personal gain. There are many kinds of conmen. Some are shonky used car dealers. Some sell you unnecessary house cladding or dodgy roof painting. And some knowingly write huge lies in newspapers and blogs and do so for pay from the plutocrat.

  11. Paul Norton
    February 24th, 2014 at 18:13 | #11

    We underestimate Graeme Bird’s influence at our peril.

  12. February 24th, 2014 at 19:11 | #12

    Prof. Quiggin

    You have previously said:

    Can full employment be restored?… I have argued that a return to full employment (conservatively define to mean an unemployment rate of 3 per cent) is both feasible and desirable. The central thrust of our argument is that unemployment is ultimately … the result of constraints on public expenditure…

    Do you still believe that full employment (conservatively defined to mean an unemployment rate of 3 per cent) is feasible and desirable?

    Thank you for your time.

    Kind regards,


  13. Fran Barlow
    February 24th, 2014 at 19:27 | #13

    @Tim Macknay

    If the Earth were a perfect sphere that would be the area of any circle formed by slicing through an axis of symmetry. Of course the Earth is an oblate spheroid, so that complicates matters.

  14. Donald Oats
    February 24th, 2014 at 19:30 | #14

    Why does Tony Abbott state that aluminium industry is hurt by the carbon tax, when Alcoa made a hefty profit by trading carbon credits, i.e. excess to requirements permits granted to it under the ALP ETS transition? Why, when he claims something along these lines in parliament, does the opposition let it go unchallenged, and then go onto other questions?

  15. Royce Arriso
    February 24th, 2014 at 20:00 | #15

    Baffling that the opposition is so noticeably missing in action. Abbott’s shameless whoppers delivered daily are reported, then silence. Is Shorten neutered by forces unknown? Not without significance than John Roskam of the wretched IPA is one of his best mates. Talk about sleeping with the enemy…..

  16. TerjeP
    February 24th, 2014 at 20:04 | #16

    Sinclair Davidson has responded to JQ in regards to electricity privatisation: http://catallaxyfiles.com/2014/02/24/electricity-privatisation/

  17. Ikonoclast
    February 24th, 2014 at 20:06 | #17

    @Donald Oats

    Because stupid Labor implemented the weak as micturition carbon tax and over-compensated rich corporations for polluting so they could make windfall profits out of it. Labor would parade their own stupidity and guilt in trying to hold Abbott to account. Of course, Abbott should be held to account but as Labor are completely compromised they cannot do so. Labor and LNP are both right-wing, neoliberal parties in the pockets of the capitalist corporations. Forget about them, they are so last century.

  18. February 24th, 2014 at 20:27 | #18


    He has suggested that electricity privatisation has failed – but, in my view, not substantiated that argument. Many of his criticisms of the NEM relate to the process of corporatisation and (in some states) privatisation but to my mind those are public choice problems, not a critique of how actual markets could or should operate.

    That’s a nice no-true-scotsman from Sinclair.

  19. rog
    February 24th, 2014 at 20:31 | #19

    @TerjeP “Responded” is an inappropriate word; nobody asked him a question.

  20. paul walter
    February 24th, 2014 at 21:48 | #20

    Was that Windschuttle sexually harrassing Morris Newman, or vice versa?@Paul Norton . The obvious loser in all of this was Demidenko, who sank from being ( to some tastes )a writer, to a lawyer.

  21. Tim Macknay
    February 24th, 2014 at 22:55 | #21

    @Fran Barlow
    Correct. And if the Earth was a perfect circle, i.e. flat, that equation would describe it’s surface area. 🙂

  22. Tim Macknay
    February 24th, 2014 at 22:55 | #22

    Oops – unnecessary apostrophe.

  23. Tim Macknay
    February 24th, 2014 at 23:16 | #23

    Meanwhile, a slightly implausible but nonetheless amusing Newspoll has the Federal government taking a bath in pig manure, with a primary vote of 39% and a TPP of 46.

  24. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 01:42 | #24

    At the refugee rally in Brisbane on Friday night there was an impromptu address from a lady from “Labor for Refugees”.

    The crowd was too polite to throw things or ‘boo’, but the faces and cast aside eyes said it all. The half-hearted slow fairy-clap applause afterward was a stark contrast to the genuinely emotional and honest cheers and applause when another speaker referred to the fact that ALP/LNP are identical on the issue of this inhumane treatment of refugees.

    Apparently ‘Labor for Refugees’ started in 2001 in response to Kim Beasley’s piss-weak folding on the Tampa election and allowing Howard to demonise refugees for political advantage. They say they are devout ALP supporters who have been trying ever since to get the ALP to have a decent and humane approach to refugees.

    That has obviously been a failure at best and produced an even worse outcome for refugees than under Howard at worst.

    How can anybody who cares about this issue vote ALP?

    And I would remind people that the “Abbott would be worse” campaign didn’t really work out so well – especially since the policies that have caused the most recent atrocities are ALP policies and the transnational corporations running the joint were granted their multi-billion dollar contracts by the ALP.

  25. Paul Norton
    February 25th, 2014 at 09:14 | #25

    Fran @13, when the peasants measure the surface of the Earth properly with their wooden triangles, they find that your mate Trotsky’s scientific method is always wrong.

  26. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 10:46 | #26

    @Tim Macknay

    Looking back, I’m reminded that it pays to read the prior posts for context. It would have made better sense if I had. 😉

  27. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 10:53 | #27


    I alsways find the “Labor for Refugees” folk quite good people at a purely personal level. They do however somewhat remind me of those people who’d try to persist in conning children to buy the Santa myth “so as to preserve childhood”. Not an entirely unreasonable sentiment, but somehow, deeply flawed.

    These people really would like to persuade people for hom ethics are subject to partisan damage control/advantage that they can have both of thesed in the here and now, when plainly they can’t.

    In the here and now, the ALP must utterly repudiate pretty much everything they’ve said on the matter since 2001 — maybe since 1993 and give an account of how they got it so wrong and expressly criticise those responsible. Only then will the road to recovery be open to them. Then they have to carry this critique to their community.

    That will be messy, but they have two years. I don’t see them doing this.

  28. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 11:10 | #28

    @Fran Barlow

    I don’t see them doing this.

    Neither do I.

    And I can’t understand the depth of ‘true-belief’ required to continue to advocate electoral support for a party so clearly determined NOT to do those things you mention. And especially so when the party knows it can literally take their support for granted.

  29. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 12:02 | #29

    PS: Coincidentally I just read a piece on “Overland” titled “Labor in vain: a new direction for refugee rights?”

    The author argues that LNP will never budge on refugees and that rather than target LNP all effort/protest/actions should be directed against the ALP in an effort to get them to change their policy.

    As I understand it, around 2002 the Parliamentary Labor Party took on an anti-refugee policy which was against the ALP constitution because their National Conference had voted for a humane policy. I’m not an ALP supporter so I may have some of the terminology wrong – but basically the faceless men dictated a policy the opposite of what delegates had democratically agreed.

    I’m not confident ALP members/supporters can get their party back, the infiltration appears too deep and the acceptance of that situation seems too entrenched.

  30. Ikonoclast
    February 25th, 2014 at 12:24 | #30

    @Fran Barlow

    Labor are irredeemable. I would centre what few hopes I have on a true left party. We need the Greens, Green Left or International Socialists (or all three) to step up. People are afraid or too blind yet to admit that capitalism is a morally corrupt system which is destroying our society and our planet. Soon, historically speaking, the evidence will become too obvious to deny. Whether we can overcome the damaging empire dynamic inherent in civilization is another question. I have serious doubts. (See my post 5 in the sandpit, after I gave up trying to interest people in Australia’s fuel situation.)

  31. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 13:03 | #31


    I’m not confident ALP members/supporters can get their party back, the infiltration appears too deep and the acceptance of that situation seems too entrenched.

    Nor I. I paricipate over at Pollbludger, which is a hang out for people who are tribally ALP with a handful of coalition trolls and a few who are Greens or at least sympathetic to humanity. Very few of the ALP-identifying posters would support a change to a humane policy, albeit that some are embarrassed by it but cry “but what can we do? I think we need to accept we’ve lost this one”. Some are extremely critical of us Greens for not supporting the “Malaysian solution” even though this would have gone directly against both our party’s policy and what people who vote for us expect.

    Everything is cast in terms of winning the news cycle and for those who see themselves as deeper, the next election. Principle simply doesn’t get a look in, expcept perhaps as a damned nuisance. Inevitably, someone quotes Whitlam from 1967 to the Victorian SL faction on “purity” and “impotence”. Not one of his finer moments.

    I challenged them over there to reflect on how different the debate on asylum seekers would be if they all looked like potential extras in Australian advertising for beer, breakfast food, air freshener or family cars. None of them could offer a plausible response, and few bothered trying. One played victim — “yea right Fran — when in doubt reach for racism — I expected better”. His name is Adam Carr, an electoral officer to Senator Feeney and generally regarded in the blog as the unofficial spokesperson for the ALP right, and certainly someone with a detailed knowledge of ALP history. He posts there as “Psephos” due to his primary interest in matters electoral.

    Actually, I hadn’t mentioned racism, but he gave the game away with his admission. Yet it wasn’t quite right. While it’s not hard to find racism amongst those opposing the boats, my suspicion is that there’s a much more general dissonance towards the poor more generally. It’s not that most opposed to the boats hate them — they just don’t care what happens to them or they do, in a broad sense, but don’t want to think about it presumably because it would make it harder to feel good about their privileges here, or given them scope to complain about the lack of them. That attitude too is a kind of racism — a desire to continue to be a wealthy first world country, if needs be, at the expense of non-first world countries. One hears very little about MDGs on the site either.


    We need the Greens, Green Left or International Socialists (or all three) to step up. People are afraid or too blind yet to admit that capitalism is a morally corrupt system which is destroying our society and our planet.

    Well I’m not much into “morals” (hate the term — it sounds so Fred Nile-ish) but certainly, it’s clear that capitalism can’t pass any reasonable test of social justice or equity or inclusion or even ecological sustainability. It’s a world where 87 rich people have the same worth as 3.5bn poor others. It’s simply impossible to believe all people are equal when the interests of one person are as significant as the interests of 40 million others. At least one of those claims has to be discarded. These 87 can laugh at the penury of most of the “1%” and probably do.

    It’s no accident that the system that predisposes that is using the biosphere as a sewer and tearing through humanity’s capital to feed the insatiable appetite of the wealthy to enslave the rest of humanity. It’s no accident that from every pore in public discourse, a torrent of cant in defence of this system issues forth, clogging the eyes and ears and filling the mouths of even the educated with its poisonous misanthropy.

    We need to work very hard to help our fellows climb out of the mire, and understand the connectedness between broad social arrangements, the disastrous course that humanity is currently taking, and the existential panics du jour — “boats” “drugs” “terrorists” “muslims” etc. We need to show that in the longer run, nothing but an inclusive world in which the burdens and benefits of labour are equitably settled can hope to give humanity what it needs.

  32. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 14:07 | #32

    Greenwald’s latest on “The Intercept” is good:

    Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

    According to the docs Australia is probably doing it too as a member of 5 eyes.

  33. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 14:36 | #33


    I would centre what few hopes I have on a true left party.

    This sectarianism does more harm. It is what capitalists want. It is divide and conquer on their part, and political suicide on your part.

    You just end up in yet another Trotskyite trash can.

  34. February 25th, 2014 at 14:46 | #34

    Yeah, yeah, solidarity forever, comrade. I’m prepared to compromise, but you’re asking for capitulation.

    I prefer to embarrass Labor by reminding them they used to be a progressive party.

  35. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 14:49 | #35

    @David Irving (no relation)

    Read your Marx.

    Learn from your mistakes.

    Look to the future.

    Why are you missing in action?

  36. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 14:52 | #36


    What specific bit of Marx would that be Ivor?

  37. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 14:56 | #37


    And for the record, however practicable it is, “creating a true left party” is the opposite of sectarian. It’s much closer to what has been called, somewhat disparagingly in the past, “a family of the left” approach — by people whom the “family of the left” people accuse of being “sectarian”.

    Slogans like this are fairly arbitrary and don’t really help us distinguish counter-productive from productive approaches to marshalling working humanity to pursue its place in the sun. In the end, one has to evaluate carefully and choose.

  38. J-D
    February 25th, 2014 at 15:40 | #38

    Historically, the term ‘faceless men’ was adopted as a jibe at ALP conference delegates who were (or who were thought to be) dictating policy to the ALP parliamentary leadership, who (unlike the conference delegates) were publicly known and recognisable figures who had directly appealed for and received the votes of the Australian people.

    If the parliamentary leadership overrides or ignores the extra-parliamentary party, that’s the opposite situation. Whatever else one may say about them (and their decisions), it is hardly reasonable to describe the parliamentary leadership as ‘faceless’ in the sense of being publicly unknown.

  39. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 15:55 | #39


    Thanks, as I said – I’m not familiar with ALP terminology!

  40. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 15:55 | #40


    fair point … If anything, it was the delegates who were “faceless”. Really though, that Alan Reid jibe is so 50-years ago. An early Murdochism if I recall correctly …

    Really, its continuing use shows that populism just goes on and on …

  41. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 16:01 | #41

    To tie the two issues together, I see Asher Wolf has a piece about an ex-ALP pollie who was working for G4S on Manus and has quit and left in disgust at recent events.

    Apparently there is also a story about Manus on Dateline tonight SBS 9:30pm in which it is described as a ‘human experiment’ to demonstrate Australia’s cruelty as a ‘deterrent’. A bi-partisan policy.

  42. February 25th, 2014 at 16:24 | #42

    Europe and especially Scandinavia should that dedicated Left parties can play an important electoral and cultural role in tandem with Green and mainstream social democratic parties. But if Leftists completely abandon the mainstream there will be no forces to ‘link up’ with closer to the relative centre.

    In absolute terms the mainstream Australian political spectrum has shifted dramatically to the Right over the post 30 years. The ALP today is well to the Right in many respects compared with the Fraser government no less… But all that given – there is ‘convergence’ of the mainstream parties on the relative Centre. But it is the Conservatives who are constructing and defining that “relative centre.’….

    The ALP needs to engage in some soul-searching and take a far more pro-active posture in contesting the meaning of that relative Centre – shifting it to the Left… But the Greens – and hypothetically a Red-Left Party of some sort – could take a far more pro-active role in introducing new ideas, and redeeming old (progressive) ones.

    The bottom line, though, is that they all need each other to construct what Gramsci would call a counter-hegemonic historic bloc – Not to neglect the urgent immediate need of constructing an ELECTORAL bloc.

  43. February 25th, 2014 at 16:25 | #43

    btw sorry for the typo – eg: “should” should read “show”;

  44. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 16:34 | #44

    @Tristan Ewins

    I suppose the key question concerns what key ideas and standards could be common to the entire bloc.

  45. John Mashey
    February 25th, 2014 at 16:43 | #45

    A think tank question for those Down Under:
    Here in the USA, we have hordes of think tanks, of which many do their best to obfuscate inconvenient science, often having learned the tactics from helping tobacco companies.

    I’m aware of IPA, and included them in Familiar Think Tanks Fight For E-cigarettes, but I’m curious:

    a) Are e-cigs being pushed as strongly in Oz as here? (you can see the examples, including gummy bear vaping fluid, with selectable nicotine levels, and for the older target markets, see the video examples.)

    b) Are there other think tanks noticeable in helping out, or is it mainly IPA?

  46. February 25th, 2014 at 16:58 | #46

    Common ground could be that there is PROGRESS in some form common to all parties…

    These are some ideas I have on possible progress….

    Progress on egalitarian reform of the tax mix, and maybe an expansion in social wage expenditure somewhere around $25 billion to $30 billion a year. (in an economy of maybe $1.6 Trillion or thereabouts) As well as infrastructure expenditure from govt bonds – not PPPs or full privatisation. Including very fast rail, Public Transport expansion, finishing the NBN and keeping it public, massive expansion of public investment in renewable energy…

    It could also mean reviewing ‘modern Awards’ to ensure there really was a ‘no disadvantage test’ with no exceptions – looking back to the old Awards.; and reviewing IR laws to allow political strike action when it is genuine and ‘in good faith’.

    Further reforms could be an expansion of the humanitarian intake. Linking it with skills formation… I prefer a 50,000 figure – but to be realistic maybe 35,000 to begin with.

    Efforts could be made to begin a process culminating in a treaty with indigenous Australia…

    Significant expansion of spending could apply in medical, dental health, mental health; public schooling; more tertiary opportunities for more students; public housing, parks and gardens

    In education there could be reform of the curriculum to have a ‘critical/active’ model… Imparting political literacy and encouraging social activism….

    The mining tax could be restored and used to bankroll the ‘buying back of the farm’ ala Whitlam.

    The ABC and SBS could be maintained – including maintaining a foothold in online media with the aim of promoting a participatory public sphere – in effect participatory democracy….

    A more radical option – Reacquire the Holden brand and form a co-operative enterprise including investment from workers, local communities and government.

  47. Donald Oats
    February 25th, 2014 at 17:20 | #47

    @John Mashey

    I have seen them in use in Adelaide in the city. Occurrences are rare enough, I have wondered whether the people using them are paid to do so; in this day and age of the shills, trolls and brand-planters (i.e. paid to wear or mention a brand or product, or to say something provocative, something that is later on in a new TV/social media/web advert), it is hard to be too cynical. I don’t know what our South Australian law has to say about the practice.

  48. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 17:22 | #48

    Fran Barlow:
    What specific bit of Marx would that be Ivor?

    Obviously Fran Barlow has a gap in knowledge.

    “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties…They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement…In France the Communists ally themselves with the Social-Democrats … In Switzerland they support the Radicals, without loosing sight of the fact that this party consists of antagonistic elements…In Poland they support the party that insists on an agrarian revolution…In Germany they fight with the bourgeoise whenever it acts in a revolutionary way…In all these movements they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labour everywhere for the unioin and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.”

    In short – the opposite to Trotskyite and leftist sectarianism.

  49. Tim Macknay
    February 25th, 2014 at 17:30 | #49

    @John Mashey
    John, even the IPA doesn’t appear to be actively promoting e-cigarettes in Australia. At least, no searches on the IPA web site for “e-cigarette”, “electronic cigarette” or “vape” bring up any results. BTW, the IPA link in your article actually links to the British IEA.

    The other major right-wing think tank in Australia, the Centre for Independent Studies, doesn’t seem to promote them either (Local Libertarians seem to be talking them up though, presumably following US prompts as usual).

    E-cigarettes are currently a legal grey area in Australia, as it’s legal to sell (some of) them, as well as flavoured liquids to use in them, but generally illegal to sell nicotine in liquid form, so users have to import it. You may be aware that the tobacco industry in Australia recently lost a major battle with the introduction of plain packaging laws for tobacco products. It may be that the tobacco industry doesn’t think the timing is right for new initiatives over here. There have been recent media reports linking research into the usage patterns and health impacts of e-cigarettes with the potential for them to replace real cigarettes entirely. Perhaps that prospect is causing the tobacco PR flacks to tread cautiously on the issue. It will be interesting to see if the new, more tobacco-friendly government in Australia changes the industry’s approach.

  50. Tim Macknay
    February 25th, 2014 at 17:32 | #50

    Prof Q, my response to John Mashey is in moderation. Maybe it was the links.

  51. Fran Barlow
    February 25th, 2014 at 17:52 | #51


    Out of context. That’s from the Manifesto, and it was a founding document of the First International. Although they used the term “communist” the party saw itself as a party pressing capitalism to continue the bourgeois democratic revolution, as the text you quote shows.

    That revolution has no pertinence in Australia. We are not a collection of feudal duchies and capitalism rules not merely this jurisdiction but most of the planet. Speaking of the union of all “democratic” parties in this jurisdiction would be ludicrous. There are no “landlord” parties.

    The working people do need a mass party that reliably articulates their interests because at this stage there is no such party. For the record, I am a supporter of The Greens, which is a left-liberal party, composed largely of sections of the professional middle-class — which should indicate to you the absurdity of your charges of sectarianism. I’d be thrilled to see the rise of a substantial party of the left, with which we Greens could work. Indeed, it’s possible if one such arose, I might well jump ship and join them. It’s unlikely I’d be the only one. If it did, either way, I’d be advocating close collaboration.

  52. rog
    February 25th, 2014 at 18:12 | #52

    @Fran Barlow

    It’s not that most opposed to the boats hate them — they just don’t care what happens to them or they do, in a broad sense, but don’t want to think about it presumably because it would make it harder to feel good about their privileges here, or given them scope to complain about the lack of them. That attitude too is a kind of racism — a desire to continue to be a wealthy first world country, if needs be, at the expense of non-first world countries.

    Strangely enough I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by those refugees & migrants who have permanent residency &/or citizenship. Some strange psychology going on there.

  53. Megan
    February 25th, 2014 at 18:47 | #53

    Someone has set up a ‘Twitter’ hashtag #ChangeYourMindALP and is urging supporters to contact their ALP member using that. They seem to be advocating an end to mandatory detention and offshore detention as an ALP policy, but they also seem to be saying straight up that they support the ALP.

    In my mind this is the same problem I alluded to above with ‘Labor For Refugees’.

    What’s the point in sending a message: “I urge you to change your inhumane policies, but I’ll vote for you even if you don’t.”?

    If you withdraw your support/vote AND tell them why, that might get a result (although looking at the Qld ALP – they simply won’t care).

  54. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 18:55 | #54

    @Fran Barlow

    Classic sectarianism. All those who follow this line can coagulate in all their different groups well away from real struggle.

    Obviously the specifics that occurred in the Nineteenth century will be different to the specifics of the 21st century – but the underlying message is the same – for Marxists. Opportunist attacks on the words of Marx demonstrate you have not understood the meaning of Marx.

    I don’t know why you invented some accusation of me making “charges of sectarianism” against you. I was re

    David Irving (no relation) : and


    So I think we have all gained a lesson on how Trots talk.

    The Greens are a similar party (in modern conditions) as those cited by Marx (referring to his own times). They have gained the support of at least one union – NTEU – and may possible expand this base.

    In the past unions have supported other parties – eg Nuclear Disarmament Party and Jack Munday’s “Community Independents”.

    You may not have realised, but the word “democratic” used by Marx was not referring to a label – it was referring to the essence of a political party, and, there is no reason whatsoever why we should not work towards common unity of all democratic parties along the lines expressed by Karl Marx.

  55. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 18:57 | #55

    Stupid software – no preview, so who knows what it will throw up?

  56. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 18:59 | #56

    Repost – on a learning curve
    Ivor :
    @Fran Barlow
    Classic sectarianism. All those who follow this line can coagulate in all their different groups well away from real struggle.
    Obviously the specifics that occurred in the Nineteenth century will be different to the specifics of the 21st century – but the underlying message is the same – for Marxists. Opportunist attacks on the words of Marx demonstrate you have not understood the meaning of Marx.
    I don’t know why you invented some accusation of me making “charges of sectarianism” against you. I was referring to
    David Irving (no relation) : and Ikonoclast:
    So I think we have all gained a lesson on how Trots talk.
    The Greens are a similar party (in modern conditions) as those cited by Marx (referring to his own times). They have gained the support of at least one union – NTEU – and may possible expand this base.
    In the past unions have supported other parties – eg Nuclear Disarmament Party and Jack Munday’s “Community Independents”.
    You may not have realised, but the word “democratic” used by Marx was not referring to a label – it was referring to the essence of a political party, and, there is no reason whatsoever why we should not work towards common unity of all democratic parties along the lines expressed by Karl Marx.

  57. Ivor
    February 25th, 2014 at 19:02 | #57

    Repost – on a learning curve with this blog’s software
    Ivor :
    @Fran Barlow
    Classic sectarianism. All those who follow this line can coagulate in all their different groups well away from real struggle.
    Obviously the specifics that occurred in the Nineteenth century will be different to the specifics of the 21st century – but the underlying message is the same – for Marxists. Opportunist attacks on the words of Marx demonstrate you have not understood the meaning of Marx.
    I don’t know why you invented some accusation of me making “charges of sectarianism” against you. I was referring to David Irving (no relation) : and Ikonoclast:
    So I think we have all gained a lesson on how Trots talk.
    The Greens are a similar party (in modern conditions) as those cited by Marx (referring to his own times). They have gained the support of at least one union – NTEU – and may possible expand this base.
    In the past unions have supported other parties – eg Nuclear Disarmament Party and Jack Munday’s “Community Independents”.
    You may not have realised, but the word “democratic” used by Marx was not referring to a label – it was referring to the essence of a political party, and, there is no reason whatsoever why we should not work towards common unity of all democratic parties along the lines expressed by Karl Marx.

  58. rog
    February 25th, 2014 at 21:52 | #58

    Politicians will change policy when sufficient voters demand change – and judging by this ANU study we aren’t there yet.

  59. February 25th, 2014 at 22:28 | #59

    My problem with asylum seeker policy, whether Labor, Liberal or other, is that its not addressing the real problems.

    Why is there conflict in so many countries? Is it as simple as there are just too many people in societies that don’t have the the cultural skills to cope?

    Could it be that some would rather we didn’t talk about the causes because the conclusions you’d have to draw would be like those on climate change, inconvenient?

  60. J-D
    February 26th, 2014 at 09:13 | #60

    ‘Faceless men’ is not ALP terminology, it’s anti-ALP terminology, a slur.
    @Fran Barlow
    If people object to a policy forced on the parliamentary party by the extra-parliamentary party, I think it’s franker and more genuine for them to state their substantive objections to the policy.
    And if people object to a policy adopted by the parliamentary party overriding the extra-parliamentary party, I think it’s franker and more genuine for them to state their substantive objections to the policy.

    I don’t mean to say that the internal structures and processes don’t matter, but it seems to me that the majority of complaints about them come up in the context of specific policy decisions, and that those complaints about processes are a smokescreen when the real issue is not people’s alleged concerns about process but their dissatisfaction with outcomes. I very seldom see complaints about process when people are satisfied with outcomes.

  61. John Mashey
    February 26th, 2014 at 14:57 | #61

    @Donald Oats
    Thanks. It’s hard to know. The medical professionals I know are sometimes conflicted, because:
    a) Most think e-cigs are less bad than regular ones, and that nicotine addicts would be far better off switching to them if they can’t quit. The companies and think tanks are spruiking that like crazy along with the the totally-unproven idea that e-cigs will help lots of people quit. Let us say that the idea that big tobacco will push e-cigs so that no one is nicotine-dependent, so they can go out of business … does not seem likely.

    b) but the problem is the number of people likely to add it to tobacco and even worse, the number of kids that can be addicted at their most vulnerable time.

    The challenge is to craft public policy that allows for a) without also causing b) and so far I have yet to see any … but Oz does relatively well on tobacco control, why I ask here.

  62. February 26th, 2014 at 15:36 | #62

    I just heard a story, which if true gives me hope.

    A worker at a steel fabrication plant in Melbourne received a work order to manufacture a steel security gate. When he realised it was from Serco for Maribyrnong detention centre he decided he couldn’t do it as that would be supporting an inhumane process.

    He called the manager and explained his position. The manager heard him out and said that he supported the action and told him to contact the client and reject the work, which he did.

    During the day several people from his organisation came to speak with him offering 100% support. Serco called back and asked him to reconsider because they had taken the job to three other businesses and they had turned the job down for the same reason.

    As much as I despise the ALP, I see in the Guardian that Anna Burke is calling for the abandonment of ‘offshore detention’ and closure of Manus and Nauru.

  63. Fran Barlow
    February 26th, 2014 at 16:01 | #63


    Lovely story, if substantially true …

  64. alfred venison
    February 26th, 2014 at 20:32 | #64

    since the talk on the other non-specific thread seems to be speculation on counterfactual usa history i’ll post this here.

    keeping the peace on the streets of kiev, maybe yesterday, maybe last sunday.

    the first letters on the building, as i make it out with my crude cyrillic/anglo transliterator, spell “library”.

    they are standing under the flag of the “oun” – the organisation of ukraininan nationalists.

    the oun is a ukrainian radical nationalist fascist organisation founded in 1929. in world war 2 they sided with the nazis & murdered every jew & russian they could find. and mutilated the corpses.

    earlier this week the sevastopol police chief declared his officers would not follow “criminal orders” from the regime in kiev and set up road blocks on the four highways leading into the city to guard against extremists. -a.v.

  65. Will
    February 26th, 2014 at 21:24 | #65

    Caught on the radio today a news snippet which concerned drought relief packages for farmers. Barry O’Farrell spoke a good line, something along the lines of “we don’t eat were it not for them” and pledged substantial assistance. Colonial socialism is still very much alive and well.

  66. John Mashey
    February 27th, 2014 at 07:18 | #66

    @Tim Macknay
    Thanks, Tim, bad URL fixed, added note that IPA not (yet?) Into e-cigs.

    Plain packaging: yes, I’ve noted that non-profit American business groups were hassling both Oz, as by NAM or US Chamber of Commerce and nownow NZ over plain packaging.

    This is especially interesting, given that American tobacco companies have very low market share Down Under, but then, NAM and US Chamber of Commerce have long had many appearances in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, including $.

  67. Fran Barlow
    February 27th, 2014 at 08:27 | #67


    Very much so.

    In any event, putting aside the integrity of the processes by which the party at large establishes policy — and seriously, it looks very doubtful — as a matter of principle one can argue that those who are “faceless” really ought to be supreme, assuming that the parliamentary wing is a mere expression of the aspirations of the membership/stakeholders.
    The idea that the parliamentary wing ought to be able to run its own show is far less nominally democratic a concept, assuming that’s the argument being run here.

    This is an argument about authenticity — the living beating heart of populism. The assertion by the right is that “authenticity” is conferred by the popular vote and that this delegate authority renders all other duty null and void. That’s one possible iteration of populism, but really, it’s talking not about the parties and their business but the business of the parliament. The other is that the members and unions are the authentic source of authority for the parliamentary party’s conduct, and that this takes priority over all else.

    Mapped onto all that is the issue of individual conscience — a kind of Burkean conservatism in which the individual member abandons even his own constituents to do right for the nation as a whole, as s/he sees it. Interestingly, it actually offers a neat marriage between a kind of metaphysical nationalism and current right wing libertarianism.

    Reid’s “faceless men” taps at least two of these memes and piles on the scorn with which the elite ridicules mere ciphers before the mass of the populace.

    No wonder it caught on as a catchcry.

  68. J-D
    February 27th, 2014 at 09:12 | #68

    @Fran Barlow
    I am aware that people can and do argue for the supremacy of the extra-parliamentary party over the parliamentary party. I am also aware that people can and do argue against it. I’m not taking a side on that here, but I am pointing out that both sides have arguments that are not entirely specious and can at least arguably invoke concepts of ‘democracy’, ‘representativeness’, ‘authenticity’, and the like. Neither side is obviously and flagrantly in the wrong, although clearly it’s impossible to agree with both of them in the result, at least not fully.

    The internal structure of the ALP has changed to some extent since the ‘faceless men’ slur was first coined, but its application then was to the thirty-six members of the Federal Conference. Those thirty-six men (they were then all men) were chosen by the six State Conferences, and the majority vote at each of those State conferences was cast by delegations from unions (not all unions, only those affiliated to the party). The union delegations to State conferences were (as they still are) typically nominated by union officials without reference to the union members, and voted as those officials instructed. This should be borne in mind in assessing how democratic or representative or authentic the arrangements were in fact.

  69. alfred venison
  70. February 27th, 2014 at 23:46 | #70

    @alfred venison

    That was predictable. There was a darkly hilarious interview on RT about an hour ago with former US ambassador to Ukraine John E. Herbst.

    He was making the point that violent overthrows of democratically elected governments is sometimes OK. At one point the interviewer asked how the US would have viewed the situation if “Occupy” had tried that. He threw back the insult that the US is a real democracy.

    I well remember the violent dismantling of “Occupy” here in Australia, as well as the far more violent suppressions in the UK and all across the US. Eerily similar tactics used in all cases.

    In October 2009 Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the creation of the Australian Civilian Corps (ACC) at the East Asia Summit in Thailand. In order to collaborate and build capacity of S/CRS and the ACC, Ambassador Herbst coordinated the signing of a memorandum. The memorandum detailed how the two organizations would exchange lessons learned and performance measurement methodologies in order to arrive at conflict prevention and reconstruction and stabilization goals. The memorandum focuses on building sustainable peace through enhancing interoperability among civilian reconstruction and stabilization organizations and strengthening civilian capabilities across the globe.

    Top bloke.

    He came across as a person on some serious reality-altering drugs. At one point he mocked the RT host for talking about democracy and she pointed out that Russia actually is one.

  71. J-D
    February 28th, 2014 at 07:10 | #71

    By what standard are you judging that Russia is an actual democracy?

  72. alfred venison
    February 28th, 2014 at 07:13 | #72

    apparently not predicable enough to john kerry or john maccain or nuland or merkel/

    the fascists were all over the maidan and have now come out of the woodwork & are challenging the “moderates” all over the place.

    the fascists fire bombed the kiev synagogue last night.

    threatened parliamentarians are quitting for the safety of themselves and their families.

    the fascists are firebombing parliamentarians homes, threatening their families, demanding party membership lists.

    the fascists are demanding a place in the gov’t and the “moderates” are giving it to them.

    the fascists are calling for resignation of the entire electoral commission & for their men to be present for the count next month to ensure “accuracy”.

    the “moderates” have disbanded the riot police.

    yanuovich is free and now in russian about to give a press conference – mrs t is as corrupt as the rest – all politicians are corrupt – no one under 25 trusts a politician.

    the fascists are hunting for journalists who “lie”.

    gun carrying fascists are threatening people in local gov’t assemblies.

    they are forcing priests at gunpoint to kneel & pray for their dead.

    they are beating up old ladies in the street.


  73. alfred venison
    February 28th, 2014 at 07:21 | #73

    i know about rt too megan thanks you’ll need your google translator on for these guys but they have some good stuff too:-

  74. Ikonoclast
    February 28th, 2014 at 08:43 | #74

    First, we need to look at the global Realpolitik. The three great powers currently are USA, China and Russia. Russia is a combination Chekist-Plutocratic state. China is a One Party-Plutocratic state. USA is a Plutocratic state with “soft pretensions to democracy”. None of the USA’s globally important decisions (homeland affairs and foreign affairs) are made democratically. Some of the constituents of the EU might be broadly democratic but the EU itself is not democratic. It is a technocratic economic structure designed to serve, you guessed it, the plutocrats. You can call plutocrats “oligarchs” if you prefer.

    Ukraine’s future will be largely determined by those four blocs mentioned above. This is because each of the blocs is an empire (or proto-empire like the EU) and behaves at all times like an empire. Ukraine is a land that borders two empires. As such it wil be compelled by the powers to become either a compliant vassal/tributary state to one bloc or the other or a contested zone. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are other examples of contested zones. Civil wars and/or proxy wars tend to flare up in contested zones: often the flames are lit by the major world empires.

    The other parameter is resource shortages and poverty. There is a high correlation between these and unrest. We are entering a period of resource scarcity. Those nations able to bid or fight for scarce resources will get “first dibs”. Those nations struggling economically will tend now to turn into failed states. The Ukraine has both of the above counts against it. I am not hopeful for Ukraine.

  75. Megan
    February 28th, 2014 at 10:37 | #75


    Admittedly a low one. They have elections. They are no less of a democracy than the US.

  76. J-D
    February 28th, 2014 at 13:11 | #76

    There are maybe a dozen countries in the world that have no elections at all. If you want to describe all the rest as ‘democratic’, you are obviously free to do so, but I suggest that it’s more typical for people to use the word as if it means something at least a little more specific than that, and therefore I predict that people are going to misunderstand you.

  77. Tim Macknay
    February 28th, 2014 at 13:48 | #77

    Speaking of elections, the WA Senate re-election will be held on April 5.

  78. Megan
    February 28th, 2014 at 14:11 | #78


    Specifically, what I found hypocritical in Mr Herbst’s snide comment is the fact that the US is no more democratic than Russia.

  79. Jungney
    February 28th, 2014 at 14:17 | #79

    It’s impossible to see the USA as democratic after Florida. Anyone who does is delusional.

  80. John Mashey
    February 28th, 2014 at 17:05 | #80

    Tim Macknay:

    Thanks, I made some fixes in the blog post.

    I wrote some longer comments here, but they seem lost or stuck.
    Oz has done well with plain packaging, although I note US groups like Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers objected and are now hassling NZ over it. This is especially interesting in NZ, given that BAT and Imperial have most of the market, with Philip Morris International ~6%, and that was made separate from US anyway.

    Hopefully you won’t see much of this, although a good outcome would be to make nicotine vaping fluids into prescription drugs for those who are just too addicted to quit. The (modest) evidence is that they are less bad than regular cigarettes. The challenge of course is the real goal: more kids and young adults.

  81. JKUU
    March 1st, 2014 at 00:24 | #81

    I’m delusional, Jungney. I’ve voted in every election in the U.S. since becoming a citizen. I thought (perhaps erroneously) that I was participating in a democratic process. You think that Australia is more democratic? Please explain if you do.

  82. J-D
    March 1st, 2014 at 06:00 | #82

    When you describe it as a ‘fact’ that the US is ‘no more democratic than Russia’, it does seem a little as if you are appealing to a notion of ‘democracy’ that means more than just ‘having elections’. However, if you’re still sticking to that standard, then it’s possible the US is more democratic than Russia, if it has more elections.

  83. J-D
    March 1st, 2014 at 06:01 | #83

    By what standard are you judging when you say the USA is not democratic? Clearly it’s not the standard previously enunciated by Megan, since by that standard the USA is plainly democratic.

  84. Ikonoclast
    March 1st, 2014 at 08:42 | #84

    I remember the Florida recount and the disruption and exclusion of black and disabled voters in 2000. I also remember the 2004 election, the Ohio count and the Diebold voting machine scandal. Both elections were stolen, very obviously stolen if you are anything like a perceptive observer.

    Look up micheal parenti stolen elections.

    American conservatives and patriots themselves argue very proudly that the USA is a republic not a democracy.

    “The word Democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution…and for good reason. The United States is not a Democracy. It is a Constitutional Republic and it is essential that the American people understand this reality. If we continue to allow the untruth that the United States of America is a Democracy to flourish we invite the demise of our government and our nation; we invite the cessation of the American Experiment and doom future generations to a fate unknown.” – The New Media Journal.

    They then delineate what the difference is in their eyes. Their descriptions of “evil democratic tyranny” are hilarious as they actually describe how the modern US acts all the time.

    “In fact, our Founders and Framers understood a Democracy to be a dangerous vehicle that, given time, would devolve into mob rule or government by majority; a government where the minority had little or no voice; a government unrestrained in it reach into our lives.” – The New Media Journal.

    Sounds like the contemporary US to me: “where the minority have little or no voice” – “a government unrestrained in it reach into our lives.” Isn’t this exactly how the US operates now? What voice do minorities like blacks or hispanics have? How does their government act but spy everywhere at home and abroad with unrestrained reach into peoples lives?

    When US “Republicans” (not just the GOP) speak about the defence of the minority, they mean only one minority and that is the rich, privileged minority. They don’t mean other minorities and heaven forbid that the majority should run the country. They call the majority “the mob”. They have complete contempt for the common people, for ordinary people.

    Russia is not better than the US. Nor is China. All three are systems ruled by secret agencies and/or corporate and oligarchic power. Where elections are held they are figleafs, covers, for the essentially plutocratic and chekist autocracies. Three totalitarian blocks ruling the world! Orwell’s “1984? was remarkably prescient was it not?

  85. Ikonoclast
    March 1st, 2014 at 08:43 | #85

    The moderation algorithm is seriously broken. There is hardly any point in trying to comment on this blog any more.

  86. Ikonoclast
    March 1st, 2014 at 08:50 | #86
  87. alfred venison
    March 1st, 2014 at 10:25 | #87

    the link you were able to post is dead, how ironic.

    remember what the anarchists used to say? maybe they still do, well, i do: if voting could change anything they’d make it illegal. voting is not meant to change anything fundamental, they are for letting off steam by giving the masses the appearance that their opinions matter. the masters have elections so the masses don’t rise up and hang them from the near set lamp posts. -a.v.


  88. March 1st, 2014 at 11:19 | #88


    If you are arguing that the US is more democratic than Russia, how would you support that argument?

  89. Ron E Joggles
    March 1st, 2014 at 11:51 | #89

    Apropos of nothing, would someone kindly remind me of the name of the eponymous adage which states, approximately, that well-written parody will often be taken literally?

  90. Jungney
    March 1st, 2014 at 11:54 | #90


    One vote, one value in free, unmilitarized elections where the electors are the bearers of equal citizenship rights in a system of universal franchise in which all candidates have equal access to the means of communication.

    Among genuine political philosophy it is uncontroversial that the Republicans hijacked that election mainly in Florida but, as ikonoklast’s link argues, in other states as well.

  91. March 1st, 2014 at 12:17 | #91

    @Ron E Joggles

    Are you thinking of “Poe’s Law”?

  92. Fran Barlow
    March 1st, 2014 at 13:07 | #92


    I’d certainly say that what passes for the electoral process in the US is in context on the whole far more likely to skew influence towards the privileged than is the case here.

    The US is a far more socially inegalitarian place than here, and of course elections are run by politicians. Redistricting is also at the whim of those in power. Often, at local level there’s no contest at all and continuity in membership of the houses is about 90%. Judges are political figures as they are often elected. Voter suppression is a commonplace thing and frames their politics.

    I don’t assert that there’s much democracy here either, but there are slightly stronger firewalls between the executive, judicial and administrative arms of the state and as far as can be told a rather higher participation rate — albeit that this is often a form of plebiscitary dictatorship, as in the US.

  93. Jim Rose
    March 1st, 2014 at 13:44 | #93

    fran, I would have thought primaries in the usa would have met with your approval as a guard against elite control.

  94. Jungney
    March 1st, 2014 at 15:05 | #94

    Both Australian and US histories are replete with failed utopian democratic projects. These projects were often driven by a despair at the impossibility of parliamentary democracy. In Australia, William Lane’s failed ‘New Australia’ attempt in Paraguay, was initiated in 1892. In the US political utopias are regarded were established the first experiments in democratic socialism; the vast majority of utopias were closed religious communities, some surprisingly successful and many were concerned to establish a community of absolute (usually patriarchal) equality between members of the community. Most have collapsed over time.

    So, democracy is a difficult undertaking whether in closed communities or in an open and now global culture. John Keane makes the point that the current massive scale and complexity of nation states makes any form of direct democracy impossible without introducing absurdity (like Ca.’s plebiscites, which are an attempt to hold on to some form of direct participation).

    Keane argues convincingly for what he calls ‘monitory democracy’ in which citizens are employed, outside the state apparatus and reporting to parliament, but not accountable to it; committees monitor adherence of the state to democratic process and goals. The criteria for selecting citizen monitors would reflect dominant democratic aspirations of the day.

    This is exactly the project needed to transform our so called democracies from plutocracy, correctly identified as such by Ikonoklast, into genuine democracies. It is, however, a process that requires creating citizens capable of actively engaging with democratic aims and processes. Right now the minimal number of such people is our most pressing problem.

  95. Fran Barlow
    March 1st, 2014 at 17:14 | #95

    @Jim Rose

    Certainly not, they are one of the key vehicles for elite control.

  96. Ron E Joggles
    March 1st, 2014 at 17:33 | #96

    @Megan Thanks Megan, that’s the one!

  97. JKUU
    March 2nd, 2014 at 03:01 | #97

    @Fran Barlow
    Frankly, Fran, I find your response long on unsupported generalities and short on specifics. So let me start with a generality: I’ve lived/worked/voted in both the United States and Australia, and it’s been my experience, overall, that there’s little difference between the “quality of the democratic process” in both countries. That’s not the same as saying that the quality is high.

    On to specifics. In the past ways you’ve championed ways to improve participation in governance by the general public. Your arguments for a sortition process are good in principle, but the devil is in the implementation. In short, what you propose is unconstitutional (see s.7 and s.24 of the Commonwealth constitution). This places a barrier on your ideas that can only be lifted through constitutional amendment – a difficult process. Instead, let me take up Jim Rose’s suggestion of primary elections, because these can be instituted by amending the Commonwealth’s electoral laws (and not the constitution).

    I hope you all don’t mind but I’d like to repeat a comment about primary elections I wrote in On Line Opinion in January last year:
    “Candidates for election in Australia are selected by political parties — the pre-selection process — not the electorate at large. A way to increase the “directly chosen by the people” component in elections both for the Senate (s.7) and the House (s.24) would be to move one step back in the whole process and institute Primary Elections of candidates, as is done in the U.S. Primaries winnow a field of candidates prior to an upcoming general or by-election. They were specifically instituted to take the power of candidate nomination away from party leaders and give it to the people. A quick example of how this works (it varies among states): There’s an election for State governor in New Jersey this November. The incumbent is a Republican and several Democratic challengers have announced at this time. When you register to vote in NJ you may (but don’t have to) declare a party affiliation. Primary elections take place in June, when voters choose their affiliated party’s candidate to run in November’s Gubernatorial election. This month [January] marks the last date by which a voter may choose, delete, or change a party affiliation.

    Among the states more generally, primary elections may be closed or open, or somewhere in between. In closed primaries (like NJ), you may only choose among the candidates of your party affiliation, In semi-closed primaries, the unaffiliated may vote as well. In open primaries, a registered voter may vote in any party primary regardless of his/her own party affiliation. In my opinion, the primary election process works well, and I’ve participated since first registering to vote. Because of primaries, I would say that voters in the U.S. have the potential to enjoy much greater participation in the entire election process compared to the situation in Australia. Of course, only about half the eligible voters in the U.S. get to the polls at all.”

    Here’s an update: I failed to vote in the Gubernatorial primary because there was only one Democratic candidate left by the time of the election. However, I did vote in the U.S. Senate primary, which cropped up when the incumbent died unexpectedly. My choice lost, but I sucked it up and voted for the successful primary candidate in the November elections. I did feel that I was empowered by the primary election process. However, I do agree that primaries, like any other electoral process, can be subverted by special interest groups. This does not detract from their overall desirability.

    Fran levels a number of other criticisms of the state of democracy in the U.S. These would need more time to discuss – perhaps at a later time. In this response I wanted to draw attention to a process, primary elections, as a means to increase the political power of the people at the expense of the entrenched party system. Moreover, primary elections can easily be instituted in Australia by amending federal electoral laws. Cynics would say (I and agree): good luck with convincing the major parties to go along.

  98. J-D
    March 2nd, 2014 at 13:54 | #98

    I was not taking a position on whether any country is democratic or on how democratic any country is, because to me it’s meaningless to do so without an agreed standard of what we mean by ‘democratic’, and as far as I can tell you and I don’t have that. You have said that you are judging whether a country is democratic by whether it has elections, and my comments on that, to repeat myself, are as follows:
    that people typically use the word to mean something more specific than that, so to use the word that way without first explaining yourself is to invite misunderstanding; and
    that if the word ‘democratic’ is used to mean only ‘having elections’, then the only sense I can make of references to one country being ‘more democratic’ than another is that it has more elections.

  99. J-D
    March 2nd, 2014 at 14:21 | #99

    By the standard you indicate, democracy doesn’t exist anywhere, probably never has, and probably never will. People typically use a less exacting standard for the application of the term, so if you don’t explain your interpretation of it in advance you invite misunderstanding.

  100. Megan
    March 2nd, 2014 at 14:27 | #100


    I see your problem (and admittedly it’s partly my fault), you thought that when I answered

    Admittedly a low one. They have elections. They are no less of a democracy than the US.

    I was setting out a complete standard for defining the word “democracy”. I wasn’t doing that. To make it clear, I should have said something more like: “..a low one. At least they have elections.”

    I wasn’t giving an exhaustive definition, just citing one of the basic elements.

    As you don’t take a position one way or the other it is difficult to work out what the point of your original question was.

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