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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Editorial: Armchair activism

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What does activism look like? Extinction Rebellion targeted Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp empire in Brisbane last week for its ‘active role in spreading disinformation and lies to the public about the climate crisis’.

While this is one strategy to confront outdated paradigms that serve only the one per cent, there are also others.

For example, how many protesters who tried to shut Brisbane down on Tuesday were wearing suits? Confusion is a key way to grab attention, if that’s your goal.

But if the bigger-picture goal is the advancement of all the planet’s species living in a stable atmosphere, here are a few pointers gleaned from last weekend’s Writers Festival.

Many of the big drawcard authors ran with similar themes as to why democracy and politics are in trouble.

Kerry O’Brien told the audience at his autobiography book launch that factions within the mainstream political system do not promote the best people for the job.

So to get the best people in charge, factions should be scrapped.

Meanwhile, former Labor PM Kevin Rudd called for an inquiry into US citizen Rupert Murdoch’s massive newspaper and broadcast empire’s influence. ‘There was 95 per cent anti-Labor coverage for the last election, across all the cities’, he said. ‘It’s a cancer on democracy’.

He also let loose on former Labor colleagues after being asked why calls to investigate Crown Casino allegations are being ignored by his party. ABC’s Four Corners reported allegations of money laundering, breaching immigration law, and prostitution.

Rudd said former Labor MP Mark Arbib and another former Labor MP now work for James Packer, owner of Crown.

‘Packer has insulated himself from scrutiny,’ he said. And that’s just former Labor MPs – there are also willing former coalition MPs wanting a piece of the gambling pie.

So we need much tougher laws around conflicting political ties with big business.

It’s a similar sentiment that UK philosopher AC Grayling spoke of when discussing the shaky ground democracy finds itself on.

‘Democracy is in trouble because politics is a career, not a service,’ he said.

‘To be influential, you need to be attached by the head to the buttocks of the next person up the greasy pole. [Political] party discipline erodes representative democracy. This is why we don’t trust them’.

Also, limiting political terms may well inspire better governance.

Another remarkable weakness in democracy Grayling mentioned is that political decisions lack oversight – governments essentially act as the self-appointed judge and jury over much of their conduct.

Clearly democracy needs better-funded watchdog institutions to make sure those elected aren’t overtly rorting the system.

It may help in providing much needed integrity within local government for example, whereby Council and the state government are undertaking a massive, questionable bypass project while also being the oversight authority. Being both a consent authority and oversight authority erodes public trust and confidence.

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  1. To me the Rebellion covers all life, land, sea, river
    & sky. Democracy’s a 4 letter word & has been so
    for at least 3 decades. Governments are indeed
    made up of want-to-be clueless career short-
    sighted counter-jumpers & the public is unhappily
    tired of their lack of ability that they bring into the
    parliament. A weak democracy often creates weak
    planning & support for a country’s laws, humanity
    & future reckoning. Indeed the whole muddle of
    money grabbing egos, investments & promotions
    & support for Gas & Coal – in fact – anything worth
    shifting overseas & buggering-up this land for ill
    profit deals needs to stop. Climate Emergency is
    number 1. The rest? Fixing the cancer will provide
    the cure. Honesty & caring is still the best policy.


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