The Australian Parliament: A Eulogy

Oliver Freeman would like to mournfully acknowledge the passing of the Australian parliament, with deep condolences. Through the silliness in the senate, and growing public indifference, it has slowly been clubbed to death. Allow him to explain...

I returned from a month in Europe just seven days before the Federal election and scoured the papers and the net for news of the policy debates that were being presented to 'we the people'.

The Northern Hemisphere had been paying scant regard to our deliberations which is both predictable (we are a long way away) and surprising (the leading OECD economy is contemplating regime change).

But what was important about our political agenda? Policy considerations were submerged in a sea of celebrity and personality. Rudd vs Abbott rather than concern about climate change action, or views about Syria, or plans for improving the funding of tertiary education, or developing creativity and innovation in our industrial hinterland.

The quality of political debate in Australia is at an all time low. And it is no surprise that the major outcome of the election is not the size of the Coalition majority (the Rudd-Gillard fiasco ensured that) but the looming control of the Senate by the micro-political parties who have been swept into the balance of power by the potty preferential voting system.

That stalwart of micro-politics in the UK, Screaming Lord Sutch of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, would turn in his grave. Had he contested the Senate election in Australia and cajoled himself a huge 0.000000001% of the vote he would no doubt have been elected to serve as a Senator through skilful arbitraging of preferences.

The Loony Party was notable for its deliberately bizarre policies and its aim to satirise British politics. Our micro-parties unintentionally deliver a similar verdict. Their new role makes a laughing stock of the Australian political scene. But who cares? The paucity of policy debate makes the whole institution of parliamentary democracy irrelevant. Loonies and fringe dwellers can run the place while we – the people (sic) – get on with direct action via the Net and with each other, and ignore the increasingly marginalised cohort in Canberra.

Rudd’s intention to stay in Parliament as a back-bencher is the last straw. Why can’t the man do the right thing for a change? Go away. Permanently.

And, meanwhile, we have to put up with a new government that is so unrepresentative on matters of gender, ethnicity, religion, personal income, social status, educational achievement, country of origin, and so on, that you wonder why the 'boat people' wish to come here at all.

Australian Parliamentary Democracy b.1901 d.2013 aged 112yrs.

RIP.

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