democracy

About political parties

These pages are to promote critical discussion about the various political parties and organisations whic operate on the Australian political landscape. They will particularly focus on parties which to varying degrees stand opposed to, or, at least, purport to stand opposed to the iniquitous, corrupt and unsustainable status quo, rather than on those which openly support that status quo such as the Liberal Party and the Nationals. The former category includes the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Democrats, the Greens, the Southern Cross party, One Nation and various far left groups including the Socialist Alliance and the recently revamped Communist Party of Australia. Whilst it is clear that all of these organisations purporting to stand for something better than what we now have are flawed, if not altogether corrupt, it would be a mistake to conclude that political parties will necessarily turn out thus and that operating as an independent is the only possible guarantee against becoming corrupt. The only way that we stand to change society for the better is to act in concert to achieve a common political goal. By definition as soon as this begins to occur then individuals can be said to be acting as a political party. The political party which eventually will emerge to meet the dire challenges facing our society will, in all liklihood, be comprised of individuals emerging from all of those parties as well as many currently unaligned individuals. Even the possibility of an existing political organisation such as the Greens becoming transformed into that new political party should not be altogether ruled out. Please feel encouraged to contribute your thoughts to the discussion whether or not you are a member of any of these organisations if you share our essential goals.

BREAKING: Facebook is stopping Australians from joining their unions. This is happening RIGHT NOW.

Facebook’s news ban has just hit the Australian Unions website.

This means that workers cannot join their unions via our website if it is posted on Facebook.

This is a disgraceful attack on Australians’ right to join a union and a serious undemocratic act of censorship.

Facebook already has a record of empowering anti-union corporations with tools to de-unionise and undermine workers’ rights – for example, last year they gave employers the power to blacklist terms like “unionise” from their Facebook pages.

You can fight back against big tech’s anti-democratic, anti-worker actions by joining your union and passing this email and QR code onto others who are not yet members.

Facebook’s attempts to quash workers’ organising won’t stop us. We know that thousands of Australians just like you won’t let their right to join a union be taken away by big tech.

It’s only by taking direct, immediate action together that we will be able to send a message to the Facebook bosses: no matter how hard they try to stop us, working people will always stand together against massive corporate interests.

Fight back against Facebook. Join your union right now.

In solidarity

Australian Unions

(Earlier version of) Policies that should be put to voters at the forthcoming Australian Federal elections

The article below is a copy of the . That earlier version is to be substantially modified. The layout will be somewhat changed. Some content will be added and some of the original content will be modified. That updated version will be at the same location, previously pointed to by other links. It will include a link back to this page. That article, in turn, had been adapted from (5/6/2016).

In the forthcoming Australian Federal elections to be held on 11, 18 or 25 May, the choice of candidates should include candidates who support policies that would attempt to preserve and, where possible, improve our quality of life. Such a candidate, if elected, would begin trying to rectify the harm that has been done in recent years to global peace and stability, our natural environment, civil rights and our quality of life, by corporations, NGOs and governments - federal, state and local. We believe such a candidate would support the policies listed below. We intend to ask each candidate standing for each House of Representatives seat and for each of the 12 Senate seats for each state, whether he/she supports, or is opposed to each of the policies. : Send a contingent of Federal Police to fly to London, go to the Ecuadorian embassy and escort Julian Assange back to Heathrow Airport and thence back to Melbourne Airport. What British government authority would dare obstruct Australian Federal Police who are clearly acting to uphold the law and to end such a cruel denial of basic human rights?

Depending on that candidate's response or lack of response, in comparison to the responses of the other candidates, you can then decide, whether or not to give him/her your first, second or subsequent preference.

Whilst it may be difficult for such candidate to win a seat, particularly in the House of Representatives, against the immense money and resources of the major parties, it should still be possible, through the use of Internet resources, such as this site, , to greatly lift the profiles of the policies listed below and of those candidates who support those policies. Even many voters who will still be voting for the major party candidates will most likely still agree with many of the policies listed below. A high vote for candidates who support these policies should help spur debate amongst the rank-and-file of those parties about these policies.

Please feel encouraged to ask each candidate seeking your vote will he/she try to implement such policies if elected and post any responses below.

There are 56 policies in all. They are divided into the sections: , , , , , , , , , and .

In the Australian Federal elections to be held some time next month in May 2019, voters who would like to see any one of the policies listed below implemented, are entitled to know whether each candidate asking for his/her vote will, if elected, try to implement that policy. We intend to ask each candidate, including the sitting member, his/her intentions should he/she be successful. Each response, or lack of response, will be posted here, to . Please feel encouraged to express your views about these proposals as comments or, should we make that feature available, to vote for or against them.

Effective " id="governmentParticipation">government participation in the economy

1. The scrapping of the 1993 (a.k.a. the "Hilmer Report") (pdf ) and its neo-liberal economic prescriptions of privatisation and deregulation.

2. " id="governmentOwnedEnterprises">Government owned enterprises: Seek to establish government owned enterprises in all significant sectors of the economy where they don't already exist: insurance, banking, real estate, funeral services, car retail, car hire, passenger airlines, buses, rail, sea, road and air freight, mining, tourism, supermarkets, and other retail outlets, etc.

3. " id="rebuildManufacturing">Rebuild manufacturing: Re-build a large Australian manufacturing sector through (1) the establishment of government-owned manufacturing enterprises and (2) tariffs to protect private manufacturing companies from unfair overseas competition;

4. " id="sovereignControlOfWealth">Sovereign control of Australia's wealth: Outlaw the sale of Australian land, natural resources and built resources to non-citizens. Long-term leases to foreign corporations also to be forbidden.

5. " id="endPrivatisation">Public audit of previous privatisations: Privatisations to be publicly audited. Past privatisations to be audited include Telstra (formerly Telecom), Medibank Private, the Commonwealth Bank and state banks, public transport, insurance, the Port of Melbourne, electricity and water. Members of the public and interested groups be invited to make submissions. Conduct a public audit of all privatisations since 1983 including the recent sale of the Port of Melbourne. Establish the costs to the community of these privatisations of these privatisation as opposed to the benefits;

6. " id="endCorporatisation">End corporatisation of government enterprises and reverse existing corporatisations: Corporatisation is generally understood to be the first step towards outright privatisation. One past corporatisation is that of Australia Post. Australia Post could be made to resume its past charter which required it to provide training, career structure, job security, decent wages to employees, good service to the public and not just to achieve the maximum financial profit. Where applicable, the charter of government-owned services and infrastructure should also include protection of the environment.

7. " id="publicInquiryInto5g">Public inquiry into the health effects of 5G Wi-Fi networks Many scientists have warned that electromagnetic transmissions in the projected Australia-wide 5G network which are which is 100 times faster than the current 4G network . Introduction of 5G Wi-Fi trransmission must be halted until we are sure that it won't adversely affect our health. If it is shown that 5G is harmful, then it should be scrapped and fibre-optic cable used instead (or satellite transmission where fibre-optic networks can't be laid).

7. " id="broadbandInternetAccess">Access to broadband Internet to be made a right for every Australian citizen: In all urban regions every residence should have access to fibre-optic cable. In remote communities, access could be through satellite communication.

8. " id="freeSocialnetworks">Free Internet social networks: The government seek to establish alternatives to Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube. These social networks are to respect the privacy of their users and be transparently administered. Rather than being funded by advertising, these services should be funded by general revenue. (Given that YouTube offers to remove advertising for an annual fee, it surely stands to reason that many Australia Internet users would be prepared to pay through the taxation system to be free of advertising.)

9. " id="openSource">Open-source software: Promote the use of free open-source software by (1) requiring all government and statutory authorities to use the open-source Linux operating system and open-source applications such as the suite in place of the Microsoft Office Suite and (2) Establish a public fund to adequately remunerate Australian producers of open-source intellectual property including software.

10. " id="smallBusinessPremises">Premises for small business: Acquire or build suitable premises for use by retailers, food producers and other small businesses. Rents and charges should be affordable and not a barrier to capable people being able to set up their own businesses;

">Sustainability

11. " id="reduceMigration">Reduce migration: Reduce Australia's net migration to zero. Net migration should remain at zero at least until such time as we can know that no other native Australian animal is threatened with extinction because of the loss of its habitat to accommodate newcomers. [1] Require the Victorian government to dismantle the "" web-site as immigration is a federal, and not state, responsibility. See ">Foreign Policy on refugees;

12. " id="stopClearingNativeForests">Stop the clearing of native forests: Whether for throw-away paper products or building products, the logging of native forests be outlawed. Only timber from plantations can be used;

13. " id="stopKillingNativeWildlife">Stop the killing of native wildlife: Outlaw the killing of native Australian wildlife. Re-build destroyed forests and grasslands and repopulate them with the native species which previously lived in those regions or else similar species where those species are extinct;

14. " id="reusableBevarageContainers">Reusable beverage containers: require that all beverages be stored in standardised reusable beverage containers for which refunds are to be paid. [2] Refunds for the smallest beverage containers should be no less than 50c. Refunds for larger beverage containers should be more. Outlaw the use of throw-away drink cans;

15. " id="recycleOrganicwaste">Recycle organic waste: Organic waste to be recycled as garden compost or in larger specially built organic waste recycling sites. If organic waste is to be collected it must be sent to those organic waste recycling sites possibly in conjunction with recyclable green waste;

16. " id="eliminateWastefulPackaging">Eliminate wasteful packaging: Impose a tax on the volume of any packaged goods to provide an incentive to eliminate wasteful packaging that adds to the quantity of landfill at garbage tips. (Note, this, in conjunction with the previous policy could reduce the quantity of garbage and (supposedly) recyclable waste to close to zero.

17. " id="compostingToilets">Composting Toilets: Composting toilets to replace toilets requiring sewerage outfall. Government to create incentives for the use of composting toilets in preference to toilets with sewer outage. Ultimately sewerage systems to be decommissioned.

18. " id="stopBuiltInObsolescence">Stop built-in obsolescence: Outlaw the deliberate manufacture of artifacts to break, wear down prematurely or to fail due to lack of spare parts and outlaw the importation of such artifacts. Where planned obsolescence can be proven it should be taken by our law enforcement as proof of a criminal conspiracy to defraud members of the public;

19. " id="localProductionAndConsumption">Local production and consumption: Encourage the local production and consumption of all food and artifacts. Reduce the need for importation from overseas and transport over long distances;

20. " id="communityFoodGardens">Community Food Gardens:Facilitate the establishment of community fruit and vegetable gardens. Produce from such gardens could be exchanged or sold at local markets(see next point);

21. " id="communityMarkets">Community Markets:Facilitate the establishment of local markets on common land where anyone can, for a small charge, set up a stall to sell or exchange fruit, vegetables, other prepared food and artifacts;

22. " id="relocalisation">Relocalisation: Work premises for the public service or government statutory authorities to be relocated close to where people live. Private sector to be encouraged to do the same. Over time this will reduce the need for cars, public transport and roads and should allow most to cycle or walk to work;

Providing for " id="basicNeeds">Basic Needs

Basic needs: " id="fullEmployment">Full employment in secure and fulfilling occupations

23. " id="jobGuarantee">Job guarantee: Federal government guarantee a job to everyone not employed by the private sector, local or state governments.

24. " id="fullEmploymentAndEquity">Full employment and equity: Implement "Creating effective local labour markets: a new framework for regional employment policy" (2008 2.4 Mb pdf file - download from somewhere on the (known as CofFEE) - will advise when the new location of the pdf file is known);

25. " id="onTheJobTraining">On-the-job training, career progression: re-establish on-the-job training and career progression in all government departments and statutory authorities as an alternative to training at TAFE colleges and tertiary institutions; Encourage private enterprises to do the same;

26. " id="reducedWorkingHours">Reduced working hours: Immediate reduction of the working week to 35 hours - to be worked over 9 days per fortnight where it suits the employee. Given the repeated claims of Australia's increased economic efficiency since 1983, the economy should easily be able to manage if working hours were reduced to 35 hours per week, just for a start. Outlaw compulsory overtime. Require employers to offer workers, who don't need a full wage, to work even fewer hours with greater flexibility in their start and finish times;

27. " id="closeDownSweatShops">Close down sweat-shops: Governments must proactively act to close down factories, which use low-paid workers working for long hours. Re-introduce the state award system;

28. " id="commonwealthEmploymentService">Commonwealth Employment Service: re-establish the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), which was dismantled in 1998 by the Howard Government. The plethora of private job agencies which replaced the CES has not been nearly as effective in helping job-seekers to find full, part-time or temporary employment;

29. " id="endSection457visas">Train Australians in needed skills: Only allow employers to employ foreign skilled workers with Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visas (previously Section 457 visas) where it can be shown that no worker in Australian worker can fill the vacancy.

25. " id="endSection457visas">End Section 457 visas: Only allow employers to employ skilled workers where it can be shown that no worker in Australia can fill the vacancy. (Were the ">Commonwealth Employment Service reconstituted - see 28 - it would become much easier to fill vacancies from within Australia);

Basic Needs: " id="education">Education

26. " id="stopEducationFundingCuts">Stop education funding cuts: Reverse the funding cuts to tertiary institutions and TAFE colleges;

27. " id="abolishUniversityFees">Abolish university fees: Make tertiary education again free as it is in Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Syria;

28. " id="provideForStudentsLivingNeeds">Provide for students' living needs: Re-establish the Whitlam Government's Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme (TEAS) so that University students don't have to work to support themselves;

29. " id="strongerTertiaryArtsFaculties">Stronger Tertiary Arts Faculties: More funding for university arts faculties. Provide more careers in the federal public service for Arts graduates. Encourage the private sector, NGOs and states to do the same;

Basic needs: " id="basicNeedsOther">Other

30. " id="housing">Housing: Act to ensure that each Australian citizen has secure affordable shelter. Where state housing commissions fail to provide adequate public housing, provide federally funded public housing;

31. " id="publicLiabilityInsurance">Public liability insurance: Establish public liablity insurance as it exists in New Zealand. No-one, who has organised a public event and who has taken all reasonable precautions, should fear financial ruin as a result of any mishap;

" id="democracy">Democracy, Transparency and Accountability

32. " id="constituencyMeetings">Federal electorate constituency meetings: Each member of the House of Representatives be required to attend meetings of his/her constituents during election campaigns and at regular specified intervals;

33. " id="fullAccounting">Full accounting of taxation and public expenditure: All losses and gains should be accounted for in the Federal Budget. Losses should include: unutilised skill and experience by the unemployed and under-employed. The budget must give estimates of the value of government services which cannot easily be quantified monetarily;

34. " id="transparencyWithThePrivateSector">Transparency with the private sector: Except where national security may be compromised, no 'commercial in-confidence' contract to be signed with any member of the private sector at the initiative of the government. Discriminate in favour of contractors who do not require 'commercial in-confidence' contracts;

35. " id="allSidesOfStory">Publicly owned newsmedia to give all sides of the story: Where facts are disputed in any conflict, whether domestic or international, the charters of the ABC and SBS require that they give both sides of the conflict the opportunity to put their case to the viewing public. (See also ">Foreign policy);

36. " id="directDemocracy">Direct Democracy: In the next term of parliament, put to voters a referendum to adopt as practised in Switzerland;

" id="foreignPolicy">Foreign policy

37. " id="usepublicDiscussionToPreventWar">Use public discussion to prevent war: Invite representatives of foreign governments with which Australia is in conflict to put their case to the Australian public on television in interviews. Where possible, representatives of Australia put Australia's case in interviews on those countries' newsmedia (for example and );

Foreign policy: " id="foreignPolicySyria">Syria

38. " id="recogniseTheElectedGovernmentOfSyria">Recognise the elected Government of Syria: Recognise the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the legitimate government of . The Syrian government enjoys than the Australian government or any of the Western governments opposed to it, as verified in the June 2014 Presidential election and the Parliamentary elections of April 2016;

39. " id="endSanctionsAgainstSyria">End Sanctions against Syria: End sanctions and invite the Syrian government to re-establish its embassy. The sanctions were imposed and the Syrian ambassador was expelled on the . Pay reparations to Syria for the death and destruction caused by sanctions and terrrorists from Australia;

40. " id="opposeTheTerroristWarAgainstSyria">Oppose the terrorist war against Syria: Oppose the illegal proxy terrorist war against the people of Syria which began in March 2011. By one estimate, that war has, so far, cost the lives of 400,000 Syrians, including 100,000 members of the Syrian Armed forces by one recent estimate ;

41. " id="stopAustraliansFromGoingToWarAgainstSyria">Stop Australians from going to war against Syria: Support Australian Federal Police actions to prevent Australians from going abroad to fight against the Syrian government. Seek collaboration with the Syrian authorities to bring any Australian citizen, known to have participated in that war against the Syrian people, to justice;

42. " id="compensateSyriaForCareOfIraqiRefugees">Compensate the Syrian government for care of Iraqi refugees: Remunerate the Syrian government for the trouble and expense it was put to for having to care for who fled to Syria as a result of the illegal wars of 1991 and 2003 and sanctions against Iraq in which Australia participated;

Foreign policy: " id="foreignPolicyPalestineIsrael">Palestine/Israel

43. " id="peacefulResolutionOfPalestineIsraelConflict">Support peaceful resolution of conflict: Act to bring an end to the Palestine/Israel conflict that will allow all sides to live in peace.

44. " id="dismantleIsraeliNuclearWeapons">Dismantle Israel's nuclear weapons stockpile: The dismantlement of Israel's illegally acquired nuclear weapons be part of the peace settlement;

45. " id="mordechaiVanunu">Free Mordechai Vanunu: Demand that Israel free former Australian resident who revealed to the world Israel's illegal possession of nuclear weapons. Offer Mordechai Vanunu asylum in Australia;

46. " id="endTheftOfPalestinianLand">End the theft of Palestinian land: Oppose the illegal seizure of land by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights;

Foreign policy: " id="foreignPolicyOtherMiddleEast">Other Middle East

47. " id="opposeInvasionOfYemen">Oppose the invasion of Yemen. Ask that the United Nations take action against the invasion of Yemen by the Saudi Arabian dictatorship. Condemn the supply of weapons, including banned cluster bombs made in the United States, and their use by Saudi Arabia;

Foreign policy: " id="foreignPolicyUkraineRussia">Ukraine and Russia

48. " id="MH17">MH17: Demand an open public enquiry into destruction of Malay Airlines Flight MH17 in which 28 Australians were amongst the 298 killed on 17 July 2014. Request that the MH17 Black Box given to the Netherlands by East Ukranian rebels, records of communications between Kiev air traffic controllers and MH17 and the United States' government satellite surveillance recordings of flight MH17 be released be made available for that inquiry, as the Russian government has done with its satellite surveillance recordings;

49. " id="supportDemocracyInUkraine">Support democracy in Ukraine: Support those Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine who are defending themselves against the regime that was installed in the CIA-orchestrated coup of January 2014;

50. " id="crimea">Crimea: Recognise the secession of to Russia from Ukraine in February 2014, which was overwhelmingly supported by the inhabitants of Crimea in a referendum, as a legitimate act of self-determination and self-defence;

51. " id="venezuela">Venezuela: Repudiate the appointment by the United States of Juan Guaidó to be 'interim president' of Venezuela in place of the legitimate elected President Nicolas Maduro. Repudiate the recognition of Juan Guaidó by the current Australian government. Oppose United States' aggression against Venezuela, including sanctions and the theft of gold and money belonging to Venezuela;

" id="humanRights">Human rights: Protection of human rights, civil liberties, freedom of speech and proper legal conduct by the authorities

52. " id="asylumToWhistleblowers">Asylum to whistleblowers: Request that the United States' government publicly try Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning before a jury for their alleged crimes as requested by them. Should this request be refused, offer political asylum to Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Should the United States obstruct Australia's attempts to grant asylum, raise this issue at the United Nations. (Also see ">Free Mordechai Vanunu);

53. " id="julianAssange">Julian Assange: Act to ensure, now that Julian Assange has been arrested by the British authorities on 11 April 2019, after six and a half years illegal detention at the Ecuadorian embassy, facilitated by the UK government, that that Julian Assange is guaranteed by British Law;

54. " id="endDragnetSurveillance">End surveillance of our phone calls, Internet browsing and e-mail: End the dragnet surveillance of all of our private communications by the United States' CIA and NSA, Britain's GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 and Australia's ASIO and ASIS as revealed by Edward Snowden. As Snowden has revealed, dragnet surveillance has not prevented one act of terrorism. Only allow surveillance of individuals or groups where there is reason to fear terrorism or other illegal acts;

55. " id="coronialInquestIntoPortArthurMassacre">Port Arthur Massacre: as required by law, conduct a coronial inquest into the on 28 April 1996 - the largest mass murder in Australia's history. The supposed evidence against Martin Bryant has never been tested in a court of law. All forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony proves Martin Bryant innocent of the crime. The only 'evidence' of Martin Bryant's guilt consists of a supposed confession made after he had been illegally interrogated in solitary confinement for 5 months. Prosecute all those known to have acted unlawfully against Martin Bryant;

56. " id="martinBryant">Martin Bryant: Allow friends and relatives of Martin Bryant to see him in person so that they can verify for themselves the claim by the prison governor that Martin Bryant doesn't want to see anybody;

How you can help

If you agree with most, or all, of these policies, please consider standing as a candidate yourself at he next election if it is not possible for you to stand in this election. If you are a candidate who supports any of the policies listed above or if you know of any such candidate, please let us know so that we can promote that candidate and lift that candidate's profile.

Please feel encouraged to also promote these policies and candidates who support these policies on Twitter, FaceBook, other discussion forums or your own web-site. If you can think of any other policies we should promote, or even if you oppose or don't altogether agree with some of these policies, please also let us know by posting a comment below.

Footnotes

[1] Evidence, that population growth has already exceeded our capacity in some places, can be found in "Crush Hour" about pedestrian congestion in the Melbourne CBD on pages 64-67 of the Apr-May edition of the royalauto printed magazine of the .

[2] Up until the mid-1960s, milk was usually delivered by the milkman in re-usable glass bottles, whilst soft-drink was sold in glass bottles which were refundable. Back then children could supplement their pocket money by collecting soft drink bottles and returning them to the local store for a refund. This ended after a glossy televesion advertising campaign by the Coca Cola corporation that loudly told viewers "Hey, do you know that you can now get Coke in Cans!" Some years later, back in the 1980's I also seem to recall that a proposal was put to the Australian community that all beverages - soft-drinks, alcoholic drinks, jams, other spreads, etc, be sold in refundable containers of standard size and shape so that they could be more easily re-used by different beverage manafucturers and not dumped into landfill. Unfortunately, the proposal was not adopted as government policy.

[3] Policy was previously: 53. Julian Assange: , go to the Ecuadorian embassy and escort Julian Assange back to Heathrow Airport and thence back to Melbourne Airport. What British government authority would dare obstruct Australian Federal Police who are clearly acting to uphold the law and to end such a cruel denial of basic human rights?;

Australia - A Sweden of the South?

By Vern Hughes:

Since the 1960s, the Scandinavian model of social inclusion, economic co-operation and political consensus-seeking has been cited around the world as the stand-out, practical, real-life alternative to both free market capitalism and centralized socialism. For many people who are disheartened by the brutal winner-take-all politics of English-speaking nations, the five countries of Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland) have been a beacon of social inclusion, intellectual moderation, sexual equality and economic partnership.

Given the affection which many Australians have towards the Scandinavian way of doing things, it is surprising that social reformers here have not exploited this synergy. We value openness as the Scandinavians do. We have a love of the outdoors and nature as Nordic people do. We pioneered sexual equality along with New Zealand and the Scandinavians. We were innovators in democracy in the 19th century, like the Nordic countries. We have a down-to-earth non-pretentious culture which, at its best, values loyalty and relationships over personal indulgence and conspicuous wealth (conspicuous private wealth is still culturally frowned upon in the Nordic countries to a remarkable degree).

At various points in the last half century, the Scandinavian model – and Sweden, in particular – have been proposed as directions for Australian public policy and social reform. When industrial democracy and economic collaboration were talked about in the 1970s and 1980s, it was the Swedish and Finnish models that were discussed. The ACTU’s Prices and Incomes Accord during the Hawke-Keating period was drawn from Swedish and Norwegian historical experience. When alternatives to our military dependence on the USA were explored in the 1980s, it was Swedish and Finnish neutrality that caught our interest. As second-wave feminism gave way to practical issues of sexual partnership, it was Iceland, Denmark and Sweden that were pace-setters. As our public schools began to fall behind in the 1990s, it was the Finnish education system that beckoned.

In the 1980s, I first came across the term ‘Sweden of the South’. It referred to an Australian take-up of the Swedish model of economic and social inclusion. This was popular for a period with some Australian economists, trade unionists, and feminists. Some in the peace movement took it up in the late 1980s as Sweden stood outside NATO and military entanglement with the United States in a nuclear stand-off with the Soviet Union. Adult education groups discovered Sweden’s extensive system of adult and further education. Reformers in areas such as illicit drug use, prostitution and crime embraced the Swedish model in these areas.

Why didn’t this trend find its expression in the Australian Democrats? On the surface, the Democrats (1977-2003) might appear to have been a likely proponent of Scandinavian centrism. The late Senator John Siddons was a fervent advocate of employee ownership of firms and industrial democracy. He was joined in the 1990s by Senator Andrew Murray from WA. And the party always favoured reform of our Westminster parliamentary system to extend proportional representation and create a more diverse and representative system of contending political parties.
But in the main, the prevailing social libertarianism of the 1980s and 1990s ran counter to the consensual egalitarianism and inclusion of the Scandinavians. Advocacy of industrial democracy and learning circles in firms, family co-operatives in social policy, and recognition of natural relationships and mutual supports in disability and mental health require more than a culture of parliamentary amendment and protest: they demand a culture of creating practical alternatives in society and building social participation in these arrangements. This was a step too far for the Democrats – the party never managed to make the transition from ‘keeping the bastards honest’ to constructing social and economic arrangements that kept the bastards out of power and influence.

Today, the Scandinavian model stands as clearly as ever as an alternative to the political paralysis and division that has engulfed the Western world. A Donald Trump or a Jeremy Corbyn are both inconceiveable in the five Nordic countries. While parliamentary stagnation and division in Australia, the US and the UK reach record levels, Sweden continues its 40 year practice of Almedalen, where 20,000 political leaders and party members across the spectrum gather on the island of Gotlund for a week-long summer camp of discussions, talks and shared recreation. Can Australians imagine anything like this in our politics?

When Australian voters are asked in opinion polls what they expect of their politicians, they consistently indicate a preference for something like Almedalen, that is, they expect their representatives to work together for the common good without partisan divisions or game-playing. The trouble is, our Westminster system of duopoly ensures they never get it.

In 2018 there is a huge vacuum in the centre of Australian politics for an electoral force that represents the Scandinavian way of doing things – a ‘Sweden of the South’. Can such an electoral force emerge? In several key areas, the residual Left and Right still stand in the way.

On immigration, refugees and social cohesion, the Scandinavian countries do not favour open entry to their nations. They acknowledge limits to diversity, and limits to their capacity to absorb immigrants and refugees into the social mainstream. Denmark, Norway and Sweden have in recent years reduced their intake of new settlers. Sweden has curtailed welfare allocations to asylum seekers and now restricts jobs for immigrants to positions that can't be filled by native Swedes. Australia can learn from this typically Scandinavian pragmatism. Most of the centre left in Australian politics is reluctant to embrace a similar stance, as if there is something morally deficient in limiting the entry of immigrants and refugees. Australians can surely learn from the Scandinavians that limiting immigration in the name of social cohesion is perfectly legitimate for a nation that values cohesion and participation.

On economic collaboration and industrial co-operation, the Scandinavians have been prepared to subjugate ideological positions (free markets and protection of local industry) to more fundamental and enduring commitments to shared ownership and governance in industry. Imagine the Australian debate on corporate tax cuts if an Australian party proposed that companies (big and small) with more than 50% ownership by their employees would receive big tax cuts and exemptions from land and payroll tax. Imagine the debate on energy if we proposed to transfer the operating licences of energy retailers to co-operatives of consumers and small businesses. Imagine the debate on Medicare if we proposed the Dutch model of health reform, whereby citizens may choose one of several competing health mutuals to meet 100% of their health needs (a Catholic mutual, a New Age mutual based on natural and complementary health, a sports and outdoor living mutual, an indigenous mutual based on traditional culture, and so on).

On partnership between the sexes, the Scandinavian countries have a cultural tradition of celebrating children and building child-centred communities, which has shaped their feminism. Compared to countries in the Anglosphere, the family unit is relatively strong in the Nordic countries - Sweden has the highest birth rate in Europe, Italy has the lowest. Australian feminists can learn a great deal from Scandinavian feminism, rejecting the anti-family feminism that is prominent in English-speaking countries and embedding egalitarian partnership between the sexes in daily life, and a celebration of children in the culture.

Individualised funding, or use of ‘vouchers’ in service delivery has tended to be anathema to ‘progressives’ in the Anglosphere, but Sweden has the highest use of vouchers of any country in the world. It has embedded individualised funding arrangements throughout its welfare state. This has resulted in greater ownership of social provision through taxation than in countries like Australia where political parties tend to use social programs as vote-buying dispensations to passive disengaged 'clients'. Extended individualized funding arrangements in service delivery in Australia would strengthen ownership of social service provision by consumers, and shift the balance of power from providers to consumers.

On drugs, the Scandinavian countries have been pragmatically sceptical of the overblown ‘war on drugs’. They have been prepared to experiment and learn from the results. In the 1980s Sweden decriminalized several illicit drugs, in expectation that drug use would go down. Twenty years later, when drug use had increased, Sweden reversed its position, moving to mandatory rehabilitation for users of several illicit drugs and re-criminalisation of dealers. Australians can learn from this pragmatism. Ideology should always be subservient to evidence of what works.

And on defence and foreign policy, the Nordic countries have maintained an ethic of independent military self-reliance, sceptical of entangling military alliances, which is backed up by compulsory military service for young people. All the Scandinavian countries integrate their military forces into civil society in the interests of comprehensive security planning and to prevent the development of a separatist military caste that stands apart from the rest of society. Both Left and Right in Australia have tended to not take military self-reliance and independence seriously - a consequence of our ongoing 'cultural cringe' which drives, still, our military dependence on the United States. Our peace movement and our defence forces have tended to live in different cultural universes – the Scandinavian tradition of inclusion and participation has demanded their collaboration.
Is this too big a jump for Australian political activists and social change movements? Can we build on our tradition to embody a clear alternative to neo-liberal capitalism and big government socialism that is radically centrist and radically Australian? Can we be the ‘Sweden of the South’?

Fix Our Politics

For the 80% of us in the sensible centre of Australian life

Website:

We think both Right and Left have failed to empower ordinary citizens and instead created a political and managerial class that puts its own interests before the community and national interest. We also think that about 80% of Australians are of the same mind.

We have a Ten-Point Platform for the coming federal election:

· Restore civility to politics and end the culture wars

· Remove career politicians from Canberra and return to citizen self-government

· Wind back the managerial class so we can reform our institutions

· Break-up the Big Four banks, Big Three utilities, Big Two retailers and One Big Telco

· Limit CEO salaries in companies subject to federal licencing (banks, finance, AusPost) with a cap at 40 times the company's lowest wage

· Return the budget to surplus and eliminate debt by ending corporate and middle-class welfare

· Personalise social services and individualise their funding so they serve consumers and families

· Place a moratorium on immigration until social cohesion is restored and infrastructure and services catch up with our population

· Build a competitive energy market that is source-neutral so consumers and businesses can set their own energy transitions

· Chart an independent course for Australia in security and world affairs without deference to either China or America

We will seek registration as a political party to participate in all forms of our democracy, at federal, state and local levels.

We also want members to come together by industry and interest in Working Commissions in areas such as NDIS, Centrelink, banking, energy and superannuation. We aim to develop political strategies and market-based initiatives in these areas to wind-back the power and patronage of the political and managerial class and empower citizens.

Further details are available at our website

There are many ways in which to become involved. We look forward to your participation.

Vern Hughes
0425 722 890
Director
Civil Society Australia
vern@civilsociety.org.au
www.sensiblecentre.org.au

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