Australian Labor Party

Australian Labor Party
The Party for all Australians

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The death of a visionary and the decline of Australian democracy

The death of a visionary and the decline of Australian democracy


The political malaise currently gripping Australia is made all the more poignant when an iconic leader of the past leaves us.

Whatever your political bent, the passing of Gough Whitlam reminds us of a time when leaders helped shape what the country would become and what it meant to be Australian.

The visionary jingoism of Gough’s time is now a relic of the past.
The benefits and complexities of living in a globalised, multicultural
world is giving rise to two conflicting ideologies.

The first is a new kind of humanist consciousness, which is often at
odds with national policy making and the second, an ever more insular
hyper capitalism in which organisations shape policy and democracy ‒ of,
by and for the people ‒ takes a back seat to capital markets.

For any nation looking to prosper in a world becoming more connected ‒
where nations are increasingly dependent on one another ‒ forging your
own path, living to your own values is sadly seen as politically
dangerous and diplomatically reckless regardless which party you

In the past twenty years, Australia has moved from being the envy of
the world ‒ a strong, free, principled, fair and welcoming society ‒ to
becoming a more mean-spirited, intolerant, arrogant and crude sidekick
of Westminster and the Oval Office. This transition was intended to
endear us to larger, richer, stronger nations thought to be in the best
position to protect and support us . From whom I still have no idea.

It is true that Australia’s relationship with the United States and
Britain provides us with benefits, but does it deliver enough value to
compensate for the damage it has and continues to cause to our freedom,
our democratic rights and our national identity?

I am not yet forty years old, but in my lifetime we have gone to war
in Iraq three times. We have destroyed a nation on the other side of the
world that never threatened nor attacked us.

Confusingly, however, we allow the genocide of impoverished people in
Africa without raising an eyebrow. We stand silently as a generation of
people fight for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong and Tibet and we say nothing.

Our diggers went to war in Europe, Korea and Vietnam, fighting for
the principles of democracy, fighting for freedom of all people — and
yet now, when others want to secure that very same right, we remain
silent; the aggressor is a major trading partner and heaven forbid we
offend the golden goose.   

It seems our moral conscience has a price and our federal politicians have been under instruction to sell, sell, sell!

The reason Australia teeters on the edge of a moral identity crisis is that we have allowed the slow, steady erosion of our democracy.
The leadership required to turn the ship around ‒ visionary leadership
and political courage like that provided by Whitlam ‒ simply cannot
exist in today’s political system. A system which has nothing at all to
do with delivering the will people and everything to do with power and

In 2006, the ABS counted political party members at just 1.3% of the Australian adult population — yet political parties are required to deliver the outcomes sought by their members.

But what about the other 98.7% of voting aged Australians, who want their politics, sans entrenched ideology?

There is no other environment in the world in which the selection of a leader based on capacity, merit and intelligence could install Tony Abbott ahead of Malcolm Turnbull.

Only political party politics ‒ a system that relentlessly protects
its base, operates with factions and is driven by powerful ideology ‒
could provide Australia’s current Cabinet.     

Change is not just inevitable, it is vital for our survival.

Everything in your world has been innovated in the last forty years —
your technology, entertainment, job, food, medical support, transport,
travel, telecommunications and a thousand other things. My grandmother
is 98 years old and today’s world is unrecognisable from the world she
was born into, just as it is unrecognisable from the world she lived in
when she was the age I am now. 

Everything has changed, been innovated, evolved and been improved.

Yet, our system of government ‒ which is older than my grandmother
and is intended to serve our entire society ‒ has remained unchanged. Real democracy requires a complete overhaul of what we the people are prepared to accept from our representatives.

Real democracy that will deliver nation building demands an informed
constituency, accountability of representatives, transparency and
removal of all corporate donations and lobbyists; a system based on
merit, an agnostic non-partisan approach to all issues, a fact based
solutions oriented commitment from all sides of politics and equality of
opportunity for those willing to participate and commit themselves to
civic duty.

Many people across the globe are exploring what Democracy 2.0 might look like and it is time Australia joins the conversation.

Adam Jacoby
is the founder of the OB4 Democracy Movement and a global advocate for
the innovation of democratic systems. To learn more about the OB4
movement watch our videos:

Follow @adamajacoby and @DemocracyFramed on Twitter or read the blog here.

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