July 30

The last thing most republicans want is more democracy

Because they fear they will lose another referendum, republicans are now demanding  taxpayers fund one or two glorified opinion polls.

This is in addition to the millions and millions which have already been diverted from such high priority matters as schools and hospitals just to fund this folly.

If they want a republic, why don't they pay for the search for a model themselves?

With these polls, spin doctors engaged by the republicans but paid for by the taxpayer will write what will be trick questions.  

But the republicans can't even agree on whether there ought to be one or two polls.

This is because  the second poll is seen as favouring  one republican faction over the other. 

The republicans call these taxpayer funded opinion polls "plebiscites."

They want to have these polls not because of any love of direct democracy. This is the sort of democracy that prevailed in ancient Athens, at least for free-born men, and the sort of democracy you find in Switzerland, and parts of North America.

Most republicans do not want more democracy. They want more power for their class.

They will often complain about how difficult it is to change the constitution.

In fact few republicans are interested in citizens being able  to initiate  referendums instead of the politicians controlling this.

If they go on about their glorified opinion pollls, their "plebiscites," people will rightly begin to wonder why they can't have the right call a vote on all sorts of issues – taxation, law and order and so on. 

They won't just want a glorified opinion poll only when it suits the republican politicians.

They will want to make the decisions on important questions that affect them.

Provided they can get enough signatures for a petition from registered voters, the initiative would allow  citizens to require a referendum on any subject to be held. 

This could be to veto proposed government legislation. Or it could be to adopt new legislation.  

In addition, there could be a power to initiate a recall election. 

(The recall election was proposed here in relation to the sort of supply political crisis – not the constitutional crisis- Australia experienced in 1975. See the monograph which is available as a PDF on the ACM site, “Her Majesty at 80: Impeccable Service in an Indispensable Office.”)   .

These are usually referred to as citizen initiated referendums, “CIR’s.”

 The few republicans who have supported this have been the Hon. Peter Reith, the late Professor Patrick O’Brien and Emeritus Professor Martyn Webb.

 Professor Geoffrey de Quincey Walker is another leading proponent. He presented a significant paper on this in 1994 to the Samuel Griffith Society, “Direct Democracy and Citizen Law-Making,” (Volume 4, Upholding the Constitution.).


…important study on CIR’s…


 Joseph Poprzeczny, a speaker at the 2007 Summer Sounds Symposium at Blenheim in New Zealand is the author of an important paper on CIR’s in the National Observer, Autumn 2008 Number 76 pages 7-32. 

The editor, the noted writer Philip Ayres, describes Mr. Poprzeczny’s article, “ Australia- a democracy or just another ballotocracy,” as powerful and scholarly. It would be difficult to take issue with this assessment.

 Mr  Poprzeczny, a Perth based freelance journalist and historical researcher laments the  limited nature of Australia's form of democracy, which he says  is not, strictly speaking, democracy at all, but something more accurately described here as a “ballotocracy.”

 “The ancient popular assemblies in Greece and Rome were direct democracies in which the ordinary people participat­ed in the making and ratifying oflaws.

“We, like most modern democracies, have taken these popular assemblies and reduced them to elected lower houses of parliament with the people given a say only once in every three or four years. We have also taken the (never democratic) idea of the Roman senate, which was to a large extent an aristocratic preserve, and created our upper houses.

“The only Western coun­try that has a real democracy is Swit­zerland.

“And yet, early in Australia's history as a political federation, there were serious attempts made to ensure that it would be a real democracy, with citizen-initiated referenda, the right of recall of elected representatives, and other truly democratic features.

“And the party in which most of these at­tempts were made was the Australian Labor Party, which only abandoned the ideal of a more genuine democracy in the early 1960s under the guidance of elitist social-engineering types like Don Dunstan.

“Joseph Poprzeczny has explored, for the first time in this kind of detail, the history of these attempts, and related them to similar, far more successful attempts in the United States which had a major influence upon thinking here, particularly in the Labor Party.”

The editor describes this as “a ground-breaking article that fills a major gap in previ
­ous treatments of Australia's political history,”  a conclusion I thoroughly endorse.

 [The Observer, probably Australia’s leading current affairs quarterly, is published by the Council for the National Interest, PO Box 751 North Melbourne. Subscriptions cost $60 pa for Australian residents and $80 for those resident overseas, in all cases payable by cheque.]



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