A few weeks ago we drew attention to some significant reforms to the electoral law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular counting the votes before the election, thus hastening the speed with which the result would be known. This, of course, was built on earlier reforms where the Athens of Africa had improved the democratic process by having more completed ballot papers than voters; reducing the confusion of too many political parties by banning them; and avoiding the further confusion of too many opposition candidates by executing those who had not gone into exile. We were therefore disappointed to receive criticism from some leading princes, potentates and kleptomaniacs to the effect that we had been unfair to their colleagues in the DRC. Fortunately, it turned out that the criticism was not that we had highlighted the aforementioned reforms, but that there were equally significant ones that we had ignored. In the hope, therefore, that we can make some reparation for this insult, we wish to draw attention to two other reforms from the DRC, the second of which has a particular appeal for application in Australia. The first one is discarding the ridiculous notion that when a statesman is elected and his term eventually comes to an end, there should be a new election. Thus, when the glorious five year term of president Joseph Kabila came to an end in 2016, he wisely decided to ignore the effluxion of his office and govern for a further two years without an election. This turned out to be a great success because, as noted by the politics department of the Joseph Kabila University, if you ignored the economy, poverty, executions, civil war and racial cleansing (seasonally adjusted), things were no worse in those two years than they had been at any previous time. The second reform arose from the same imbroglio, for it emerged that president Kabila was more than happy to relinquish his office in return for being appointed a senator for life and awarded a respectable pension. The former resulted in the country continuing to receive guidance and counsel from this renowned statesman, while the latter was a small gesture of appreciation from a grateful nation that would help the Kabila family supplement a pitiful income from their diamond mines and the state monopoly on licence plates. Finally, the notion of appointing senators for life should have immense appeal in Australia. Who could resist sitting at the feet of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull and drawing on their rich experience and wisdom for the rest of their lives – and ours?
Now to a country with even lower standards of government behaviour: Australia. Last week I drew attention to some lamentable lapses in the standards of public life being demonstrated by the Coalition parties. It was not just seducing their secretaries, groping public servants, awarding dubious contracts to colourful business identities, and abusing travel allowances that concerns me. Their general behaviour has all the decorum of the Rape of the Sabine Women. In the old days when the Liberal party actually stood for something and believed in some sound principles, it prided itself on high standards for those in public life and higher than could be expected from the Labor party. But today, when the party apparently believes in nothing but expanding the role of government and wasting money, it has allowed Shorten to parade as a moral exemplar on some sort of higher plane. With that in mind, I have been appalled by the barrage of advertising that the government is engaged in, obviously in preparation for the election, but doing it now so that the taxpayer will carry the cost. There has been little criticism of this, so far, because the political class are so besotted by the ABC that they do not see or hear commercial media. But I do. The government advertisements are embarrassing and extravagant and the whole thing is appalling. It is plain propaganda, in which the government parades its so-called tax reforms, claims it has produced millions of jobs, enabled the masses to start their own businesses and that it has worked wonders in education, health and virtually every area of human endeavour. The cost must be astronomical. The worst example I have seen was when, last Sunday, I was driving along the Princes Highway. Stretching as wide as three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri was an advertisement reading ‘Increased Funding for Independent and Catholic Schools’, and branded with the Commonwealth coat of arms. So this is the modern Liberal party, spending our money on partisan, divisive, sectarian propaganda. Last week I said I was hovering on whether I could vote for the Libs after the debacle of the last few years. Last Sunday helped me make up my mind.
If it is possible for me to be more appalled by yet another excess, it is the announcement that sitting MPs can spend their electoral allowances on radio and TV ads for the coming election. By what perverted logic is one class of citizen, sitting MPs, allowed to be financed by a compulsory imposition on the taxpayer for propaganda to get them re-elected? These allowances are supposed to be to serve and inform the community and not for base partisan advantage during elections which is already so disgracefully done with printed propaganda. The Democratic Republic of the Congo would not sink to so low a level of impropriety. And to have it all dressed up by Christian Porter, the Attorney-General, as some sort of great democratic reform, when the holder of that great office is supposed to understand notions of right and wrong, disgusts me. If you put these activities together and add the stuffing of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with political appointees, the government is not making a good case for re-election. But it is making a good case re-enacting Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow: grab whatever you can and run for it.