Moore / When trust declines the winds of change blow

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THE political winds are changing. They are changing internationally as trust in traditional systems declines. Unfortunately, when politics gets messy it is the ordinary people who lose trust in less-than-perfect systems and look for alternatives.

Michael Moore

The Australian High Court has effectively dismissed a handful of elected Federal politicians including ministers. In the US President Donald Trump continues to cause international confusion with ad hoc decisions that have little or no thought of ramifications. The UK is wrestling with the aftermath of Brexit. In Canada, France and NZ the old guard has been overthrown by what they would perceive as young upstarts.

Political systems will never be perfect and there is always room for improvement. Interestingly, the sad resignation of Steve Doszpot, one of the most solid and community oriented members of the ACT Assembly, illustrates how systems can be improved. His replacement will be decided in an efficient, equitable and democratically transparent manner. The replacement of federal politicians who failed the citizenship test this time will take a form of countback ordered by the court. It is usually less transparent, less equitable and much messier.

The High Court decision on citizenship illustrates the robust nature of our Australian Constitution. It demonstrates effective application of the separation of powers operating in exactly the way it has been designed. However, on the other hand, dual citizenship is so common in Australia that the content of the citizenship clause has been exposed as wanting.

Members of the two major parties remain unscathed. However, for Matt Canavan (Nationals) and Nick Xenophon (NXT) the decision must be a huge relief. Was fear of being dismissed by the High Court the reason for Senator Xenophon to return to SA state politics?

Greens Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam showed integrity in admitting their mistake and stepping down from the Senate before the High Court decision. Until dismissed, Malcolm Roberts (One Nation) – who had amongst the least ever personal votes at last election – toughed it out with the least transparency and the most unconvincing arguments. Canavan stepped down from the Cabinet while the other two ministers remained.

Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash (Nationals) toughed it out until dismissed by the High Court. Not only were they both ministers, but Joyce also held the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party while Senator Nash was the National Party Deputy Leader. The legal validity of ministerial decisions made by them is now likely to be challenged.

The High Court decision will be really tough on all those who have lost their seats. Despite the variation in their philosophies, they have all worked extraordinarily hard for their constituents and for what they believe to be a better Australia. Their political futures are now in limbo.

Meanwhile, President Trump pre-emptively withdrew the US from UNESCO and was hailed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as “brave and moral” before following suit. There appears to be little consideration of the long-term impact of this move. Palestine was recognised by UNESCO in 2011 in attempting to protect world heritage. This has had Israel and its lobbyists in America seething ever since.

As with all political systems, the UN and its range of organisations are not perfect. However, when the leader of the most powerful nation on earth thumbs his nose at the most important body for international co-operation – it sets a clear precedent for others to do the same. In 1945 UNESCO, along with other UN bodies, were established in the aftermath of World War II to seek lasting peace. Pulling out of UNESCO has single-handedly taken international relationships back three quarters of a century.

The dismissal of the old guard in favour of a new generation of dynamic young leaders from across the globe provides hope for the future. There are indications that they stand up for what they believe, resist national and international pressures of big business and support stronger democracy rather than government of the corporatocracy.

Internationally, voters are looking for a breath of fresh air. There are clear lessons for Australian politics as voters face a series of state elections set to be contested in the coming year.

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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