An interesting read and an extract from a column by Greg Rudd (Kevin Rudd’s younger brother) in The Australian, Oct 29 2021.
Perhaps Rudd is right or has a point about updating and tweaking the democratic model. Most people, including myself, would normally resist updates out of a purely historical, emotional and sentimental attachment to the way things are.
That resistance or scepticism is what defines conservatives. It’s about conserving what is because it’s a known. It’s safe. It’s tried and tested.
In both our national, public and private life, we mindlessly organise ourselves and do things a particular way because, well, that’s the way we’ve always done things.
Essentially, like the turning of the earth and the change of seasons, there’s a certainty and predictability about it.
But the idea that we shouldn’t tamper, tweak or update the democratic or voting system or the constitution for that matter, because it was developed by some supposedly very wise men 120 years ago and is Jurassic park like, suspended in aspic or fossilised amber, is driven I suspect by emotion and sentiment more than anything else and it’s a hard habit to let go.
It feels like a betrayal of the sacrifice of our forebears and a trashing of history not unlike selling off the family farm or business after several generations.
It also presupposes they were touched by the hand of god, the fount of all knowledge and wisdom and that somehow both knowledge and wisdom stopped dead in 1900.
That as far as wisdom goes and building a better mouse trap, that somehow the model bequeathed us is like some 20th century, Egyptian Rosetta Stone or perhaps the Ten Commandments, handed down from on high, Moses like, on Mt Sinai, never to be second guessed, tweaked or tampered with.
It also presupposes that we lack similar wisdom today to trim the sails as it were, to adjust for the vagaries of the weather and the variable winds of change. So we continue to live our lives into middle age and beyond, like a 50 year old teenager, under under the roof of mum and dad and under their rules.
The other reason, the more prosaic reason for the resistance to change and the updating of the democratic and parliamentary model is the suspicion that a sly and slippery political class of either side will try to pull a swifty and embed their own interests or that of their party and donors.
Nothing better underscores this suspicion and the need for lights and sirens scepticism and a jaundiced eye, than a cursory glance at how in America, right now, there is legislation before Congress (HR1) to nationalise election laws and in so doing, embed every conceivable rort of the 2020 election into law to effectively create a one party state.
It is euphemistically and cynically called the “For the People” act when it is in fact a shameless, “For the Party” act.
“…When was the last time we updated our model of parliamentary democracy in the human world? How we run our country? To make Australia work better? To get better outcomes? The bearded dudes who cobbled together our democratic model some 120 years ago would die laughing at our lack of updates. Imagine never updating your first iPhone, the one that came out in 2007, 14 years ago. Sure, you could still make calls … but!
Democracy was created because we learnt it’s best not to give too much power to too few humans for too long. Because power corrupts.
Do any of the major political parties here in Australia have an interest in updating the operational model of our parliamentary democracy? No.
There is a cancer within our governing model. But it’s not democracy.
It’s career politics.
To improve our democratic model, we have to exorcise this demon.
How do you get rid of career politics? By taking the career out of politics. If you haven’t done something good for your country in 10 years you are unlikely to do it in 20 or 30. In the private sector, how many CEOs, chairs or presidents stay in their job for longer than 10 years?
So, to improve our democratic model we first need to take the career out of politics. The focus must go off politicians spending most efforts on being re-elected to politicians spending most efforts on serving Australia.
The first thing to do is introduce five-year terms. Combine that with a rule that says no politician can serve longer than two terms. (A third term for the occasional peak performer.)
Once you take the career out of politics, Australia will get a different type of person wanting to become a politician. To contribute five or 10 years of their life for the greater good. Most won’t care if they’re re-elected. They are contributing their time and skills to help strengthen Australia’s future. They are people with true life experience. Not just experience in the dark arts of politics.
Once the career is taken out of politics then real reform can begin.
It won’t be sidelined or buried for political reasons, as most vital recommendations are in too many good reports. It’s not as if politicians don’t know what needs to be done. They just won’t risk not being re-elected. Real reform is always a political risk.
Australia and the world need brave leaders. Politics should not be a career. It’s a privileged temporary opportunity to help strengthen your country’s future. If we end up with more independents in parliament, so be it.
More of the same is like cutting our own throat. Which is what we have been doing for quite some time…”