Monthly Archives: July 2012

Unholier than thou

The Australian’s argument for Labor-Green divorce (“Time for Labor to revisit its unholy Green alliance”, Editorial, 7/7) is more applicable to the Coalition: the Nationals’ rural-welfare platform is in direct conflict with the free-market program of their Liberal partners, and with single-digit electoral support confined to regional areas, they have less connection to the mainstream than the much more widely-supported Greens. At least Labor and the Greens have more goals in common than merely defeating their adversaries.


Further to Janet Albrechtsen’s aim of reducing the paralysing influence of small parties (“The proportional pathway to policy paralysis”, The Australian, 4/7), I suggest removing from contention all parties polling less than 10% of primaries. That would relieve us of many small irritants: for example, the independents, the National Party, and the LNP. The Greens alone would stay, making it much easier for Labor to govern effectively.

But if that’s not what Albrechtsen had in mind, she could adjust the percentage required until she gets the result she wants.



Good PR

John Kidd (The Australian, Letters, 6/7) claims the proportional representation electoral system (PR) leads to “weak and indecisive” government. As evidence of this he cherry-picks two countries who use PR and currently have problems, but omits the scores of others, including some of the world’s most robust democracies. They chose the system because it is the fairest: a party with X% of the vote gets X% of the seats in parliament.

Our current system spirits away the real complexities of society with a trick of arithmetic, creating a simple illusion of two opposing groups hovering around 50-50. When the trick fails to work, as with the current parliament, the system chokes.

If strength and decisiveness is the sole criteria for government, it is best met by a dictatorship. If the goal is real democracy, a genuine reflection of the whole electorate and its varied concerns, PR is a better choice.

Freedom to own the press

Recent letters to The Australian have labelled the proposed media ownership regulations “Communist” and “totalitarian”, trivialising the serious oppression of free speech which occurs under such regimes. Freedom of the press is completely different from freedom to own the press. In fact, the two are often in conflict.

Interference in the work of journalists is the real threat to press freedom, whether it comes from government, commercial interests or politically motivated owners. Media owners who do not intend to muzzle their journalists have nothing to fear. That increases freedom of the press.

Bush sociology

Of all the uninformed drivel published in The Australian on refugees in recent days, the prize must go to Leif Nielsen (Talking Point, July 2): “There are two groups in Afghanistan, you either support the government or the Taliban…so we can assume that many of these boatpeople are Taliban supporters”. No we can’t. The majority of people, including Afghans, are not involved in political battles and wish only to live their lives in safety. Cartoonish pronouncements from bush sociologists only exacerbate the difficulties of those who do not enjoy this basic right.