Monday, August 22, 2011

a fine trucking mess

Recently read that in NSW a man has had his name removed from the birth certificate of a child he fathered, and replaced by the name of the second of the child’s gay mothers.
Not just wrong but ludicrous.

That the non-biological mother is estranged, and that the sperm donor in question has taken an active interest in his child’s life, only makes this decision more repugnant.

True, it is a wise person who knows their father. This was true long before IVF and the use of anonymous sperm donations became common. Nonetheless, every person is entitled, so far as practical, to know “who he or she is”, and this extends beyond one generation. The information also has important medical significance.

I am all for gay marriage. I am 100% behind issuing transsexuals with birth certificates that allow them to get on with their lives. I am also behind the current practice of making even general name changes traceable - where privacy laws do not prohibit it.

But this decision amounts, in practice, to a record of the personal relationships of the birth mother, and this is a nonsense as much as it is an insult to the biological father.

Serial monogamy is fast becoming the cultural norm, and whoever endorsed the idea that a birth certificate should be issued based on the living arrangements of the parents is an idiot.

Such is the layout of roads in Canberra that it’s hard for outsiders to drive with any clear sense of direction. It is as if the motto “Blessed are they who go round in circles, for they shall be known as big wheels” was behind the most important planning decisions made for our national capital.

A truckload of trucks are on their way to Canberra to demand an early federal election. But these will be trucks circling, not buzzards. While I am utterly disenchanted with our government’s current incumbents, this disenchantment extends across the floor, on both sides of both houses.

Amanda Vanstone occasionally writes a column for The Age.
Today, her column is headlined Independents helped put us in this mess”. 
Labor was bad enough before, but the rise of independents after the last election has helped drag government even lower, she says.
The election of independents is a quirk of a system in which independents [presumably devoid of merit] sometimes get lucky. Where independents gain the balance of power, they prevent governments from succeeding with their most visionary policies, and hold a country to ransom. 
[Presumably she is not talking about the vision of the Labor Party.]

“Every opposition has the task of highlighting a government's weakness or incompetence.”

No Amanda, every opposition should be tasked with making honest assessments of government performance and proposals, suggesting viable improvements and voting accordingly.

“But an opportunistic opposition may well seize on any big, contentious bill and oppose it simply to cause the government grief.”

I agree with Vanstone this is a problem, but it defines Abbott’s negativity more than a problem with independents.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, and no doubt I will mention it again – repeatedly - but I am no fan of our current constitution. 
For all that I think Vanstone can be a bit of a one-eyed broken record on occasions, in this case her argument suits my purposes.

There are many reasons I believe our constitution is rubbish, but I’d like to put two on the agenda for today.

The first and perhaps greatest of my beefs is that Australians deserve the right to choose their leader. Democracy demands that we all have a say in who will represent us on the world stage, with consistency and for a fixed term. Certainty is not only a very human need, certainty [of policy and the likely term of that policy's validity] is also a business and diplomatic need.

Democracy is best served where a leader is able to articulate a clear vision without being threatened by any opinion poll other than that which wins them office. That Julia Gillard did go to the polls soon after replacing Rudd is only an accident of history.
The person appointed to the highest office in the land should not be chosen by lobby groups or by ambitious movers and shakers.

Costello opined, not long before he retired, that people vote for a party based on that party’s philosophy, not on the basis of personalities or promises.

Federal election campaigns are run by advisors who not only respond in the most facile way to opinion polling [and Heaven knows that ain’t hard to rig], but also to a perceived public need for promises. Rubbish statements such as “this is the real Julia” or “you can believe anything I say so long as it is in writing” are not trotted out by people who believe voters choose a party based on its philosophy. Indeed, it is hard to have a clear idea what a party’s philosophy is when so few on either side of the house seem to stand for anything.

Protest placards with “JULIAR” emblazoned across them are not carried by people who believe personalities are irrelevant.

How is it that the Labor Party, supposedly the peoples’ party and the least conservative, are adamant they will not enable gay marriage, when the majority of Australians endorse the idea? The answer is because political parties can be and are hijacked by single interest groups, the most recent Victorian ALP conference being a prime example. 
Party policy is not democratically derived; the only way this could be so is if every voter joined every party and turned up at every party conference.

My second greatest beef about the constitution is the lack of a third tier of power independent of the houses of parliament. The office of Governor General is an important one and has served us reasonably well, but it compounds the shortcomings of the office of Prime Minister as it currently stands.

The candidate most likely to be elected as President in a more appropriate system would be someone who is not a total embarrassment, someone able to articulate a vision, someone whose vision is clear, and someone not hamstrung directly by denial of a conscience vote. 
A directly elected independent President would have more right to use the expression “mandate” than any of those who currently fling the word around for the sake of expedience. The mandate would be clear.
Under a Presidential system the ability of independents to hold governments to ransom and redirect party policies or philosophies would be far more limited.
No system will be perfect, but I rather like the idea of dissenting voices being heard without them necessarily having the power to change the agenda of government to the point where policies and promises are irrelevant, visions are compromised, and democracy reduced to the farce it is today.

The trucks may circle parliament endlessly, or they may even manage to do what Abbott so desperately hopes they will and precipitate a new election.

A new election will not, for me, lead to a resolution of any key problems with today’s government.
We will still be sliding into depression because no government has the cojones or ovaries to act, not to steal the income generated by the mining boom, perhaps to share a portion of our commonly owned resources, but definitely to smooth the enormous impact it is having on our economy.
We will still be faced with a simple choice between incompetence and inaction.
We will still be subjected to a barrage of expensive inanities during the “debate”.
We will still have a “leader of the opposition” rather than a “leader of the alternative government”.
We will still be led by people who, by their behaviour in parliament, set the gold standard example that legitimises bullying.
We will still have no confidence that the person elected as leader by the people will remain leader.
We will still have no confidence that the policies approved by the people will be the policies implemented [or at least championed or tested].

Voters are not being held to ransom by independents but by a crap constitution. Sorry truckers, might as well just honk if you love Jesus.


  1. In my opinion, Costello is incorrect on another count - we no longer have the luxury of voting FOR anything (be it personalities, policies, parties or whatever), as these things are almost completely lacking in clarity. Therefore, the best we can do is cast a vote against what we don't want. I didn't vote for a particular party because I loved what they stood for - I voted for them because I liked less what the others offered!

    And I can't believe it's legal to change a birth certificate to reflect relationship status - that's a dangerous precedent. Just think of all the twice married mums who could change the certificate to the 2nd (non-biological) spouse - is there any difference, or have I missed something??

    I love reading your posts - apologies for not often commenting. My bad!!

  2. Hi Red,
    It's probably fairly true that elections are lost, not won, and true that in the last election few people wanted to vote for anyone.
    Don't know what I fear most; that the present arrangement will continue, or that we get stuck with an alternative.

    Although I'm still a blogging newbie, it's been great to expand my circle of friends.
    Please don't feel bad about not commenting [though feedback is always welcome]. It's reward enough to know someone is interested in some of the things I have to say. Thanks!

  3. The greeks are often credited with creating the idea of democracy, I am never certain if this is to praise or deride them but assuming for a moment it is a good thing then Plato a greek guy and one of the founding fathers of western philosophy observed that anyone who desires power should be automatically banned from having it. Only those who are disinterested would be wise enough to govern.

    So I think the presidential idea has some merit but I have often wondered about an elected college who would appoint a president and then disolve. (that would be their entire function). Yes the college would still be open to influence or coruption but it would allow the appointment of someone who was not seeking power by standing for election.

  4. Hi Big Dog,
    Yes, that age old question of who shall watch the watchers.
    Your suggestion of a college voting for a non-candidate is a novel one which has set my mind whirring.