Tuesday, 31 August 2010
I’ve wielded power before. I come from a family that’s had a lot of power for about five generations in Australia. I’m used to power. Feel comfortable with it.
Bob Katter 24 August 2010
The Australian reports that the ongoing count has given the 2PP lead to the Coalition, denying Gillard a key reason for forming a government. As Mumble notes, this is a bit technical until the AEC returns to the count eight seats it took out, which is likely to favour Labor.
The Australian may be making a technical point, but then Gillard’s use of it to claim government was fairly technical anyway. In as much as neither side sought any sort of effective mandate during the campaign, neither side can claim a mandate for government no matter how the numbers stack up.
This why current calls for Parliamentary reform are so hollow. It might mean something if Parliament was restricting the representative will of the people in some way. Reforms like universal franchise of the late 19th century were meant to allow the democratic wishes of social groups such as organised labour and women to be expressed.
In fact, current reforms are almost about the opposite. They are about giving more power to independents who are unclear as to how they even represent their electorates let alone anyone else. The press has been trying to analyse the votes of the independents electorates to work out who they should support. But such analysis is pretty meaningless since the whole reason the independents won was presumably because enough voters didn’t want either party. Preferential voting might force a choice, but it doesn’t mean it is a positive one. Furthermore, the very fact that all three independents could just as feasibly support either side would suggest it’s not only the major parties that don’t stand for very much.
What the independents do stand for is undermining the major parties. The seven demands they put forward are essentially about being treated on a more equal footing with the major parties. Quite why independents voted by a few thousand Australians should be placed on a more equal footing with political parties voted for by millions of Australians is unclear. It used to be fashionable to decry the disproportionate influence rural parties would have on government policy, in some cases such as SA, WA and Queensland, backed up by outrageous gerrymanders. On the surface this seems if anything to be even worse.
In reality, however, such democratic points are fairly moot. In those days such rural gerrymanders would have been partly to protect against organised labour representation in metropolitan seats. There’s hardly much issue of that these days. Now it is more about rubbing the major parties’ faces in it, something only possible because neither party represents either organised labour, or those who have an interest in opposing it.
Any Parliamentary reform is likely to merely reflect the weakness of the major parties rather than the unleashing of wishes from a disenfranchised section of society. Indeed, if anything, it will try to legitimise the weakness of parliament and the parties that make it up. This is most clearly seen in the advancement of one of the independents’ demands that seems to get so much support these days in the name of democracy – funding reform.
One of the ways that the inability of parties to represent any real interests in society comes out is through their constant funding problems. This works two ways. On one hand, without a social base, political parties are increasingly reliant on costly media and advertising to mobilise support. On the other hand, traditional backers like business and unions are increasingly reluctant to back parties that no longer are necessary for their interests.
Given this political reality, it is hard for this blogger to understand why the state should step in with funds to fill the gap. It is traditional for those on the left to support this idea against interests who have greater access to financial resources. But this used to be less of a problem for those parties that could make up for the lack of finances by being able to directly appeal to the interests of a much greater majority of the electorate. In this blogger’s view, finance reform usually aims to conceal such democratic niceties. Ironically, while both parties are reluctant to make a full break with their traditional backers, there may come a time when they fully embrace such ‘reforms’ for their survival.
While the independents are unlikely to do much for us, they probably won’t do much for the major parties either. The independents cannot solve the problem of legitimacy that affects both the major parties and underpins the election result. It will likely try and make ‘workable’ a Parliament that has become unworkable because it has never before so poorly reflected what Australian society thinks or wants – the very antithesis of democracy.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Tuesday, 31 August 2010.Filed under The Australian state