Readers of Nurturing Justice may recall our effort to trace the serious challenges to our parliamentary democracy back to what transpired 42 years ago, the bringing on a double dissolution election of May 1974. In Opposition, the Liberal Party abandoned its own party’s commitment to promote lawful government (i.e. the lower house required supply and thus should be allowed to govern according to its election promises). I recently received support from someone closely associated with these events, as private secretary to the Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. He thought my analysis worthy of his blog site. It was titled “Politics for Government or Politics for Politics?” (a title I purloined from an article written by Jim Skillen in a 1994 piece he had written which was made available a few years ago in All of Life Redeemed – Asia.) I was gratified by this “thumbs up” since I have been developing this view since launching Nurturing Justice back in 2006.
In this age of hyper-information it sometimes seems we have to incessantly bang on, again and again, to have our view heard “above the din”. On this matter there is, at most, only very slight media attention. The depth of the ongoing Parliamentary crisis facing our Commonwealth is not really being discussed. But also absent is any analysis of the inherent and ongoing constitutional crisis of the Liberal Party itself qua political party? (let alone of its opposite number). The matters raised by John Menadue in his “Pearls and Irritations”, as well as archival revelations from Jenny Hocking, are indeed grains of sand but they are not about to depart the parliamentary oyster even as the cracks in the Liberal side of that tightly closed shell are growing by the day.
When the current party apparatchiks – on “both sides” – bleat on about receiving a “mandate”, what they are actually telling us is that the election endorses them as political parties. But as we have experienced with the incessant parliamentary turmoil over the last decade, with the constant changing of Prime Ministers and the persistent ferment of disaffection, elections do not change the Liberal and Labor public relation firms back into authentic political parties.
Even if the Liberal Party, at one recent point so cocky about their new “marriage equality” affirming Prime Minister, were to win the next election with National Party compliance, they still have the ongoing impact of their departure from their own party constitution (since 1974) to deal with. How are they, as a political party, going to survive with members competing in their efforts to frame a prospective party platform for the next election? Where will they be in terms of membership when they can no longer appeal to a party constitution that spells out in detail what its commitment to the “liberal philosophy” means? The Liberal Party, along with its Labor Party alter-ego, is part of an ongoing neo-liberal parliamentary fiasco. And what, pray tell, will they write in their respective Constitutions about their party’s political commitments to “marriage and family”?
There are obviously those who are simply tired of this neo-liberal banging on about “marriage equality”, having now shifted to the spectral categories of Kinsey (talk about the Howard-Costello retreat to the mythologies of the 1950s!) to back up its projected deconstruction. But if such weary citizens think that the issue will be resolved by a Labor victory (and legislation within 100 days) or a Liberal Coalition victory and a “plebiscite”, they are going to be disappointed. Fairfax and Murdoch and their tabloids are already presenting politics as a MardiGras spectacular (quite apart from their coverage of Sydney’s festival). Sperms, eggs, penises and vaginas sell all the tabloids across the newspaper spectrum. The issues, and consequential debates, are not going to go away simply because of a majority of parliamentarians think that the Australian Federal Parliament can act as a fairy-god mother. The issues, and consequential debates remain. And what this country needs is well-organised political parties that have members who know how the party’s political commitment is going to be worked into public policy and legislation. Then, they should be seeking to promote a system of representation in Parliament where such views can be heard.
To those thinking that the issue will go away simply by a vote that changes the definition of marriage, Nurturing Justice takes up the adage of that well-known Aussie tow-truck owner Darryl Kerrigan: “Tell ’em they’re dreaming’!”
At this point, I am not going to go further down this path to re-hash the former PM’s dogged commitment to core-and-non-core promises – was that itself a “core” or “non-core” commitment? I will leave that to you for your own research – you should be intensely interested in this issue and I can only suggest you apprise whatever else may be helpful to assist your research from my Nurturing Justice archive.
Keep working away!