Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So, it’s goodnight Irene for The Australian Democrats. It’s a shame. I mean, one-legged vegan bisexuals and drunken Goths aside, once upon a time, say, late 80's and early 90’s, the balance of power in the Senate was in reasonably good hands. From Don Chipp to the brilliant Janine Haines to beard-lovin’ Cheryl Kernot, the Dems’ mantra of ‘keeping the bastards honest’ was fundamentally noble, and they stuck to it as best they could.

There was much to like about them. When holding decent numbers in the Upper House they were vigorous in fighting for concessions on any bill that seemed unfair to any reasonable thinker (though this backfired on them when Meg Lees went all retarded and shit on the GST), but they were never stupid enough to totally block supply. There was a country to run, and they were just sitting there with 10% of the numbers, representing the 10% of us that voted them in. There's a bit to be said about proportional representation, and indeed, Stottster said in Parliament yesterday, "We have achieved a great deal, we've changed the political landscape for the better, transforming the Senate from a house of the living dead to a genuine house of review." In their final hour, give them that spot in history.

They did my vote proud, unlike Bob Brown who got my vote two elections ago then pissed on that vote by turning his back like an 8 year-old baby on the President of the USA. Yo Bob, I voted for you to speak on my behalf, not not speak.

Now who’ve we got as a ‘third voice’? Well, there’s the Nationals, but they’re just a federal faction of the Libs. The Greens? Family Fucking First? Nope, they’re all shit, and all we can hope is that traditional argey-bargey between emotionally corrupt ALP factions will keep the machine in-check. Kind of like Nietzsche's notion of Dionysus pulling one way and Apollo pulling the other and the tension between the two is life. Unions pull one way, the chatterers pull the other, the tension between the two is ALP policy.

The Australian Democrats were almost perfect in theory. Not left, not right, just decent. But as a mathematician once told me, “In theory, theory and practise are the same. In practise, they are not.”

Vale, The Australian Democrats.


Anonymous said...

Meg Lees was their downfall....... A smart person, but should never have shook Howard's hand and grinned after sealing the deal on the GST in front of a million cameras..... Sure, the GST didn't cause the sky to cave in, but public sentiment at the time was quite heated - Lees seemed not to care and came across as a true blue Liberal.

I agree with your Vale sentiments...

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Regardless of the virtues of striking a deal with the Libs on the GST, Lees was a prize goose to allow herself to be filmed smiling and shaking hands with John Howard.

Half the electorate saw that and thought "you bitch".

And dear God Tom, what is that atavar?

catlick said...

Oh Tom Gaylord! I've now had my morning dose of "apalled", followed by "horrified" and a side of "amused". Nice to see you again.
Perseus, that little space marked, "I wonder what I really think about all that?" is now full of Perseus Goodness. Thanks. I may need to contract you to think for me in the future.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Needless to say. I was never a big fan of the Demos but I loathe then less than I loathe the Greens.

catlick said...

"be filmed smiling and shaking hands with John Howard."
Is this one of those "I'd take it back if I could" moments? Like Kernot's red dress shoot, the airport fracas, and, any others?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Lees' Chief of Staff at the time was that cunt John Schumann - fornerly of Redgum.

Oh, did I mention Schumann is a cunt.

'Cause he is.

Anonymous said...

Even though I used to vote for them during the 90s, I disagree with your romantic eulogising, Perseus. In retrospect, they were just another political party, existing for their own survival. They never really defined or communicated a cohesive set of policies, but they were able to wield disproportionate influence in the senate just by holding the coveted balance of power. Their slogan 'keeping the bastards honest' was just clever spin to feed a perception of them as neutral outsiders above the usual muck of politics, which of course they weren't.

When leader-at-the-time Cheryl Kernot jumped ship to Labor, it really demonstrated to the public that they were as power-hungry and ignoble as the other politicians they were supposedly keeping in check. Then Meg Lees, by approving the unpopular GST, sealed that perception for the general public. Once they lost their image of neutral mediators, they didn't have much of a policy platform to keep them afloat.

For all that though, I agree they were a more palatable third wheel than the current mess of extremists.

wari lasi said...

I believe Keating (cunt of a man, genius orator) coined the term "unrepresentative swill" for the senate, and he was on the money. It becomes particularly apparent when a Tasmanian senator who 20 people voted for feels he has the right to dictate policy, simply because he holds, however briefly, the "balance of power".

Perseus said...

"They never really defined or communicated a cohesive set of policies..."

I dunno Boogey. I was a member in the 90's and they had policies on fucking everything, but, they weren't very good at selling themselves. Further, I suppose you're right in that the policies weren't 'cohesive', but that's what I liked about them. They were economically conservative but socially progressive. They were talking about greenhouse gases years before the Greens came around, for instance, but were just as happy to yap about tax reforms.

So, they were forced to do a lot fringe-work. For example, to this day, the detail on food packaging (as to where it was grown, packed, and who owns it and stuff) is largely if not solely due to AD's pushing. They'd get that shit through in return for agreeing to let other less palatable bills through. Thing is, particularly under Chipp and Haines, they welcomed the parliamentary process, unlike The Greens who are just the naughty kids at the back of the class.

As for Cheryl's move to Labor... so what? She wanted more influence. I really don't think it was all that bad.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

the current mess of extremists

Kruddy's an extremist now?


Does Therese know?

Perseus said...

"a Tasmanian senator who 20 people voted for feels he has the right to dictate policy"

I agree Wari, but I think it is important that BOP exists, and it should be in safe hands, and the Dems were those safe hands.

1990: Australian Democrats scored in excess of 1.2 million Senate votes and over 1.1 million lower house primary votes. That's not 'unrepresentative swill' - that's a serious fucken vote.

Anonymous said...

I think Keating's 'unrepresentative swill' comment referred to the fact that the Senate representation is disproportionate - Tasmania, with its smaller population, gets the same number of senators, and thus votes, as a state like NSW with 10 times the population.

Thus making every Tasmaniac's vote 10 times more powerful than any New South Welshfolk's.

wari lasi said...

Boogey, I'm certain that's exactly what he meant. I suppose it's the old story though, the system ain't perfect but it's close to the best it can be. I suppose.

Anonymous said...

The Senate could always abandon state-based representation and make it proportional at the federal level.

The Senate could also be less a house of review and more a house of revue.

Mr E Discharge said...

As a former resident of Kallista, I regularly had the honour of coffee and conversation with Don Chipp. A lovely man, greatly missed.

The concept of third political force in Australia was doomed to fail from the start. We're only comfortable with one on one conflict. Liberal V Labour, Holden V Ford, Sydney V Melbourne, Camus V Sartre, Sard Wonder Soap V Ground-in Grass Stains.

Asking the Australian public to choose between three arguably different possibilities, is just too much like hard work.

Nice try though, Don.