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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

News: Communist Alliance to change name

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Comm. Gazette PageThe Communist Alliance, a party which formed in March 2009, is set to change its name to something simpler.

According to an article in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (No. GN 28, 20 July 2011), the party is seeking to change its name to “The Communists.”

The party’s official abbreviation will remain the same.

The Alliance formed in 2009 and consists of several communist political parties and groups, including the Communist Party of Australia.

The Communist Party was founded in 1971 as the Socialist Party of Australia.

The Communist Alliance contested the seat of Sydney in the 2010 Federal Election.

For more information, click here to view the page of the Gazette announcing the proposed name change.

Objections to the name change can be made to the AEC.


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Friday, July 15, 2011

On A Friday: The Science of Opinion

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Will's beautiful picture of a treeIt’s a strange time that we live in. Not since 1975 has the Australian public formed a strong political opinion en-masse (with the possible exception of the referendum debate), yet now Cletus has his head out of the window yelling “Ma, it’s happening again!”

It is odd - most people in the country actually seem to have an opinion, or something closely resembling an opinion, about the carbon tax. It’s one topic which you can bring up with strangers on the street and hear in their response an opinion which was obviously formed before your conversation. Depending on your views, you might even get a nice run down the street with your new best friend too.

How set and how ill-informed people’s opinions are varies greatly, but that’s not the key thing to take away from this. The really weird thing is that this issue is not about football, it is not about MasterChef – it is about politics!

It is remarkable how much of a fuss this re-ordering of the tax system has caused. It has occurred to me that yearly alterations to government budgets have done more to effect household bottom lines than this tax is set to do. Indeed, a household earning $110, 000 per year would only have to pay about $10 per week with a carbon price in place; and in most cases you can end up with a huge tax break if you switch to the untaxed renewable energy sources.

Although being ranked as the second least trustworthy group of professionals in a poll of 1000 Reader’s Digest readers this year, people seem to be taking up arms on this issue after listening to, you got it, politicians.

What’s more, this “debate” is all just political rhetoric – something that I thought the Australian public was supposed to have an aversion to. Rhetoric-ridden speeches by Tony Abbott question the quality of our climatologists, our ecologists, our economists and probably even our biologists, archaeologists, zoologists and gynaecologists. At the same time, Julia Gillard levels anti-Abbott rhetoric at the nation.

This completely throws to the wind the importance of scientific research and instead makes this a debate about “who lied about what” and “which multi-millionaire should have to pay 5c extra for a hotdog.” The science is occasionally taken along for the ride.

Indeed yesterday one politician, Malcolm Turnbull, revealed that he had been receiving persistent abusive text messages from one individual about his stance on climate change; this is not in line with political debate or scientific research.

But if all this tax talk is taking its toll on you, you might want to sit back and watch the video below. The sentiment can be appreciated by everyone of every opinion and political persuasion, and even by those managing to hold no opinion.

I’m not sure if it was Terry Gilliam who was responsible for the animations. A large part of me hopes that it wasn’t.

Or maybe that song is too scientific for some people?

But oh, if only the sun were the direct source of all our power - then there’d be no need for a debate at all.


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©2011 William Kulich.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Opinion: When Australian Politics Breaks

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Gough WhitlamToday is former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s 95th birthday. Whitlam became Prime Minister in December 1972 and was eventually toppled, not by the Liberal/National opposition, but by then-Governor-General of Australia Sir John Kerr who sacked him on Remembrance Day 1972.

Whitlam’s short term in office was one of the most unstable moments in Australian political history, and was the first true test to the Australian hybrid system of government.

The “constitutional crisis” which surrounded Whitlam’s dismissal was a clash between the unwritten conventions of the Westminster system and the written constitution of Australia, which is required to make the Australian Federation work.

Sir John Kerr broke many conventions when dismissing Whitlam, especially the convention that the Governor-General should consult with the Prime Minister on important matters. I argue that Kerr also broke the law of the Constitution of Australia by consulting with a member of the High Court – a move which is questionable under the separation of powers described in section one of the constitution.

This was not the first time that convention had been broken for the Labor MP; in fact, right from the moment that Whitlam entered Parliament he was subject to breaches of convention. When delivering his maiden speech to the parliament in 1953 after the Werriwa by-election, Whitlam was interrupted by John “Black Jack” McEwen. Maiden speeches are, by convention, heard in silence.

The political instability of the early- to mid-1970s was, to say the least, a scary realisation that Australia’s democracy is far from perfect. But what is the alternative? One of the strange side-effects of anti-communism in Australia is that any non-democratic system of government is hardly considered by the population.

Although any future Governors-General are unlikely to dismiss a Prime Minister, we’re not out of the woods yet in proving the worth of Australian democracy.

I was watching a sitting of the House of Representatives last week, where the house became rowdy so quickly that Speaker Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins was forced to stand and issue a general warning after only five minutes of sitting time. The rest of the sitting saw Jenkins throw out five opposition members, nearly throw out the opposition leader and yell for silence at both sides of the chamber.

Once again, we are lucky that there is not a strong alternative to democracy in Australia as, given how much of a rabble our Parliament has started to become, it would be difficult to defend the functionality of our system at present.

Although there is some fun about Australia’s parliament and how parliamentarians interact, when there are clear breaches of standing orders for the sake of TV news bites and attempts to stall parliamentary proceedings to force an extra sitting week it has gone too far. Everyone should be thankful that we have no rival ideology.


©2011 William Kulich.

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