The Cultural Mandate and the Blogosphere

Does the “blogosphere” exist? Are we consider it a genuine domain of creation that is as much worthy of attention as anything else that comes within the ambit of our cultural mandate (Genesis 1: 28) responsibilities? Yes, blogging in the “blogosphere” is a God-given creational domain for the extension and formation of human dominion, a part of “all the world” into which the disciples of Christ Jesus are to take and live the Good News  (Matthew28:16-20). Well, if we assume it is not – perhaps by assuming it is simply a means of self-actualisation in a hyper-individualised world – we are already living out of a deep contradiction. We’ve been working away with this technology haven’t we? Isn’t it a domain of our personal publication? So why on earth would we doubt its existence?

Sometimes our posts decisively break through any blogged isolationism and even elicit a response from somewhere or other. This morning, yesterday’s blog brought this email from this young woman to my intray.

The Angry Feminist

Her email said she thought Everyday Justice in Conversation (2) was pretty awesome and so I was directed to her blog. Well, I could have ditched the email and justify that by assuming it was simply a matter of WordPress robotics. But why not take it at face value?

Actually “blogosphere” activity has to take things at face value – I assume that unlike my own ghosted literary “personality” Henrietta Dubb, this Biblically-inspired youthful and energetic blogger is the Christian woman who has posted a photo of herself at “Beauty Beyond Bones” (I think she wrote somewhere that she is from New York city).

And so I judge that her “hello” at least deserves my reciprocal greeting. Let me put it in the terms we have been dealing with of late: Nurturing Justice on the “blogosphere” also reckons with the responsibility to cultivate good “blogospherical” (!!!) conduct, to develop sensitive manners, to express politeness, offer reciprocation, extend gratitude, be friendly. It doesn’t have to be overdone, and if it is it will soon become evident. It is certainly not narcissistic ingratiation to be friendly, to be open to friendship. The aim is not to increase one’s “points”, “likes” or a statistical count, or even to extend one’s niche. It may bring in more e-traffic to your email’s in-tray, but it is simply a matter of respect for those encountered in the domain where one is active.

So yes, the blogosphere is a domain in which justice needs nurturing if a blog is to be engaged in Nurturing Justice. How else?

BCW 8.8.17

 

Everyday Justice in Conversation (2)

The “Oh no. Not Again!” Factor in Everyday Conversation

Here are some more points to consider for those seeking a Christian political option in everyday conversation. Of course, it does not need saying that the premier example of “politically correct speech” these days is related to the ongoing, decades-long advocacy of homosexual marriage. The demands for legislation include, as many wise observers have noted, that it is a movement seeking to “re-correct political speech” about marriage so that reference to the male-female exclusive-for-life bond no longer casts aspersions on those same-sex couples wanting their relationship to be viewed as marriage. And hence the movement through various redactions, as to its nomenclature that has now morphed into “marriage equality”. Many are obviously annoyed with this long-drawn-out seemingly unresolved matter. And, I guess, some readers of this blog will sigh and say, “Oh not again!”

What Nurturing Justice has always sought to show, and I hope will continue to demonstrate, is that in “everyday conversation” there are always various discussion routes that one can take to emphasise political principles. Keeping our eye on the command to love God above all and our neighbour as ourselves means that our discussions don’t have to be obsessively oriented to affirm public justice every time we open our mouths after our neighbour asks us to clarify our views.

That being said, let’s engage in a thought experiment. Let’s imagine ourselves in everyday conversation after the proposed change to the definition of lawful marriage has passed the Federal Parliament. Let’s give ourselves the liberty of taking seriously the views of the proponents of this change as they have given their views in the media today or recently.

There is in public reports a continual effort to link advocacy of “marriage equality” to a subsidiary argument. Proponents feel the need to link their rhetoric to a claim that implies such an urgency that the issue needs to be resolved NOW once and for all. That is how they have continued to advocate this revolution for over a decade. That is how they continue to make the claim today:

We have been discussing this for so long and it has been unresolved for so long; let’s get it off the agenda now once and for all and we can get back to what we are supposed to be doing!

Why does this mantra need to be affixed to the claim? It is as if we are being told that the Parliament has been diverted and will be put back on track when they succeed with the legislative change they are demanding. Even so, they fail to tell us exactly what it is that will be changed and what the consequences in terms of public administration will be. The most is usually the “chicken licken option” that the sky will not fall in.

But then to address the question politically instead of sentimentally would mean going back and clarifying what they have been saying and really they present themselves as not really wanting to do that. What is now needed, they say, is to get it off Parliament’s agenda as if the question itself is a hurdle that has to be overcome. And so, they say, this proposed legislation will free Parliament from this pesky and needlessly drawn out debate and, in the words of one articulate Liberal Parliamentarian, get back to considering how Parliament can legislate “to get electricity prices down for ordinary Australians.”

This kind of argument, even if it is framed in terms of the Liberal Party’s now thoroughly discredited respect for voters, ignores the fact that the “political charge” associated with marriage, family, household and friendship will not be turned off simply because Parliament takes this route. But if we take the tired rhetoric (i.e. of Mr Tim Wilson, or of Opposition Leader Mr Bill Shorten) seriously, the question they should be asking their political opponents after the law has been changed is this:

Why do you still consider it a political issue that same-sex marriage is not marriage even now after Parliament has legislated to alter definition of lawful marriage that be enshrined in all legislation? Why do you refuse to accept that the issue is now closed political once and for all?

1. FIRST ANSWER: One answer to that is this: legislation does not close, and never has closed, political debate once and for all. This minor point now helps us identify the implicit statism involved in the marriage equality movement blurred as it might be by a dogma of public sentimentalism. Marriage is not and never has been a department of State. Such ideologues (including current Liberal Parliamentarians) ought to learn from what happened to the Bolshevik abolition of marriage early in the 20th century. Moreover, where do we hear about the distinctive separation of State and Marriage in this “marriage equality” argument. There may well have been an implicit Liberal civil religious be statism in their defence of the previous definition, but what do these “marriage equality” advocates now with the new definition of marriage on the law books (with the marriage institution assumed to be a fundamental human right) intend to do about resisting state totalitarianism? 

2. SECOND ANSWER: Can not Parliament make a mistake? Why should those who now believe the current Marriage Act contains a mistaken view of marriage -and hence have maintained their campaign for the recognition of homosexuality as a valid way of life – believe that those who disagree with them are going to be persuaded otherwise simply because the Parliament joins in making the egregious error of the “marriage equality” movement? Why should political errors only ever be made on this matter to have prevented “marriage equality” justice as they demanded it?

Of course a brief answer in terms of Australian law may simply be: consult Parkinson and Aroney for an understanding of the deep ambiguities that are already at work with the administration of Marriage Law across our Commonwealth. Their  and it will become readily apparent that the “marriage equality” debate is a charade seeking merely a legislative expression of symbolic flag-waving that will, nevertheless have ongoing [i.e. not “once and for all”] administrative and political consequences at home and abroad.

The statement “once and for all” is rhetorical nonsense. Is it not the implicit view of those who will not rest until the Marriage Act is changed to comply with their latter-day homosexual rights agenda, that they must keep up the argument so that justice be done? Why should they speak as if their opponents on this matter are now to be politically shut out of public debate since the legislation is passed? From where do they derive that view? Or is it that it is they who have actually run out of arguments against a view that they do not know how to comprehensively reject and thus had no idea at all how to argue the case for the previous (now current) Marriage Act definition of marriage in order to show where it was in error? In other words, they really do not know in legal terms what they are arguing against? And as much as they have a deficient jurisprudence, they also do not have comprehensive political grounds for arguing for public justice for all including all households. [This would involve the need to distinguish between same-sex households and same-sex homosexual households – why of same-sex households should homosexuals be given notional privilege of being ascribed marriage status? This a distinction rarely, if ever, emerging in this ideologically shaped debate world-wide.]

 

3. THIRD ANSWER: When the argument was given back in the 1970s that same-sex,  permanent relationships were not defective forms of marriage and should not be evaluated in terms of marriage criteria, such an argument was accepted as valid and homosexuality was decriminalised. But of recent decades in the various phases of this ongoing social movement (homosexual rights > gay-rights > gay-marriage> gay and lesbian rights> same-sex marriage> marriage equality) marriage has no longer been viewed as a male-female bond but that relationship as endorsed by law is interpreted as a potential homophobic institution. Hence marriage needs to be de-homophobised and the way to do so is via changing the definition of lawful marriage in the Marriage Act (a view that implicitly will be nothing but a magical wish in its purported operation) that will then mean changing all manner of other public activities, social welfare programmes, health-care, aged-care, education and schooling. And, of course, the idea that the advocacy of “marriage equality” is based on such a subliminal stereotype (hate speech perhaps?) of what is falsely and gratuitously called called “heterosexual marriage” can never get a proper airing in this environment.

4. FOURTH ANSWER: A Christian political option is, with reference to the definitive teaching of Jesus, committed to His view of marriage. Human identity is revealed to us as male and female created “in the image of God”. The question of “sexual orientation” is a pastoral issue and does not cancel Biblical teaching, nor does it over-ride Jesus’ proscription concerning “sizing up” another image bearer of the Creator – whether in marriage or not – in order to vent one’s covetous desires as a path in violation of the Commandment (Matthew 5:27-28). A Christian political option must involve a Biblically-directed view of how marriage, along with family and household relationships of all kinds, should be respected in public-law.

Yes this discussion I guess will be long with us.

Apologies to all those readers who find it tiresome. Can a Christian political option arise from a Christian reformation of the way in which marriage, family and household and friendship functions as part of “seeking first God’s Kingdom” and His righteousness? Why not? Will not all these other things (including the coherent and humble publicly advocacy of a Christian political option of justice for all) be then granted to us?

BCW 7.8.17

 

THE FRISBEE, THE SAUSAGE, THE BARBECUE

Last week, walking through the village, I was hit by a frisbee. Hit is probably too hard a word. It glided into my reach with no fuss at all. The owner was with his friends from a day centre in Geelong. It was their monthly outing to Point Lonsdale – a barbeque lunch.

“Frisbee” said Johnno coming up to me. “My name’s Johnno. What’s yours?”

“Hen” I said. “Henny.”

“Henny,” said Johnno pointing. “Sausages”.

I saw the smoke rising from the barbeque.

“Smells good,” I said.

Johnno replied. “Me too. Lunch.”

Johnno’s frisbee partner came up.

“Frisbee” she said, taking the frisbee off Johnno and throwing it so that it almost cleared the hedge into the Bowls Club. It stuck in a branch. I reached up and threw it low toward where the main party had assembled.

“Good throw!” Shelley clapped happily. “My name’s Shelley.

“Lunch. Sausages.”

She grabbed me by the arm and took me over to the main group.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Henny” I replied. “That’s short for Henrietta.”

I smiled at the three workers, busy in various phases of picnic preparation and feeding. Shelley and Johnno were the two who spoke. I was introduced to the others – Di, Gus, Rolly and Belle.

“Hi Di. Hi Gus. Hi Rolly and Hi Belle. I’m Henny. You can call me Hen.”
“No you’re not.”

Johnno wanted me to eat a sausage.

Johnno knew something more was needed.

“This is Mary.” Johnno took my arm “and this is Bill and this is Marjorie. I’m her boy friend.”

His cheeky smile went from ear to ear.

“No you are not!”

“She loves me!” Johnno persisted looking at me impishly.

Marjorie knew her cue.

“Yes I do,” she said “very much. But Johnno you are not my boy friend!”

Johnno was smiling, trying hard to look hurt.

But he giggled. Then he threw his arms around Marjorie.

“And I love you too” he said.

Shelley piped up. “Do you love me, Henny?”

Mary, Bill and Marjorie smiled at me – they knew how Johnno and Shelley loved to make friends wherever they went.

“Yes,” I said, feeling only slightly exposed, “You all make me very happy. Thanks for coming. Come again!”

“Here. Sausage” said Shelley.

Johnno reached over for the sauce bottle and squirted some on my snack which I was trying to consume in my now greasy fingers. Not to be outdone, Shelley provided two slices of bread.

After a time, I took my leave and walked on, happy. The kindness of Johnno and Shelley stayed with me as I walked. To be alive, to play, to eat, to talk, to joke is just part of being a friend. For a brief time they had invited me to be theirs.

excerpt from Hentrietta Dubb’s Diary

First Published “Rip Rumour” September 2004.

(THIS IS THE LINK TO HENRIETTA’S EXPLANATION OF HER DIARY)

HENRIETTA DUBB INTRODUCES HER DIARY

Henrietta Dubb’s Diary began with a quote from a review of R H Tawney, a collection of essays entitled, Christianity and the Social Revolution (London. Victor Gollancz & Co 1935). It can be found in The Attack and Other Essays, Spokesman, Nottingham 1981 (Original edition, 1953 George Allen and Unwin Ltd).

“I have excerpted quotes from pages 163-166:

The watershed between creeds which this striking book suggests is not the conventional one. Whatever Christians and Communists may say and do, Christianity and popular communism – though not its official variety – are alike in holding the now unfashionable view that principles really matter. Both have their absolutes. As far as principles are concerned, the division of the future will lie, perhaps, less between different forms of political and economic organisation than between different estimates of the value to be put on the muddled soul of Henry Dubb.

“There follows a footnote to my grandfather:

H.D.: the civilian equivalent of the P.B.I, or poor bloody infantry, ie the common, courageous, good-hearted, patient, proletarian fool, whose epic is contained in the well known lines, “We go to work to earn the cash to buy the bread to get the strength to go to work to earn the cash,” etc, and who is worth, except to his modest self, nine-tenths of the gentilities, notabilities, intellectual, cultural and ethical eminences put together. I seem to remember an occasion on which a telegram addressed to Henry Dubb, Labor Party Conference, was duly delivered at the correct sea-side resort. The statement that, on the chairman inviting the addressee to claim it, four-fifths of the comrades sprang to their feet, is, however an exaggeration.

“Tawney continues:

What the rules of Germany and Italy think of him we know; and I suspect that those of Japan think much the same. The Christian Church professes to regard him as a little lower than the angels, a child of God, and the heir of eternal life. But it has shown hitherto no unquenchable zeal to ensure that, in this vale of tears, he shall be treated as what, on its own doctrine, he is. … In the interminable case of Dubb v Superior Persons and Co whether Christians, Capitalists or Communists, I am an unrepentant Dubbite. So I am in the unfortunate position of being unable to applaud my friends for their vices, which – since their shining virtues will look after themselves – is what friends usually declare. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. Pondering that and other indiscretions of a neglected classic, I find it impossible to believe, with some Christians, that the love of God, whom one has not seen, is compatible with advantages snatched from the brother one sees every day, or that what they describe as spiritual equality, a condition which they neither created nor – happily – can alter, has as its appropriate corollary economic, social and educational inequalities which, given the will, they can abolish out of hand … A Christianity which resigns the economic world to the devil appears to me, in short, not Christianity at all; Capitalism a juggernaut sacrificing human ends to the idolatry of material means; and a Socialism which puts Dubb on a chain and prevents him from teaching manners to his exalted governors, a Socialism – if such it can be called – which has more than half its battles still before it.

“I don’t pretend to understand all Tawney writes about my grand-father. In many ways Henry is still a mystery to me. I remember being told that just before he died – a matter of days after I was born – he said that he had always been in God’s care, and that as much as he longed for Heaven, he also wanted to see Our Heavenly Father’s new earth where righteousness and justice and truth and happiness flower in their fullest. Granpa, had a Christian funeral – his hopes have lain dormant in my consciousness all these years until I recently read Tawney’s comments noting the

… good sense, pertinacity, nerve and resolution of the loveable, pig-headed, exasperating Dubb.

“Tawney concluded his review in these terms. As I have said, I don’t follow all that Tawney writes about him. But I do warm to one thing he says. I put it here to complete the record:

Since I am not a fatalist, and regard confident predictions from past history as mostly sciolism, I have not yet despaired of Henry. I consider it not impossible that he may one day wake up; make an angry noise like a man, instead of bleating like a sheep; and in England, at any rate, in spite of scales weighted against him, use such rights as he possesses, which he is more sensible than some of his intellectual pastors in thinking worth having, to win economic freedom.

“Can I contribute to the economic freedom which Tawney said was within the grasp of Henry, if only he would wake up? I don’t know. Inspired by Henry Dubb’s example, I, his Australian grand-daughter, am going to try. That means accepting my vocation as a Christian citizen of this place. How else? I’m writing this diary to wake myself up and anyone else who is interested enough to read my scribbling may be encouraged to wonder why things have gone wrong and how we can begin to find a new way to exercise the stewardship God entrusts to all who live in this place.”

HD March 2003

Here is the link to Henrietta’s Post, “The frisbee, the sausage and the barbecue” her initial Nurturing Justice contribution to the NDIS rollout.

The Cosmetic Enhancement of Public Debate and the Crisis we Face

Here is the question I keep on asking myself: is what I publish on my Nurturing Justice blog pertinent to public debate?

Can others take up what I put forward here? Can they – when and where it is appropriate – use the ideas and concepts to enhance their own contributions to public conversation and debate?

In a global context dominated by a constant babble of alternative and dissonant stories – now flooding our post-post-modern consciousness on a daily, if not hourly, basis – is our own contribution going to be merely more “windy words”? Job’s words to his comforters can remind us how our speech can run out of control.

Will your windy words never end? Will you continue going on and on and on …? (Job 16:3)

Do we have any enduring task in all this? Should we even be seeking to make a contribution?

And even if we are not (yet) able to enter publicly into political debate, is it worthwhile to develop interpersonal conversation about the issues that face us, perhaps in our family,  with parents, with wife or husband, with people we know, those with whom we work, or people we meet “in the street”? Is conversation truly part of our human task?

That is a question a blogger should never dodge. But then, how are we to contribute in the howling gale? How do we contribute without becoming part of a conversation that loses its way? Or have we already lost our way and we keep on talking because that is how we can distract ourselves from our own confusion?

Is all this part of the story of why, these days, story-telling has become the vogue? If so, then maybe I should try. Here goes.

Yesterday, as I waited on the other side of the chemist’s check-out, as Val reappeared from the rows of pharmaceutical products with a weekly supply of vitamins and other medicines, I found myself surrounded by that chemist shop’s advertising hoarding. One cannot easily avert one’s eyes in that highly feminised environs and I found myself looking at this and feeling uneasy. (The uneasiness has me remembering my mother’s subscription to “Women’s Weekly”, the pages I turned with a young boy’s feelings of deep uncertainty and curiosity.) But as we left the store, I held myself in check. I refrained from discussing the “fake” advertising that faced me? The hoarding suggested that ongoing cosmetic enhancement will make everything beautiful for young women if only they – or perhaps it is aimed at their mothers – join up and purchase these cosmetic products. The advert was not addressing me; it was calling upon women, all women, to avail themselves of services that “celebrate the beauty of all Australian women.”

Now if some of my readers would care to read Calvin Seerveld’s “cosmetology” lecture “Philosophising Beauty” [Part 2 Chapter 4 of In the Fields of the Lord 2000 (an edited version of which is found in The American National-Interstate Council Bulletin of Cosmetology 15:1 September 1960, pp. 3-5)] you might discover a Christian corrective to any attempt to consign cosmetics wholesale to the rubbish-bin as simply a part of the devil’s devious tricks. Seerveld’s lecture shows respect for those (women) who find their calling in such an industry. But it is still a tricky business, is it not?

Consider my use of the term “cosmetic”, or even the way the term “ambassador” appeared in the advert. It has a commercial nuance as the pharmaceutical company displays its team of women, “cosmetics ambassadors”. The aim is to explain why these cosmetics should gain dominance in the Australian market-place of beautiful women.

The term “ambassador” was also used by the US president in his Warsaw 6th July address when he thanked his wife for her “ambassadorial” introduction. We will also notice (5.30 to 6.00) the backhanded compliment to hard-working US diplomats, but the intention was to elevate his wife – the First Lady – to the status of  “no better ambassador”. And who could deny that there had been a concerted effort at “cosmetic enhancement” from that highly choreographed attempt to win public approval. The President’s wife was part of a diplomatic manoeuvre designed to enhance, to give a whiff of, legitimacy to the incumbent of the presidential office who has conducted his own political affairs with such acrid recklessness.

I am not wanting to belabour this point. The aim of this post is to encourage readers to explore and think about the way public discussion is formed. In these two examples we confront enhancement by cosmetic manipulation.

Think about it. Nurturing Justice is committed to making a Christian contribution to the art of everyday conversation.

The New Testament is unequivocal in affirming that in Christ Jesus, God’s full and complete revelation, has now been restored to its rightful and central place in our lives. Through him, we have been rightfully restored to the place God assigns us. This Word of God restores human life in its entirety – and that includes our communication in all of its created dimensions. Conversation, however it is developed, can now fulfil its true meaning and purpose. Conversation is by no means merely windy words.

And that is why we need to discuss how public discussion can make its peculiar and valid contribution as we face the crises before us. And that also means the crisis in public conversation with the pervasive sense of futility that hangs over us, which if left unchallenged would undermine wholesome and otherwise healthy talk. The crisis in discussion needs to be understood and overcome. And it will not be overcome without us openly acknowledging the destructive character that dominates so much of our public discussion. We need to discuss among ourselves how to form debate that avoids whatever destroys and vandalises the good created gifts that God continues to shower upon us. Yes, the human art of everyday conversation is a skill to be learned. As just like complex diplomatic negotiation, it is part of the wonderful created reality of our social life.

BCW 9.7.17

How Should Political Parties Conduct Themselves in Relation to Local Government?

Our previous post has concluded with the affirmation that the Liberal Party is a primary cause of the serious crisis that has now befallen the Borough of Queenscliffe. Of course this is a serious accusation. Can I back it up?

Many of my fellow citizens in the Borough will ask: “What crisis?” My answer, along the lines of the previous post, may well bring forth the following rejoinder:

Well what do you expect? They are after all, all politicians!

So, what am I to say when that is said? Am I to walk away, shrug my shoulders and let the matter drop?

Actually, there is something political I can say there and then – it may at least give some cause to pause. I could say:

And our Mayor’s election platform insisted that he wasn’t a politician!

To highlight this fact is not to indulge a “cheap shot”; this is an important clue to the crisis we face. Our contradictory political situation needs analysis and this contradiction should be front and centre as we carefully unravel the various responsibilities that have formed, and are shaping, our political lives – this anomaly is central to political beliefs that are basic to this crisis.

Readers will also notice I have avoided names. The names can easily be found by a diligent search of the web. I have spoken to the person concerned and told him I am willing to discuss the matter with someone else present. But here I prefer to talk in terms of offices, positions of public responsibility. It is a crisis and it is shared; the mistakes that have been made which have deepened this crisis are not solely the errors of one person acting alone, no matter how unencumbered politicians of Liberal persuasion view themselves to be.

_ _ _ _ _

Readers who have followed the discussion on this site since late 2016 will know I have identify various “offices” contributing to this crisis:

1. The Borough of Queenscliffe Council
2. The Returning Officer for the Council Election
3. The State Electoral Commission
4. The Victorian Parliament
5. Victoria Police
6. The Ice Police Task Force in the Geelong Region
7. The State Member for the Bellarine Electorate
8. The Liberal Party (Bellarine Peninsula Branch).

In this post I simply wish to make a point about what I consider to be the deep failure of the Liberal Party, the 8th on my list. And when we have understood their failure in this matter, we might have begun to develop a new idea of what a political party might be and how it should conduct its affairs, and be seen to conduct its affairs, in relation to LGAs in this polity. There is one step that should be taken immediately by the Liberal Party; I leave that till the end of this post.

I narrow the focus to the Liberal Party even though I believe the Borough Council seriously erred when it failed to raise an objection to the suitability of the person who is now Mayor, not only to be Mayor, but to be a Councillor. The failure to disclose party affiliation during the election campaign was bad enough, and I grant that it may have been an oversight. But to then simply do nothing when, one week later, the incumbent of the Mayoral Office is appointed President of the Bellarine Liberal Party, simply confirms the Council’s deeply disrespectful attitude to the Borough’s electors. Everyone in the Borough who has looked into it knows that the successful Candidate’s subsequent appointment as Liberal Party President disclosed an electoral deceit. By failing to address what is still a scandalous state of affairs (that, by the way, has not been redressed by the President’s subsequent resignation from the party post) the Council has undermined public trust in itself. The Council owes a public apology to the electors of the Borough.

The nomination of the Senior Sergeant in the Geelong Police – who is head of the Police Ice Task Force for the region – must have been endorsed by the Borough official who had to verify the eligibility of candidates. The State Electoral Commission must have also given approval and has still not made any public comment about the election of the said candidate and his failure to disclose his political affiliation as part of his election campaign. The Victorian Parliament, it would seem, has legislated or gazetted changes to regulations that allow serving officers of the Victoria Police to stand in local Council elections. At the very least the political parties have not helped electors know why this has been allowed. We have also heard nothing from the State member as to how the Victorian Government views the deceit as perpetrated upon the Borough’s electors. We have not heard from Victoria Police as to why it is that the Police Code of Conduct has not been violated by that failure during the election campaign. There seems here to have been a significant blurring of what constitutional jurisprudence would call “the separation of powers”, the separation between law making and law enforcement. Do not the police have a code of conduct provisions that forbid gaining office by deceit (even if it were an unintended oversight)?

There may be an explanation from these offices that will shed light on what is a complex and messy business. And yes, people in public office can make mistakes. So, can people in their running for public office but we also haven’t heard an apology yet from the elected councillor.

Electors will know that members of the police force, not least members who are front line with respect to the problems of law and order in relation to drug usage and the illicit supply thereof, are subject to peculiar tensions. But this is precisely the point at which I wish to discuss the Liberal Party contribution – what it has done and what it has failed to do. It has acted publicly in a way that simply cannot pass without comment.

A Liberal Party that was sensitive to the seeming intractable problems that pertain to the interface between drug use and law enforcement, would never seek to gain political advantage by an opportunistic blurring of the distinction between law-making and law-enforcement. If a Senior Sergeant has joined its ranks, it should welcome him and forego the temptation of using him for election purposes. Their contribution as a political party would be much better served by encouraging said new member to simply take his place among the party membership and offer his advice about public policy when it is relevant to do so. And given this particular police officer has regional responsibilities for the Victoria Police Ice Task Force, should they not be persuading him to concentrate on that very important police work, without distracting him with managing party political business?

I would also suggest that the Liberal Party, as part of their adherence to appropriate constitutional and jural principles, should positively discourage any police officer, and especially senior police officers, that have become members of their party, from trying to gain election to local councils while still serving – even if as in our case regulations do not prohibit it. It should be part of their party’s overall political philosophy that law enforcement should not be blurred with law-making. And that’s the principle they have seriously violated by their effort to piggy-back on the (compromised) election of one of their members. Instead, they opportunistically tried to add to that important police officer’s load by trying to engineer him into the front-line of an attempt to unseat the sitting member (who is police minister) at the next State election.

Their actions actually show a party unfit for public office. And let’s have no more ambiguous nonsense that LGAs should be apolitical!

Let’s hear the truth from the Liberal Party in an acknowledging its own contribution to the deceit that was perpetrated in the Borough election and that as a party it is committed to truthfulness at all levels of our public governance!

Remarkably this disreputable political party, which has treated one of its own paid-up members in such questionable ways, is proposing next week to hold a “law and order” forum nearby in Drysdale. The advertising invites us to “come and have our say”. “Only the Liberals will make Victoria safe again”.

Of course there is a “law and order” problem facing us. But the Liberal Party’s wheeling and dealing speaks too loudly of a political ethic that borders on wall-to-wall disrespect, and that is not irrelevant to the ethos that spawns law and order concerns – there is the Liberal Party’s disrespect for the separation of powers principle that one might have thought was part of the Liberal’s view of public governance; there is in this sorry saga elements of disrespect for the Victoria Police, disrespect for the integrity and good standing of the Borough of Queenscliff. There is the Liberal Party’s continual ducking and weaving when it comes to speaking truthfully.

The Liberal Party has completely avoided dealing with the flawed LGA election in 2016 that had significant consequences for one of its own members. As I said, that failure may have been the Candidate’s  mistake, but if it were a mistake to fail to mention party membership, why should the party reward him with the regional party presidency and thereby further compromise the Borough Council’s standing?

As long as this Liberal Party fiasco continues (see p.2), such actions as we have recently witnessed in the Bellarine Peninsula from them simply suggest that they are beating the “law and order” drum to distract attention from their party’s lack of political principles, from their party’s persistent pragmatic manoeuvring, a failure as a party to be seen in the inadequate support and advise rendered to a new member, and a total failure to insist upon a measure of political discipline by one of its prominent members who, as a senior police officer, is obviously keen to make a contribution to life across the Bellarine.

The electors of the Borough of Queenscliffe deserve a full and frank apology from the Liberal Party for their unscrupulous destabilising of local government.

In a further post, “Local Government, Public Justice and Community Health Care“, we will discuss how this same deep political crisis has manifested itself in the ongoing regional dispute following the vandalisation of innovative and creative local initiatives in aged care. This series of posts aims to explore the complexity of local politics and indicate how it is being shaped by legislative and political developments further afield, beyond any one LGA’s area.

BCW 10 June 2017.

 

 

Local Government and Public Justice

There is a long-running and very widespread political viewpoint among Australian citizens that local government has been, is and always should be, above politics. Even to state it like that in its simplest terms, in one sentence, is to begin to see how absurd such a political viewpoint is. As a political view it is simply ridiculous; it is illogical and contradictory. But try arguing against it with neighbours in your Borough or Local Government Authority (LGA) and you will soon find how politically entrenched it is. You might also find that it is more of an aspiration for many people, an ideal that at least at the LGA level political life can find mutual compromise and avoid the cynical self-interest ascribed to State and Federal Governments. Nevertheless as a political view it is politically incoherent.

Coming to terms politically with that political incoherence, however, will require ongoing engagement. And it is not just intellectual, but political. It will mean pointing in a different political direction. If that means people will stop listening, then ways will have to be found to counter those wilfully deaf ears. And it will not be easy. nevertheless, for most citizens LGAs are remote and as riven with similar tensions and arguments that are found at State and Federal levels. Perhaps it is just the inherited complexity of social life these days that prompts so many to avoid thinking about “local politics”. And yet it still will have its everyday impacts upon them from garbage removal to local health services, to Meals on Wheels for the elderly, to planning laws that restrict your neighbour from building a multi-storey townhouse next-door.

We have recently discussed how local politics in the Queenscliffe Borough, in which NJ’s editor lives, has been deeply corrupted and also by political actions that appeal to this a-political viewpoint. And it would seem that those perpetrating this most recent corruption use this a-political viewpoint (Local Government is not about politics) as a cover for what is nothing other than their own political deceit. Queenscliffe has 3,000 voters on its roll and at most 2,500 permanent residents – probably the smallest LGA in Australia, certainly the tiniest in Victoria. Compared with the City of Greater Geelong (currently under administration) which has 250,000 residents it is but 1% of the size of this LGA neighbour. The fact that it is still an LGA entity certainly suggests wheeling and dealing and in future posts we will explore some of the ongoing political and social ambiguities that arise from this. But let us return to the corruption of the electoral process that pertains as at this moment.

I suspect that the person involved who became Mayor, who had been a member of the Liberal Party for 18 months prior to the election but never revealed it during his campaign, simply assumed that since the Liberal Party’s policy with respect to local government is the aforementioned a-political viewpoint, he didn’t have to mention his party affiliation on the hustings. If that is so, it indicates a level of political naïveté not only in the successful candidate but also, most worryingly, among the persons who voted for him. “I am not a politician” he told us; not once but repeatedly. And so he presented himself as someone who aspires to be “above politics”. Then, upon being elected, the body of elected five Councillors convened and since he had a quota (600+/-) from first preferences, they decided he should be the Mayor. They didn’t have to do this, and certainly the LGA election is not meant as a Mayoral election. But they did it and, as it happens, simply compounded the political problem as it has subsequently unravelled.

A week later, the Bellarine Liberal Party announced that this same man, who had just assumed the public office of Mayor, was elected unopposed as President of the Regional Branch of the Liberal Party. The electoral stump speech “I am not a politician!” certainly seemed like it had been a carefully worded diversion keeping the true state of affairs from the electors, at least until they had voted. Shouldn’t the electors have been made aware of this Candidate’s political affiliation before they cast their ballot? But because the election campaign proceeded without this fact being disclosed, the Borough electors had not been properly informed and the integrity of the entire election seems in retrospect to have been compromised.

What the Liberal Party did by appointing him as their President, and what he did in accepting that appointment, was nothing other than delivering a mortal blow to the trust electors in the Queenscliffe Borough could have in their Council. There’s no other political way to see it. Trust, central to our political system’s claim to embody a genuine representative element, has thereby been broken.

The subsequent action of the Liberal Party seemed oblivious to this fact. It certainly casts doubt on the way in which they – the self-proclaimed “movers and shakers” of our Federal polity – had grossly mis-read the political situation. An appeal to the alleged principle that “local government should be above politics” simply compounds the issue. This is deceitful politics that would make Machiavelli blush.

Local sentiment from those who bother to reflect about political life is that the Borough Council has now broken trust with the Borough and has allowed itself to become a de facto sub-committee of the regional branch of the Liberal Party.

What does this story tell us? Before I go on we might note that the said person has since resigned from the Liberal Party Presidency. Why? Was it because as Mayor there might arise a conflict of interest? No. At least that is not why he said he had to resign. The incumbent of the Mayoral Office resigned from the Presidency of the Bellarine Liberal Party because as a Senior Sergeant in the Victoria Police Force (heading up the task force on ice across the Bellarine Peninsula) there is a risk of a conflict of interest with the Liberal Party machine as the State Opposition gears up for the next election with a law and order campaign.

If you are bamboozled by all this, then join the crowd of confused electors across the Bellarine and in particular in the tiny Queenscliffe Borough. The Liberal Party has decided to go all out to attack the sitting Member for Bellarine Electorate, the Police Minister in the State Labor Government! We do not even know whether she will stand again next time around!

What a complete mess! So to return to our question: what does this tell us? There are the obvious questions we have previously asked about this: about the apparent compromise of the police’s code of conduct; about the silence of the Victorian Electoral Commission on the compromised election; and on the fact that a Senior Sergeant in the police force can even run for public office without there being a compromise of the separation of powers between law-making and law-enforcement. Admittedly it also happens elsewhere. So my guess is that this is not just a matter of one LGA, but indicates something that needs to be clarified across the state.

 Moreover, true to their form, the political parties have failed to make any clear statement about this matter. Electors are still waiting to be educated politically about the propriety of a police officers running for and taken up public office when also serving in law enforcement. And the Police Minister, the local member for Bellarine, has not actually gone out of her way to address this issue.

Somehow we will have to make some sense of this deeply political failure. Even in the tiny political community of the Queenscliffe Borough our politics is no better than what is found in larger, more impersonal LGAs. In subsequent posts we will explore other dimensions of the way in which our political community is out of step with its neighbouring political communities. There are ongoing consequences in all areas of our social life and these need to be explored.

And as well as all this we are now confronted by a national political situation in which the political parties themselves have shown that they are up to their necks in crooked dealing. The simple fact that we need to get into our political heads is that our system of public governance is mightily compromised.

How is this political situation to be addressed politically? To ask the question in terms Nurturing Justice has been asking for some time: Is the political party over? A Christian political option, if it is ever to emerge in the Australian polity as more than a Nurturing Justice aspiration, is going to have to deal with that question, root and branch, all the way down, and it will not be able to avoid promoting public justice at the local government level however “local” is configured.

We will continue this discussion next time and extend our discussion of the “constitutional crisis” of the Borough of Queenscliffe by analysis of the crisis in community health care. Stay tuned.

BCW 8 June 2017