I wrote down some of the ways I thought Australia's governance could be improved 13 years ago. I guess 2012 is still pretty close to the start of the millenium. So now, here's this blog, hopefully connecting me with others who also aspire to better ways to run a country.
What I wrote thirteen years ago is still just as relevant (if not more so). Here it is:
Australia is at the start of a new century and a new millenium, as,
of course, is the whole world. Knowledge, and in particular,
communication, is advancing at an ever increasing speed. Never has our
social framework been changing so rapidly. This is as true of politics as
it is of most other aspects of our society.
The Westminster system of government has served us reasonably
well up until recently. The juxtaposition of government and opposition
has achieved adequate balance between various groups in society. For
oppositions, regaining power has depended on highlighting any
short-comings the government may have had, and providing evidence of
their ability to do a better job. Inevitably this has meant that parliament
was a battlefield, with more energy being expended on inflicting damage
on opponents than on addressing the problems faced by the nation/state.
On the positive side, oppositions, together with the media, have been
good watchdogs, discouraging governments from indulging in the
excesses and special-interest activities that characterize a
At the end of this century and increasingly in the next, oppositions
are more liabilities than assets. As government becomes a more
scientific, complex and sophisticated art, so the need of a better-trained
and more focussed management team is more apparent. It is now time, yes,
"It's Time'' - for government to move into the twenty first century.
We can no longer be well enough served by politicians who have to do
two increasingly incompatible jobs - first, running the country in the
most efficient manner, and, second, keeping the voters happy to ensure
re-election. As economic barriers come down internationally, it is
inevitable that unpopular decisions will continue to be necessary to
enable Australia to prosper. There will have to be some belt-tightening,
and discipline imposed, to ensure that all Australians continue to have a
"fair go'', the sort of measures that would be likely to result in
government politicians ending up on the opposition benches.
For the twenty-first century, Australia needs a government
unfettered by 'party politics'. All elected representatives need to be on
the same side, working together in the same way as a company's board
of directors. Instead of an opposition to 'keep the bastards honest',
modern communication technology would be used to ensure the
performance of elected representatives, as well as that of the government
as a whole, was open to adequate scrutiny. Implicit in this new
arrangement is a far greater emphasis on education of the electorate,
both generally and politically.
The politicians too would have to achieve a minimum level of
education to be eligible to stand for parliament. There would be a new
emphasis on excellence. Freed of the need to attack their opponents,
politicians could instead turn their energies to attacking mediocrity,
becoming true leaders in our society, instead of having one the lowest
levels of approval of any group (similar to that of journalists).
As government becomes more efficient at taking care of its routine
functions, there will be increasing capacity to deal with the more
difficult areas, such as widespread sub-optimal health and education, as
exemplified by high rates of heart disease, cancer, mental illness and
family breakdown. A significant reduction of these problems will give a
substantial boost to Australia's GDP and quality of life.
One of the major changes of the latter part of last century that is
having a growing impact on the ability of governments to govern, is the
increasing power of multi-national corporations. Many of these have
bigger budgets than small countries, enabling them to apply substantial
economic pressure on countries, for example by deciding where to site
major expansion projects and where to source their raw materials. A
unified government is in a stronger position to deal with this sort of
pressure than is a divided government. There is likely to be some
blurring of the boundaries between corporations and countries as
economic globalization progresses in this century. Large multi-nationals
already provide de facto government of small countries in which they
operate in the third world.
On the subject of the media, one of the hurdles to be overcome in
implementing the new form of government is the fact that news of
conflict attracts readers and viewers to newspapers and TV. Implicit in
the new order is a change in the culture of the media. This change is
likely to evolve naturally as the new century shows us how different it is
from anything that has gone before. The twentieth century brought us
world wars, population explosion, exponential technological
development (including atomic energy and landing on the moon). There
was also increasing awareness of the limits of the planet's ability to cope
with our effluent and the consequent extinction of many species of plant
and animal.The twenty-first century will see even greater change, as mankind
exhausts fossil fuels, starts migrating to the moon and beyond, bridges
the gap between north and south and comes to terms with environmental
issues such as population, waste and climate change. As Australia
becomes better educated, the drama of twenty-first century history in the
making will provide an abundance of "news'' for the media, more than
making up for the more boring quality of Australian politics.
To deal with the challenges of the next century with as little death
and destruction as possible, will take an enormous amount of
cooperation and goodwill from all the major players. Historically, such
characteristics tend to be apparent in countries in control of
fundamentals such as food, shelter and social order. When the success of
Australia's "Unity'' approach becomes apparent over the coming years,
there will be a tendency for other countries, especially in the north to
adopt a similar approach. Inevitably there will continue to be armed
conflict for all the usual reasons, but as education and technology
increase their impact, and the gap between north and south narrows, we
will see such conflict slowly diminish (hopefully not too slowly). As first
world countries gain the benefits in efficiency stemming from a
"unified" approach, their budget surpluses will increase their ability to
help third world countries solve their problems of providing adequate food, shelter
Implicit in this progress is a realization by the first world that tariff
protection of its primary and secondary producers is counter productive
in the long term.
The Unity approach is based on optimism. While optimism itself
achieves nothing, it is a good foundation for improving outcomes, and
has been a prominent feature of the Australian psyche, from the time of
the first fleet, through the exploration and development phase of the
nineteenth century, and perhaps a little less obvious in more recent
times. Hopefully optimism will undergo a resurgence in century
Since I wrote that, we've seen the twin towers brought down and we've had the GFC.
We've seen the US respond to 9/11 not with efforts to understand and remedy the extremism behind the attacks, but with ill-advised, poorly targeted counter-attacks against countries sharing the same religion as the terrorists, where the only winners were the military-industrial complexes, and the re-building contractors.
A properly governed US would have been less likely to have been a target of the terrorists, and would have responded in a less destructive way.
The GFC was born of unfettered greed amongst the financial sectors of the world. A complicit US government turned a blind eye as pursuit of profits pushed commonsense aside. Again, a government focussed on managing the USA as well as possible, instead of one that was overly influenced by lobbyists with bulging wallets, would have reined in the inappropriate financial practices before they spun out of control.
We in Australia don't have much influence in Washington, but at least we can get our own house in order, and set an example of best practice, based on principles of a "fair go" and sustainability. These are easier to achieve if our government is unified in it's efforts to achieve them.
So, how do we transition to party-free government?
Please add suggestions/criticism/feedback