A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in 13 Steps

I always found it really difficult to understand what the hell was going on in news reports around the Middle East.  It all seemed like the same thing to me.  Everyone was fighting each other about the same stuff.  Obviously I was obliviously wrong, as I have found out through my new obsession with history and politics, so here is my brief overview for your benefit as well.  I don’t expect that this account is all encompassing and because my knowledge is still limited there may be bits and pieces that I’ll need to revise as I learn more.  Thanks to my awesome friend Glynn who studied Politics at Melbourne Uni and is now doing his Masters in International Relations at Monash for loaning me a book (US Foreign Policy in the Middle East – The Roots of anti-Americanism by Kylie Baxter and Shahram Akbarzadeh) which I have also used as a reference point for the below information.

I always find it useful to have a map handy when I try and visualize these moments in history.  I recommend this one for historical maps of Israel.

Somewhere between 1400BC and 1200BC, Israelites were being persecuted by the Egyptians.  According to the old testament of the Christian bible (Exodus 6:2-8) and the Torah, God speaks to Moses and promises Israel to the descendants of his people. Through history, the Jewish understanding of God has been a very personal one – as scripture says “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God”.  This creates a psychological connection between the Jewish people, their religion and their promised land through time.

The diaspora (scattering) of Jewish people from their original home (within the area of Israel) throughout Europe and Russia from 1400 onwards happened for a variety of reasons that are often debated.  Some suggest it is the result of multiple persecutions and expulsions, others, that migration (including violent expulsions) were (and are) a normal part of human history.  Whatever the truth, the Jews were one of many Diasporas that occurred over a similar time frame including the Armenians and the Chinese.  It is also important to note that Jews maintained a presence in Israel throughout their history (although diminishing until the mid 1800’s).

In 1896, Viennese Theodor Herzl (founder of political Zionism – the movement and belief in the return of Jews to the land promised to them by God via Moses) published “the Jewish State” which in turn influenced Russian-Polish Doctor Leo Pinsker who (in response to anti-Semitic violence at the time in Russia) became a strong Jewish Nationalist and wrote “Auto-Emancipation” arguing that a Jewish Homeland was the only solution for the Jewish people.  it should be noted that in the ensuing growth of the Zionist movement, not Zionists were religious, for some it was about the biblical connection and promise, for it was about the original Jewish home.

In the lead up to WW1, the German Empire was already experiencing unrest between the German (and broader European society) and Jews.  When Kaiser Wilhelm decided to take Germany on a new path, it led to the country’s diplomatic support for Austria-Hungary after the country declared war on Serbia and ultimately initiated WW1.

While a general fear or concern of Jews related to differences in beliefs between religions, political influence and economic power existed many years prior to WW1, a broader belief that the German Jews lacked of patriotism was heightened after WW1 and led to mainstream anti-semitism (despite the fact that according to many reports, more Jews fought in the German army than any other political or religious group).  WW1 ended for a number of different reasons, the main ones being Germany’s lack of access to military supplies due to a blockade, significant military causalities with worse threatened due to the allied forces (British Empire, France, Russia, US…etc) and the threat of new weapons and tactics from those forces.

The Turkish created Ottoman Empire who had long ruled the Middle East at the time, signed its own death certificate by supporting Germany in this war – they had carried out genocide against the Armenians.

The League of Nations (founded with 42 member countries) was subsequently set up on the back of the Versailles treaty to promote peace between countries and to prevent a similar outbreak of war from occurring again.

At the same time In the lead up to WW1 in the Middle East, the powerful Hashemite family (Sharif Husayn of Mecca – in modern Saudi Arabia, whose family were considered direct descendants of Mohammad) has been in contact with United Kingdom’s High Commissioner based in Egypt.  Husayn was looking for British support for their forces to lead a revolt against Ottoman rule in al-Ḥiǧāz and secure land for their own rule.  (see the translated letters here).  The promise from Britain was support for the action – and ultimately Arab self-determination, but it was never defined how much land would be apportioned to this new potential Arab state.  On the premise of British support, the Hashemite family instigated the Arab Revolt in 1916, but did not receive the military supply support needed to sustain and grow as the leaders had expected.

Back in the Europe, Britain and the US, with strong networks, the Zionist movement and power increased until, in 1917, (despite the previous, although ambiguous British support for Arab rule in the Middle East), Zionist Patron Lord Rothschild was granted a declaration via Arthur James Balfour from the Queen of England stating that:
“her Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

As a result of the loss in WW1, between 1918 and 1922, the Sykes-Picot Agreement of Feb 1916 provided the League of Nations with the power to grant France mandates over Syria and Lebanon , United Kingdom mandates over Mesopotamia and Palestine (later divided into Palestine and Transjordan).  Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula became parts of what are today Saudi Arabia and Yemen.


In 1919, the US government authored the King-Crane Commission which evidenced a requirement of significant military force to implement the Balfour agreement with the Zionist Jewish community, and as a result, indicated a strong sense of injustice in the Zionist program that would also go against the understanding of the agreement that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

So England made good on SOME of the agreement with the Hashemite family…but it certainly wasn’t what the Hashemite family had been expecting or hoping for, and in the case of Palestine, it had provided a completely different and altogether more binding commitment to the Jewish Zionist community for their settlement in Palestine.

At the time of the Balfour agreement, there were 56k Jews vs. 700k Palestinians living in the area in and around Israel, these Jews had been living in the area throughout the time of the Ottoman Empire.  In fact reports suggest throughout some of the history of the empire Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side in relative peace.

Immigrant Jews, escaping the atrocities of WW1 and the ingrained European xenophobia that had been bubbling for hundreds of years, saw this as the ideal solution.  During the 3rd and 4th Aliyah (1919-1929) 122k Jews migrated to Palestine.

However as their numbers swelled, tension between the Jewish and Palestinian communities began to rise significantly.  If we think about this in the context of the refugee or immigration in Australia, we have a cap of 20,000 on refugees and 190,000 for immigration.  In contrast we have 297,000 births a year and an existing citizenship of 22.68 million.  That’s 0.93% of our total population and those immigrating are across a variety of countries and religions.  So the swelling of tens of thousands of Jews into a total Palestinian population of 700k shows just how and why there was such significant tension that grew so quickly where immigration laws and quotas had not be set or enforced by the British government on behalf of the democratic mix of original inhabitants (which included both Jews and Palestinians).

In 1922, a British Whitepaper released by the Churchill government acknowledged the situation as untenable in writing “The status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other judicial status”.

Despite this, due to rising tensions post WW1, a further 250,000 Jews migrated to Palestine during the 5th Aliyah (1929-1939) and the Nazi’s negotiated an agreement to transfer another 50,000 Jews during their rise to power.    Between 1933 and 1948, Britain placed quotas on Jewish immigration to Palestine.  This led Jews who were attempting to escape the growing antisemitism in Europe, to choose illegal immigration (which came to be known as Aliyah Bet). 

Under British Mandate, the Palestinians had no truly powerful political representative other than the British government itself.  And so this situation ultimately instigated the Arab Revolt in 1936-39, a period of intense violence led by the Arab Higher Committee targeting both Jewish and British interests (that had started as a civil protest against the British governments sale of Palestinian land to the Zionist movement but rapidly deteriorated).

At the end of this revolt in 1939, the British government stated again that His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state. [It is] contrary to their obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate.”

Shortly after this time, the Jewish population in Palestine had reached 450,000.

n_holocaust_wiesel_130127Then came WW2 which began in 1939 because Germany had not, and did not want to fulfil its obligations under the Versillias treaty (accepting blame for starting WW1, paying 6.6m in damages, disarming their military, the removal of land and forbidding of union with Austria).

In the middle of the war, in 1942, the outcomes of an international Zionism conference resulted in the Biltmore Program which called for an immediate reimplementation of the original purpose of the Balfour declaration which the British government had denounced in 1939.

By 1945, it was estimated the Holocaust had been responsible for claiming the lives of 6 million Jews and the European Jewish communities had been largely decimated.  In the aftermath of these horrors, the local Jewish community in Palestine turned against the British Mandate and illegal immigration continued as the Jewish community looked for a way to aid their Jewish family and comrades in their time of need.

However, some factions of the Zionist community had also gained significant military experience throughout the war.  Groups including the Irgun, Lehi and Haganah began to set up military forces to proactively defend Jewish communities in Israel against Palestinian attack (although these groups had varying amounts of support for their approach from Jewish immigrants).  Regardless of the thoughts of the rest of the Jewish community at that time, 2 years after the official end of WW1, in 1947, Palestine was in a state of chaos due to cyclical violence between the military groups defending the two communities.

The UK had obviously had a enough of attempting to fix the issue that it had created in Palestine and so referred it on to the United Nations (which had been set up to replace the disbanded League of Nations).

The UN passed Resolution 181 in November 1947 to partition Palestine into two states in which over the preceding 20 years, had grown its Jewish population from 56k to 500k due to immigration, nearly outnumbering the Palestinians.  Post-war superpowers Russia and America endorsed the new state and gave it international legitimacy (despite the initial concern of the US in its King-Crane commission report 28 years prior).  How quickly a nation forgets.

In short, the Jews accepted the partition and the Palestinians (who were represented by the Arab Higher Commission), rejected it completely and threatened force.  The day after Israel’s declaration of independence, an Arab force entered the new state started the first major Arab-Israeli war.

Palestinian citizens fled in what is known as the Palestinian Exodus or an-Nakbah (“disaster” in Arabic).  There is significant contention between Jewish and Arab historians as to what happened.  Israeli historians tend to focus on information that suggests Arab leaders told the Palestinian people to leave and return after the war was over.  Other historians suggest a wide range of factors including Jewish military advances, attacks against Arab villages and fears of massacre after Deir Yassin which caused many to leave out of panic; expulsion orders by Zionist authorities; the voluntary self-removal of the wealthier classes, the collapse in Palestinian leadership, and an unwillingness to live under Jewish control.  Later, a series of laws passed by the first Israeli government prevented Arab Palestinians from returning to their homes, or claiming their property.  Whatever the truth of history – Palestinian Arabs were frightened, coerced or trusted their leaders words and left.  This exodus over over 700k people in 1948 caused further problems as it left those remaining in a state of chaos without the power of people and political institutions to properly deal with their situation.

Some might ask – if both sides perpetrated violence, why would the Arabs have been the ones to leave?  Why did the Jewish community remain steadfast?  I wonder (no evidence here, just a thought) if it had to do with the fact that the Jews had just escaped from a situation that was far worse all across Europe. Their capacity to cope with the violent situation and stand their ground for a new sense of true home they felt they hadn’t enjoyed in many years provided them with stronger determination than the Palestinians who underestimated this significant psychological background.

By 1949, Israel had laid claim to victory.  In that same year, 700k+ Palestinians were refugees.  Similarly over the following 30 years between 1948 and the 1970’s there was a mass exodus of 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries respectively.  Some as a result of fear, others due to forced expulsion.  And again, perhaps in response to the Jewish laws, Arab countries enacted similar laws disallowing Jews from return or collection of owned property.  It seems the “eye for an eye” response mechanism was in full force.  In fact, even today, many Arabic countries will refuse entry to any tourist who has a Hebrew stamp on their passport.  Perhaps he key difference between the two exodus (Palestinian vs. Jewish) is that Jews had a recognised nation state happy to take them in as citizens, and so 600,000 of those who left Arab and Muslim countries migrated to the new Jewish nation of Israel.

In 1956, war broke out again – this time between Egypt and Israel.  Gamal Abdul Nasser had asked for a loan from the US government for the construction of the Aswan Dam and was initial accepted and then rejected after the US learned of his overtures to the Soviet Union.  In response, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal which deprived Israel of its waterway access and UK and France of their profits.  Of course this simply aggravated the colonial powers who then led a joint military operation to take the canal back.  In response to widespread protests, the US condemned this action and called for sanctions against Israel.  Operation Musketeer (UK, France and Israel) were eventually forced to withdraw as a result, however, Nasser’s decision to turn to the Soviet Union in the 1950’s further distanced US support from the country.

In the lead up to 1967, as hostilities between Israel and its neighbours continued, Egypt moved to protect resources and land in Mt Sinai to protect Syria.  Israel found itself surrounded.  But on 11 June 1967 – 6 days after the war started it was over (in what is now known as the 6 Day War).  Israel had used misinformation, military knowledge and tactics to its advantage and had illegally expanded into the West Bank, Sinai and Golan Heights – subsequently Israel became responsible for the more than 1 million Palestinians who lived in those regions.  It had increased its size 6 times.

Oil EmargoELEVEN
By 1973, Israel’s military strategy was one of active deterrence.  As the Soviet Union continued to provide military support to Egypt and Syria on behalf of the Palestinians, America was undecided.  In the end, Israel were able to plan and stop an attack from Arab forces.  Another military victory that is now known as the Yom Kippur War.

However post this second defeat, by way of protest, Saudi Arabia led a new oil embargo on Western countries and Israel.  While politically, if the opposite were true, the West would have done the same – it of course reacted badly to the embargo and this brought Israel and the US closer together than ever before.

By 1981, the US had signed their first strategic cooperation agreement with Israel against Soviet influence. And so it was that since the time of the Ottoman empire, the Arabs had backed the wrong horse (given the eventual outcome of the Cold War and ultimate demise of the Soviet Union).

In 1982, Israel invaded original French mandate Lebanon who housed the growing PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) and incurred the condemnation of the international community.  Eventually 11,000 PLO fighters were physically relocated to Tunisia in a US-sponsored deal.  The Israeli army did not withdraw from Lebanon until May 2000.

There have been 1060 UN resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The Oslo Accords in 1995 dealt with significant issues around resource use, including roads and water.  The biggest issue is really now the resettlement of 1.4 million of Palestinian refugees, a third of which live in UNHCR registered refugee camps.  50k of the original refugees remain.

The refusal of Jordan and other surrounding countries to grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees makes the conflict a cyclical one – for Israel’s power and force will now never cede its territory, despite how legitimate or illegitimate its original creation may have been.

In response to a weakening trend in Palestinian violence and growing economic and security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli military has removed over 120 check points in 2010 and plans on disengaging from major Palestinian population areas.

Neither Israeli or Palestinian civilians support the violence  – although latest polls (Aug 2013) shows support for a resumption of Peace talks with Israel is down 9% to 67%.  Although this is still an overwhelming majority, its understandable that support would waver up and down over time – I think its hard for any people to keep a positive outlook in the face of so many peace talks that do not end in practical peace that directly improves daily existence.

Palestinians born after 1920 would not even recall their old state as it existed before their birth.  These people would now be 93.  i.e. there are likely less than a few hundred people who would remember a time before Jewish immigration from Europe and America.

Like Australian Aboriginals driven out of their land, dispossessed and disenfranchised, we know the many years it takes for those societies to heal.

200 years later there is still no true mental peace for Indigenous Australians (although history would show those atrocities were more like the genocide experienced by the Jews than those experienced by the Palestinians).  The Jewish people themselves have not yet healed from the atrocities of the holocaust.  They know the horrors of freedoms taken all too well.

Regardless, it will take another 100 years or more for the Palestinian people to find their peace from the psychological trauma of the last 100 years.

In the mean time, the world moves on to other conflicts that take the fancy of the media – Syria most recently.  Sometimes I feel like our world is a lonely place full of lonely hearts looking for answers that are just, and will always be, out of reach.


Australian Minister Crisis: Our Leader Knowledge Deficit

English: en:Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the...

Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I had a brief but interesting conversation with a work colleague which ended in this person angrily denouncing the background of former Finance Minister Penny Wong – explaining that she didn’t really have any finance experience at all, and also revealing they voted Liberals in the same sentence.  I took the mention of these two things together to suggest my colleague was making the assumption that the Liberal party had candidates that were more educated and better suited to their roles.  So I decided to do a bit of my own research and answer the question with some actual evidence.

I created a spreadsheet of each of the newly announced Ministers for the Abbott Government and compared them against the previous Labor Government minister that was in the role the longest (as there were quite a few changes at the end – but I’m going to ignore those for the purpose of this exercise.  Then I went about confirming the educational and industry experience background of each and every single member and based on that, judging whether their experience and education was relevant to their appointed portfolio.

Note that I have NOT counted experience managing a folio in government as “experience” in the industry.  I don’t think this information is available anywhere on the internet and it took me about 4 hours to do so hopefully its useful to people other than my curious-self!

Alright, drum roll for the results…

(Newly appointment Abbott Government Ministers)

Portfolio Liberal Minister Education Experience Relevant?
Prime Minister Tony Abbott Bachelor Economics, Law Journalist, Plant Manager, Political Advisor (10 yrs), Parliament (17 yrs) N/A
Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop Bachelor Law, Harvard Mgmt Program Lawyer (20yrs), Parliament (14yrs) No
Infrastructure & Regional Development Warren Truss Highschool Farmer, Chair on multiple regional agriculture boards (12yrs), Parliament (12yrs) Part
Employment Eric Abetz Bachelor Arts, Law Lawyer (28yrs), Parliament (6 yrs) No
Arts George Brandis QC  Bachelor Arts/Law, BA Civil Law Lawyer (20yrs), Parliament (7yrs) No
Social Services Kevin Andrews Bachelor Arts, Law, Masters Layer/Lawyer Education/assistance (11yrs), Parliament (22 yrs) No
Human Services Marise Payne Bachelor Arts, Law Political and public affairs advisor (10 yrs), Parliament (16 yrs) No
Small Business Bruce Billson Bachelor Business, DipEd Mgmt Public Service (3yrs), Parliament (17yrs) No
Environment Greg Hunt Bachelor Arts, Law, MA Public servent – advisor on foreign policy (10yrs), Parliament (12yrs) No
Immigration & Border Protection Scott Morrison  Bachelor Science Policy and research council (6 yrs) Senior roles in tourism (7 yrs), Parliament (6yrs) Part
Finance Matthias Corman Bachelor Law Health (4yrs), Public service (7yrs), Parliament (6 yrs) No
Health and Sport Peter Dutton Bachelor Business Police Officer (9yrs), Parliament (12yrs) No
Defence David Johnston Bachelor Jurisprudence Barrister & Solicitor (20 yrs), Parliament (17yrs) No
Agriculture Barnaby Joyce Bachelor Commerce Grew up on cattle farm, Army reserve  (5yrs), Accountant (5-10yrs), Parliament (5-10yrs) Part
Justice Michael Keenan Bachelor Arts, Philosophy Bar attnt/salesman (8 yrs), real estate  (4 yrs), Parliament (6 yrs) No
Education Christopher Pyne  Bachelor Law Public service (3yrs), Solicitor (3yrs), Parliament (20yrs) No
Industry Ian Macfarlane  Highschool Farmer, President on multiple regional agriculture boards (25yrs), Parliament (10 yrs) Yes
Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion  Rural leadership program graduate Fisherman, Business Owner, Mining co researcher & manager, company director, Seafood councils, Parliament (11 yrs) No
Veterans Affairs & ANZAC Michael Ronaldson  Bachelor Law Barrister & Solicitor (18 yrs), Parliament (21yrs) No
Trade and Investment Andrew Robb  Bachelor Economics and Agricultural Science Animal health officer (2 yrs), Agricultural economics (5 yrs), ED Farmers Assoc (7 yrs), Senior exec/SEO/Chair multiple pharma co’s, Praliament (9 yrs) Yes
Communications Malcolm Turnbull  Bachelor Arts, Law, Civil Law Journo (4 yrs), Barrister/Gen Counsel (7 yrs), Biz owner & grazier (10yrs), Chairman Ozemail (5 yrs), Parliament (12yrs) Yes
Housing & Homelessness N/A N/A N/A N/A
Financial Services & Superannuation N/A N/A N/A N/A
Treasurer Joe Hockey Bachelor Arts, Law Banking and finance lawyer/public policy (10 yrs), Parliament (14 yrs) Part

(Rudd Government Ministers / Gillard Government Ministers)
*Note, I have chosen the “main” minister – that is, the minister that spent the most time in the position while Labor was in government.

Portfolio Main Labor Minister Changes Education Experience Relevant?
Prime Minister Juilia Gillard 1 Bachelor Arts, Law Industrial Lawyer (12 yrs), Parliament (15 yrs) N/A
Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd 2 Bachelor Arts Diplomat (7yrs), CoS/Dir-Gen (7yrs), China consultant(3yrs), Parliament (15yrs) Yes
Infrastructure & Regional Development Anthony Albanese 0 Bachelor Economics Bank officer (1yr) and researcher (4 yrs), Party official (6yrs), Policy advisor (1yr), Parliament (17yrs) No
Employment Bill Shorten 3 Bachelor Arts/Law Superannuation director (9 yrs), Workers Union (6 yrs), Parliament (6yrs) Yes
Arts Simon Crean 2 Bachelor Law, BA Economics Labour Unions (20yrs), Parliament (23yrs) No
Social Services Jenny Macklin 0 Bachelor Comms Researcher (9 yrs), Health strategy (8yrs), Parliament (10yrs) Yes
Human Services Multiple: no one had this role for more than 12 months under the former Labor govt 5 Multiple Multiple No
Small Business Gary Gray 4 Bachelor Economics ALP Secretariat (14yrs), ED Med research (1yr), Snr Mining exec (6 yrs), parliament )6yrs) Part
Environment Tony Burke 2 Bachelor Arts, Law Shop assistant (9 yrs), Electorate office (2 yrs), Union (7 yrs) No
Immigration & Border Protection Chris Bowen 3 Bachelor Economics Researcher (1yr), Union (5 yrs), Public service (6 yrs), Parliament (9 yrs) No
Finance Penny Wong 2 Bachelor Arts/Law Law (6), Unions (4yrs), Parliament (11yrs) No
Health and Sport Tanya Plibersek 1 Bachelor Comms/Masters Politics & public Policy 20 years in public policy and parliament No
Defence Stephen Smith 2 Bachelor Law Barrister/Tutor (7yrs), party treasurer & advisor (10 yrs), Parliament (10yrs) No
Agriculture Joe Ludwig 2 Bachelor Arts, Law Industrial inspector (10 yrs), Training consultant (6yrs), Parliament (13yrs) Part
Justice Jason Clare 1 Bachelor Arts, Law Corp relations (4 yrs), Policy advisor (6 yrs), Parliament (10yrs) No
Education Peter Garrett 4 Bachelor Arts Musician and activist (28yrs), Parliament (11yrs) No
Industry Kim Carr 2 Bachelor Arts, MA, DipEd Teacher (11 yrs), Ministerial advisor and policy analyst, parliament (20 yrs) No
Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin 0 Bachelor Comms Researcher (9 yrs), Health strategy (8yrs), Parliament (10yrs) No
Veterans Affairs & ANZAC N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Trade and Investment Craig Emerson 3 Bachelor/MA/PhD Economics, PhD Philosophy UN Economic analyst, CEO SQ transit authority, Public service (10 yrs), Parliament (20 yrs) Part
Communications Stephen Conroy 1 Bachelor Economics Superannuation officer, research assistant, Parliament (14 yrs) No
Housing & Homelessness Brendan O’Connor 5 Bachelor Arts, Law Union official (11 yrs), Parliament (12 yrs) No
Financial Services & Superannuation Bill Shorten 3 Bachelor Arts/Law Superannuation director (9 yrs), Workers Union (6 yrs), Parliament (6yrs) Yes
Treasurer Wayne Swan 1 Bachelor Arts Lecturer (12 yrs), Analyist and advisor (4 yrs), Parliament (14 yrs) No

I also did a quick analysis of a number of other things I often hear people spouting like “There’s much more experience in Liberal” or “Labor are riddled with Unionists” or “Liberals have a shitload of Lawyers”…or something along those lines.  Now here’s the truth:

Item Liberal Labor
Number of Lawyers 13 (59%) 11 (47%)
Number of Unionists 0 (0%) 6 (26%)
Number of Biz/Comm/Economists 5 (21%) 6 (26%)
Number of Arts Degrees 8 (33%) 12 (52%)
Years experience in Parliament 272 years 265 years


  1. The level of appropriate skills matching between ministers and their portfolios is an absolute JOKE with BOTH parties, in the Liberal Party only Malcolm Turnbull, Andrew Robb and Ian Macfarlane had the necessary industry background for their roles.  In Labor – only Bill Shorten, Jenny Macklin (not her role in Indigenous Affairs) and Kevin Rudd (as Foreign Minister) had the necessary backgrounds for their roles.  This is just not good enough.  There wouldn’t be a CEO in the world (unless he or she were a startup CEO), who would be hired by the board if they didn’t have extensive experience in their area.  Let’s take Telstra CEO David Thodey for example.  He worked in sales and the senior exec positions for IBM and then Telstra for close to 20 years…the guy knew his telecommunications before he stepped into a role with a company that hires 45,000 Australians and manages 25.5 billion in annual revenues.  Yet, just as an example Marise Payne who managers Human Services has no background in it, and yet she’s responsible for a portfolio containing Medicare AND Centrelink – equal to probably over 200 billion or more each year!  Whhhhatttt?  Let me make this clear to BOTH parties: 20 years experience as a Lawyer DOES NOT make you an experienced leader fit for a role managing a portfolio you know nothing about – no matter how you want to argue it!
  2. There is WAY too much change, surely making it nigh on impossible for anyone to get any real work done when ministerial management changes up to once every year.
  3. A bunch of Lawyers run our country…well 50% at least.  And its NOT just Liberals…its both parties.  Given the kind of mistrust most people have for the profession, its no wonder people are apathetic about politicians, and its no wonder they’re so good at spinning the truth – that’s what they’re all trained for.
  4. It’s true, Labor DO have more Unionists in their ranks (just over a quarter to be precise) – given Liberals have zero.  This claim is true.
  5. Labor actually has more finance knowledge and capability than the Liberals (based on education and experience alone – obviously I can’t judge talent), but it IS true that Wayne Swan as Treasurer, didn’t have broad experience in finance, although he was acting treasurer for many years.

Putting all of this another way just to show the absurdity…

  • We have Indigenous Affairs ministers who have never lived in Northern Territory where majority of the aboriginal population reside
  • We have Education Ministers who have never been teachers or principals or curriculum advisors
  • We have Health ministers who have never been doctors or nurses or health executives
  • We have Finance ministers and Treasurers who never did a degree in economics or finance
  • We have Ministers for Small Business who have never run their own business
  • We have Defense Ministers who have never fought in a war
  • We have social and human services ministers who have never worked in and with those disaffected communities
  • We have employment ministers who have never hired someone or been a HR manager
  • We have housing and homelessness ministers who have never worked in real estate or construction, or worked for any organisation that assists with homelessness

Ultimately, we have Ministers who seem so intellectually and emotionally removed (in terms of their non-parliament backgrounds) from the areas they look after, its beyond me how this country gets anything done at all.  How can they truly represent the country without having strong knowledge of the areas they look after?  It’s absolutely bizarre.  I guess we have to thank the public servants in making up for the shortcomings of their on-again/off-again bosses.

Thoughts people?  Is this a serious gap or a non-issue for you?

*If you want a copy of the excel spreadsheet, let me know and I can send you a copy.

What a REAL democracy in Australia would look like

WThe Real Democracy: People Powerhen a democracy can’t be called a democracy, or its definition must be changed to fit current circumstances, then its probably time to rethink our approach!

Democracy comes from an old Greek word that literally translates as “People Power” (they were the brains behind the basis of the whole Democratic system).  Athens had about 250,000 residents at the time and all citizens had an open invitation to a regular forum which allowed them to have direct input on all issues relating to their society, that is: they did not go via representatives like we do today.  Our current system is more like an oligarchy than a democracy.

Not everything was perfect about their system (women and children were not considered citizens and you needed to have TIME to go to these meetings which often meant those more well off were more likely to be involved), but it was the truest form of democracy humans have had in all recorded history.

James Madison

James Madison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now such a system was just not possible when the constitutions of countries like America and Australia were set up.  The land masses in which citizen lived were enormous, populations vastly larger, there were no means of communication like telephones, televisions, radios and there was certainly no internet!  So there were lots of very sound reasons why James Madison and other US political thinkers of the time came up with the fair system of representation that Australia drew inspiration from and that we still have in place today.

But guess what people…times have changed!
We now have instantaneous communication with mobile phones and SMS, we have web infrastructure that allows for the calculation of information in mere nanoseconds and can be supported to withstand millions of visitors performing activities at the exact same time.  In fact, 88% of Australians have access to the Internet and use it regularly.  Back during the Howard Government days, this still wouldn’t have been possible, but it is all technically possible today.

compsSo here we are with all this new fandangle technology, but we’re still plodding off to the polls.  In the intervening 100+ years, no one’s thought to re-evaluate the system based on new capabilities.

Is there a fair and economical way that each Australian could get an actual say in the policies and workings of government?  Is there a way that we could bring back power to the people and end political apathy in this country?

I believe the answer is YES, and there has never been a better time to make these changes because we have the technological capability to do it.  Of course, our representatives won’t give up their power so easily so I believe a new political party would need to be formed to push for governance with the knowledge that the first thing they would change is the constitution and ultimately dismantle their own representative rule over time.

Below are a list of concepts that would underpin the proposed new democratic framework in Australia (and these same concepts could work for any society where democracy already exists and internet penetration is higher than 80%).


The new framework would keep the government split into two “houses”, but the basis of the houses would be different:

  • The Upper House (the Senate), would become the Peoples Representative House – which has representatives from each electorate.
  • The Lower House, would become known as the Knowledge & Wisdom house – in which each representative Minister is an expert in administration, policy and the area of their portfolio (e.g the Minster of Health must have prior direct administrative experience in the health industry).
Parliament House Canberra, Australia

Parliament House Canberra, Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Psychologically it makes more sense that the UPPER house, who are generally the reviewers, are representatives of the people, while it is the Australian people themselves (through voluntary policy voting) and portfolio experts who define the policies themselves. The Upper and Lower house most speak and interact much more regularly and freely than they currently do.

Checks and balances on the government in power
An overarching third body would be created that can hold the government accountable for its actions.  This would replace the role of the Governor General and Queen who have only ever intervened once), it is important that the role is more than symbolic.

In matters where the will of the people will impinge on the human rights of those locally or in another country, this overarching third body has the right to intervene.

Checks and balances on the people
An independent body called the Council for Science, Well-Being, Economics, Psychology (COSWEP) provides support services to the government in power and the Opposition. If the Opposition strongly oppose a bill through The Peoples Representative House or the Knowledge & Wisdom House, they can request review from the council.  If the council deems their point of view valid, their concerns must be addressed by a new joint policy, which both parties work jointly on and then it goes back for final vote to the people.

The new role of the Prime Minster
The role of the Prime Minister will be split into two.  The Prime Speaker will be the leader of the House of Peoples Representatives, and they will be the prime speaker for and on behalf of the people of Australia, including being Australia’s delegate internationally.  The Prime Minister will be the leader of the House of Knowledge and Wisdom and will be responsible for organizing all Ministers in the creation of sound policies and pulling together information to inform policy based on the will of the Australian people through policy votes.  They will also be responsible for ensuring there is cohesiveness in parliament between the two houses.

The role of the Opposition
There are no PHYSICAL sides in parliament. A mix of ministers (those in power and those in opposition) will sit together.

For freedom of information, all incumbent government data and pricing or economics models driving policy must be made freely available to the Opposition and to the public.

The Opposition is not necessarily a party, but a group of minster by minster opposition, there to provide alternative policies to the incumbent government, and to question existing policies: not to be roadblocks but to play devils advocate to the government and the Australian people.

Map of the Australian states / Mapa dels estat...

Map of the Australian states / Mapa dels estats australians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


1. Councils and senate electorates are aligned, so instead of 150 electorates and 564 councils, there are simply 250 Councils.  The responsibilities of councils remain the same, but they work directly with ministerial electorates and because of this new alignment, enjoy much better communication and speed of necessary change.  This will also increase the size of the House of Peoples Representatives.

2. State government in its current (constitutionally separate form) is dissolved because we assume that people’s new power to vote on individual policies will ensure that the states are properly represented without the need for a separate government.  This will also ensure much better alignment and billions is administrative savings.

3.  Instead, there will be a state based minister for every portfolio.  The federal government is then responsible for the creation of policies that were formerly state based activities (e.g. health and education), but the state based representatives are responsible for state level input into the plans and for the implementation of those plans.

4. Voting for Council, State, House of Knowledge & Wisdom and House of Peoples Representatives all happen at the same time (or at least within the same month), to ensure best alignment of the values of the people.

Voting in the House of Knowledge and Wisdom is for a MINISTER, not for a political party.  This means we no longer have situations where people without knowledge of the area are chosen simply because they have been working in party politics for a long time.  Political parties may present a list of all ministers, but they must go through a process to verify those chosen ministers have the required experience in order to run for that house.

However, there are no special skill requirements to run for election into the House of Peoples Representatives.

1. Online voting is made available for all citizens.  Citizenship kiosks are also set up in places where few people have the internet.

2.  Votes can be cast online over the period of 1 week, however home based voting lasts for 6 days which ensures that if the internet is not working on the final day (where there would be a rush), those people have the opportunity to attend a kiosk based voting booth.  Voting online will provide 500k vision impaired Australians the right to a private vote, something they have not enjoyed to date.

3. Before voting, every Australian must spend 30-40 minutes reading about the ministerial candidates (this is the time it takes for most Australians to go to the voting both today any way so this time is simply being re-appropriated to their education instead).  They can also complete a survey based on personal values and wants – system will suggest candidates and political parties based on these.
Parties may not provide “how to vote” cards.

4. In online voting, candidates will be randomly presented in each different voting session to prevent effects of donkey voting and rogue “how to vote” cards.

5. Federal government voting occurs in two stages, the first of which is mandatory:

– Voting individuals in to the House of Knowledge and Wisdom.  People can choose OPTIONAL PREFERENCING both “above” (to parties) or “below” the line.

– Voting individuals in to the House of Peoples Representatives.  People must vote for a local candidate who may or may not be a part of a political party

– Voting for a Prime Minster and Prime Speaker candidates.  People can nominate any number of minsters (in preference) for those roles.  The top 5 candidates are presented to the representatives who ultimately win the HoR and Senate seats and those people then vote on the nominated candidates in their own preference.  This is how the Prime Minister and Prime Speaker are chosen.

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would propose that all ISPs and email providers, provide the current email address for their Australian customers – the Australian government obtains an exemption from the SPAM act allowing them to email all citizens and provide them with an opportunity to register for Policy Voting.  Here’s how it would work:

1. All Australians are provided with and opportunity to take part in parliament policy.  The government subsidizes up to $35 per hour up to 2 days per year (16 hours) for any registered voter who engages in the voluntary system.  This would cost approximately $3billion dollars per annum; a small price to pay for true democracy (in comparison, our welfare system alone costs $316 billion).

2. Once the registered voter confirms they would like to be involved, they must fill out at online profile that:
a) goes through their personal details, if they change jobs, family situation, income…etc

b) confirms their personality type

c) confirms their politics type (eg authoritarian, libertarian, center…etc)

d) confirms their education and fields of expertise

3. Citizens may input their recommendations for community and national priorities into their profile (although certain priorities are guarded where small portions of community have big impact e.g. agriculture)

4. Portfolio ministers must request policy submissions from citizens once a year – all citizens can be notified when these are being asked for, orthey can switch all off except those that are related to their field of expertise.  This ensures citizen input into a yearly planning process.

5. Yearly policies are then pulled together by: Knowledge & Wisdom Ministers, groups of experts, citizen panels and citizen reps (each citizen can apply to be selected for types of panels and will be selected representatively and randomly by geography but no person can be selected more than once in 5 years). Separately opposition ministers come up with other alternative policies, they become the “red team”, who don’t see policies until they’re done and can help point out any holes or provide alternatives to fill gaps.

6. For major policies, all citizens may be provided the voluntary opportunity to vote. A completely independent body will prepare:

–       An overview of suggested policy

–       A comparison to opposition policy

–       A standard template that shows financial AND social or environmental impacts

–       A full version of the policy which die-hard participators can suggest amendments to on the fly.

–       An easy to understand video will be created for each policy so anyone can understand proposed changes in 5 mins.  ($10m allocated for 200 a year to these type of communication materials).

7. Each voluntary policy voter must read the material and prove understanding by answering quiz questions on the policy before voting on the proposed policy. They are also able to input amendments.
8. At the time they vote they can also see what others are saying on social media and traditional media in a real time feed if they choose. (more research would need to be done on this in terms of whether this may create “group think” problems.)
9. Votes are auto-recorded and amendments are mass-analysed by computer to find common themes for further investigation.  Once the policy has been reviewed and updated based on amendments from all parties, it goes to all party Minsters and People Reps to take the final vote.

10. Votes by Senators in the House of Peoples Representatives are also recorded

11.  If a House of Peoples Representatives Senator vote does not match the people they represent, a mandatory vote will may be asked for from people of that area whom the senate leader represents. If the senate rep fails to match the people in their area 3-5 times, the people can request a re-election for the minister in that area.  If the Senator defaults 10 times, an automatic re-election for that Senator is called.

12. For smaller, minor legislation changes – only those affected (based on their demographic info) will be automatically invited for input or vote. Others can always provide amendments but not votes.  If they contest this and wish to vote and there is more than 0.5% of the population (or 100-200k requests), the vote is opened up to those requestors.

13.  For policies where people whose lives may be affected can not be properly represented, their carers may vote on their behalf and/or Not for Profit organizations may be able to provide some voting power as true representatives of that sub community.

14.  A separate committee is required to assess and report back on the outcomes of each legislation every year. In addition to this, an Annual Happiness Survey is also conducted for all voluntary policy voters. This report is then provided by email to each and every citizen.

15. Ministers positions can be reviewed officially on a yearly basis (post release of the above report).  The people can request an inquiry into any minister at that yearly review. Enough votes will get the minister reviewed and then a new candidate must be chosen in a by-election. i.e individual ministers can be voted OUT of office by the people if the Australian people deem them to be failing in their role.

16. People can also request direct challenges, audits or inquiries into any capitalist institution, which, if there is significant interest (e.g. 5% or more of voluntary voters), the government must carry out.

This participatory form of government will, for the most part, be an automated system, which sends out invitations when a Minister uploads and publishes a policy document and then automatically aggregates results for review.  There would need to be rules around the release (e.g. it may need to be released on a Tuesday afternoon (which is the most likely time Australians will open emails).


  • Mandatory citizenship education must be provided for all Australians between years 3 to 12.  This must have practical elements that empower them to begin their involvement as early as practicable.
  • Young children from 10 and older get a say: particularly in decisions that will affect their future (like protection of the environment…etc). Their vote does not count toward wins, but it is recorded, reported on and it allows young people to appreciate and participate in the system from an early age if the choose.  It also provides government ministers with a strong sense of the thoughts of young people and how to cater for them as they enter into official voting age.


There is a big gap in Australian politics at the moment: education.  Society accepts that to get a job you must finish school or university or an apprenticeship.  To get finance for a new business idea you must show a lengthy business plan, yet there are no specific requirements when it comes to people choosing to represent the views of their people and communicate on a national scale and have responsibility for decisions on multi-billion dollar portfolios and millions of lives.  This is simply not good enough.   In the new democratic system I would propose:

All politicians elected are required to complete a mandatory 3 month intensive course prior to a parliament role: history, citizenship, law, leadership, media training and parliament etiquette and day to day operations.


Political Parties

1. Before registering as a new party, the party must have a website and a clearly defined policy on every portfolio area available for view for all members. Only after that, will 500 members be counted and then party can apply to be accepted as a registered party.

2. Once the party is accepted, to run in an election, they must complete mandatory political skills training.  This training must be completed 1 month prior to the election date or they will be disqualified from running in the election.

3.  All party policies must be in place and online (same for all minister plans) 4 weeks before the 5-year election date.  Each policy must be LOCKED IN during the election period.  Which means, once the election campaign begins, the party may not change their stance unless it is to match what another political party is already providing.  They may not remove an item already on their priority list.

1. Elections move from 3 years to 5 years (as individual ministers can be voted out on a yearly basis after a review).

2. Elections are called at exact same time every five years: Feb – 2 month campaigning (Feb and mar) last week of March is election. Then April, May and June, all new politicians are getting up to speed. Incumbents work with any new ministers to hand over and provide insight so there is a much smoother handover of work and responsibility. The last month is to provide intensive training for any new politicians.

Obviously this is all blue sky stuff…but its also all possible right now.  What do YOU think?  Which bits do you agree or disagree with?  And which bits are most important?

Islamic Law: Democracy’s new Communism

Religion is a difficult, divisive subject for most people.  The earliest evidence of religious ideas dates back several hundred thousand years to the Middle and Lower Paleolithic periods so it’s not like it’s a new issue.

English: Mao's official portrait at Tiananmen ...Fighting either for, or against religion has sparked genocidal wars:
For the religious there was 3 Million in the Crusades (Christian vs Muslim), 3-11 million in the Roman’s 30 Years Holy War (Protestants vs Catholic), French Wars of Religion (Protestants vs Catholic) 3 million in the Nigerian Civil War (Christian vs Muslim) and of course the ongoing atrocities across the Middle East particularly since the final collapse of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the early 1900’s (Sunni Muslim vs Shia Muslim).

Sociopathic communists have been no better:  over 16m against “old religion and beliefs” in China under Máo Zédōng (毛泽东) and of course historians still diverge on the religious nature of Nazism but it wasn’t a war sanctioned by the catholic church – with 10m lives lost in WW2 .

Democracy took hundreds of years to develop and did so on the back of horrific human casualties.  It was able to develop most quickly in colonialist countries like the US, Canada and Australia because they were able to oppress the decentralized native communities and create a clean slate to completely control land, thought and political ideology.  On the other hand, Europe took thousands of years to find steady peace.  Even in America, it was only in the early 1800’s that politics and the governance of the country was legally and constitutionally separated from religion.

So, once the democratic system became the Western World’s poster child for progress and freedom, all other political or politico-religious ideologies became a threat.   The first major threat came in the form of Communism – creating a major divide in relations between Russia, China and America, which has still not healed.

The next thing many Western leaders (in particular France and Germany) see as a threat to democratic ideology within their countries is Islam.  Not necessarily in the form terrorism, but in the form of religiously powered political pressure whose goal is to take control of the state.  Why?  Because true Islam controls the state through Sharia Law with rules on everything including the governance of crime, politics and economics (as an example – where banks charging interest is illegal).

burkiniThe sentiment of a threat seems to be shared by the citizens of Germany and France with 68% of French nationals stating they saw Islam as a concern or threat to their way of life and 51% of Germans saying the same.  It seems the fear rises in direct proportion to the numbers of those with Islamic faith in the community (7% of France’s population is Islamic). In response, the French government has banned all wearing of religious artifacts in schools including the Hijab (signed into law by Jacques Chirac), has banned Burkinis at swimming pools and there are calls to now also ban the Hijab at universities.  Just last week a German court ruled that Islamic girls must attend swimming lessons with boys at school but they can wear a Burkini.  But these political leaders are strong right wing conservative politicians, right?  Wrong.  French Prime Minister François Hollande is very much from the left side of politics.

Now, whether all these fears are founded or not is an interesting question.  The facts are that the fear can only become founded when:

1.  There is (or on current trajectory of change there will be) a proportion of any one country’s population large enough to support the democratic election of a new government who has the power to change that country’s constitution and laws.  We may not like to hear that change is inevitable, but change has been occurring for thousands of years.

2.  That population actually wishes for a change in government and wishes Sharia Law to be instated.  A study of over 38,000 muslims found that support for Sharia law was high across all countries (even up to 40% in the US), however the implementation of the law was divided on certain controversial issues such as polgamy, choice in wearing of the hijab, enjoyment of music/dance and severe punishment for religious defection.   However, by the very support of Sharia law, the expectation is that certain elements of religious basis rule would be enforced across all members of society, regardless of religious persuasion.  Homosexuality and the consumption of alcohol were overwhelmingly viewed as immoral – so we could say that under the current thought, if Sharia law were ever instated on a formerly democratic society, at the very least each of those actions would be made illegal and a punishable crime.

The Roman empire collapsed, the Gauls wiped out almost all of England’s original population in 900AD, and 200 years ago homosexuality was punishable by death.  So to assume that change of this scale is not possible, is to deny history has ever happened.  After all, many of the Roman Empire churches built across the Middle East were converted to Mosques during the Ottoman empire.  And if you think that humanity has only ever gone “forward”, not “backward” in terms of human rights – think again.  Late Roman Empire, the Greeks and even some Chinese dynasties were very free when it came to homosexuality before they fell to larger forces, and before the rise of the Catholic church, paganism worshipped the power women rather than subordinating them as was subsequently done throughout Europe’s religious history.

English: The name of الله Allāh, written in Ar...

English: The name of الله Allāh, written in Arabic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if we accept that change is an inevitable part of the evolution of humanity, then sure, it’s possible that Islam and Sharia law could topple Democracy as the next world-wide ideological power – because unlike Communism which was taken up by elites and forced upon citizens, Islam grows within the citizens themselves.  But by the time this change happened, would anyone really care?

If high birth rates are the true biological indicator of long-term survival for humanity (putting aside for the moment the impact of the population on the Earth’s finite resources), then it is possible that through both birth into the Islamic faith, immigration and falling birth rates of Western countries, there would be a point in the next 100-200 years at which a significant portion of French or German society was of Islamic faith.  At that point, a rewriting of constitutions and return to Sharia law would be inevitable, and in fact, would be welcomed by most citizens anyway since the entire psychological make up of the population would have changed.  I mean, 500 years ago – it would have been psychologically unimaginable for Europeans to accept the idea that women could vote or have property ownership or a say in their destiny through marriage and work: so the passage of time effectively breeds out certain viewpoints.

Some might say it wouldn’t be too bad anyway – there are scientifically studied psychological benefits to being religious.  An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts.

In Australia, 2% of the population is Islamic – so while there has been some tension in the past (for instance in 2006 when Sheikh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly sparked public outrage when he compared women to uncovered meat in a reference to the occurrence rape) – the tension has not mounted to become a federal political issue.

Danny - Rise up AustraliaBut new to the political arena is The Rise Up Australia party, whose leader talks about the failure of Multiculturalism (quoting British MP David Cameron) and used the 2013 election campaign to begin its campaign to “enlighten” Australians about the failure of Multiculturalism in their own country.  But given the leader of Rise Up is a sprightly young Indian man – listeners would get the distinct impression what the party is referring to is not “failure of Multiculturalism”, but in fact a “fear of Islam”.

Views from the left may say that it is important to be tolerant and accepting toward other religions and cultures, a sentiment I can identify with.  But what of the moral dilemma of a religion where that tolerance is not returned?

Some of my family (my Auntie, Uncle and two cousins) all converted to Islam over 10 years ago – so I’ve taken a lot of time to carefully consider this question including reading of the Qur’an, speaking with my Islamic friends, family and business colleagues across India and UAE, reading Hadiths and more.

I love my cousins dearly and I visit them often, but I cannot deny the fact that there are core parts of their faith that fundamentally oppose certain freedoms that I, and most inhabitants of any democratic society, strongly believe in (even if they don’t realise it because they have never had those freedoms challenged).

The good
Like all religions, at its core is generally a message of peace, love, generosity and mercy – and for the vast majority who live in the faith, they are peaceful and respectful.

The interesting and the downright concerning
The concerning bits are less related to the Qur’an and more related to the Hadiths and Sharia Law.  The Hadiths are what Muslims believe to be the words and deeds of the Prophet Mohammed.  200 years after their prophet died, Islamic scholars wanted to put together a practical guide to help people of Islamic faith to live their lives “like Mohammad”.  So they sent out thousands of volunteers to go and collect information about his words and deeds.  Over 200,000 of these were collected and it took over 20 years to put together the Hadiths, which also underpin Sharia law.  There are a number of different collections and Sunni and Shia justice systems refer to different parts of these for their implementation of the law.  Whatever the relative truth of the true origin of Islam, the Sharia Law, Hadiths and the Qur’an provide an extremely strong foundation and framework of behavioural guidance for those of the Islamic faith, which in turn increases the “stickiness” of the religion – and is what some countries experience as “the inability to integrate”.

Some examples:

  • Hadith’s state that Mohammed never listened to music or danced (except to a particular drum).  As a result, strict Sunni Muslims are not allowed to dance or listen to music.
  • At the time of Mohammed war was an inevitable part of life.  Many men were lost at war and women left without financial support, so polygamy became the best solution for the time…but it has now continued to modern times as part of a culture.
  • In Sharia law, women are seen as being emotional beings and as a result, Sharia law requires that two women must be a witness to a crime in financial or business transactions for it to be admitted as evidence in court.
  • Islam in its purest form absolutely rejects any other god, way of thinking, and change or reinterpretation as the entire Qur’an is the word of God/Allah.
  • Sharia law acknowledges that men are susceptible to the temptation of the flesh, and so requires the complete covering of women (the amount of coverage depends on the sub sect), women must be segregated from men and cannot ever touch or be in the same room alone with anyone other than their brothers, father or husband.
  • Sharia law requires that a woman may not have sexual relations out of wedlock. In Saudi Arabia many women do not approach authorities if they have been raped as if they do, they can be charged and put in jail for having sexual relations out of wedlock.
  • Marriages are arranged.
  • Banks are banned from charging interest on loans.
  • Homosexuality is a punishable crime (punishable by death in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania).
  • Only Halal animal products can be eaten: where the animal’s throat is slit while facing toward Mecca. Some argue this is more humane than electrocuting the animal first.
  • Those who leave or renounce the religion can be punished, including put to death.

Like any religion that exists within the freedom of expression based protections of a democratic society, Muslims in Australia can choose just how closely to follow these rules.  However, in a country under Sharia law (like Saudi Arabia), all these rules become automatically enforced by the justice system.

So here we have a moral dilemma.  Can we tolerate intolerance?  Western democracies legally accept equality of race and sex, and have increasingly come to accept homosexuality in the last 50 years.  So how, when couched in the arms of freedom of religious expression, can it logically provide a free pass to turn back the clock on those leaps forward in equality?  If not, at what point would measures be taken?  And what measures would they be?

The Middle East, Northern Africa, Pakistan, Indonesia and parts of India have the greatest percentages of Muslim populations, so it is there that Western leaders look to attempt “measures” and control the “problem” before it hits their shores in the form of immigration.

Sunni and Shia muslims by country

Sunni and Shia muslims by country

UK, US and French meddling in the Middle East since they partitioned off the Ottoman Empire between 1988 and 1922 shows that continued efforts to stop Middle East self determination by attempting to control governments only exacerbates the disillusionment and anger of citizens toward the Western world and the ideology behind democracy and capitalism – despite the fact that the actions local citizens see perpetrated by Western government or military establishments is not democracy at all.

Empire mongering was still the rule of the day back in early last century, so the the actions of Western governments at that time were less driven by fear and more by the need to extend the reach of their influence of power and control.  Again, not a new concept to those in the Middle East who have consistently been ruled by other powers throughout history including the Greeks through Alexander the Great , the Romans and the Turks during the Ottoman Empire.

Instability in the region began to increase after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, partly as a result of these botched empire building efforts by Western countries, partly because the Ottoman Empire had been effective in its controlling rule, but left a void and cross pollination of religion and culture that immediately began to divide once that rule was no longer in place.

Perhaps now the damage has been done, Western powers (in particular the US and UK) see ongoing instability as their ultimate national security strategy.  When countries are too busy fighting, they cannot amass any level of political force against the West.  And given the hatred that their own actions have cultivated in the Middle East – if power were to rise, the West should rightly fear the repercussions of those actions over the last century.

Some would argue self determination is the answer – and this could, over time, end the civil violence which is often between a secular installed government verses the rule of the people who are overwhelmingly of Muslim Sunni faith (not including Iran where Shia is predominant).  But it would also be naive to suggest that self-determination would end in the kind of democratic rule that the West has chosen.  Democracy is not a natural human state.  If it were, we would have seen the democratic system of government dominating throughout history – but we have not.  Saudia Arabia stands almost alone among countries in the Middle East in its steadfast ability to avoid foreign rule – not just in modern times, but also throughout history.  In large part this is due to its geographic position and landscape providing a barrier to military invasion.  So this country can be seen as an example of what a stable Middle East might look like if civil war ended: highly educated and technologically capable, generally introverted, strong rejection of tolerance toward multiple religious ideas, and controlling of public thought, actions and expression through the enforcement of Sharia Law across all levels of government and society.  This does not mean “bad” in all things, but it does mean “different” in many.

In Australia, we find these questions confronting.  They are confronting because they challenge our natural welcoming of new ideas, people and ways of thinking.

Right now, this is not a dilemma that Australians need to face given the demographic make up of our population.  But who knows, it may be a challenge that our children, or their children will need to confront and decide on.  If so, I do not envy that world and those leaders.

Carbon Tax vs. PM Tony Abbott’s “Democracy”

Carbon TaxWhen Prime Minister Abbott says things like “Australians have made it clear by their vote, they want us to carry out our promised policies” in referring to the Coalition’s plan to scrap Labor’s carbon tax, I want to point out a few key things to Australians and to our politicians:

1.  When Australians turn 18, they are given the opportunity to enrol to vote.  If they do not enrol, they are not able to vote and they won’t be penalised.  As soon as they do enrol, they cannot un-enrol, and they must participate and vote in each election, or suffer a $72.00 fine.  We are one of only 10 countries in the world who enforce these rules.  In 2013, approximately 14.7 million were enrolled to vote – about 93% of whom ended up voting in the Sept 13 elections.  A record 3.5 million people chose to vote in the week leading up to the official election day.  400k people between 18 and 24 didn’t enrol in time to get a say.  Perhaps they were all taking a GAP year

2.  Our voting system requires us to choose a preference for every single party running in the election.  This means we cannot NOT vote for a party, or our vote will be marked as invalid.  This, combined with the 2 party preferred vote means that at some point, the full value of our vote goes to one of two major parties who have been in control of our government for a century: Labor or Liberal.  In some ways this is great as it means you can still vote for a minor party, while having just as much of a say in the major party that is likely to run the country – however, the general feeling among many Australians in the lead up to the elections, was that they didn’t really like or trust either major party…but they didn’t really feel they had a choice.

3.  It was obvious that the Australian public punished (and rightly so), the Labor government for their severe internal leadership struggles (regardless of all their achievements).  They made their voices heard by doing what they could to show their concern and disgust: changing the number on that all-important piece of green paper.  This resulted in a clear swing toward the Liberal party, and a much higher than average trend toward voting for minor parties or independents.  But…does that behaviour (driven I’d say, more by Australian’s NOT wanting Labor vs. WANTING Liberal), really provide the Abbott government with the support of the Australian people for ALL its policies?

4.  Let’s look at it another way.  Only 70% (75% if you assume 7% didn’t turn up) of the 14.7 million Australians who voted, or 64% of the 16 million Australians eligible to vote – used their primary vote for Labor or Liberals.   And the split was:

  • 4,803,862 primary votes to Labor (approx 35% of total voters)
  • 5,445,378 primary votes to Liberal (approx 40% of total voters)

That means, across Australia, a total difference of 641,516 chose to vote for one major party instead of the other.  That’s not even the quarter of the population of Melbourne.

Now, I am not saying this to suggest Liberals didn’t win fair and square – what I am pointing out is that in governing a country, you have to remember that you represent ALL Australians, and sure, in the two party preferred system, 53% of the country voted for them…but 46.82% did not.  And therein lies the challenge of governance.  In a simple game of footy, we’d see that as a win – done deal, game over.  But that’s not how it works when you’re managing an entire country!

Remember also, the government represents a further 6.68 million Australians who make up the remaining 29% of our population.

Then add to this the fact that regardless of the party you vote for, individuals will have differing views on the range of the policy stances taken by the party and these change over time.  For instance ABC’s poll of over 1 million Australian’s revealed that 61% of Aussies actually think the government should be doing MORE for the environment – not less.   And on the carbon tax, in July this year a new poll revealed 62% of Aussie’s wanted to KEEP the tax.

So here’s a major dilemma: the new Government based their election campaign around opinions from 12 months ago.  How did this shift in perception happen? Fear drives negative opinions before legislation is enforced while people think a tax on polluters will mean a direct hit to their hip pocket. But once legislation is implemented and people realise they’re not out of the streets and homeless as a result, the care-factor goes down a notch.  So now Liberal Party’s key policy…is not so “key” for the Australian people anymore.

Now, let’s forget about any argument on whether or not climate change is, or is not real – I mean, I wouldn’t recommend calling this out as a point to Mr Abbott given that in 2009, he was quoted as saying he thought Climate Change was quote, “absolute crap” (interesting that Mr Abbott doesn’t seem to require the same level of proof of the existence of God but that is a matter for another time!).

So instead, to help Mr Abbott out, let’s look at some influencing factors that are a little more concrete and immediate:

  • Defense and International Security
  • International Relations

You are forgiven for thinking – huh?  What does the Australian Defense Force have to do with any of this?  The ABC reported that Australia’s national Security Strategy sees climate change as a key challenge, and a May 2013 Australia Defense force white paper found global energy, food and water resources were under pressure from population growth, rising affluence and climate change.  Research shows that unexpected flooding or heat as a result of climate change has been proven to exacerbate civil unrest. So, is Tony Abbott really going to ignore the advice of Climate scientists AND our national defense force?  It seems like a rather illogical position to take.

On the International Relations side of things, we’re headed for more hot water.  After agreement to renewable energy targets and a 5% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, the new government is set to roll back on those commitments.  Climate Change is an international issue, not just a national one.  Our cooperation with peers in the Asia Pacific region, as well as leadership amongst other OECD countries is crucial to how we are seen on the world stage – affecting a raft of economic factors, including investment.

A new report ranks Australia 16th out of 19 countries on a scale of preparation for a low-carbon world.  The only countries below us?  India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. With the second being a country that is barely able to hold democratic elections and the third being the ONLY country in the world that still doesn’t allow women to vote, we’re not exactly in good political company.

As Australia prepares to take its position as President of the UN Security Council in December 2014, we risk significant damage to our international reputation, as our peers leap ahead of us in their dedication to maintaining a safe future for humanity.  Again – regardless of any personal belief in climate change – Australia does not, and cannot live in a silo when it comes to this issue.  When international politicians and media leaders are calling our new Prime Minister a “Gaffe prone conservative” (LA Times), and a “bigoted air-head” (British MP), Tony Abbott needs to be more mindful than ever of the perception he casts to the rest of the world on Australia’s behalf.

But how could Abbott “save face” if he were to consider an about turn, when scrapping the carbon tax was the centerpiece of the Liberal Party’s campaign?  ABC’s latest poll on what people thought should be Abbott’s main priorites in the first 100 days as Prime Minister clearly show this psychological gap – where Environment is just as big an issue on the minds of Australian people as the Carbon tax brought in to protect it.

Climate Change

So what we’ve established is that the scrap carbon tax policy doesn’t represent the majority of Australian’s views, the majority of scientist views, the views of the Australian defense force nor the views of international country leaders, and certainly not the views of the millions of Australian children who couldn’t vote, but will be the people that will have to deal with any fall out if the effects of carbon pollution do come to pass.  So it seems while leading a majority government, Mr Abbott’ party stance is in fact in the minority on a variety of fronts.

How does Tony escape this dilemma and keep projecting his image as strong leader which was carefully crafted throughout the 2013 election campaign?

Perhaps he doesn’t.  Perhaps he attempts to push the Carbon Tax repeal through, he succeeds, and then only with the benefit of hindsight will the consequences be fully appreciated: because if we accept the information so far, then we can only assume this action is being taken and acted upon outside of the true spirit of democracy.

All I hope for, is that Australian leaders realise (whichever major party is in power) that our ballot cards only allow us to vote for leadership, not each policy, that community opinions change faster than governments can take action, and that NO party, can say that they have been “bestowed” the right to implement their policies and carry out the views of all Australians simply because 24%* of the total Australian population actually popped them as the number 1 preference on their vote card.

*Calculated as: 22,680,000 / 5,445,378 (Total AU population / Total primary votes for Liberal)

What happens when State and Federal Governments fight

While I was doing a bit of random research the other day, I started seeing a patterns of disagreement between the State Government and the Federal Government.  It’s probably not something that has been thought about too often.  Actually, I can’t find a detailed analysis of it anywhere. I did find an article about Federalism in Australia vs. the Unity system in the UK.  Just as a quick refresher: In a country running with a federal system, the power of the State and the National governments are constitutionally divided – i.e. one is not the boss of the other!  Oh and they look after different things – the Federal govt deals mainly with tax, immigration, law and justice and the states look after education, health…etc.  The main leverage the Federal Govt has is that it control the budget and decides how much money to give the states for their stuff.  There’s pros and cons to the system.  Some say a federal system provides competition between the states and as a result more choice for people in terms of where to live, or get a job…etc – and more choice = better freedom (according to the proponents of the system).  On the other hand it makes for a bloated bureaucracy and the potential for serious communication breakdown…not to mention the fact that most people don’t actually get the difference anyway.

So anyway, back to this issue of states arguing with federal government…most of the articles I could find suggested these disagreements amounted to “healthy debate” based around issues whenever federal government sticks its nose into State based business and issues (like health and education and local government).  I’d like to suggest something different…

For instance, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and WA Premier Colin Barnett vs. Julia Gillard on the proposed changes to the constitution allowing the federal government to give funding directly to local governments without having to go via the state.  Another example: QLD Premier Campbell Newman vs. Julia Gillard on the proposed Gonski reforms.  Now, at first glace, you could put this down to the fact that both these issues were about Federal verses State control.

English: Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gil...

English: Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes these are both examples of areas where federal government is trying to control more of what is within the State’s remit – but you’ll also notice that in both cases, The Gillard Federal Govt was a Labor government, and each of the Premiers disagreeing were Liberal/Coalition. And what of the other states?  Why was it that in the only Barry and Colin that seemed to disagree with the then Federal Government with the local govt reforms?  Well, because every single other State Premier was Labor.

So that got me thinking a bit more…how deeply does a divide in party focus or values between State and Federal Governments affect the ability to pass legislation? So I put together a list of every Prime Minister since 1901 and then put it against every single State Premier and their respective party.  You can download it here.

Findings – Times of Communication Struggle

1.  In 1975, Gough Witlam’s first and only term with Labor in Federal govt, almost other major state was under a Liberal government and in his final year, WA went back to the Liberals too.

2.  Between 1993 and 1995 during Paul Keating’s last term, he also had to deal with all-liberal party states except for QLD.

3.  Between 2002-2007, the Howard governments last terms – every single Australian state was controlled by a Labor government, while Liberals (John Howard) were in federal government.

4.  Julia Gillard struggled with a complete split in governance of the states, in 2011 when after years of Labor state government, both NSW and VIC voted for a Liberal Party govt, and this worsened in 2012 when QLD joined the crowd.  Joining WA who were had voted the Liberals in back in  2009 – now every major, powerful state was under Liberal control.

English: Portrait of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies...


So it seems that in times when there the Federal Govt is working against states governed by a different party…they’re usually  headed for their final term.  Which causes which (if at all)…I’m not sure.  The only exception to this pattern is Robert Menzies – the guy had staying power, through a time when the states were fairly evenly divided in terms of party governance.

Findings – Times of Unity

1.  1927 – Labor Prime Minister Stanley Bruce’s last year in government provided complete governance unity across federal and state.  However, in 1927…I’m not sure how much that would have mattered given media access, transport…etc.

2.  1932 – Liberal Prime Minister Joseph Lyons’ first year enjoyed almost complete Liberal control of Federal and State affairs (excluding SA)

3.  1946 and 1947 – Labor Prime Minister Joseph Chifley got the same in reverse – all Labor control of Federal and States (excluding SA)

4.  1969 and 1970 – Liberal Prime Minister Grey Gorton had party unity across every single state for two years (before that 1965-1970 enjoyed fairly majority control under Harold Holt and John McEwan)

5.  1976 to 1981 – Malcolm Fraser had a pretty good run with major states (minus TAS and  SA) under Liberal party control.  In 1982, every state was under Liberal governance.

6.  2008 – Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got a dream Labor scenario.  With one of the highest popularity votes AND state unity – imagine what he could have done if he hadn’t caused all that internal disunity!  They could have been an absolute force to reckon with.  Between 2009 and 2010, there was more of the same.

Now I’d need to look at each of those times more carefully to find out whether relatively speaking there was much more agreement and it was easier to get legislation in those years, while harder in those others – but that would be my hypothesis.  Also, we’d need to consider the make up of the senate in any one year to be completely sure of any results.

I think with a bit more study, we’d probably find that the Australian version of the Federal system of internal governance actually undermines the unity of the entire governance process.  At the very least, it must create massive miscommunication issues where in the majority of cases over the past 112 years, party governance is not aligned across state and government levels.  For instance, in sharing information between state and government – there becomes a massive risk of silos that, unlike the promotion of competition BETWEEN states, promotes national disunity between states and government.

I wonder how this effects people’s experience of local vs. national media as well?  For instance, if they live in a Liberal governed state, they’re likely to see a lot of Liberal messages locally, and be confused with any cross fire messages from the National government.   I do wonder if this happened particularly in NSW, VIC and QLD in the lead up to the 2013 election.  If I were Tony Abbott, and really smart, I would have created a whole strategy around playing on the creation of a divide between Labor and the states to build mass confusion for the people and help lead them in the thinking that the government of the day was disorganised.  Obviously if this was an orchestrated effort by the Coalition, its strategy was significantly helped by the fact that at the Federal Parliament level there were some pretty massive internal rifts within Labor already.

On another note, the old corporate world has already gone through the process of accepting that restructure is necessary to cost cutting: breaking down silo’s that exist between departments uncovers massive cost savings, improves communication and basically helps get things done faster and with less frustration for everyone.  Although the restructuring process takes years and humans within it get tossed around in constant change and instability until its done, once it is done, there is an exponentially great ability to be more agile and responsive to the needs of the community (which a modern nation expects from its leaders, because that is how they live the rest of their lives).

And of course the timing differences between state and federal elections don’t help the situation at all – in fact it leads to a gap between the will of the local people and that of government.  At least aligning these election dates within the same month would likely mean alignment based on any changing community views were properly represented from a state to national level.

So…I wonder how the Liberal Federal Government can have a conversation about cost cutting and budget management, without having a good hard think about whether we actually need to relook at the efficiency and effectiveness of our democratic system.  After all, this stuff was made up by people colonising a completely new country, taking bits and pieces from different government set ups (mostly from the US – EXCEPT for the federal system which came from the US and Canada). I mean, can you really just stuff bits and pieces into a constitution based on different ideas from around the world and expect to still work perfectly in 112 years?  I’m gonna hazard a guess: No.

Don’t get me wrong, lots of things about it are great – for instance, we have a mostly dreamy preferencing system (apart from being able to preference votes “above the line” in the Senate), but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve a whole lot.  It’s not like democracy as a system itself has been around for that long anyway, Monarchies are more tested through time.  And back in 1901 when our federal level democratic system of government was formed, corporate national/multinational capitalism, globalisation and communication were not the mega-influencers of the society as they are today.  The country existed in a completely different social, political and technological landscape.

The first step, I humbly propose, is a conversation.  A conversation between Local Government, the States, the Federal Government and the Australian people.  Because the only thing that can be guaranteed to happen in life is change.  Isn’t proactive engagement and discussion a better approach rather than waiting until the system fails us – just like our Senate voting system has in the 2013 elections?

What do people in parliament REALLY spend their time on?

Ok so to answer this question I had to rummage around to try and find a list of all the bills that were tabled in parliament sessions between 1901 and today.  On the Australian Parliament website I was able to find a list of bill extracts in an excel spreadsheet from between 1901 to 1983 so I just had to work off that because I don’t have enough time to manually create a spreadsheet for all the others which are in PDF files across govt websites and Comlaw.

Alrighty, now a word of warning I had to go through nearly 2000 of these friggin things and categorise them all – so some of the categorisations might be a little broad or may not capture some underlying content in the bill since I only had the bill title, but here’s what I was able to analyse:

So…the majority of the time in parliament is spent talking about…tax!  hahaha oh what an exceedingly fun subject matter!  You know I did wonder why refugees and immigration was such an important thing on the agenda even though I rarely hear people talking or complaining about it and now I can see it here in broad daylight…they spend a lot of time talking and thinking about and so they think the Australian public care a little more than we actually do!

I can’t believe how much air time Fruit, Veg and grains get! haha.  And I was a little concerned about the lack of chatter in the primary and secondary area – but its probably because its under the each state’s remit to look after that.  Same with health.  Science and Technology and management of Government debt was pretty abysmal.  All things considered – Natural Resource and Environment Protection got a FIFTH of the floor time of Mining, Minerals and Oil – although it did fair better than international trade agreements and diplomacy.

English: Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Au...

English: Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister of Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can see why I think Kevin Rudd struggled in parliament…with an Arts and Asian Studies degree the guy was probably bored out of his brains!  In contrast, whatever your personal opinions of him may be, Tony Abbott studied a Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Law and is probably much more naturally suited to and talented at the elements of policy creation or review.  BUT, lets be honest…the guy sucks on camera.  Which suggests to me that the IDEAL parliament set up of the future should be one where there are two lead roles:
1.  A Prime Minister
2.  A Prime Speaker

The Prime Mister would be the leader of the house within Parliament and during internal discussions and the manager of staff.  The Prime Speaker would be the international states person and media spokesperson for the party – the person who travels internationally, spoke to the media…etc…etc.  I mean, the job is too big for one person anyway – its ridiculous.  The role should be split and given to two different types of people – because they are two completely different roles suited to completely different personalities.

My  question for my NEXT post is going to be…does what a Prime Minister studied at university (and therefore we’d assume is relatively naturally interested in), make a difference to how long they remain in parliament because of their ability to manage the stuff at a federal level that actually takes up the majority of the floor time?

Bill Category Number of Meetings (sessions)
Taxation 501
Immigration & Customs 183
Corporations 112
Justice System 84
National Security and Military 65
Fruit, Veg and Grains 63
Mining, Minerials & Oil 56
Loans, Grants & Subsidies 55
Media and Communications 43
Health 41
Maritime 37
Roads and Transport 36
Electoral 33
Textiles, Machinery 32
Livestock 31
Housing 29
Administration of Govt 27
Agriculture 27
Export Goods 27
Intellectual Property Protection 22
Tertiary Education 22
Banking 19
Unions 19
Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco 18
Aviation 18
Public Service Employment 17
Land 16
Superannuation 16
Employment 15
Public Service 14
Social Security & Welfare 14
Social Services 14
Natural Resources and Environment Protection 13
Aboriginal 11
Commissions & Advisory Councils 11
Democracy and Representation 11
Finance Industry 11
Insurance 11
Police Force 11
Fishing 10
Constitution 9
Deaths and Marriages 9
Human Rights 9
Parliament 9
International Trade Agreements & Diplomacy 8
Animal Protection 6
Government Debt 6
Primary & Secondary Education 6
Utilities Supply 6
Water 6
Coastal Waters 5
National Census 5
History 4
Home ownership 4
Archives 3
Corporation 3
Industries 3
Currency 2
Economy 2
Space 2
Customs 1
Science and Technology 1
Grand Total 1904

Why Australian’s should care about POLICIES not POLITICS

English: Photo of the entrance doors to the Au...

English: Photo of the entrance doors to the Australian House of Representatives, Parliament House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, it’s the day after tomorrow!  Some Australian’s are ecstatic, others are devastated.  As always, I’d like to to a look at exactly what a new government will mean for Australians.  Because being Prime Minister doesn’t give you the ability to just pop decisions through parliament as you choose.

For political noobs out there (as I was 6 months ago), here’s how it works.  This is what politicians spend more than half of their time actually doing:

– Someone comes up with an idea for a bill – i.e. an idea to change a law that governs Australia (it’s usually one of the parties but it can come from associations or other lobbyists)

– Generally the minister who is responsible for a particular portfolio presents a bill (although any member is allowed to).  The person gives notice that that idea is going to be presented at the next seating (basically a get together of parliament – i.e. a meeting!).  Obviously before they present it, they have to write a draft of the law.  For some reason I can’t find anywhere that actually details WHO does the writing…is it a lawyer, is it an analyst…who?  I don’t know…  ANYWAY…

– There are two “houses” of people who represent Australians.  Once’s called the Upper House/The Senate which is where the “Senators” live – once is called the Lower House – or as you may know it The House of Representatives.  The Lower House is the place where you vote in the government at the prime minister BUT it is not the house that actually has the final say.  The Senate does.  So to connect this all back to YOU:  on your voting card – the Green one was the one that you used to vote in people from your local area to the Lower House, and the white one,  you used to vote in representatives of your whole state to the Senate/Upper House.  Most people know the people on the Green card cos it’s their local area, but generally there’s less of an emotional connection to the white piece of paper – not to mention it takes an hour to fill in the preferences so most people just vote for a party instead of individuals and then let the party decide where to send the other preferences.  Often it’s much easier for smaller parties to get into the Senate than into the House of Reps.

– Alright so…off this bill (idea) goes – get’s presented generally first at the Lower House (House of Reps) although in some cases it can come the other way (unless its any money or tax related stuff).  And just to give you a sense of scale, government usually gets 200 of these proposals a year and about 80% of the actually end up becoming laws (or amendments to existing laws).  Anyway, at this first presenting of the bill, everyone gets a copy.

– No one chats about it or debates it this first time, it just gets presented.  Ministers and members of parliament then have time to go off, read it properly, do their own research, consult experts – basically do whatever they need to do to come to their own decision about whether they want to support it, reject it or amend bits and pieces of it.

– When they meet again, everyone votes in general on whether they want to run with it or not.  If it’s a yes, there’s a public enquiry into the bill and then an opportunity for members to discuss it all in detail, then there’s another vote and if it’s a goer – get gets passed on to the Senate.  The Senate then goes through basically the exact same process.  So they’re kind of like a second pair of eyes that I think tend to look at things from more of a national rather than local community perspective.

If there’s a bill introduced that fails to get through this WHOLE process TWICE, then the Prime Minister can ask the Governor General to “dissolve” both houses of parliament (hence the term “double dissolution”!) and then have another go at the election!

There have been 6 cases of double dissolutions since the federation was formed.  In one case, the bill was dropped, in 2 cases – the government who requested it in the first place lost their power and in 3 cases the the government “won”.  So that’s basically a 50/50 chance of getting back into power…let alone letting the bill pass through!  All in all, you’d need to be a betting man or woman to decide to call one I reckon.

So why would you want to call one?  Often this is if a party won because they won the majority in the House of Reps but didn’t get a majority in the Senate and so they’d call that a “Hostile Senate” – or basically a review panel that rejects the bills the are trying to pass.  BUT…I think to be strategic about it – you’d want to think about whether the bill you were trying to pass is actually worth the risk of a loss.

I think there’s two major reasons why the elected government loses at the time that they call a re-election:

1.  Usually it happens when they are trying to implement a key policy that they promised the people during an election campaign, which means it happens about 6 months after they get into government.  For the average citizen this isn’t enough time for that government to have proven itself or to have really made any positive changes based on their new governance.  It’s not long in government but its a long time in the real world – so people begin to have doubts about the governments ability to do its job and deliver what it promised those who voted for them.  Alternatively, the government has been in for a few elections, slowly losing ground and the re-election is called after 3 years, when perhaps the government hasn’t done as much as the people “thought” it would.

2.  They underestimate the gap between people’s  voting choice and their individual views on certain issues – so if the media reports (as they would) that the whole reelection is around a particular issue that perhaps is more contentious even between people who vote for a party, then people will be more attuned to that issue in particular in the reelection – i.e. they’ll vote almost based on whether or not they agree with that particular bill.  It’s a key psychological shift, but I reckon that’s what happens.

So with that in mind, it got me wondering – I know that yesterday by preferences, Liberals won by less than 6% (apparently that’s a lot in Australia) based on the votes of about 14 million Australians, and the biggest swing was toward independent parties – which showed that lots of Aussies just didn’t like either party but kind of didn’t get a choice since there wasn’t another big enough party in the contest.

So given that…it’s likely people probably disagree on a case by case basis with the actual policies being proposed, which also means there will be a more hostile senate because minor parties have been able to gain more seats than previously…which in turn means, there is more likely to be a scenario where bills get rejected by the Senate and that Tony Abbott will have the opportunity to ask the Governor General for a double dissolution.

And based on probably the biggest poll run in the country other than the election results themselves – run by the ABC, we can see what people’s views really are (regardless of how they actually voted).  Here they are, and my views on what will happen in parliament regardless of what the Australian people might personally prefer or think:

1.  Scrapping of the NBN:  Men are more likely to vote for liberal, but men are ALSO more likely to be interested in broadband/technology – which suggests to me that a dissolution called on the basis of the scrapping of NBN as currently planned could actually change the re-election results.

2.  Gay marriage: has majority support amongst both sides of voters (liberal and labor).  This hasn’t really been a major focus of the campaign – apart from Rudd saying he’d allow his party a conscience vote on it.  I think both sides should listen to the Australian people on this and call a referendum.  It should not be up to a government to decide this if there is support amongst the whole community because it suggests that community’s overall views are not being properly represented.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME VERDICT:  Bad for all Australians

3.  Asylum seeker policies: are highly divisive and as a result of Labors shift toward a protectionist stance, close to half of all Labor supporters disagreed with Labor on this, but ALSO disagreed with Liberals.  The further people live from the city, the more likely they are to want to turn back boats and given 68% of Aussies live in cities this suggests a high level of disagreement with both parties on the issue.  I think that given Labor and Liberals have aligned themselves on this one – regardless of the Australian population – I’d say any bill on this would get through both the house of reps and the senate.  Which is a shame as again the majority views on the subject are not being properly represented. POTENTIAL OUTCOME VERDICT:  Bad for all Australians

4.  Mining tax:  The majority of Australians actually want this! (59%)  So it’s kind of hilarious that this is was what got Ruddster kicked off his perch in the first place (when he should have called his own double dissolution as he was at the height of his popularity at that time).  The liberals are calling for mining tax CUTS despite what the majority of Aussie’s want.  The issue here is, again the Senate – because minor parties are more able to gain seats and Queensland holds a lot of them and I’d say in both Queensland and WA where mining is most prominent, people are much more likely to be “for” mining tax cuts in their industry.  Also now that The Clive Palmer Party (who has is a Billionaire mining magnate) holds three seats in the Senate and could be the deciding party if it was a vote for the tax cuts with the Liberal party, he would likely have significant power in that vote.  So I think the tax cuts will definitely make it through the Senate.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME VERDICT:  Bad for all Australians and particularly Greens voters

5.  Legalised voluntary euthanasia:  A whopping 75% (plus 10%) neutral – want this.  This wasn’t even an agenda with either party – I think perhaps because while people might vote for it privately…its not exactly an upbeat thing to talk about.  But I do hope there is a bill brought in to assist the government agenda and help it reflect the views of the people.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME VERDICT:  Bad for all Australians if a bill is not presented and even worse if its not approved

6.  Car Industry Support: No one in SA actually cares.  They don’t want their own industry supported and Liberals agree.  So I think this one will be a no brainer as I don’t see the Greens supporting Labor against cutting the support in the Senate.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME VERDICT:  Good for Australians and particularly Greens

7.  Climate change/Carbon Tax:  This one is a really interesting one because overall 61% of Aussie’s think more should be done for the environment.  Also women and young people are more likely to agree with the statement vs male/older people.  (but it feels like most people don’t think the Carbon tax is it – although I’m not sure how many people actually understand it).   So the Liberals want to get rid of the carbon tax (in effect, a negative action against the environment) – and this is the one that Liberals believe is most likely to receive a hostile response in the Senate because it was a deal that both Labor and Greens had already agreed on (although who knows how the Palmer United Party would vote on this…given that they’re in the mining biz – they’d likely side with the Liberals on this…although given how Clive has been treated during the election campaign he may have other plans!).  So anyway, assuming it went through twice and they were unable to get it through, and a double dissolution was asked for – and assuming Australian’s voted in the way of “for or against the tax” rather than for or against the party AND assuming that by that time the Labor had a strong opposition leader who was polling well, then Labor could win back the election. Let’s not also forget that 25% (500k) young people didn’t enrol to vote before this election.  And the number of new young people eligible to vote will go up.  We could assume they would be prompted to enrol if there was an issue at stake they were more likely to care about and the difference of another 200-300k voters plus 50k people will die of old age in that time too who may have been likely to vote “against” the tax.

However if there was no leader and there was significant media surrounding the tax and confusing people into thinking having it is a negative, then Liberals could win back their seats AND win back more of the Senate. Jury is out on this one.  I think there would be a 50/50 chance here.

POTENTIAL OUTCOME VERDICT:  Good for Australians, Good for Labor and Greens voters OR Bad for all Australians

Then its important to look at the likelihood of success to win IF you take into account how strong the hold on the house of Reps or the Senate was at the time the dissolution + re-election was called by the government.

The 1975 Double Dissolution I wont count because it was a requirement for Malcolm Fraser to do this after the Governor General dismissed Whitlam so it was not related to any bill.

Joseph Cook Called Dissolution (1914)
– Liberals:
HoR: 38 Senate: 7
– Labor:
HoR: 37 Senate: 11
1.25 years after 1st election
Abolish preferential employment for trade union members in the public service
Elected Party significantly defeated (it had been fairly neck and neck at the 1913 election anyway), bill not passed

Robert Menzies Called Dissolution (1951)
– Liberals: HoR: 74 Senate: 23
– Labor: HoR: 47 Senate: 19
CALLED: 1.5 years after 1st election
BILL IN QUESTION (1):  The creation of the Commonwealth bank board which opposition felt would mean private interests would influence bank decisions
OUTCOME: Elected Party returned and also won majority in senate, bill passed

Whitlam Govt Called Dissolution (1974)
– Liberals/NPA: HoR: 61 Senate: 46
– Labor: HoR: 66 Senate: 29
CALLED: 1 month after 1st election
BILL IN QUESTION (6):  Electoral bill (changing how electorates were divided) and same for Senate, Health insurance bill which would provide for creation of universal health insurance with Medibank – now known as medicare) and the establishment or a Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
OUTCOME: Elected Party returned but still no majority in the senate, bill did not pass

Fraser Govt Called Dissolution (1983)
– Liberals/Country Nationals: HoR: 74 Senate: 30
– Labor:  HoR: 51 Senate: 27
CALLED:  3 years after 3rd election
BILL IN QUESTION (12): A variety of Tax amendments, A social services amendment and amendments to tertiary education
OUTCOME: Elected Party lost, Challenger Won, bill did not pass

Hawke Govt Called Dissolution (1984)
– Liberals: HoR: 50 Senate: 16
– Labor: HoR: 75 Senate: 30
CALLED: 1 year after election
BILL IN QUESTION (1): Amalgamate all other govt ID systems to act against tax avoidance, health and welfare fraud
OUTCOME: Elected Party returned but still no majority in the senate, bill did not pass

Ok so…after all that research!!  Based on the above is seems that when a Double Dissolution has been called in the past:

A.  In 4 out of the 5 cases, the bill did not pass

B.  In 2 out of the 5 cases, the party who called the dissolution lost.  Where they did win, in 2 out of the 3 cases they still didn’t win majority in the senate, only in 1951 did the party win and get Senate majority.

C. Both Fraser and Menzies had the exact same majority number (74) in House of Reps and yet one lost, and the other won – which suggests deciding factors are about length of time in govt before the dissolution is called and also the issue itself.

So now lets look at this election IF we assume that a double dissolution is called on Carbon Tax within 6-12 months:

Tony Abbott Called Dissolution (est 2014)
– Liberals: HoR: 89 Senate: 33
– Labor: HoR: 57 Senate: 25 (+10 from greens on this issue) = 35
CALLED: 6-12 months after election
BILL IN QUESTION: Amendment to carbon tax to scrap whole program
PREDICTED OUTCOME: The situation is closest to the Fraser govt BUT, the timing is different.  I still say there’s a 50/50 chance of it going either way.  I think that if held 6-12 months after election, they would be reelected BUT they still wouldn’t get Senate majority.  If held in 3 years, they’d lose.

13 real policy ideas to help navigate Australia through to budget surplus + happy people!

So I took some time to read through the CIS report which you can read here.  I’ve taken half a day to study and research them and decide for myself whether I agree.  So hopefully this can benefit others who can’t be bothered spending half a day but can take a few minutes to read instead.  I’ve included links to my research sources where possible.

Here’s some really interesting take outs:

  • Australia’s welfare system accounts for 65% of government spending and has doubled over the last 10 years from $150 billion to over $300 billion.  A third of that goes to welfare cash payments (like Newstart, Family Allowance…etc) – most of which are more strongly means tested than other OECD countries – but current spending trends are unsustainable and contribute to ongoing dependence.
  • Close to half of all Australia’s welfare payments (over $150m) are accounted for by what is referred to as “welfare churn”, where an Australian (those of incomes higher than $18.2k per annum) pays taxes, and then those taxes come back to them as benefits – generally in kind benefits like education or health.
  • Between the ages of 15 and 55, an Australian’s benefits vs taxes is fairly even (even though it may not be happening at exactly the same time – e.g. students receive education benefits, but then pay for the next generation to receive those benefits with their taxes).  But after 55, there is a huge gap as taxes decrease significantly while welfare benefits increase significantly until the time of death.  This makes the policies around  welfare benefits to the growing ageing population one of the most crucial issues in the Australian Government’s budget.  It’s a $50 billion+ a year issue.  In comparison, that’s double Australia’s defense budget.

    Weekly value of total benefits and taxes

    Weekly value of total benefits and taxes

  • The biological essence of this issue – particularly over the next 20 to 30 years, is that Australians aren’t having enough babies who can grow up to get their own jobs and pay enough taxes so that the previous generation’s age cohort will be properly supported.  The population grew, but now its not replacing itself.  In terms of the environmental impacts of an ever growing world population, this is perhaps a positive, but in terms of the real experience of people living their lives in Australia right now and over the next 30 years (for example, people like me who will be 60 in 30 years), this is a serious problem.

Recommended policy changes


While there are some really great ideas for more progressive reforms, there’s a big problem with implementing them.  When you change a system that affects generations of people, there is a long period of time in which SOMEONE has to suffer…which means that reforms of that size never make it through parliament, or if they do – they come out the other end so changed that they can never have the effect that was intended – and if changed back by a new power in government, can due irreparable damage to the lives of people in had intended to help.

So, with that in mind, smaller changes, while not completely solving the dependency factor, can slowly reduce it and incentivise people to change over a long period of time, until such a time as major reforms are possible.

  1. Align the age at which someone can access their superannuation funds (60) with the age at which a person can apply for the pension (65) so that people don’t use the intervening 5 years to reduce their means-tested assets to the point at which they can benefit from the pension despite not necessarily qualifying for it 5 years earlier.
  2. Include a persons principal home as part of the means testing process for pensions, which will incentivise people to use their superannuation drawings to purchase income generating assets, rather than avoid them in order to qualify for the pension.
  3. Also link the age of retirement and access to super and pension, to life expectancy.  This is something the UK is considering.  To put this into context, Superannuation was introduced to Australia at a time by the Labor government when life expectancy at birth was 77.38 years.  In 2012, life expectancy at birth was 81.85 years.  That’s a difference of 4.47 years.  Now, I imagine this age would need to change based on the birth year of the child – or perhaps birth cohort of 10 years.  For instance, if 50 years from now, humans were living 50 years longer, it would make absolutely no sense for them to retire and be supported by the state for 50 years.  So if the age isn’t increase in line with life expectancy, then its up to the tax payers to bear the burden of the difference of X years.
  4. A more politically difficult item to implement would also be the limit index pensions to the Consumer Price Index.  Currently it is linked to both CPI and also the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) – whichever is higher.  The inherent problem I think being called out here is that if government spending on welfare increases at a higher rate than the CPI, then welfare earners spend more, thereby increasing their own Index, and of course since it will be higher than CPI, it will be used to define the exact amount of benefits…basically becoming a self-fulfilling cycle of increases that are instigated by government spending in the first place.  I’m not ENTIRELY sure my line of reasoning here is correct, but that’s what I’ve deduced.
  5. Aged care supports to be means tested just like every other welfare payment is.  So basically providing system consistency to ensure money goes to those who actually need it.


  1. Reducing tax churn for middle income earners – by ensuring that again, the benefits are delivered to the lower income families who need it most, but also that some of the savings made are distributed back to the middle and higher income tax payers.   Family Tax Benefits payments have two parts and were originally set up to support families with a stay at home parent.  Part A provides $100 per child per week for family’s with incomes under $75k and Part B provides lesser payments ($70 for kids under 5 and $50 for kids 5-18) for people with family incomes below $150k – so, helpful for anyone with a family earning between 76k and 150k per annum.  Now I wanted to double check this against Australian Poverty lines.  These obviously differ depending on whether you own your house outright and therefore don’t have to pay rent and also on how many children you have.  But line was set this month at $34k a year (Pre tax) for the 33% of Aussie’s who own their own home and have one child, and the line goes up to $79k (Pre tax) for those with 4 kids who don’t own their own home (although average number of kids is 2).  So I think it’s safe to say that households with a family income of $150k – which is more than double the income of a family living on the Australian poverty line, are not the ideal beneficiaries of the welfare system – they are better of having tax credits.  So based on my own research I would also conclude with the research paper that Part B could be phased out over time.   But I would add that Part A should be linked to the Poverty line index, so that as living standards change and the price of living increases, welfare benefit categories are seasonally adjusted.  Because I am sure the government brought the system in based on original poverty line figures…which inevitably change over time.  Based on the calculation of pre tax income, Part A should be increased to include family incomes up to $79k per year (where means testing shows they don’t own their property and have 4 children).
  2. Tony Abbott, Leader of the Liberal National Party Australia

    Tony Abbott, Leader of the Liberal National Party Australia

    The Liberal National Party’s plans to provide mothers with 26 weeks of wage replacement up to a maximum of $150k without means testing or a sliding scale of benefits based on income which the rest of our taxation and many other means tested systems are based upon.  This presents a significant financial concern.  Of course there are ways for empowering people to take paid leave and enjoy the beautiful time that all humans should enjoy in being a parent to a new child – without creating systems that contribute to welfare churn.  For instance, using a tax effective savings vehicle – where Australian’s are all provided with a way to save for education, health and new life creation (having babies!) in a particular savings account and if they do so, are taxed at a much lower rate (perhaps the effective tax saving difference based on welfare with- i.e. 30-40% rate saving – with the extra 15-20% kept to fund those who need it most).  People can then access these funds when they have children – or perhaps if they never do, they could access those funds after menopause??  That’s an interesting thought!  Childcare payments could then be reduced as people self funded time off to spend with their new or recently grown family.  Either way, the current Labor party’s child care benefits scheme is a more financially prudent policy.

  3. The report also suggests that for the above two items (and other family and child related welfare payments) there is benefit in reform across all of them.  The number of children you have is a major indicator of potential new costs, so the suggestion of replacing all these benefits with a non-means tested Child Tax Credit could be an option.  The issue I see there is that it provides more money for those who earn more and therefore pay more tax, and zero money for those who earn under $18.2k.  So, there would need to be some more thought put into how this could be achieved – particularly covering any transition period.  Would the tax credit happen as a part of someone’s weekly/fortnightly wage?  What of people who are paid monthly? Perhaps the tax credit could increase or decrease on a sliding scale based on income and then switch from a credit to welfare payments on the lower end of the scale?  I guess you’d need to do more modelling to check.
  4. CentrelinkThe other major component of welfare payments is within unemployment.  Interestingly 60-70% of people who take up Newstart move back to paid work within 1 year.  One proposal suggests people could use Personal Future Fund accounts to self fund this period…but I think this is a bit of a stretch.  That would require someone to have up to $40k in savings at any time JUST IN CASE they were unemployed for up to a year.  I think that Australian’s would find that a big stretch to agree to.  The other suggestion which I think makes more sense and is something Aussie’s are already familiar with, is to provide those who are recently unemployed with a loan amount that is paid weekly – but which must be paid back as soon as they start working and earning over a certain amount that would allow them to service the debt.  It works just like the HELP fee system so as not to disadvantage those who are unable to get paid work.  I think the debt would probably need to be capped at 1 years of benefits (given that is 70% of the cases anyway), because psychologically, the more someone felt they “owed” to the government, the greater the disincentive to find work because after 5 years they’d owe over $70k to the government which is 1/5 of a house loan – most humans would feel overwhelmed at that obligation.


  1. The Disability Support Pension was an interesting one.  I found this one difficult because there is so much complexity around physical and mental disabilities.  On the one hand there is a social etiquette which dictates we should avoid expecting the same from a disabled person as that of a normally abled person, on the other, there is much that an individual human can gain from positive and meaningful contribution to the workforce.  Of course the degree to which this is experienced is dependent on the individual, the type of disability and the severity.  Now ABS data shows that disabilities that begin in adulthood are most likely to occur in the 45-64 age bracket (prior to workforce retirement) – and those in the 55-64 bracket are the least likely to return to work.  At the moment the payments for DPS (Disability Support Pension) are not aligned to the objectives of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (which provides support for increased workforce participation).  The two programs are at odds – one provides the support, but the other does not require people to look for work in order to obtain benefits, so there is little incentive for someone to go and look for work – even if there is now a program structure to support it!  So by aligning the two – i.e changing the pension to require those with partial working capacity to seek out work, the aims of the NDIS can be carried out and the government can also save money on pension payments as a side benefit.  I think this is a good idea in principle, but it is a tricky one to means test by “working capacity” and might have the effect of causing public outrage – particularly in instances where there are people that may be physically partially able, but combined factors of mental preparedness and also workplace preparedness creates a difficult environment.


  1. Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens Party

    Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens Party

    On Primary education, Rudd government wants to spend more and Abbot wants to spend less or perhaps distribute the balance across primary/secondary and tertiary – both have an impact on the ability of future government expenditure and the ability to pull Australia out of deficit.  On the other hand, the Greens proposal to means test government funding to private schools just pisses off any parent who is currently sending their child to a private school and is unlikely to be a policy that Parliament would accept as a solution.  But that’s not to say the track isn’t right…it just needs to be presented as a change for all that provides new freedoms and opportunities…rather than a new disadvantage for some.  The idea proposed is that the amount of tax money used to pay a public funded school position is instead provided as a tax credit that can be used for education.  The credit could be capped based on the price of attending the closest local school.  Now this still effectively lowers potential benefits to parents with kids going to private institutions – but its much more difficult to compare since now the decisions are being made by the individual, not by the institution. The approach increases competition within schools and raises the bar for all, while still providing education within an essentially socialist framework.

  2. On tertiary education, the current FEE help system takes no account of the earning POTENTIAL of the degree being studied as a means of determining % of HELP assistance available.  For instance, the average earning potential of a teacher is $64k per year, the average earning potential of a lawyer is nearly double that at $123k.  Reforms suggest this earning potential could be used as a means of reducing or increasing government subsidies as needed.  My personal thoughts are that this is a good idea in theory but individual job types and associated incomes vary wildly within particular industries, there are hundreds of jobs, and in some sectors salaries stay relatively the same over time while others go up and down – meaning the system would at least need to be smart enough to cater for all of these intricacies.  Certainly not impossible in the IT age…but important to consider.  Also increased fees for higher earning potential jobs could effectively cut out students from lower income backgrounds.  So I think if the system were to work, it would also need to include family means testing as part of the equation of potential fee help.


  1. MedicareFirstly I think it should be noted there is probably not too many Australian’s out there who aren’t fans of the socialist style medical system we have here in Australia.  Americans would say we are very lucky.  However, if we accept that the point of such a system is to provide healthcare to those who can’t afford it (unlike US where without health insurance, you’re in a real bind), then just like everything else, a socialist system needs to be implemented in a balanced way.  And this means means testing it in the way that practically all other welfare benefits are implemented in Australia.Here’s the issue: because you don’t pay (or you receive a rebate) on visits to the doctor or purchases of prescription drugs, and the doctor and pharmacist don’t lose out either – the system encourages people to use it more, leading to more spending that may be unnecessary – particularly if the same result and levels of population health could actually be achieved for less.  In America, cost benefit analysis is used to make decisions on how to best decide which drugs or equipment to subsidise.  Many suggest that the better approach is another measure: Quality Adjusted Life Year – which is a measure that I think makes more sense for this area where the “cost” is money and the “benefit” is life verses death or disablement so its not as simple as money vs. less final life benefits!  On top of this, means testing as a method of ensuring health welfare benefits go to those who most need it vs. those who can afford health insurance and the price of a visit to the GP seems like a common sense approach.Ultimately, why should someone earning $75k or more get exact same government help on healthcare as someone earning $18k.   Logic would say…well they pay their taxes just like everyone else – so they should get the benefit right?  But if, similar to the other suggestions in the report around tax credits, a percentage of their taxes could be used to go directly to health insurance which was perhaps expanded to cover a % of GP visits depending on means tested income – this, with the savings gained from other welfare areas, could potentially cover costs without any major change for high income earners – making it a more palatable solution for the whole of the Australian public.  Regardless, I think this idea needs more work because our healthcare industry is highly complex and involves many more intricacies in comparison to other welfare areas.

Overall, I think the ideas presented a pretty good – the question is then about implementation.  Change of this type in too many areas at once is not only difficult to achieve, it scares the population into thinking the government is cutting stuff willy-nilly because most people don’t have half a day to spend going through and really thinking deeply about exactly what the proposed reforms mean like I just did today!  So focusing on just one or two areas that would have the biggest impact as part of an election campaign I think would be the maximum that the Australian public could psychologically handle.

On a final note, what I found so interesting about all of this, was that the Australian governments policy attitude toward Indigenous Australians, is actually reflective of its policy attitude to ALL Australians.  Its paternalistic in nature.  But paternalism disguised as public generosity won’t save future Australians from having to deal with the fall out of policy decisions that drive our budget into further deficit, particularly as Australia’s population ages.

Lack of political education killing true Australian choice

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting

I don’t understand why in America you don’t have to vote but you are required to learn about politics in school. In Australia you are not required to learn about politics in school but you are required to vote.  And yet the BIGGEST impact a free citizen can have on the outcomes of their country is an informed vote.

Surely if a system places such value on the equality of each citizens opinion that they would force each person to provide their opinion – then that system should be equally interested in informing those citizens about how the system they are a part of works.

Now, I am not saying that the US education system should be copied, nor am I saying that there is no education about politics in Australian schools.  What I am saying is that there is no national standardardised implementation of the study and I see this as a major gap and one of the likely reasons that many Australians profess not to understand how our preferential voting system works.

One of my good friends put this really well in a recent Facebook post:

 The absolute unbiased truth: Vote for minor parties if they represent your values best. Vote for whoever represents your values best. We have a preferential system where YOU choose where your vote goes, all the way through the preferences and it passes on at full value.

In a seat which is a fight between Liberal and Labor the only thing that matters in terms of who wins the seat is which comes first out of those two parties on your ballot paper. They can be last and second last and which ever one is second last will still get your vote AT FULL VALUE. Voting a minor party as 1 sends a message to the old parties that they are not representing your values, and it gives funding to the minor party of your choice WITHOUT HAVING ANY IMPACT ON WHO WINS THE SEAT.”

So…back to the issue of education.  When I was in high school you were able to choose politics as a subject in Year 11 and 12, but it definitely wasn’t “required” like maths or science. And perhaps the only other time it was mentioned was in a couple of SOSE classes in year 8.

In 2014,  the Australian government will bring in required studies of Civics and Citizenship from Years 3 to 10 (http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum_1/learning_areas/humanities_and_social_sciences/civics_and_citizenship.html).  That’s a huge step forward.  But am I the only one thinking…where the hell is the requirement for study in Year 11 and 12?  So right when most Aussie’s turn 18 and are being asked to now provide their opinion on the governance of their country, most of them haven’t even thought or been in a class on it in 2 years.  That’s a lifetime to a young person!!

It also brings up the question of how much influence any government in power should have over the creation of the curriculum.  This whole curriculum has been created while the Labor government was in power.  What does this mean for the neutrality of the information presented to young minds of the future?

It’s almost like the “ideal” scenario is that there is a third party/non affiliated with the government or other association that actually writes that part of the curriculum. Because science, maths, english are fairly solid in terms of their interpretation and application: But history is written by the conqueror and politics is defined by those in power.

So…what of those of us who are voting in the Australian Elections this Saturday?  Those of us who missed out on essential information that governs our potential to have positive or meaningful participation in the system that has been chosen to manage the country they live in?

Many Australians are talking about their apathy toward both parties, but with the 2 major parties having $64 million and $67 million in campaign backing verses $1m backing to the next viable party – the average Australian without any particular interest in politics is simply bombarded with two choices: Labor or Liberals.  And no thanks to US Billionaire Rupert Murduch who owns 70% of Australian media, they are getting even less of a choice by being presented with editorial content in newspapers across the country as if it were news.

Without unbiased, consistent education – no society (no matter how intelligent its people) can be expected to make an informed voting decision on country governance.  I just hope that in 2023/2024 – when those in grade 3 next year turn 18, they’ll be able to make better decisions than the rest of us this year.