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04 January 2015

Democracy at work - How to change what's happening

Sophie Mirabella - all alone

Just how powerful are we as voters? Very powerful, writes Sir ScotchMistery. And our power lies not just in how we cast our vote at the polling booth, but in how we can decide in whose name appears on the ballot paper.

Over the last few weeks we have all been moaning mournfully about the nature of “democracy” in Australia and the fact that today it really doesn’t exist. What we are suffering under the moment is far more an oligarchy led by three or four wealthy people telling another person who wishes he was wealthy (and as far as we can tell, still a pommy), what to do.

I have done a bit of tweeting on the subject and people keep coming back to me saying “30 independents in every house of Parliament in Australia will allow right wing nut jobs (RWNJ), to overtake the Parliament.

Whilst I accept that there is an element of this which may be true, the same possibility applies to left wing nut jobs but whatever the result, if done properly there is no reason for Australia not to have 30 independents in each house of Parliament, each representing the needs and aspirations of their electorate.

The electorate of Indi, with its centre in northern Victoria, took it upon itself to oust the sitting “liberal” member, Sophie Mirabella, on the basis that she didn’t appear to be representing anybody but the Liberal party, and most certainly not her electorate, which she had supposedly “represented” for the past 13 year, from 2001.

Indi did it differently.
In general, when we think of an “Independent” running for parliament, we see in our minds eye somebody deciding that they are good enough to take on the incumbent or conversely are prepared to put their time, effort and money up to run a campaign against the incumbent, in their own right. In fact the path to Cathy McGowan taking the seat of Indi, had nothing whatsoever to do with her deciding she was good enough to take on the incumbent.

During 2012, a small group of young people from the area decided they weren’t being represented properly or effectively, and from those 12 people grew a movement of over 3000 volunteers who basically door knocked the entire electorate, which was a task in itself when one considers that the division of Indi, which has been part of the Parliament of Australia since Federation, having been one of the original 75 divisions proclaimed at Federation, continuously, covers an area of 28,567 km² along the NSW border from Rutherglen to Corryong in the North, Kinglake and Woods Point in the South and Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Buffalo and Mount Buller in the east. As you can see, a huge electorate which needs a lot of miles driven to cover it.

Anyway, these young people and their volunteers who ended up numbering in excess of 3000, door knocked the entire place and asked people what they felt were the important things to take into Parliament as their “issues”.

The result of these “kitchen table conversations”, was a document Voice for Indi http://www.voiceforindi.com/report_info which became part of “Indi Shares”. The resultant Voice for Indi website became a way for those people who initially met, and their volunteers and the people who decided that the basic premise was correct, and that they weren’t being represented by Ms Mirabella, or the LNP, to engage, to keep in touch, to fund raise and eventually to launch a run into Parliament.
In June 2014, the “Indi Shares” at Oxley in the rugged hills around Warrnambool resulted in around 100 people getting together and talking about making a difference in Australian politics. Politics without the parties, in a space where the “candidate” was employed by the electorate directly, rather than having to survive on their own means.

My memory of it was that around $180,000 was raised by those people to fund the change, rather than being dependent upon the resources of the candidate, or more importantly, of a party machine with its associated apparatchiks, and their predilection for parachuting candidates into the house.

Once the document had been put together, A Voice for Indi advertised for a candidate to work within their guidelines (as set by the members of the founding group, the results of the document from the kitchen table conversations, and input from volunteers).

Again, from my memory, which is getting rather rusty, the money raised went to funding things like campaign paraphernalia, T-shirts, and operations office and the expenses of the candidate, to allow her to behave as if she had already been elected, from the time she was employed by the organisation. In other words, Cathy McGowan was employed directly by the members of the electorate.

In and of itself, this is not a hard call. It is rather a matter of finding a committed core group of people prepared to put time effort and some money towards the process of locating somebody to properly represent them as electors, and further to more widely represent the needs of the electorate, including the issues important to the mostly (in this case) Conservative electorate. No one in the whole process was disenfranchised by the movement and one of the people we met during the Indi shares conference, was a farmer who had never ever voted anything but conservative.

The one thing that has to be said is that nobody can launch an election campaign for election with no money and it would be unfair and inappropriate to expect someone outside of the likes of Clive Palmer perhaps, to completely fund their own campaign to unseat one of the party faithful. In this situation it requires a gathering of like minds to get together and sort out funding, directions, plans and vision, then to find somebody appropriate to present those issues to a Parliament which no longer represents the needs and aspirations of the Australian people, but rather represents the direction the ALP and LNP wish to take the country in terms of its interface with United States and Europe, including rushing into any war that the LNP decides is good for us, and signing and “Free” trade agreement the US tells them to.

We have 18 months to find 30 independents for both houses in the Federal Parliament, and a further three years to do the same thing in every State government house. This perhaps is the only way to change the current unicameral system in place in Queensland, and also get us back to a proper “democratic” form of Parliament not only in Queensland but in the whole of Australia.

In conclusion I would add, that to paraphrase Charles F Aked – ‘all that is required for the parties to win every time, is for good people to do nothing’.

I hope that somewhere in Australia are a few hundred people who see this, OUR COUNTRY, as something more than the indistinct shadow of a star on “old glory”.