Thursday, July 11, 2002

WHAT? WHERE AM I? WHO STOLE MY PANTS?

Apologies for the lack of monkey-blog action over the past few days. I had my parents to stay for a week or so, and I wanted to concentrate on them. So Hi! Mum & Dad. Hope the drive back was smooth.

And so to business.
Matthew Bates weighs in on the ructions taking place in our own Twit-Left Party, the Australian Democrats. He takes issue with what looks like a fairly obvious statement from Alan Woods
But if Australia is to have a healthy polity, it should also mean the election of a government with a policy program and a mandate and the means to implement it. The Senate's present rejection of budget measures is only the latest evidence of the impossibility of implementing even minor, but important, reforms.


The Westminster system is based around a simple idea: win a majority of seats in the Lower House, convince the Crown that you can deliver government, and the job is yours.

There is the minor prize of Loyal Opposition if you take second spot, and absolutely nothing for third. The Commission to be Prime Minister is given on only one condition: That you can deliver a stable majority in the Lower House. Parliament is about delivering governance. If that happens to be good governance, then so much the better. But a government has to be able to command a majority of the votes in the Lower House, because that is where the Government is formed.

It is not formed in the Upper House, the Executive or the National Security Council. The electorate is asked at regular intervals what it would like their representatives to do. Policies are offered by parties, examined by a free and informed populace, and secret ballot elections held. One set of policies is chosen as the overall way forward, and the winning group given the job on implementing them.

What is not acceptable is to salami-slice the winning policies into ever-decreasing special interest groups, any and all of whom can, by Matthew’s definition, claim a mandate to deliver whatever crackpot theory they ran on to get into the Senate.

When a government is elected, they have the duty to implement the policy they were elected on. In the absence of extremely compelling reasons, nothing less will do. They are hired to do the job, and they should be entitled and expected to bloody well do it. It’s particularly galling to have a minority party who ran on the very specific policy of holding the new government to their campaign promises, then turn around and demand that certain selected policies not be made into law.

To put it simply, I voted for a GST on food, my guys won, and I didn’t get what I, and the electorate, voted for.

And I don’t want to hear any guff about a majority of the votes, or a majority of the two-party preferred, or a majority in the Senate. I won’t put up with my kids changing the rules when they lose, and I won’t put up with it from adults. I can find an election result that will illustrate any voting outcome.

To say that the Democrats have a mandate to implement their policies at the cost of the elected government’s, is to say anyone at all can do the same. Here is a selection of the parties running in the 1998 election:

Australians Against Further Immigration
Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
Helen Caldicott's - Our Common Future Party
Socialist Alliance
Non-Custodial Parents Party
Australian Shooters Party

How would you feel if Fred Nile made banning the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras a condition of passing the Budget? What if the Shooters Party decided that all wilderness should be opened up four wheel drives? The Non-Custodial Parents crew wants to abolish the Family Court.

And let’s not forget the flipside. If you claim a mandate for holding the balance of power, you might do well to reflect on this: the Coalition parties have rarely been more than one or two Senate votes from an absolute majority. Under Matthew’s system, a government with a majority in the Senate would have the untrammelled right to do anything it wanted. As the saying goes when the rules are in dispute: all bets are off.

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