Stupidity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.
Along with a great many others I have been observing with growing dismay what passes for government in this fair state. I have concluded that there are 3 factors that contribute to the present malaise inhabiting the halls of parliament and, it would seem, our public service.
First isthe cultural baggage handed down from our past as a colony of jailers, the jailed, and a squattocracy. We can do nothing about that past, but we can recognise it and the frailties it brings to our future collective activities. The tendency to assume that one has no role to play in the administration of our democratic state has been too widespread for too long and is not healthy. Similarly unhealthy is the assumption by those engaged in the business of government that their ability matches their aspirations, an assumption that defies the evidence currently before us.
Second is the history of a cargo cult approach to development and wealth creation. This has brought an acceptance that wealth will be created in such a way that when benefits flow to the majority in the form of (generally low)wages and welfare they are offset by not inconsiderable costs in the form of degraded environment, impost on the public purse, and diminished opportunity for those not sufficiently well connected. This is in part a function of the first factor, and also partly due to the limited opportunities in this state for employment and commerce, which compels many to toe the lineto gain employment and allows a few to dictate where the line should be placed. The result is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, usually corporate, and owned offshore, and the benefits of wealth, ie high levels of health, education, opportunity, are denied to the many. This, too, is a part of our history. It can, however, be learned from. Over time it must be changed.
Third is the nature of politics on this island. The domination by political parties has seen the avenues for innovation and real community engagement choked off. It is the interests of the party donors and party leadership that are foremost in the organisational mind. Policy therefore follows those same interests. This choking off of the wider public input is continued by the public service whose handling of public input is, more often than not, an exercise in perception management rather than a genuine search for the full range of positions on a given issue. Add in the domination of the party candidates by those whose life experiences revolve around the party and the political sphere. The result of this is parliamentary parties dominated by those whose life experience is as a child of a member, then as an intern, then as a hand holder for an elected member. Party membership has fallen to the point where it is anything but representative of the broader community. Multiply this by an overly politicised public service led by those on short term contracts and the results stand before us. It is little wonder parties struggle to attract intelligent, competent and ethical candidates when this is what they offer.
For this third factor there is a solution. It does not address all problems but it can act as a catalyst to widespread improvement.
We need a sizable proportion of our elected representatives to be independent members. I have said it before, as have others. We need to act on it.
Independent members immunise us from the congenital deformities that riddle party politics, it increases the range of views that appear for debate, and it makes it far, far more difficult for aspiring and current corruptors of due process to get their fingers on the public’s representatives in a way that leads to privatisedprofitsand the wider community paying the costs. I would also argue that the independence also makes the candidate more approachable to more in the community. The presence of competent individuals in the lower house would certainly highlight the dearth of talent currently arrayed in that place and perhaps prompt a more realistic assessment of those whose presence has been taken for granted for far too long.
The real question is how do we achieve this goal?
The first task is to counter the party message that majority government by a single party is the only way to have stable, competent government. Stable perhaps, but competent? The latest mob have put paid to whatever lingering doubt remained after Robin Gray’s attempt at sending the state broke. To do that requires a program to get the message out to the voters that there is alternative to liblabreen and it has big advantages. That program will inevitably need to expand to countering the liblabreen propaganda that what we create will be unworkable. (That argument presupposes that everyone behaves the way its promoters do.)
The second task is to convince current and prospective independent candidates that their independence is not under any threat by this activity. The interest is not in their views, policies, politics or hair colour. It is in making them visible to the voting public and countering attacks against their collective existence from the party machines. One of the advantages of having independents in parliament is that if they are no good, they vanish. There is no party machine to ensure their continued drain on the public purse. The voter’s decision is final. They do not resurface at the next recount. This requires, again, an information campaign.
The third task is to encourage intelligent, competent, ethical people to stand for parliament. This is addressed in part by the first two actions, which level the playing field somewhat, and in doing so, make the task seem less daunting. The main thrust of this activity is to create a space where independent candidates can be educated on the roles, challenges and experiences they can expect. I see some reason for resistance to this role from existing state members, but there are retired and interstate members whose experience is equally valid, without threat of compromise should it become an issue.
To perform these tasks an organisation is required. People, preferably many people, have to do stuff. It will require money, which requires fundraising, which requires some form of corporate structure, and there are legal issue to navigate. In order for any of this to happen we need to start somewhere.
Doing nothing will deliver a result at the next election that we have seen before and it would be stupid to expect a result much different to the last time.
At this point I am prepared to organise and fund an initial meeting should there be enough interest.
Over to you, people. You have two weeks to comment, advise, offer to help, slag off, or whatever.
At the end of two weeks I will assess the feedback, and decide how to proceed.
I look forward to your input.