Sunday, May 29, 2011

Minchin–Party Over The People

In an article published by the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, 28-May-11, Senator Nick Minchin outlines some serious flaws in our party-dominated system. The first clause in the first sentence is:
“As I prepare to retire from 32 years of full-time service to the Liberal Party, …” (18 of those years was as Senator)
Nick Minchin:
worked for the party
It could be said by a retiring Parliamentarian from any major party. Nick Minchin was elected as a Senator to represent the Constitutional interests of South Australia on 1-July-1993. He has been a Senator for 18 years. From 1977 to 1993, he worked for the Liberal Party's Federal Secretariat; he was Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party in 1983 and held senior positions in the South Australian Liberal Party. In his public life, and his 18 years in the Senate, Nick Minchin has always worked for the interests of the Liberal Party.
Senator Minchin goes on:
(Party) “success really lies in getting the balance right between Principle and Pragmatism -between the pursuit of good policy and the need to retain popular support”
This is undoubtedly true, and Principle alone rarely leads to good policy. Even when policy is not good, Party Parliamentarians will still vote for the party, because it is in the Party’s interests. This is true of members from all major parties: Labor, Liberal, National; and minor parties like  the Greens. Consider the following:
  • the policy to deliberately breach International Law (the Tampa Affair) – Liberal Party
  • the Pacific Solution – using Nauru to hold asylum seekers, and to leave 1 person alone in detention for more than 2 years, and subject to UN criticism. Nauru is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees – Liberal Party
  • the (proposed) Malaysian Solution – using Malaysia to take 800 asylum seekers, in exchange for 4000 UN-determined refugees. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees – Labor Party
  • WorkChoices, a fundamentalist attack on the wages and working conditions on some of the very people the Liberal Party relied on to retain power - Liberal Party
  • Mining tax, which was poorly considered, and effectively gelded by a big-business-funded populism campaign – Labor Party
In each case the party members did vote, or would have voted, for the policy, based solely on their party membership.

This is where Independent Parliamentarians have a significant role to play. As much as the Liberal Party has tried to demonise Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, their role as Independent, non-party-political MP’s in a Federal Parliament with a minority government is invaluable. It makes the government, and to a lesser extent the Opposition, consider a position or compromise that will prevent or ameliorate fundamentalism and extremism. That is something members of the major parties rarely do on their own initiative.