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Byron Shire
May 19, 2024

Democracy in crisis

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RJ Poole, Lismore

Australia has a crisis of democracy. Many issues being decided by state and federal governments, do not have the support of the wider community. Coal-seam gas (CSG) mining and the ongoing war in Afghanistan are just two examples of large-scale, long-term events that are opposed by a significant majority of Australians – and have been opposed from their very beginning.

Yet despite increased public discontent, our political leaders continue to ignore the will of the people. Even at a local level, the member for Lismore, Thomas George, has failed to support our community’s fight against CSG mining and remains loyal to his party, rather than the people with whom he lives!

Australia’s democratic system desperately needs to be reinvigorated. We need to get in touch with the values and ideals that inspired the rise of democracy in the first instance. These values emphasise the rights and freedoms of the individual. They emphasise the need for governments to be responsive to the will of the people.

No democratic government is elected with a mandate to ‘rule’. The very notion of a ruling government runs counter to the democratic process. The reason we have a government is to administer our will and provide a range of services. This whole process is paid for by us (the public) and is designed to benefit us.

Such a process, however, comes with a responsibility: which is that the quality of democracy we enjoy is only as good as we make it. If we fail not only to speak up, but also to act, then our elected representatives will take charge and represent their own interests.

This is what is happening as you read this letter!

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  1. You stir a complex cauldron of issues Mr Poole and there is no simple reply.

    Since the Magna Carta, the West has been slowly finding new ways to govern society, but like the demands of the Lords against King John in 1215, the outcome hinges on individuals expressing their collective wish through voting or lobbying.

    Democracy is a work in progress.

    As a nation we had no foreign policy of our own before 1942 and only really began to find our feet on the Kokoda Track, when we told Churchill that our troops would be returning to defend the homeland.

    We gained confidence as a nation for a time, were bold in the founding of the United Nations and from 1957 worked with the Dutch toward the independence of the whole island of New Guinea, which could have emerged from colonialism as one strong independent island nation.

    When Indonesia began invading New Guinea in 1961, war was imminent, but not convenient for Washington, as the US was looking toward a war in Vietnam.

    In 1962 Kennedy intervened in our affairs to inform us that West Papua would be part of Indonesia.

    This was in effect one monster slave trade and we, to our eternal shame, went along with it.

    At least we now knew our place in the world order, as a humiliated nation that did what it was told by another empire.

    We are still not free, of Britain or Washington and only function by compliance to the wishes of empire, as demonstrated by our willingness to rush into a war in Iraq on the basis of concocted evidence.

    Will we ever gain our freedom and find our feet as an independent nation?

    Will we ever regain our honour over West Papua?

    We may now wonder if the Indonesian claim on the land of the Papuans will come to include the whole island of New Guinea.

    Unless we find our feet as a nation, we may well stumble into the wishes of China making demands and find ourselves under the thumb of yet another empire.

    It is in this world of power that energy is demanded to build empires and if we do not supply, we could be in strife.

    The global energy options could have been quite different, if we had invested in solar power stations in space to lose our dependence on fossil fuel, which could have happened in the 1970s.

    If we woke up as a nation and enough of us demanded action, we could use our resource bonanza to invest in solar power stations in space now, which would also open the way to a whole new future beyond Earth.

    With unlimited stellar energy from the Sun we could also extract excess carbon from the air and sea to win back a safe Earth; and reprocess that base carbon back into a useful resource.

    We could also build a much stronger nation, able to desalinate any volume of ocean water, pump this to any location, build many new cities, turn our deserts green and increase our manufacturing.

    This would improve our defence position in the face of any Chinese or Indonesian demands and could also lead to a new discussion about the rights to self-determination of the West Papuan people.

    By being a leader in stellar energy, we would also be able to work with other nations in accessing power from the Sun to win back a safe Earth, which will lead to a more peaceful world.

    This future is now possible for Australia, if we wake up as a nation and demand action.

    With space and ground based solar energy in ample supply, coal seam gas extraction will be history, along with coal, oil and nuclear, as we lead the charge to a stellar economy without poverty.

    Like the Lords of England in 1215, this is our collective choice, if we like the idea of freedom.

    We might even find our feet as an independent nation.

    Kim Peart

  2. Dear Poole,

    In these politically insane days your letter is very pertinent. I’m certain many people agree with your view. I definitely do.

    It would be helpful if your letter had informed people about ways to take political action (apart from voting, contacting local members of parliament etc) that effectively impacts on politicians. By that I mean that many people might join online lobby groups like GetUp, Access, Avaaz, Causes. Being a member of these groups has helped me deal with enormous political frustration & I imagine joining them may aide others similarly.



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