Headed for Mexico

The Australian’s editorial (10/7), describes the Australian Greens as “an extreme party of the radical Left” and of “the fringes”. This is arrant hyperbolic nonsense. The Greens have 15% electoral support. Unless there is some other definition of the word, this makes them more “mainstream” than any other minor party. You seem to be telling the electorate that they don’t know what’s good for them.

The unseemly ongoing campaign against a popular party, from an unholy alliance of News Ltd media and Labor’s “faceless men”, will have a chilling effect on democracy.

To see where this leads, consider the recent tainted Mexican elections, where the hostility and bias of a media duopoly against the popular Left party has contributed to a mass rejection of the results and severe damage to public faith in democratic institutions.


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.

How power companies undermine Australia’s climate strategy.

It seems that my electricity provider Origin (among others) intends to increase its green power prices by the same amount as black (carbon-producing) power when the carbon price kicks in.

Green energy customers are buying a product which does not produce carbon emissions, and the vendor is telling them that its price has increased because of the charge on carbon emissions. That is untrue and deceptive. Further, it means they are effectively subsidising their black energy customers by charging green customers a portion of the extra cost of producing the black energy they do not use. This is is counter to the purpose of the carbon price. Continue reading

Extreme mainstream

It is all too easy for The Australian to kick Fairfax while it is down, with the often repeated but never substantiated claims that it is “ignorant of mainstream Australia”, a “conclave of left-leaning professionals”, etc. (Editorial, 20/6). The Australian, on the other hand, can freely continue to lose money promoting its profoundly unpopular free-market ideology, knowing that its owner will continue to subsidise it with profits from his other tentacles in order to retain his grip on public opinion.

One dollar, one vote

David Young (The Australian, Letters, 20/6) is only half right when he asserts that Fairfax’s woes are caused by “the most democratic of institutions, the free market”. The most democratic of institutions is in fact universal suffrage, something the market will never produce. It may well have forced media restructuring, but as long as people do not have equal economic power, there is nothing democratic about it.

Nor does the market guarantee balance or quality, which is why we have government-resourced media, whose “aura of legitimacy” is not “spurious” but earned by recognised journalistic rigour and merit which is the envy of commercial media. Nonetheless, if Mr Young objects so strenuously to their existence, he may prefer to get his information from market-driven sources, like say, “Today Tonight”, or perhaps “The Bolt Report”.