Australians are sick to death of personalities getting in the way of stable government. It has become the norm to see a sitting prime minister knifed in a late-night coup.
They are becoming increasingly frustrated with a political system which is capable of churning through five prime ministers in as many years. This has disastrous flow- on effects. With a change of prime minister comes an inevitable reshuffle of ministries.
Even for an experienced minister it is difficult to get on top of the operational and other details of a new portfolio.
Much more so when you consider the complexities of re-forming key domestic and even international relationships, which can often take years. We are in danger of becoming a laughing stock internationally.
Now new leader Malcolm Turnbull, lauded for his business acumen and perceived skills in economic management and policy, is expected to boost business confidence.
But running a national economy is not the same as running a company.
And success in one certainly does not mean success in the other. What business really needs is stability of leadership, as well as in policy and regulation, giving it the confidence to make long-term decisions.
Under our Westminster system of government, the prime minister must always have the confidence of the House of Representatives.
How the party chooses its leader is its own business. But with increased polling, the 24-hour media cycle and the emergence of social media, the politicians too often panic because they have their eyes on the next election and not the national interest. This is without precedent in stable countries and strong deterrents must be introduced to ensure that this is the exception and not the rule.
One such way of achieving this would be to introduce a provision in the constitution requiring that whenever a prime minister is replaced through a change of leadership of the party, an election is automatically triggered within, say, 90 days. There would need to be exceptions for resignations and deaths. This would give an opportunity for electors to endorse the new prime minister. Further, politicians would think twice before making a decision motivated by self-preservation.
To do this, the constitution would also have to recognise the office of prime minister, all of which would require a referendum. Knowing that Australians have traditionally approved sensible proposals for change, it shouldn’t be difficult to achieve the required level of support.
Or perhaps it would be simpler to follow many leading parties in the English-speaking world. That is leaving the decision, either in whole or in major part, to rank-and-file members of the party, rather than purely the politicians.
The Labor Party has gone down this road. Perhaps it is time for the Liberal Party to wake up to itself and become more open, transparent and internally democratic.
If they don’t, rank-and-file members, who are becoming increasingly disillusioned and feeling taken for granted, may well decide that it is time to establish a viable conservative alternative to the Liberal-Labor duopoly.
Jai Martinkovits is the co-author of Give Us Back Our Country
[This article was first published in The Daily Telegraph: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/no-more-rolls-without-going-to-the-polls/story-fni0cwl5-1227530703227]
If there is one thing that unites Australians young and old, it’s a love of their Flag and all that it represents.
In fact, in a recent poll, Roy Morgan Research put support among the youngest age group, 14 to 17, as high as 80%, with 7% undecided. And support across all age brackets was found to be 69%, with 5% undecided.
This weekend, Aussies right across the country are celebrating our national birthday – Australia Day. As well as appreciating a good excuse for a holiday, Aussies will take a moment to reflect on our glorious way of life, which so many of our forebears fought and died to protect.
It has been said that the success of any nation – or, shall we say, it’s way of life – is dependent upon the quality of its institutions. And it’s those very institutions and values which have so clearly allowed our nation to prosper, which are encapsulated in our National Flag of “Stars and Crosses”.
It is truly the people’s Flag – proudly adopted in 1901 following the results of a public competition, which attracted more than 32,000 entries.
The three crosses, St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick serve to represent the institutions we inherited and which we have ourselves built upon; including the rule of law, the English Language, our Judeo-Christian values, and leadership beyond politics in The Crown.
The constellation of the Southern Cross indicates our geographical location in the southern hemisphere. The constellation of stars relates to the various indigenous legends and serves to remind us of our rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait heritage.
Despite this, republicans have long sought to shred our beautiful symbol of national unity, offering a plethora of meaningless beach towel designs to replace it.
In fact, in the mid 90’s, the Australian Republican Movement sponsored an exhibition, “Flagging the Republic”, which showcased a range of potential Flag designs, including the very tasteful words “F*** Off Back To Fag Land” on a plain grey background.
Perhaps reluctantly recognising the tremendous support the Flag enjoys, The Australian Republican Movement now tell us they don’t want to change the Flag. But a leopard can’t change its spots. Australians can be rest assured that as sure as night follows day, a politicians’ republic will bring with it a change of Flag.
What is curious is that republicans – in contrast to the great majority of Australians – seem to constantly battle with their sense of identity. Perhaps psychologists could label this phenomenon?
Most recently, the Australians Republican Movement undertook a quasi-rebranding, with the view to starting a “new conversation” about our national identity. This has proven nothing more than a desperate attempt to keep a dead issue alive. The fact is, Australia is already a form of republic – a republic under The Crown, or a Crowned Republic. The only other form of republic is a politicians’ republic. And in the 1999 referendum, Australians made it perfectly clear, in 100% of States and in 73% of Federal electorates, that they won’t have a bar of that!
So whilst republicans will undoubtedly set out on yet another opportunistic and divisive campaign to divide the nation on our day of national unity, chuck another snag on the barbie and enjoy the one symbol which most brings us all together. And remember that any worthwhile change to further empower the people (as opposed to the political class) can be achieved through incremental change to our constitution.
[Jai Martinkovits is co-author with David Flint of Give Us Back Our Country, now in its second edition and published by Connor Court]
This article was originally published in the Dubbo Weekender: http://issuu.com/panscott/docs/dwk20140123jpzns?e=1139228/11066161
Teresa and I were privileged to have recently been invited to attend the 2014 Prime Minister's Literary Awards.
It was encouraging to see Anthony Capello and so many other Connor Court Publishing authors present. We managed to round up a few in the photo below (Left to Right: Rowan Dean, Anthony Capello, Jai Martinkovits, Jim Allen).
If you have not yet purchased a copy of Give Us Back Our Country, please click here:
The call by Tony Abbott at the annual national conference of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy last Friday gave fresh impetus to the debate on the recognition of indigenous people in the Constitution. The monarchist reply to involve the people from the beginning and not just at the end could open a new page in constitutional reform.
Why did the Prime Minister go to the monarchists? Because, as Dennis Shanahan says, these “fiercest defenders’’ of the Constitution have the runs on the board.
Facing a much better res¬ourced republican campaign, the 1999 victory demonstrated that constitutional reform requires passion, something so far absent in the present campaign. This is not the self-proclaimed passion of the elites but of the rank and file. Rank-and-file monarchists demonstrated theirs when Bob Carr expelled the governors from Sydney’s Government House. ACM mounted the only large and significant demonstration in the monarchy-republic debate.
As a realist, the Prime Minister knows to succeed in his wish to incorporate indigenous tradition alongside British tradition in the Constitution, it is essential these “fiercest defenders’’ be on side.
They are a broad church, all great respecters of the indigenous people choosing Australia’s first indigenous parliamentarian, Neville Bonner, as a leading delegate to the Constitutional Convention. His speech was so moving, even republicans joined in the convention’s only standing ovation.
It is not a matter of neutralising these “fiercest defenders’’; they must at least endorse the proposal. Their silence cannot be expected. The most energetic and able among them had rallied last year in a people’s No committee to fight the Gillard government’s campaign for the constitutional recognition of local government.
When the Prime Minister issued his plea to the monarchist heartland, he was surrounded by some of the nation’s leading constitutional conservatives.
He was introduced by Alan Jones, one of very few in the media who opposed the 1999 referendum. His advice was elevated to one of the key slogans: “If you don’t know, vote no.”
John Howard, who gave the republican issue to the people, sent a carefully constructed mes¬sage. When he moved the vote of thanks, David Flint recalled Federation could not be achieved until the colonies adopted Sir John Quick’s Corowa plan.
Corowa meant politicians handed the issue to the people to achieve through an elected constitutional convention. This was the turning point in the Federation movement, and in only seven years a continent was unified as one nation.
Leaving the indigenous referendum to the elites is not enough: Flint asked Abbott to involve the people from the beginning.
Such a convention should consider issues unlikely to be resolved except through the Corowa process. First, the lamentable state of federal-state relations. As the most fiscally imbalanced federation in the world, ours is a mess of duplication and blame games.
Abbott’s Tenterfield speech represented a commendable renunciation of the centralisation he espoused in Battlelines. But as soon as he announced a genuine attempt to clean up the mess, politicians launched a predictable scare about the GST, politicising the question and destroying any chance of a solution. The white paper will also probably become a political football. The only hope is to involve the people from the beginning, the lesson of Quick’s Corowa process.
The same is true of the third issue, politicians’ accountability to the people, which has been so drastically reduced through the emergence of a duopoly domin¬ated by factional powerbrokers who choose our future politicians.
The solution is an elected and unpaid standing convention, charged with producing real constitutional reform under the Corowa process.
David Flint and Jai Martinkovits are joint authors of Give Us Back Our Country.
[This article was first published in The Australian on Thursday 4 December 2014 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/heeding-the-peoples-voice/story-e6frg6zo-1227143954104]
Viewed from the comfort of a chauffeured lord mayoral limousine, Sydney’s traffic nightmare is easily solved. Just assume Sydney is as flat as Amsterdam with boulevards as wide as those found in Paris. Then you could put the masses — those without chauffeured limos — on to bikes. Of course this is just a pipedream.
Fed up with Clover’s utopian dreams which invariably turn into nightmares, the state government sensibly decided to rip out the next-to-useless $4.9 million College St cycleway. This would compensate for the George St closure to restore those trams so foolishly ripped out by another band of vision-dead politicians.
How then to placate a Lord Mayor protected by a powerful squad of spin doctors who can flood the media?
Unbelievably, the solution they thought up was to ram not one, but two north-south cycleways through the commercial heart of the city.
One would strangle small businesses from King St to Chinatown along the often jammed-to-capacity Castlereagh St. The consequence? Tradies, delivery people and taxis would be unable to work. Cafes and restaurants will lose much of their patronage (and footpath seating). Hotels will be crippled.
And the other cycleway would destroy the vibrant Spanish quarter.
Both cycleways resemble the hind leg of a dog unfortunate enough to have been in a serious traffic accident. As anyone in the real world knows, Sydney cyclists invariably choose the shortest route. Not what looks like an elegant solution scratched on the back of a champagne coaster.
Duncan Gay, a sensible minister, concedes both cycleways will destroy business. But restricting them to peak hours — dismissed as unworkable by the cyclist lobby — is not the answer. The Lord Mayor may not know it, but tradies, delivery men and taxi drivers start work early.
And unless you’re in a 5-star hotel, there is no late check-out.
These ill-placed cycleways, unwanted even by cyclists, just don’t pass the pub test. The priority for the government must be to concentrate on mass transport solutions, not boutique issues.
And above all to talk to those who actually keep the CBD going.
Jai Martinkovits is spokesman for the #SaveOurStreet campaign www.saveourstreet.com.au
[This article was first published in the The Daily Telegraph on 17 November 2014]