17 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Referenda should be seen as invigorating for democracy. That seems to be true for the Scottish Independence referendum. They have the merit of being focused on a single question. In Scotland the increased participation and the voting of sixteen and seventeen years olds were positive. I do not understand what the big deal was about preserving the form of the UK.

    I think England would have benefited from Scottish and Welsh independence. England does not seem to have much of an identity. To my knowledge, compared to the Scots and Irish, there seems to be folk history.

    Institutions and constitutions need to be able to change and evolve. So it was good of the Founding Fathers to copy the Swiss. Since Federation is a done deal, it time that referenda question were settled by an absolute majority. I would like to see recognition of, and a treaty with Indigenous Australians incorporated in the preamble and the body of the Constition.

  2. oops Australian Constitution. And the Republic should be revived, this time with a campaign undertaken with less complacency. As long as he is not a Major-General i personally don’t care who is chosen for Head of State.

  3. In Scotland the increased participation and the voting of sixteen and seventeen years olds were positive

    Na, the temporary lowering of the voting age was part of a particularly grubby manoeuvre by the SNP government. Non-citizen residents were allowed to vote too (with an implicit promise Scotland would not deport them while a Tory/UKIP led England might). But citizen non-residents were not (they didn’t want the million Scots living in England voting to keep their residency privileges). Given this a narrow vote for independence would not really have had much legitimacy.

  4. @derrida derider

    I wasn’t aware of those facts about the Scotland Referendum before this.

    “Under the terms of the 2010 Draft Bill, the following people were entitled to vote in the referendum:[13]

    – British citizens who are resident in Scotland;
    – citizens of the 52 other Commonwealth countries who are resident in Scotland;
    – citizens of the 27 other European Union countries who are resident in Scotland;
    – members of the House of Lords who are resident in Scotland;
    – Service/Crown personnel serving in the UK or overseas in the British Armed Forces or with Her Majesty’s Government who are registered to vote in Scotland.

    The Scottish government passed legislation to reduce the voting age for the referendum from 18 to 16, as it was SNP policy to reduce the voting age for all elections in Scotland. The move was supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Greens.

    In January 2012, Elaine Murray MSP of Labour led a debate arguing that the franchise should be extended to Scots living outside Scotland, including the approximately 800,000 living in the other parts of the UK. This was opposed by the Scottish government, which argued that it would greatly increase the complexity of the referendum and stated that there was evidence from the United Nations Human Rights Committee that other nations “might question the legitimacy of a referendum if the franchise is not territorial”.” – Wikipedia.

    The lowering of the voting age was dodgy for sure. Other aspects might have been dodgy too. Surely, every and only every person permitted to vote in standard UK and Scottish elections should have been permitted to vote on this matter.

    My impression is that those manipulating the YES voters thought they could make off with the remainder of the North Sea oil and thus be richer. However, they might have been forgetting the massive financial exposure of Scotland’s banks Have another financial crash and watch out!

    Separatism is the road to economic weakness in many cases. There are counter examples of course. Taiwan is one. Singapore is another. I doubt that Scotland would be stronger after separating. Of course, genuine independence like India’s is a different matter. I guess “genuine” is in the eye of the beholder. But the UK and Scotland would be weaker with Scotland’s separation just as Canada and Quebec would both be weaker if they separated.

  5. The idiocy continues unabated. A rant by a crazed IS leader is taken as a statement of intent despite the fact that IS have no demonstrable means of carrying out any of their threats. The mental processes of the current PM and his fellow travelers are transparently unhinged. The great conservative tells us that we must sacrifice our freedoms in the struggle against IS despite the fact the IS have no demonstrable means of extending their reach beyond lands that are far away from Australia. Of course the local media have swallowed the blue pill, they report breathlessly of the PMs trip to NYC to orgainise the rest of the world, his FM beside ready to ‘allocate tasks’ once the great strategist has set out the plan for success. Where will it end, surely boredom will set in?

  6. I had a thought last night. It was that I now understand how it felt to live in the USSR in so far as the average Russian new what they read in their press was heavily slanted towards the accepted government line. Journalism consisted of reprinting government press releases and and asking a limited set of questions based on accepted truths. If you look at our media in this country today I’d challenge anyone to show that we are not that far away from that paradigm. And in the same way your average Russian treated what they read in Pravda with cynicism and contempt and frustration I’ve just about given up on the press playing any useful role as a mechanism for understanding the political landscape. We are very much in the dark.

  7. @Patrickb

    There is a gaping hole in the serious TV commentariat in Australia, yet I think the political disullusionment about means there is a large market for it: an interrogative, informed interviewer who will show some spunk and really hold to account our leaders on the things that matter. The model I’m thinking of is BBC’s Hardtalk, under Stephen Sakkur and before him Tim Sebastian, who had a combative approach without too much of the setpiece games of call and response we are used to here, and the interviews were of sufficient length to followup responses and probe issues. The rumoured strong appeal to viewers of Sarah Ferguson, the recently departed stand-in on 730 Report, was probably because she showed terrier-like qualities, which put a bit of fright into her guests.

    Are we more under the thumb to politicians here, so they can expect (demand?) sympathetic interviewers, eg. Albrechtsen interviewing Howard. The Fairfax press today reports ABC chatter that Lateline, I think the only serious longform interview program, could be pruned back due to budget cuts.

    Obviously now we need a professional media which is not spooked into general timidity, as Team Australia raises the shadow of “us or them” over debate and journalists know it will be used to blacken their name. Has anyone heard an Australian TV journalist tell the masses that 26 people were beheaded in Saudi Arabia this August, according to Crikey, and explored this as a relevant issue in the debate?

  8. @kevin1
    Agree with everything you have said. The other very disturbing tendency was that highlighted on last nights Media Watch. Just about all the material we saw regarding the recent raids in Sydney and Brisbane was supplied by the government. The AFP and the local police had allocated specialist personnel who recorded the video and took the stills. This is what made me think of the USSR analogy. I just don’t see how we can be well informed if most of the information is coming from highly motivated sources via a time poor and badly trained media. And this is the source of my frustration, I am well educated enough to know that the rhetoric (both visual and spoken) is completely out of proportion to the reality and if I had a chance I’d put that to the PM or the FM or the MoD or the head of the AFP or which every highly motivated head is trying very hard to convince me otherwise. But this is the role of the media, they should be doing it on our behalf and because they aren’t there a constant feeling that we are being ripped off by the media and the state. I mean, by any measure both these institutions have failed to deliver on their advertised utility. If they were subject to the Fair Trading Act they’d both be deemed not fit for purpose.

  9. @patrickb

    The comments by Att Gen Brandis on 730 last night about ISIL were that “these people hate us for who we are. They hate us for our democracy, for our pluralism, for our free society, for the values we hold dear such as respect for women and respect for minorities.” Even if these value differences are broadly accepted, they are not unique to ISIL: his own leader calls the conflict zone a “witches brew”. Journalists – who are proxies for us as you say – need to nail such indulgent venting, the stakes are too high.

  10. I’d acknowledge that Bernard’s Keane’s piece in today’s Crikey is a good example of the type of journalism we need at this moment. Here he is on Abbott’s statement to the parliament:

    ‘It can only be a lie, or a reflection of an implausibly vast ignorance, to seriously maintain, as Abbott did yesterday, that Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) represents any sort of “unprecedented” threat to Australia.”‘

  11. @patrickb

    The ignorance would indeed have to be vast — appallingly vast — but not, I fear, implausibly vast. The idea that Tony Abbott’s ignorance is vast enough to support sincere belief in the ‘unprecedented’ threat to Australia I find only too horribly plausible.

    I agree that lying is a plausible alternative explanation, but it’s not the only plausible explanation.

  12. @TerjeP, torture may be off the menu but more importantly accountability and transparency are also ‘off the menu’. Therefore, noting that no public media cannot publish this stuff, if an instance of torture comes to the public’s attention, the simple defence can be made: a) we don’t do torture and b) it is illegal. No chance of testing this in open court, as that is definitely ‘off the menu’ All smoke and mirrors, and not a glimpse of libertarian respect for individual rights in sight. Is that Timmy I can hear bleating up in the back paddock?

  13. Sometimes a simple negative gets doubled up, not that I cannot help it, but perhaps just ‘not’ would have made better sense in the above.

  14. The Scottish Referendum was about the reform of political institutions, not simply framing a new paradigm for the nation state but supra-national bodies such as the EU and UN. As for the UK, the West Lothian Question remains. Those voters who were promised increased devolution may soon have cause to be angry.

    It is interesting how the reformulation of the UK would have repercussions. What should not Europe devolve within the Union with more local governments? What should Britain now continue to be a permanent member of the Security Council with a potential veto power. It might be suggest that the Trident fleet is an expensive white elephant that is more about pretension than reality.

    Australia might democratically reinvigorate the referendum process. S.44(1) might be looked at, since it appears to create two classes of citizens. Similarly, the recognition of indigenous people and culture here would have been assisted by the recognition of the indigenous Gaelic culture of Scotland.

  15. > the indigenous Gaelic culture of Scotland.

    There’s some severe problems with calling gaelic “indigenous” in opposition to scots/scottish english/whatever: as near as we can figure, they both arrived at about the same time [post-roman: gaelic from ireland, scots from germany-via-northumbria] and spread, first gaelic and then scots, as a language of administration under an expansionist/centralising/?imperialist government. In the lowlands they spoke a long-extinct member of the welsh/cornish/breton family, in the highlands they spoke pictish, which is poorly attested but probably similar.

    Which isn’t to say it wasn’t marginalised, or that whether a language’s indigenousness hugely matters for social policy issues [consider canadian french or finnish swedish or tamil].

  16. I had not fully realized the British Isles were populated by “boat people”. Nor that the “clearing of the Highlands” beginning with Culloden in 1745 was not long before James Cook or the First Fleet sailed. Obviously, with this European background, stopping the boats should be a major priority.

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