IN THE coming election campaign, we’d do well to remember that the policies on offer from the major parties have been developed by the parties themselves – often without reference to the needs of the majority of taxpayers. The political parties get a large part of their income from ‘donations’ made by various private sector interests consequently, most of the policy is designed by, or by organisations representing, the party donors. Any public benefits are there either because they also appeal to the party donors, or for cosmetic reasons, such as to make the policy ‘package’ more saleable. This is probably a large part of the reason why the election campaign is avoiding key issues (drought, climate, security policy) and focussing on relatively puerile matters (tax giveaways, who owns the hospital).

This places the two parties selling policy packages that may have had no public input at all. The public is presented with choice A or B at election time and also has to hope that the candidate will actually deliver what they promised. There is no mechanism to protect the public from cheats, frauds or criminals if those in public office engage in those behaviours while supposedly ‘representing’ their electorate. There is no oversight, or accountability to the public if politicians lie to the electorate and use public monies to their own advantage or to subsidise political party donors. There is no means for the public to bring recalcitrant, or corrupt, political leaders to account, particularly if they happen to be, or have the ear of, the Premier of the day.

Changes made to our legal systems and new restrictions on public access to legal aid have meant that only the wealthy, or well funded organisations, are capable of seeking redress through the courts. Ordinary citizens cannot afford to fight a government that is using the power of their own taxes against them so they must wait until there’s an election…hardly a way of getting a government back onto track if it has lost its way, either accidentally or deliberately. The unedifying charade of modern 2 party election campaigns gives virtually no opportunity to place issues such as corruption or due process onto the agenda.

After the Four Corners special revealing a forestry industry ‘A team’, who penetrated Green and environmental groups to distort their actions to favour forestry, it appears that a similar initiative has been carried out in just about all public decision making bodies such as local councils. That might be tolerable if the forestry people excused themselves from making decisions in which they had a conflict of interest, however that is not happening. Instead many government bodies are now promoting forestry activities while completely ignoring input from rate and taxpayers.

The principles of natural justice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_justice) clearly state that decision makers should have no personal interest in the proceedings which are under review, yet this fundamental underpinning of our legal system is being flagrantly breached both repeatedly and frequently. What hope have we?, by Barnaby Drake, is an indication of the kinds of uproar that breaches of these fundamentals are creating (most of the Council is associated with the logging industry). Worse, the losses just in that municipality are now threatening to top $100 million as rate and taxpayers have their investments threatened and massive insecurity introduced in their finances, health and futures, all to allow a massive corporate tree plantation estate to consume our rural landscape. If those same pressures are occurring on other rural councils, then massive economic impacts close to losses of $1 billion are likely…and all of them will be suffered by ordinary rural Tasmanians.

The media appears neutered, in Tasmania by heavy political influence from the likes of the Government Media Unit (about 70 staff) and on the mainland by another Australian duopoly that consistently misses key points. Last week The Australian headline screamed PM faces rates nightmare, entirely ignoring the real impacts of rate increases on millions of Australians and focussing on one man living entirely at public expense in one of Sydney’s top addresses. Looking back, one of the key causes of the potential rates hike is drought, about which our governments have done virtually nothing except shell out our money. This is the same PM who stated that the drought wouldn’t have much impact on the economy and has consistently supported tree plantation MIS that are rapidly taking over our food production areas.

The effects of all of these weaknesses combine to create an environment where effective public input into decision making is almost impossible, and when it does occur it is easily ignored, particularly if the issue is related to forestry or energy, both areas where industry groups have seized effective control of the government’s agenda. This effect is clearly seen in the pseudo-‘debate’ about the pulp mill, where both both major parties, at state and federal levels, and relevant local councils, move to support the mill before anyone had any details regarding its likely effects on people and industries.

With all of that, the election campaign has devolved into little more than a Punch & Judy show with politicians playing with children and making promises that they don’t have to keep.

The real trouble is that neither of the parties, nor anyone else it seems, has got the ability to deliver the services that we need. Our health, education, infrastructures and other critical elements that deliver stability to our society are all collapsing while our politicians contort themselves to offer ever more convoluted excuses for failure.

Our governments are now mainly advised by people with conflicts of interest, such as forestry, and virtually no-one is assuring that the essential underpinnings of our legal and other systems are being upheld. As a consequence we’re rapidly moving down a path which threatens to disenfranchise all save those decision makers who can transfer our money to their pockets.

Earlier: Howard, Gunns, political donations: our system is broken

 

Mike Bolan 

The media appears neutered, in Tasmania by heavy political influence from the likes of the Government Media Unit (about 70 staff) and on the mainland by another Australian duopoly that consistently misses key points. Last week The Australian headline screamed PM faces rates nightmare, entirely ignoring the real impacts of rate increases on millions of Australians and focussing on one man living entirely at public expense in one of Sydney’s top addresses. Looking back, one of the key causes of the potential rates hike is drought, about which our governments have done virtually nothing except shell out our money. This is the same PM who stated that the drought wouldn’t have much impact on the economy and has consistently supported tree plantation MIS that are rapidly taking over our food production areas.