Posts Tagged ‘Age’

Democracy becomes a farce

Dear Australia: I frankly expect better and I insist. Do you agree?

Faced with an Upper House result in our election on Saturday which is clearly ludicrous, I append below a letter I just sent to The Age and the The Australian. I’ll let you know if either of them print it.

If you are Australian, and you agree me, then I suggest you make the letter your own, and send it to Tony Abbott, or someone.

Dear Sirs

The solution to the current farce in the Senate – with preference deals delivering seats to people who initially achieve miniscule popular votes – is not to ban minor parties, nor even yet their convoluted preference deals.

It is simply to remove the requirement for people to vote “exhaustively”, (to number all the boxes), and to make the change not just in the Senate but in both houses of Parliament.

It is obviously ridiculous and impractical, if an elector does not understand or does not wish to follow a pre-set preference flow, and therefore intends to vote “below the line”, to insist that they express a preference between 97 Senate candidates, as we had to in Victoria.

And it makes a mockery of democratic will for candidates that clearly have no popular support whatsoever to be gifted a major role in determining what legislation successfully wends its way through Parliament.

Just let us number as many boxes as we like, then stop.

And it is just as ridiculous, in the lower house, to force us all to ultimately transfer our vote to one of the major party candidates if we don’t want to. We should be entitled to transfer a preference just as far as we, the electors, decide, not to be forced to end up donating our vote to a party with which we fundamentally disagree, merely because they are the lesser of two evils. That is fundamentally un-democratic.

And if, as a result of such a change, a lower house candidate fails to achieve 50% +1 in a seat, then the solution is simple – have a re-run after a short period of reflection for local electors to consider their options.

The necessary change to the electoral legislation would take five minutes to write. And it will be much more sensible, and less disruptive to Australian traditions, than many of the other ideas you will hear mooted, such as making it prohibitively difficult or expensive to establish a political party, or getting rid of mandatory attendance at polling stations. (Note, not “mandatory voting”, which we do not have in Australia.)

I look forward to our zealously reformist Prime Minister-elect acting on my suggestions forthwith.

Your sincerely
Stephen Yolland

PS Dear Reader, if you do anything as a result of reading this, let me know.

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British police officers stand guard outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in central London after Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced that he had granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Sang Tan/Associated Press)


The Australian Government insist that any arrangements that its embassy in Washington is making for an extradition of Julian Assange from Sweden to the USA is merely standard procedure and they have not received any information from the US that they intend to do so. This surely strains the Government’s credibility. It is known, for example, that a sealed Grand Jury indictment of Assange exists.

Whatever the truth, does anyone really believe that Australia’s Labor Government is doing anything much to help Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? When one sees stories like this, it would be easy for an unbiased observer to assume that beyond mouthing meaningless platitudes it is already decided by “the powers that be” that this courageous journalist (Journalist of the Year in Australia in 2011) should be sent to the USA for trial in a military court which will either jail him for an inordinate length of time or execute him.

Whatever is really going on, with this newspaper report it is now imperitive that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Bob Carr come clean about whether they have been advised – ever, or whether any other Minister OR official has been advised – that the USA DOES wish to extradite him from Sweden, should he go there.

(Via AFP)

Australian diplomats do believe Washington is targeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for possible prosecution, according to documents obtained by a leading Australian newspaper.

The Australian embassy in Washington is taking seriously the possibility that Assange will eventually be extradited to the United States on charges including espionage and conspiracy relating to a huge leak of classified information on the WikiLeaks website, according to The Age newspaper.

A raft of diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information laws and obtained by the newspaper, show Australia has been keeping tabs on Washington’s interest in Assange and has no objection to the potential extradition, the newspaper said.

Despite Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s insistence that the US is not pushing for Assange to be pursued over the leaks, the documents show he and Prime Minister Julia Gillard have been briefed on the issue, The Age reported.

The newspaper also said the cables showed that the Australian government requested early advice from the US on any decision to indict or seek Assange’s extradition.

Assange, an Australian national, has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over sex assault claims.

He fears Stockholm will then turn him over to the US to face charges over his whistleblowing website.

On Thursday, after Ecuador granted Assange political asylum, Australia said there was little it could do for him, as Britain suggested it was considering a raid on the embassy in order to make an arrest.

Assange has repeatedly criticised Canberra’s handling of his case, but Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said while she was taking “an absolute interest” in his plight, there were limits to what she could do.

His mother Christine said Thursday that she was furious that British police may be sent in to seize her son, claiming they would be acting on behalf of Washington.