Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Former Premier Criticises Wilkie

Former two-time Labor Premier of Tasmania Michael Field speaks here ( see below for details of the Samuel Griffith Society conference I’m attending in Hobart ) about hung parliaments – of which Tasmania with its system of proportional representation has had more experience than other Australian parliaments.

On the way through he makes a valid point about Andrew Wilkie and his stand for poker machine reform. He referred to Wilkie’s position that he would withdraw support from the Gillard government if the reform legislation does not pass – as a result of not getting support from the other independents. But Gillard cannot be held responsible for Windsor and Oakshott. The Wilkie position would probably be unique in Australian hung parliaments: even if the government votes for my legislation, says Wilkie, I will still pull out my support if, through no fault of Gillard and her troops, it fails.

This is unfair and illogical, an abuse of the power a hung parliament confers. You cannot say that if your legislation fails – even if the government supports it – you will bring that government down. This is petulant and egotistical to an extreme degree. It is blackmail, says Field.

Rounding back to the unhappy Tasmanian experience one member of the audience asks the tough question: why not do away with the Hare-Clark system that is unique to the state and give it single member constituencies with preferential voting? Michael replies by referring to the diversity of modern society etc.

He doesn’t convince me.

I think Tasmania needs a burst of majority government.

From, HERE

Earlier …

Among the Federalists: a Weekend in Hobart
August 27, 2011
by Bob Carr

No soft sand running at Maroubra this weekend, or reading the Russians. I am in Hobart attending a conference of the Samuel Griffith Society, named after Australia’s first chief justice. Strange? Let me report as it goes.

Right now listening to Paul Pirani, a legal officer of the Australian Electoral Commission. I am reminded of how superior Australia’s system is from that of a comparable federal democracy, that of the USA. On these enlightened shores an independent body over which the relevant minister has no control supervises elections. Not so in America where a state cabinet member – that is, either a Democrat or Republican – will make decisions about allocation of voting machines or validity of ballot papers. Here in Australia
these decisions are the responsibility of an independent commission.

Even more important is the redistribution process, or reapportionment as it is called in the US. Every 10 years, armed with the latest census data, it is the state legislatures which determine the boundaries for House of Representative, or Congressional, districts. So there are partisan squabbles on the floor of state legislatures as politicians draw federal boundaries. That is, Democrat and Republican politicians draw the boundaries. They have been making seats safer for their federal colleagues. Fewer contestable seats, less need to appeal to the centre, more need to appeal your own base.

In Australia you don’t have state MPs draw federal boundaries.Instead the process is run by the Australian Electoral Commission with transparency and independence. Arms length from government.

The most useful democratization of the US electoral system would be a replication there of our own commission. And wrenching the right to draw Congressional boundaries off state legislatures.

Former Treasury secretary John Stone has just risen to say that my comments along these lines are irrelevant. What matters is the possibility of fraud here in Australia. In replying to this staple argument of the far-right, Pirani points out that interestingly the 2010 federal election which produced a hung parliament produced no close results. There is, in addition, no evidence of fraud.

The Australian electoral system is one of our nation’s proudest attainments.

Now Professor James Allan is slamming Australian High Court activism on electoral laws. The court is not interpreting the law but stating its own preference in respect of prisoner voting rights and other matters. Very amusing. He is one of my mob – an opponent of imposing a charter of rights and more judge-made law on Australian parliamentary democracy.

James Allan refers to the game-playing, second-guessing, supervisory role that judges assert for themselves when they move into activist mode.

One judge at this forum – not one of the two High Court members who is present – told me he is an opponent of a charter of rights precisely because he knows what judges would do. What they would get up to.

From, HERE

Charter of Rights: A Matter of Fashion
August 27, 2011
by Bob Carr

This is the view of Dr Margaret Kelly of Macquarie University speaking at the Samuel Griffith Society conference ( see below ). Her focus is the Victorian Charter of Rights which the Liberal government has the opportunity to repeal.

There is a review of the charter currently taking place.

I agree with her remark about fashion. I also think the tide is running against judge-made law through charters. Apart from plucky little Tasmania no other state is remotely interested in striking out in this direction. Federal Labor came down against a charter even when Father Brennan’s inquiry recommended one.

I spoke to one former Victorian public servant here, a former Labor adviser, who told me of the waste of resources involved as Victorian public servants exhaustively seek to satisfy the process of establishing compatibility with the charter. “Better if the resources went into increased child protection,” was her view.

Here’s an observation from me on this: we were told by Geoffrey Robertson and others that rights in Australia were insufficiently protected compared with those in the UK which is covered by the European charter. Our police, argued Robertson, are not being educated in human rights as they are under the much more enlightened human rights regime in the UK.

I wonder how much of this stacks up after recent revelations about UK policing?

If any of the abuses that preceded the riots in the UK had occurred in Australia Robertson and others would have been saying they were proof positive of the need for Australia to get itself a charter quick smart.

If Australia had experienced riots like those of the UK then you can bet that Michael Kirby would have argued they showed the need for a charter to elevate social and economic rights. But they occurred in a jurisdiction covered by what Michael Kirby has argued is an exemplary charter of rights.

The Victorian government could peel their charter off the statute books without any serious criticism given the skepticism about a charter – even outright opposition – that resides in the ALP, even in Victoria.

From, HERE

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  1. john hayward

    August 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Carr’s presence at a Right-wing ideologues’ conference probably says a lot about his gravitation to taking elocution lessons and then entering NSW politics.

    Genuine political diversity, particularly when it it is at least partly informed by any kind of altruism, is discomfiting to serious pole-climbers like Bob.

    Like others on his wing of ALP thinking, Bob would have us believe that judges under a Bill of Rights replace legislators, rather than interpret democratic principles that have already been endorsed by society through a referendum.

    John Hayward

  2. Robin Halton

    August 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Absolute rubbish, Michael Field was mentor to failed Premier David Bartlett a fine example of political showmanship!
    Michael Field is best remembered as an arrogant little man who still cannot accept his poor showing as a former Premier.
    Andrew Wilkie is a breath of fresh air in Federal politics, I would have much preferred that he would be serving within the State Government to keep a sharp eye on the failing and disjointed State Government to at least argue with Giddings for better policy management.

  3. David Obendorf

    August 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Some years ago Michael Field consented to an interview on ABC radio in which he admitted that it was he – Michael Field – who decided to end the minority Labor-Green ‘Accord’ government of 1989-1992. Of course most Tasmanians were bludgeoned into believing that the 5 Green Independent MPs – then under the leadership of Bob Brown – were solely and completely responsible for ending Michael Field’s premiership and sending Tasmanians back to a polls.

    One thing you can predict with certainty: if it has a political face, remember the Roman-god Janus!

  4. Jenny Hansen

    August 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Why is the Mercury not covering such an important Conference? Thank you Tasmanian Times. Always first with real news about our great state.

    We are sick of mainlanders like Bob Carr telling us what to do. It is one thing to criticise Tasmanian of the Year Andrew Wilkie, an honourable man. It is another to suggest, as Bob Carr does, that Tasmania needs majority government and by implication doing away with Hare-Clark.

    Tasmania has the best electoral system in Australia, at least in the House of Assembly. Remember the evils of majority government in other parts of Australia. We certainly have a lot to be critical of in Tasmania, but majority government won’t solve our problems.

  5. Rod Broadby

    August 28, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I think the bursts of majority government are the reason we are in such a mess.

  6. Dr Kevin Bonham

    August 28, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Haven’t seen Michael Field’s exact comments but firstly it’s odd for Carr to be calling for a “burst” of majority government when prior to 2010 we had it since 1998. Since the rise of the Greens, it’s the minority governments that are the “bursts” and this one will probably be no different. Liberal majority government next election isn’t a certainty but I think it’s at rather short odds – in which case it could be a long time before the Greens ever hold the balance of power two elections in a row.

    The main problem with Tasmania going to single seats is that the “diversity of modern society” (or at least of political opinion) argument is valid, but most states express it in their Upper Houses. However Tasmania is stuck with an inverted system. In Tasmania, having a single seat system in the Lower House would mean either electing both houses on the same kind of system, or reforming the Legislative Council to PR. But the Legislative Councillors have no motive to accept PR since nobody can force them to and in a PR election almost all of them would lose. So if Tasmania loses PR from the Lower House it likely loses it altogether. A hybrid system (add ten single member seats to the Lower House) would probably arouse less opposition, and would go some way towards increasing the chance of majority government without greatly trashing minority representation. That’s not to necessarily support such a system but it has much more chance of eventual acceptance than a conversion to pure single-member.

    Pure single-member would also bring the problem of very small electorate size in population terms – not as bad as the NT but similar.

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