The Chippery: Commentary on Australian politics

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vale Jack Evans

The former Australian Democrats senator, Jack Evans, passed away. Oct 2 2009. Julia Melland, the current Australian Democrats national president writes:

A former Senator, National President and National Campaign Director, Jack Evans was instrumental in the formation of the Australian Democrats, and was a significant figure in many of our greatest moments, including rafting the Franklin River with Don Chipp all those years ago.

Jack was a man of visions and ideas. He wanted to make things happen, and often they did. People would get caught up in his enthusiasm and share his vision and work hard to make it happen. He had a deep and commanding voice and chose his words carefully. He didn’t prattle on, but spoke with quiet dignity after listening to others opinions. Therefore – people listened, felt heard and had confidence in his ability to deliver.

He was a deal maker, pulling people together to make things happen. He was also very cautious and very much kept what he saw as the Party’s best interest deep in his heart. He was very protective of the Party when he could see people who’s intent was questionable or potentially problematic and some took this as obstructionist. He knew how to be a strategist and develop ways of achieving goals. Jack never spoke ill of people despite the criticisms he would inevitably receive and had a remarkable ability to tenaciously push through obstacles, disregarding personal cost.

There was nothing more he loved, it seemed, than talking about political ideas, about ways to address the big issues, about the way the Democrats could continue to make a difference. He remained absolutely committed to the ideals of the Party and those remaining have a responsibility to Jack to do their best to ensure those ideals are not lost from the political landscape.

He remained very private about his personal side, yet once one of his friends he was warm and gracious, always showing a keen interest in those around him.

People like Jack Evans are rare – I know he touched and inspired many Australian Democrats and others across the country. To those close to him we offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences. We will all miss him.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Farewell Democrats?

Well today (30 June 2008) is the last day for Senate representation by the Australian Democrats in about 30 years. It's a momentous, and sad, day. It is the last day of federal parliamentary representation for four Australian Democrats senators, Andrew Bartlett, Natasha Stott Despoja, Lyn Allison, and Andrew Murray. It may well be the end of an era for Australian Politics, but if so it was an era that saw a party fight for fairness and responsibility in public policy and legislation. While the Democrats may not have had a monopoly on these values they certainly were the most consistent in living up to them. This, of course, made the number of inevitable falls from grace all the more difficult for the Australian public to accept. There is a lot of sorrow and regret at the loss of this representation and on reflection an acknowledgment that when they held the balance of power in the Senate, which they did in many years, they managed that task responsibly and Australians were the better for it. Too late now for such lamenting, however, we will look to see what political force might emerge to fill the gap, what will be the form of a movement that befits the 21st century that stands for equity, balance and sustainability in our political landscape. Surely the politics of self interest that hold the mainstream parties to ransom and the single issue blinkedness of minority parties are not all that we can hope for. Today we have seen the passing of an era, born of the 1970s optimism and utopianism, but tempered by pragmatism and a commitment to democratic inclusion. We look forward to a renewed Australian Democrats or, more likely, a new force to occupy the space their departure leaves bare.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Australia's new citizenship test criticised

The leader of the Australian Democrats, Lyn Allison, has criticised the new citizenship test, the passing of which is now mandatory before receiving Australian Citizenship. Allison points out that the test, or any written test, is not a fair indicator of a person's dedication to Australia, their potential to contribute to the country, nor their fitnes to achieve the right to vote. She goes on to say that

The new citizenship test ... is a national embarrassment. Fitness for Australian citizenship will be based on the ability of would-be citizens to memorise a short but selective history of Australia and with it some pretty obscure facts... But this citizenship test is much more than propaganda and aspirations. For some, it will represent an insurmountable barrier to citizenship and therefore a denial of the right to vote in Australian elections. It's yet another assault by the Howard Government on democracy. Not everyone wishing to become an Australian citizen has the advantage of a formal education, and many will struggle to read, let alone memorise, all of the irrelevant information in Becoming an Australian Citizen. You can't judge a person's fitness for citizenship based on a test any more than you can judge a political party's fitness for government based on its promises.

Allison dissects and parodies the new citizenship test in a video posted to YouTube.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Haneef case highlights eroding civil rights

The current case in Australia where Dr. Mohammad Haneef, who is accused of "recklessly" associating with those accused of terrorism (the recent car bombing at Glasgow airport), has revealed the extent to which there has been a general erosion of the safety nets provided by due process for both citizens and visa holders in this country. Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlet comments:

It is a fundamental principle in any democracy that a person should only be imprisoned following the use of a fair and transparent process, free of political interference.

The case of Dr Mohammed Haneef is a stark demonstration of the way the Migration Act enables politically motivated decisions to be used to imprison people, regardless of judicial processes.

The Democrats have consistently been calling for an urgent reform of the Migration Act:

The Democrats believe that more than ever there needs to be proper independent oversight of the use of ministerial powers;

We believe there must be mechanisms to prevent violations of natural justice and to protect due process and the presumption of innocence.

We should be outraged by such reckless treatment of a person in our country because tomorrow it may be us. This issue is not about supporting terrorism, nor about the guilt or innocence of Dr. Haneef, it is about protecting our fundamental rights and freedoms. You can take action by signing a petition here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Native Title Amendment Bill

The senate will soon consider changes to Native Title legislation. The new Bill amends the Native Title Act 1993 to implement reforms to a number of aspects of the native title system. However, the Australian democrats have major concerns that the proposed amendments not only have the potential to further limit the ability of Indigenous people to have their native title rights recognised but will also create greater uncertainty, conflict and confusion by threatening the independence of native title representative bodies, compromising the mediation process and reducing Ministerial accountability. Senator Bartlett will be moving amendments and says that these amednments must be passed for the Democrats to support the Bill.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Call for Senate enquiry into water

Australian Democrat's Senator for Queensland, Andrew Bartlett, has called for a Senate Inquiry into water management in Australia. The federal and state governments are in discussions about water management arrangements in a last minute panic instigated by a crisis that consecutive Australian governments have precipitated by their environmental negligence. This situation, according to Senator Bartlett, is potentially a recipe for rash and ill-considered solutions.

"There was a serious lack of consultation during the development phase, with stakeholders such as the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and experts in the field left on the sidelines, and this is continuing to happen. The Murray-Darling Basin Commission has been forced to write letters to the Prime Minister outlining concerns because he refuses to consult properly."

"I will push to refer the federal government's water plan to a Senate Inquiry for thorough examination if the states give the deal the go ahead."

The Senate can play a constructive role in consulting widely and recommending sensible suggestions into the water management debate. The current sidelining of the Senate by the Government is missing opportunities to make parliament work effectively for the country on important matters, such as water management. particularly when the politicians with the most experience in environmental issues, The Greens and the Australian Democrats, can fully participate if the Senate is involved through an inquiry.

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