Making Parliamentary Democracy More Democratic

Here, Josh Bornstein provides a pretty thorough description of the undermining of parliamentary democracy as we know it in Australia.

There are 2 glaring omissions.

First, the significance of the "intervention" against the wishes of most First Nations communities and, the associated determination of the government to not respect the proposals of the Uluru Statement that would enhance constitutional power for First Nations peoples.

Second, the failure of parliamentary democracy to make its central institution a safe place for women that, in turn, reflects the failure to change the reality that over 50% of the population - women and children - are not safe at home or going to and from work.

For those of us who are on the left - including to the left of the Labor Party and the Greens - it is essential to clarify what is it about "liberal democracy" (as Stan Grant describes it) or "parliamentary democracy" that creates its own crises.

The reality is that there are some aspects of the anti-vax, anti-lockdown criticisms of democracy as we know it that are valid. The government as a part of the "state" has systematically undermined the quality and standard of living of the majority for 3 decades or so, all the while acting democratically in the interests of the most wealthy and the most powerful.

We have to say what it is about parliamentary democracy that should be defended and also what reforms would make it more democratic than it has ever been by putting more governing power into the hands of ordinary people.

The anti-corruption proposal can and should be included but is really not adequate for what is needed to tackle the big crises of our times that create the second level of crises in child care, aged care and much in between.

Parliamentary democracy definitely makes sure that there is precious little democracy in workplaces and industries. Tackling that is a priority, even though it may mean less "freedom" for the owners of the most powerful corporations. Yet, in reversing climate change with a rapid and continuous "just transition" that decarbonises our lives, we know that corporations (and their dictatorial control over wealth) cannot be trusted to invest anywhere near enough on the projects that are needed and often proposed by the people.

In the operation of parliament and governance by the people, the defence of universal suffrage and compulsory voting is essential, as is the prevention of gerrymanders with one vote one value.

There are a range of other ideas that should be part of the democratic reform programme: for example, the right to recall MPs and Senators who are failing their voters and, limited tenure of office.

At the moment we do not have a process to work out such a programme ... with one exception. In the preparations for the great Uluru Convention that produced the Uluru Statement First Nations peoples applied the most democratic process for peoples participation in making the event and the outcome so credible. We, the majority, could learn much from that outstanding example.

In the struggles since colonial occupation to define the centrality of the people in our limited democracy, socialists and communists have a proud record. We need to step up again.

Note: I am using this short commentary on Josh Bornstein's article and my recent reading of articles by Stan Grant and Jess Hill to put out a longer discussion about the major issues. We on the left should not just express our concern and oppose the anti-vax, anti covid restrictions demonstrations. Their demand for "freedom" is a hankering for a past in which there has not been much "freedom" and looks for a heroic individual to impose his / her rescue plan for that past. A programme that makes democracy even more democratic in all fields of life is essential to defeating this far-right, dangerous populism.

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