Category Archives: Australian Politics

It’s Time For Change, And You Can Help Us Make History!

It’s hardly a state secret that the current political establishment does not primarily exist to serve the people. Somehow, our system of representative democracy has gone badly astray, with our elected representatives serving their parties and their donors ahead of their actual employers – the people of Australia.

This can’t be right. Why do we just accept that we should pay for large salaries and generous pensions so that politicians can devote all the hours of their days to simply staying in power? Or even worse, to staunchly defending beliefs and ideologies that are no longer relevant to today’s Australia? Why is it that we simply sit and watch as progressive programs with broad public support are gutted to placate the anxieties of a militantly conservative minority? Why do we seem to just accept the idea that big business, big donors and party backers can and will run our country to serve their own interests?

I’d say it’s because there hasn’t really been an alternative. Well now there is. The Nick Xenophon Team is all about changing the way politics is carried out in Australia. We think that Australians deserve representatives who weigh issues on their merits, who make decisions based on evidence and consultation and who understand that their primary job in Canberra is to serve the interests of ordinary Australians.

I’m an ordinary Australian, and I firmly believe that we can make this change happen. But I need your help. I don’t have a massive party machine behind me, or big corporate donors. If we want to take back the government of Australia, I’m going to need your help.

If you’d like a candidate who:

  • Believes in equality for all,
  • Believes in evaluating issues on evidence rather than ideology,
  • Believes that government should be directly accountable to its, citizens,
  •  And believes that her only job as an MP is to fight for the interests of her constituents,

Please help us to help you by making a donation here, or by clicking on the ‘donate’ button at the top right of this page. It doesn’t matter if it’s ten dollars or a hundred – every little bit helps, and every cent of the money we receive will go towards putting the ‘representative’ back into representative democracy.

Refugees: Why Should We Care?

For some time now, the discussion about refugees and asylum seekers and what to do about them has been dominating the public conversation. Even before the current human catastrophe that is Syria, much of our political dialogue was focused on refugees and boat arrivals. It’s disappointing to me that most of this dialogue has consisted of little more than rhetoric – from the toxic rhetoric of the “stop the boats” days, to the frankly unrealistic advocacy of open borders, there hasn’t so much been a conversation on this issue as there has been a shouting match.

Well, call me old fashioned, but in my opinion it’s impossible to resolve anything without resorting to that quaint political device we used to call “discussion”. For as long as people are simply shouting past each other, we can expect a future of wild swings between hard line and laissez faire policy, with some of the most vulnerable people in the entire world caught helplessly in the middle.

The militancy of all sides of politics on the issue of refugee policy has been deeply unhelpful. I think that our representatives have failed us on this front. So it’s up to the people to make up their own minds and, later this year, vote accordingly. In order to help with this, I’m gathering a panel of experts on the issue to have a discussion and take questions so that, at the very least, the electorate of Warringah can make up their own minds based on real information rather than partisan slogans. Phil Glendenning, President of the Refugee Council of Australia, will be speaking, as well as prominent human rights lawyer Claire Hammerton and others.

If you’d like to come along to this free event, we’re holding it at the Seaforth Anglican Community Hall, 3 Frenchs Forest Road, Seaforth, at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday the 31st of March.

Register for your free ticket here.

We really look forward to seeing you at what is sure to prove an interesting and informative discussion.

 

Safe Schools Should Be Kept Safe From Ideology

As a frontline mental health professional, I am dismayed to see the Safe Schools Program come under review for what appears to be no good reason. From my perspective the program is effective. It’s been accepted – even embraced – by educators and mental health practitioners across a full spectrum of views as a sensible way to protect children from psychological and physical harm.

Claims that the program is designed to promote homosexuality as an attractive lifestyle are irrational. One can only make a claim like this by deliberately misconstruing the content and purpose of Safe Schools, and by wilfully failing to understand the most basic elements of adolescent psychology. No child in their right mind actually wants to be excluded from their peers. In adolescence, it’s true, many children begin to experiment with ways to more or less defiantly proclaim their individuality. This is a period of testing the waters – finding the boundaries of just how much of their inner worlds will be accepted by the world at large. It’s vitally important for full and rounded personal development that these experiments be conducted in a safe environment.

As a mental health practitioner I’m frequently presented with children or young people going through the process of understanding themselves. It’s confronting to say the least – issues of shame, fear, not belonging and not even knowing how to process feelings of difference put them at odds with themselves. And by far the most common emotion that my clients present with is terror. They are terrified by the dawning realisation that they are somehow fundamentally different from the majority of their peers.

Safe Schools provides resources to help cope with this but, most importantly, it sends the message that society – our society – is fully accepting of the idea that they’re normal and valuable and that they have a right to be accepted. Some of the language being used in this discussion is undermining this. The damage that can be done by giving a young person the impression that society does not want them is incalculable. And it’s made worse when this idea appears to come from some of our nation’s leaders.

The ideological attack dogs of the right have used some very immoderate language on this issue. Some of the rhetoric being used has come very close to condemning homosexuality as somehow perverse or wrong, which I suppose is one way to turn the clock back. Despite the admirable position of MPs like Warren Entsch, who has stood up for Safe Schools and its intended users, Canberra’s antics have potentially done huge damage to the mental health of highly vulnerable youth.

Ultimately, the Safe Schools Program is a declaration of support for each and every child’s right to be. The existence of such a program can literally mean the difference between life and death for some of our most vulnerable youth. Apparently there are some people who wish to return to the dark old days when certain kinds of love dare not speak their name. Underpinning all this heavily rationalised, disingenuous “concern” about Safe Schools is the simple wish to turn back the clock to a time that never really existed. An idealised country of the past, where the socially and psychologically corrosive effects of repression are lost in the soft focus lens of nostalgia.

Safe Schools is about clearly advocating inclusion and tolerance. It’s about protecting vulnerable youth throughout their navigation of the formative and early social years of their lives. To attempt to excise it simply because we aren’t comfortable with the subject matter is social engineering at its very worst.

 

Marriage Equality

I support marriage equality.

For me, it’s a simple matter of having equal rights before the law. We say that all of us are equal regardless of sexual orientation, but a significant inequality exists in the law. Which means until we fix that, we’re simply lying.

It may surprise many of you to learn that we once came very close to having marriage equality in this country, and it was some time ago. By 2004, various countries (notably the UK) had legalised same-sex marriage through a variety of means. It was pointed out that our marriage law (Marriage Act 1961) did not actually define marriage at all, and that there was a potential for marriage equality to spring fully formed from within the structure of our existing laws.

The government at the time felt this to be unacceptable and an amendment was proposed by the then Attorney General Philip Ruddock. A bit from an exhortation later in the bill was copied and pasted into the top as a definition. It contained the key words “man” and “woman” and was described by the Hon Alastair Nicholson, former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, as “one of the most unfortunate pieces of legislation that has ever been passed by the Australian Parliament”.

I agree with him. There is simply no logical reason to oppose marriage equality. So, that being said, the only reasonable course is to support it.

[Image Ludovic Bertron]

Australian Made and Owned

Let me kick off by saying that I am no kind of protectionist. I firmly believe that foreign trade is the basis of the wealth of nations in general, and of the wealth of Australia in particular. It is one of the core duties of government to encourage and facilitate trade as far as is consistent with the national interest.

And there’s the nub. As far as is consistent with the national interest. Not the party interest, or the donor interest – the national interest.

And with this national focus in mind, we can see that the idea of Australian made and owned goes far beyond our individual choices in the supermarket. It has to do with how we regulate the sale of key assets, how we juggle the need to encourage foreign investment with the duty to control foreign ownership, how we reconcile competing demands between jobs growth, national security and wealth creation and how we regulate the spending of one of the biggest consumers in the country – the government.

It’s my firm belief that the following ideas are neither regressive nor radical. They’re just sensible.

  • Australian government procurement should prioritize tenders from Australian companies, where available.
  • The sale of key assets to foreign governments and corporations should be strictly controlled both by law and by other measures that make it more profitable and attractive to sell within Australia.
  • The sale of large government assets in the pursuit of short term capital gain is generally a terrible idea, especially if we’re selling those assets overseas.
  • The current rush to sell off our ports, dairies, mines and infrastructure is underpinned by ideology far more than it is by economics, and is setting our feet firmly on the road to significant future pain.

On a smaller but no less important scale, Australian businesses selling good quality products at reasonable prices should not have to compete with foreign conglomerates dumping shonky goods onto our markets at prices well below the benchmark. With a market as relatively small as ours, product dumping is a real threat, and it is the government’s job to be alert to it. It can be of little consolation to the failed Australian business to know that it was edged out of the market in order to sweeten a deal with a major party donor’s multinational company.

I believe in the free market. I really do. But what I do not have is a cultish belief in the mystical ability of laissez faire capitalism to self-level in a way that is automatically equitable.

Or, to put it another way – free markets are not automatically fair markets, and it’s government’s job to ensure that they are both.

 

Council Amalgamations in Warringah

When I first heard about Mike Baird’s plan to amalgamate and improve NSW councils, I was vaguely interested and largely non-committal. Just like everyone else. But then the new year started and, in a transparent attempt at stealth, the proposed configuration for the amalgamation of councils in the Manly/Warringah area was pushed out in the traditional “taking out the trash” period of the holidays. On Twelfth Night, in fact.

If the proposers of the plan were hoping that this would help it slip under the radar, they couldn’t have been more wrong. The people of Warringah were not only paying attention – they were paying close attention. They read those parts of the KPMG report that were grudgingly drip fed to the public. And the Dollery report. And the IPART Assessment. And they’ve come to a conclusion that I wholeheartedly agree with. The splitting of Warringah LGA and the absorption of Mosman make no sense whatsoever.

Most of the people I’ve spoken to have declaimed bitterly about this being some sort of Liberal Party gaming – a way to ensure that local government is locked in for Liberal aligned Councillors. Now, the law teaches us that it’s very difficult to prove either collusion or coercion, so all I’ll say about that particular theory is that it seems to fit the facts. But one thing that is absolutely unequivocal is the opposition of the people of Warringah to this form of the scheme.

Council Amalgamations
With crowds like this, there can be very little real doubt as to what Warringah actually wants.

The first public meeting I went to was in North Curl Curl. It was a Friday night, the weather was atrocious and the hall was basically a sauna. And more than 200 people were there. Last night, I was at the Forestville RSL, where a conservative estimate for attendance would be 600 people. Some 200 attendees were forced to stand outside, which meant that part of the address ended up being al fresco. At the conclusion of the meeting, a unanimous vote was carried in favour of one Northern Beaches Council and against the splitting of Warringah LGA and the assorted silliness that goes with that.

There is only one conclusion that can be formed. The people of Warringah do not want the amalgamation in its current form. This has been made resoundingly, abundantly clear. So now we have a perfect test for the reigning political elites. Do they actually listen to the people? Are the wishes of the people who voted them in their most important consideration? Only time will tell.

One thing I can immediately say, however, is that if I were the Federal MP for Warringah, I would still be at these meetings, and still backing the will of the people of Warringah. As I understand it, that would be my job.

Politics in the Pub

Every month, my team and I head on down to a few of the local pubs and invite members of the community to come down and tell us what they want for Warringah and from their Federal MP.

The last couple of times we did this, it was a highly rewarding experience. Supporters and members of the local community came down and we had a great discussion about what we saw as the key issues for the people of Warringah.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

It’s no secret that house prices in our electorate are significantly above the national average. Leaving aside the direct long term effects of having a wildly over-priced housing market, it was pointed out that there are many ripple effects that have a direct impact on quality of life. We want to look at ways to try to protect private housing from the increasing commodification of the market. We firmly believe that it’s possible to do this while also protecting the investments of those who have already purchased property. There must be a middle way.

CHILDCARE

It’s becoming abundantly clear that current provisions for childcare for working parents are simply not working. It cannot possibly be that difficult to create a fair, equitable and effective system for the provision/subsidy of childcare. If we want greater participation in the workplace, as well as higher birth rates, then we have to do better in this area. We’d like to talk to people about their experience with pre-existing models for childcare and daycare to help us form ideas for a new model, and to evaluate existing and proposed models.

THE ENVIRONMENT

This is a no-brainer really. As a beaches resident, I share the deep-rooted, practically Pavlovian impulse to protect our natural environment, both at a local and a national level. I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the fragmentation and politicization of environmental protection and conservation programs. We want to talk to people about their experiences with environmental protection – how it affects their lives for better or for worse, and what locals see as environmental priorities for Warringah.

The next Politics in the Pub is on Wed 3rd Feb 2016 at the Ivanhoe Hotel, Manly.

An Independent Warringah

Warringah has always been a unique and independent part of Sydney. With its own distinct culture and environment, our sunny beaches, verdant northern reaches and wide open spaces have been reflected in our values of generosity, openness and optimism.

We believe that the majority of the people of Warringah want to be part of a country that is compassionate, inclusive and truly democratic. We believe that the people of Warringah are far more interested in the sensible and efficient running of the nation than they are in being sold a political ideology. We believe that the people of Warringah want a member who understands that our vision of the future is driven by aspiration rather than anxiety, and common sense rather than fear.

Party politics has overtaken these ideas, leaving the community behind. What matters to us has essentially been hijacked by an agenda that is determined without real reference to our community. I want to be an independent voice for Warringah at a Federal level. The people of Warringah deserve a member who will focus on the issues that matter to them, from transport to housing affordability to childcare, amongst others.

I want to implement a sensible, non-partisan approach that works in the best interests of the people who actually live in this community. I firmly believe that policy makers should be embedded in same world as those for whom they are making policy.

The Politics of Disruption

One of the big buzz words in business and innovation in the past few years has been ‘disruption’. In recent times, any and every invention, new business model or new technology has at some point attracted the disruption label, often without any real understanding of what the concept actually means.

That aside, the theory of disruption is a still a worthy one, and the thinking behind it has been vindicated again and again in recent times. There is one key element of disruption theory that I think is especially relevant to the current state of Australian politics, and it has to do with over specialisation.

Basically what happens is that a long running business follows what the theory calls a ‘sustaining arc’. What this means is that, over time, the business evolves to service its most influential, powerful or profitable consumers. A good case in point is the smart phone. Initially a disruptive innovation, smart phone providers have evolved to service the business and large enterprise market. Because of this, we now have a situation where it is normal for individual consumers to purchase a $1200, fully networked, multi-platform, multi-frequency communications device when what they really want is to make and take calls and post pictures of meals and cats to Instagram. In reality, the average requirements of an individual user can be achieved with a generic unit costing around $200.

In the case of politics, I believe that a similar ‘sustaining arc’ has been followed. The major political parties and the institution of government in general have evolved to primarily service the needs of its most influential, powerful and, unfortunately, profitable ‘consumers’. This means that a politician from a major party naturally has a list of priorities that goes something like this:

  1. The party executive
  2. Major donors
  3. Powerful lobbying or commercial interest groups
  4. The ordinary people of Australia

It would be both unhelpful and inaccurate to imply that any of this has anything to do with corruption. The simple fact is that this is a natural evolution brought about by the nature of the political system as it stands today. The fact that it’s natural and understandable, however, does not mean that it’s acceptable. It cannot be considered acceptable that the government of a democratic nation is pursued with little or no reference to the ordinary people who live in it.

Fortunately, the very fact that this is a democratic nation means that something can be done about it. I want to do that something. In theory, anybody can step up and have a say in how this country is run, and it is this proposition that I intend to test to its fullest limits. It must surely be possible for an ordinary citizen to stand up and do their part to re-write the narrative of Australian politics so that the people of Australia are once again a major character in it. It must surely be possible to disrupt the current sustaining arc of government and, at least in one electorate, create a model that prioritises the voters that, at the end of the day, are the primary source of any mandate to govern.

Lets find out, shall we?