Civil Representation in Australian Government

In this letter, I wish to share the news that over the next few months I will be researching, accepting contributions, editing and writing a book to be titled Civil Representation in Australian Government, with a target publication date hopefully of January 2000.

The book will base itself upon principles and ideas which are universal and international in their vision, and yet also I wish to focus upon the specific problems inherent in the Australian situation for manifesting these ideas in practice.

The book therefore will look at government in a practical manner which assesses in three major areas of government; politics, economics and constitutional law, as they relate to the current situation in Australia and in the several States.

by David Keane, July 1999

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The book will thoroughly explore two revolutionary ideas in government, the idea of Consensus Democracy, and the idea of Participatory Government.  These two ideas will, in 50 years time, be as accepted and commonplace as today the general public accepts the idea of two-party adversarial government.

And adversarial government will be viewed in 50 years time, as an antique relic, much as we now consider the idea of the divine rule of kingship to be antiquated.

In the information era, it is inevitable that the creative power of voluntary research must increasingly impact on our approach to government.

The idea of Consensus Democracy has already been demonstrated by the United Nations General Assembly (in contrast to the Security Council which is still dominated by power politics), in its spiritual work of developing human rights, universal declarations and agreements, and responding to the educational, cultural and economic needs in the developing nations.

Consensus Democracy has in fact been with us for as long as history, and is well established in many tribal groups.  Though it is now rare in national politics, a number of councils and NGOs [Non-Government Organisations] adopt this form of government.  The key to consensus is to embrace a vision of the needs of the whole, and to consider all policy first from the holistic viewpoint.

It naturally must bring into practical manifestation, and so fully work from, the ideas of correct ethical relationships, futuristic planning embracing the needs for the next few generations, reverence for nature and the ecology, and sustainability.

The idea of Participatory Government is quite new on a national or international level.  It is the basis for the idea of the United Nations People's Assembly being planned for the year 2000, in which it is proposed civil representatives are elected from 8 sectors of society; religious, academia, local government, business, trade unions, professional associations, media, and indigenous.

The idea is in this book extended to National and State government in Australia --- the idea of a third house (of review but with no legislative powers) of government with civil representation.  Participatory Government must be based upon two principles, complete open-ness of all public information forming the basis of government policy, and assistance and empowerment through a department of creative networking in people's participation, of voluntary research initiatives within the general population.

Besides exploring these two central ideas, the book will then explore a third theme, that of developing political strategies for the implementation in practice of these two revolutionary ideas into the Australian context through application in politics, economics and law.

My experience as a writer has focused over the past 6 years principally in the role of publishing an international newsletter titled East West Newsletter, which has promoted the principles of goodwill, world unity and group participation in service.  In that newsletter, I had a multiple role; of networking and inviting contributions, of editing some of those contributions (those which needed such editing, for many required no editing at all), of myself researching and writing a number of the lead articles, and then compiling and preparing the newsletter for printing.

The book Civil Representation in Australian Government, I propose to be written in similar manner, blending my own articles with submitted articles.  I therefore in this letter send out an invitation for submissions on nominated subjects.  The intention of the book is to be concise yet very "meaty", in that the ideas are explored with vigour and are anchored through providing meaningful data and statistics to back up ideas.  As a rough guide, it may be suggested that each chapter or subject may occupy from about 3 to 8 pages, though of course this rule will be viewed flexibly.

Here then I below provide an outline of the proposed sequential chapters in the planned book.  Those chapters without a double asterisk (**) preceding, I shall endeavour to write the article myself, though I would always be happy for contributions and comments.  Those chapters preceded by a double asterisk (**), I really need a lot of help with, either by submitting information along the lines indicated, or by experts in the field contributing an entire article.  Where there is just one asterisk (*) preceding, I will be attempting to write the article myself, though I will be dependent on a fair bit of support from others.

Civil Representation in Australian Government

Preliminary Outline

(1) Government in the 21st Century.  The information revolution will revolutionise the style of government as greatly as the microchip has revolutionised technology and Internet has revolutionised communication.  Preview for general argument and chapter layout in the book.

** (2) History of NGO (non-government-organisation) participation in the United Nations.

** (3) History till now of proposed UN People's Assembly for the year 2000.

(4) Problems involved with organising UN People's Assembly for 2000,

** (4a) election of members to UN People's Assembly,
** (4b) proposed authority to be vested in UN People's Assembly,
** (4c) indicated lines of evolution for the UN People's Assembly.

(5) Civil Representation in Australia.  The concept of forming a third, civil house of Parliament in either State or Commonwealth government, a parallel concept to the UN People's Assembly.  The civil assembly would have powers of review and powers of administration over the Department of People's Participation in Government, but would have no legislative powers.

(6) The Concept of Participatory Government.  A general overview of its potential application in State and National Government

(7) The Concept of Consensus Democracy.

** (7a) How it has worked in the UN General Assembly and UN organisations,
  * (7b) How it can (and must in time) work in State and National government.

* (8) The Department of People's Participation in Government.  As social workers advise and assist people in social issues and librarians help people to find information and books from within a library, so highly trained counselors from this Department will assist and empower members of the public to participate in voluntary research and information projects, working and networking with UN [United Nations], government and NGO services, and people's voluntary participation in the civil level of government.

* (9) The Constitutional Basis for Commonwealth/State Economic Equity.

The Commonwealth has no legal authority under the Australian Constitution to financially pressure the States, or selectively administer money derived from income tax, or GST tax, or directing the manner in which the States should acquire their revenues.  The legal research and writing of this chapter has already been completed.

** (10) A Legal Examination of the Recent GST Legislation.  Those Acts of this legislation supposedly "directing" the States how they should raise taxation for State government has no legal basis in the Australian Constitution.  It is simply a power play by the Commonwealth Government to avoid its responsibility of working creatively with State governments over economic issues.  The entire arrangement will fall apart as soon as a majority of State governments choose to demand (their Constitutionally-guaranteed right for) economic equity with the Commonwealth.

* (11) How Commonwealth/State Economic Equity will Work in the 21st Century.  All branches of government are becoming increasingly interdependent.

The reality of Commonwealth/State interdependency must be recognised before many economic problems in Australia can be resolved.  In the meantime many problems such as the recommendations from the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Commission remain unattended because of lack of co-operative spirit.  We need a new vision of co-operative government and economic management, no longer dominated by regional interests, but structured so to benefit the whole as well as the several States.

(12) Research on GST as Now Legislated.

** (12a) Labor, the Greens and Senator Harradine claim that the recent GST legislation is regressive and sets the Australian economy back further.  I invite submissions providing data and statistics on expected long-term (that is separating out the short-term sweeteners) economic impact that is expected to derive from this new legislation.

** (12b) What are the nature and expected economic effects of short-term economic sweeteners associated with the GST package and recent sale of State and Government instrumentalities?

** (12c) What are the long-term projections for State economies under the new GST legislation?  Will the States be economically better or worse than at present?

** (12d) How will the massive paperwork for GST impact on business, particularly small business?

* (13) Where the Present Commonwealth and State Economic Relationship Will Break Down.  The States already are hurting, and a regressive tax coupled with a patronising directive from Commonwealth thus avoiding the benefits and responsibilities relating to State/Commonwealth economic co-operation will simply intensify the imbalance.  How soon before the States will realise that their situation is worse than before?  Quite possibly even before the implementation of GST in July 2000.

** (14) The Imminent Hospitals Crisis.  We must look for the greatest point of economic imbalance and tension. The pain is felt most acutely in the States, and the State economic crisis will boil over as soon as the short term economic sweeteners are removed.  The outcry will again emerge following Public Hospitals breakdown in services. I invite a detailed report on the economic crisis facing the Public Hospitals now and as a result of the GST.

(15) Political Strategies for Transition.

  * (15a) A revolutionary approach to openness in all areas of Commonwealth and State economics and government.  This is the fundamental and most essential pre-requisite to people's participation in government.

** (15b) How openness works in practice in the UN General Assembly.  A review of practices used in UN which could be employed in Commonwealth or State government.

  * (15c) Setting up civil representation in either Commonwealth or State government.  The idea of a People's Economic Council. How it would work in practice.

* (16) Massive Tax Evasion by Multinationals.  This is the principle reason for Australia's economic troubles. (An article is already written, though it could do with updating).

(17) A Two-Prong Solution to Australia's Economic Problems.

(17a) Openness. Were the true figures to be released it would have to be acknowledged by the Australian public that Australia is (if we include nominee shareholders) 90% foreign owned.  Foreigners pay just 9% of annual taxation.  These figures must be made available so that the true situation can be more vigorously analysed and become recognised in public political debate.

(17b) Equity in Taxing Foreigners and Australians.

** (18) The 2% Transaction Tax. How it works.  Its great benefit is that it will tax internationals equitably with Australians. This will therefore prevent massive tax evasion by internationals, it will mean that Australians overall pay considerably less tax, Australia's foreign debt will very quickly be repaid, and income tax and GST and hosts of incidental taxes can all be canceled.  The electronic information is already recorded by banks, so there is minimal staff required to administer the scheme.

** (19) Introducing a 0.1% Transaction Tax.  How do we introduce a transaction tax, when we have witnessed the recent mis-information campaign against One Nation's attempt to introduce it?  One Nation became so unpopular because of their racist and separatist views.  But this in no way is an indication of the rightness or wrongness of the transaction tax.  We must expect as before that it is in the multinationals' interest to wage a very expensive misinformation campaign in this area.

The fact is we do not have to initiate a 2% transaction tax to prove it works.  We can start with just a 0.1% transaction tax, and within a year after introducing a 0.1% tax we will have the data to prove the matter without dispute.  If the Commonwealth government (Coalition or Labor) will not take the initiative, then the initiative can be adopted by a majority of States linking together.

(On this last point, I would appreciate the assistance of someone willing to advise on the Australian Constitutional problems involved with "inter se" questions and such tax law).

** (20) Is Australia Overtaxed?  A major argument about introducing a new tax is that it would cause Australia to be even more taxed.  The Coalition government claims that Australia is one of the most taxed of all OECD countries, and Australian government therefore needs to reduce overall taxation.  This assertion must be challenged through publication of essential data.

The real point that Mr Howard is making is that Australians pay at present more income tax than most OECD countries. But it has been stated by many other commentators that if we were to count all types of taxes, we are one of the least taxed nations among OECD countries.  I invite submissions of data and information comparing Australia with other OECD countries, for overall taxation levels.

* (21) The Trouble with Economic Rationalism and the National Competition Policy.

** (22) Concern for an Imminent Global Economic Meltdown.  The affluence in rich countries is derived from what is in effect tribute payments (in reality interest payments) by Third World countries.  The recent (June 1999) cancellation of some Third World debt by rich countries removed only a small portion of the debt and the problem looks like it will be getting worse. (I invite submission of global debt figures before and after June 1999).

What will happen if the Third World economies start to crash on a global scale as is imminent and inevitable?  The cause of the present crisis is greed by the rich, and it will change only after a profound reversal of economic values.  Yet the signs of change, including the changes of June 1999 are too small and too late.

** (23) Effects on Australia of Imminent Global Economic Meltdown.  I invite a research article on this theme.  In particular I request an economic assessment for the following scenario: If the world stock market level were to crash overnight to 50% of its recent all-time high levels, how would this crisis impact upon various sectors of Australia's economy, and in particular on the State economies.  Assessment to compare pre-GST and post-GST situations.

(24) Overview and Summary. A listing again of political strategies for transition.

For any feedback, comments, submissions or articles, please contact David Keane, E-mail: keane@nw.com.au
Postal: PO Box 582, Gosnells 6110, W.A., Phone (08) 9398 3347


[See also 1st Open Letter "The Tax Reform Bill and the Constitutional Problem"]

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Electoral Authorisation: David Keane, PO Box 582, Gosnells, W.A., 6110, Australia.