There is to be a change in editorial policy at Let’s Ask Elroy!™ In an attempt to remain vaguely relevant and be in the now we shall present more thoughts more often, heaving the ‘Webessay’ format overboard for the time being and becoming snappily tabloidesque although no less opinionated. Expect Elroy to report at least, and he means at least three times a week! Can he do it? The stakes are high...
The longer polemic/rant/screed/diatribe/ may turn up from time to time, but on the whole you’d better stick Let’s Ask Elroy on your bookmark bar and check in daily – who knows what he might hold forth on. So make it part of your breakfast experience, and once again thank you for being part of the exclusive family that is Let’s Ask Elroy!™ That is all.
(Having said that, the following is waaaay too long and a complete abrogation of the new editorial guidelines. Elroy has severely chastised the minion responsible but, as the staff are a bunch of wild and crazy kids who live for the now, don't expect it not to happen again.)
Dolly Downer's Democratic Dilemma
As the footy winds up, the sport of would-be kings is about to lurch out of the home-and-away season and kick into finals mode! Yes, the unelection campaign is nearly over and the quest for the keys to Kirribilli is about to hit high gear, and as it does the Liberal Government’s elite come out fighting in the ultimate festival of the boot, no matter how ridiculous they may sound and look, which leads us to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander ‘Dolly’ Downer and his peculiar notions of democracy.
The government, particularly this one, is very attached to the tri-yearly ballot-box farrago as it means that for the most part they can get on with doing whatever they want to do regardless of whether or not there is any kind of ‘mandate’ for it. The Westminster system of Representative Democracy gives politicians carte blanche to break every pledge they used to get elected in the first place – see Honest John Howard’s infamous 'core' and ‘non-core’ promises – they are unaccountable for around 36 months at a stretch, plenty of time to cause all kinds of damage as they plough the ship of state full steam ahead into iceberg after bloody iceberg.
So it’s no great stretch to see why Westminster-style Representative Democracy is touted by government as the be-all and end-all of societal organization, and although there are often exceptions that let the cat out pf the bag – former Liberal Party candidate and all-round political fruit-loop Pauline Hanson described it as ‘Mob rule’ – it’s not often that Liberal front men, those that are actively prosecuting a war supposedly based on spreading democracy around the Middle East like so much Vegemite, get all muddled about their product.
But Dolly Downer was so keen to deliver a hefty kick at Saint Kevin and his Laboring disciples he wound up sticking the boot into poor old democracy herself and unwittingly promoting an alternative system of government that Elroy thinks sounds far closer to how a society should be constructed. Yes, the truth is that Dolly, the bluest of bloods, knows that representative democracy is a dud for anyone but the ruling classes, and showed his disdain quite clearly On ABC television’s Lateline show last Tuesday.
While defending the fact that, because Australia did not ratify the Koyoto Protocol, we will have no vote at the upcoming Bali climate change conference, Dolly said
‘It's not like some Labor Party branch meeting, you know, all in favour of socialism and 35 put up their hands, all against two put up their hands, OK socialism's adopted. It doesn't work like that.’
Really, Dolly? Y’see, that’s the way it works for the punters back home. In general elections, the House of Representatives and the Senate – the ayes have it! So how does it work when nation states are the electorates?
‘What you do is you sit around in groups, have bilateral meetings, have plenary meetings and you negotiate the type of arrangement that we put in place and hopefully in the end there will be something of a consensus on what kind of an arrangement is put in place.’
Wow! Did you hear that? Let’s parse a-while!
‘What you do is you sit around in groups…’
Mmm. That sounds encouraging. Smaller arrangements of interested parties getting down to the nitty-gritty instead of everyone yelling at each other all together, kind of like having smaller class sizes in schools as opposed to trying to teach the entire school body in the one dining hall. And we all like smaller class sizes, right? So far so good, Dolly – what’s next?
‘…have bilateral meetings, have plenary meetings…’
OK, for us mortals, well, we know what ‘bilateral’ means (my trusty ol’ Oxford defines it as ‘Adjective: 1. Having two sides. 2. Involving two parties), but ‘plenary’? ‘1. Unqualified; absolute. 2. (Of a meeting at a conference or assembly) to be attended by all participants. Thanks for that Word Of The Day, Dolly – and now we know what it actually means!
Ok, so we have all interested parties involved, both or even every side of the argument sits down and no bunking off! No playing hookey! Not like the current situation in the House of Representatives, where most of the members are somewhere else polishing off another crate of Grange, no! Plenary! Everybody must attend! Absolute! No exceptions! And…
‘…and you negotiate the type of arrangement that we put in place and hopefully in the end there will be something of a consensus on what kind of an arrangement is put in place.’
So, a plan is developed through a process of consultation and conciliation by all stakeholders in the hope of finding consensus with the wider body. Terrific! Maybe Dolly is OK after all!
But I know what you’re asking: What else did he say? This visionary, this champion of the people, this democratic revolutionary, did he have more pearls of wisdom to impart? I mean, what is wrong with the obviously crude and distinctly primitive ‘democracy’ that he and is kind insists be adopted around the world? Hmm, Dolly?
‘After all, if you just have a vote and some countries vote against a particular proposition, you can't force those countries that have voted against a proposition to embrace it. It doesn't work like that.’
But again, that's the way it works for us. It works like that here. The constituencies that vote against a motion or a piece of legislation don’t get to reject it; we still have WorkChoices here in Melbourne Ports, no matter how our local member may have voted. So how does it work there?
‘What happens is that, and what should happen, is that there is an effort to put together an international agreement and that is what's in the best interests of the world.’
That is what should happen! Damn straight!
‘When you were talking at the beginning about the importance of this meeting, it's not going to be much of a meeting if it's conducted like some sort of Labor Party branch meeting.’
Maybe we should once again remind the Honourable Member for Mayo that meetings ‘conducted like some sort of Labor Party branch meeting’ are eerily similar to those held by that other rabble, the Australian Federal Government’s House of Representatives, and has even been known to have tried by the Liberal Party themselves! Fancy! Does Dolly know?
Is there any reason that Australia doesn’t organize it’s affairs this way? That we don’t have, say, an arrangement whereby all the political representatives of an electorate could have bilateral and plenary meetings to negotiate agreements so that delegates could reach a consensus? And that those that do agree with those agreements are not bound by them?
This would eradicate the kind of politics we have now where approximately 50% of the electorate are saddled with policies that they are vehemently opposed to, where one party is free to indulge in ideological excess and free to govern for the benefit of the vested interests that put them there.
The sky’s the limit! Using Dolly’s preferred formula, that vintage, nay, veteran democratic vehicle we all lumber along could be restored and renovated, hot-rodded for the new millennium! That old bus is hundreds of years old! It’s a steam-powered, string-driven, two-wheeled, us-or-them, black-or-white thingamajig that could really do with some radical revamping! It’s the 21st Century, man – let’s build a democratic process that provides a voice for everyone!
There is no shortage of ideas on what to do instead – ‘voting theory' is a branch of political science that has been actively discussed since the 18th Century and democracy comes in many forms – but if the international community has found a better way, why not us? Why, Dolly, can’t we mere mortals organize our affairs like you and your diplomatic chums?
‘It's got to be conducted in a sophisticated way by sophisticated people addressing a truly important issue.’
And we are what, Dolly?
So can we look forward to some radical interpretations of democratic theory from Alexander ‘Dolly’ Dower during the election campaign? Can we expect him to agitate for change so that the interests of the great unwashed of Goddamorgidge ride in a style suitable for the upper echelons of the ruling classes? Or will they yet again get to lollop along in the venerable old ‘bus that’s wheeled out every three years to such fanfare and mock delight?
Elroy's going with the bus, because Dolly Downer's democratic dilemma is that although he knows full well that bus is broken, he also knows that because his grip on the reins of power depend on it he must keep telling us that it is fully operational and all of its circuits are functioning perfectly. He tells us one thing while believing another, and if that isn't lying then it is at the least a dereliction of principles, and is that what we want from our elected leaders? Elroy's thinking 'No'.
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