Don’t go into the Christmas holidays and 2019 thinking the nightmare is over. True, Malcolm Turnbull is no more, at least as a serious political player. Having managed to alienate even his strongest supporters and allies, he will be left to haunt late-night ABC TV until even they eventually tire of his repetitive self-justification.
The Turnbull phenomenon is but an example, albeit the worst, of the underlying Turnbullian-style malaise. This is the capture of Australian representative democracy by our corrupted principal political parties, with both brands under the control of small cabals of powerbrokers and lobbyists. No other comparable democracy has fallen so far. There is a solution. But first, we should reflect on the three disastrous decades Turnbull and his allies have imposed on the nation.
He initially sought to turn us into some twisted form of politicians’ republic, so ugly and so sinister, I felt obliged to caricature this as the ‘cane toad republic’.
This came not long after Paul Keating had extricated himself, prematurely, from the political tutelage provided by Robert Lee Hawke. From a mixed performance as Treasurer, he evolved into a prime minister obsessed with elite issues.
Keating was inevitably attracted to Turnbull’s determination, like some deranged elephant, to trample through the Constitution. And so two unrestrained and almost unhinged egos were unleashed, easily attracting the adoration of a swooning commentariat and other assorted elites.
Neither man would endorse the fundamental proposition that the Constitution should only be altered for change which will significantly improve the governance of the nation. As founding fathers John Quick and Robert Garran indicate, the Constitution is designed to delay change until there is strong evidence that this is ‘desirable, irresistible, and inevitable’.
In truth neither Turnbull nor Keating is a real republican. Unlike our founding fathers, they have refused to learn from the oldest and most successful republics in the world, the United States and Switzerland. Instead, they tried to inveigle a reluctant and wiser nation into adopting a constitutional model which would have been far less of a republic than our constitutional monarchy or crowned republic.
Australia would have become the only republic in history in which it would have been easier for the prime minister to dismiss the president than his driver— without notice, without grounds and without appeal.
The result was that the better part of a decade was wasted, with commentariat indulgence, on attempting to foist this dangerous change on the nation, distracting politicians, state and federal, who are not so competent that they can afford this time and effort.
Without this folly, republicanism would have remained where it belongs and should stay, a fey discussion topic for dinner parties in the elite salons of the Canberra-Sydney-Melbourne triangle.
When, notwithstanding the vigorous campaigning of most of the mainstream media and the support of over two thirds of the politicians, the inevitable republic was defeated in a landslide, Turnbull’s plea to be rewarded with a safe Labor seat was unsurprisingly rejected by ALP grandees, including Graham Richardson.
Turnbull then spent the next two decades turning the Liberal party upside down and dragging it closer to his preference, Labor. He is especially obsessed about alleged global warming. His macabre solution is, as Terry McCrann so eloquently puts it, a national suicide note.
Turnbull is gone, but soon he could be succeeded after the election by an even worse prime minister, Bill Shorten.
Under our representative democracy the people are required every three or four years to give one captured party brand or the other what is something close to a blank cheque. This is handed to at best the self-interested and the incompetent, and at worst the obsessed.
Both sides endorse a national suicide note, with Labor’s being far worse as well as planning a massive heist on savings, increases in taxes and going soft on union thugs and people smugglers.
So after three decades of politics wasted on faux republicanism and alleged global warming, Australians are being presented with a choice between a slow or an expedited national suicide.
This is the worst aspect of government today. But in truth, it is difficult to think of any one problem confronting Australia which, if it weren’t created by the politicians, has not been made significantly worse by them.
We shouldn’t tolerate this for a moment. We need to clip the wings of our incompetent, self-interested, obsessive and, at times, deranged politicians.
The solution is to constitutionalise Alan Jones’s pub test.
This will be denounced as radical, but we have a living example which works, which works well and which has worked for longer than our federation. This is direct democracy in Switzerland, the country from which we borrowed the referendum.
We should do what we had to do to federate, take it away from the politicians as our noble ancestors did under the Corowa Plan, summarised in the petition at http://chn.ge/2yhuHqL
While most of the reforms proposed there are against the perversion of our federation into the democratic world’s most centralised, reform is also desperately needed at the state level. I recently had the opportunity to expand on these questions by a gifted interviewer on Pellowe Talk, www.davepellowe.com
It was always envisaged there would be more states, but state politicians have usually blocked this. With the extraordinary growth of their populations, the capitals now over-dominate the politics of the states. This will only get worse. Country electorates are disappearing and city ones increasing. Although the wealth arises in the regions, the returns are being spent in the cities. Unsurprisingly, there’s already a strong movement agitating for a new state in North Queensland, known as Boot Brisbane.
This does not necessarily mean more politicians. But with increased direct democracy they would be far more in touch and less isolated, just as they are in Switzerland. Most importantly, it would mean that the politicians would be a new class, truly accountable as Switzerland’s are, and not just in elections based on confected preselections.
They would then be accountable 24/7.
Just as most working Australians are.