Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Back from the dead

In order to stop this from becoming a dead blog, I feel a deep-seated need to post something, so here it is.

I've been occupied with a few things including the illness and death of a close family member. That sort of stuff makes you lose heart, and you tend to look at the world in a more distant, cynical way. It can do two things to your relationships. At its best it can make you value them all the more. However, I find that there's a danger (because I'm an introvert anyway) of it working the other way. Like "you're going to die sooner or later, so maybe its better not to invest too much in this relationship".

Not that I really think that way consciously. I just find myself being more distant, and I think that's why. Or maybe my emotions are just a bit over tired.

Speaking of returns from the dead, Queensland just re-elected its Labor government for a fourth term, and for the first time with a woman leader in Anna Bligh who is almost my local member (as in , her electorate begins just a few streets away - her kids went to the same high school as mine). For most of the campaign it looked like they'd be tipped out, but in the end they came back from the dead.

While this is good (not great, since we're all going to die anyway, but good) I found a little something irritating my pedantic soul. In her victory speeches and in everyone's commentary they talked about her being the first Australian woman Premier elected in her own right - by which they mean that she went into the election as leader of her party, which then won, as opposed to other woman premiers who were appointed by their parites between general elections which their parties subsequently lost.

So, for you other pedantic souls out there, here's a little lesson in the Westminster system.

In republican systems of government the head of government (president, governor or whatever) is elected - a person stands for election, the people vote and a person is then elected to the office. They may or may not be a member of a party - usually they are - but the person, not the party, is elected.

In the Westminster system, on the other hand, the head of state is hereditary (currently Queen Elizabeth) and her representatives are appointed by her. However, the development of democracy means that the Queen and her representatives have a largely ceremonial role and the real power rests with the parliament, which even "recommends" to the Queen who she should appoint as governors and governors-general, her reps here in Australia. Parliament is made up of members elected by local constituencies. It not only makes laws, but it elects the Ministers of State including the real head of the government (Prime Minister or in the case of our State Governments, Premier) which the Queen or her representatives then automatically ratify. In Australia, because we really only have two main political parties, the party that wins the majority controls the parliament and therefore gets to appoint the ministers and the Premier.

So in Australia you don't get elected to be premier "in your own right". You get elected to your local constituency, and then your fellow parliamentarians (at least the ones in your party) elect you to the office. On this basis, Anna Bligh has been legitimately premier for the past two years, ever since her predecessor retired and her colleagues elected her to replace him. Leading her party in a winning election gives her no more legitimacy, it just provides better PR.

Am I just being pedantic? Does it really matter? Well, what it says is that our political system is not about individuals. A leader is expendable, what is important, the basis of the system, is local democracy and the collective actions of the local representatives. They make leaders, and they can (and often do) depose them. If George Bush had been an Australian Prime Minister, he woudn't have lasted the full eight years - at the six year mark when it became obvious even to the Americans that he was a waste of space, his party would have knocked him off the perch, and he would have served out the term on the back benches while a new leader tried to revive the fortunes of the government and fix up his mistakes. The world wouldn't have had to wait the extra two years for Barack Obama to come and save us.

In my view, this is a much more death-friendly political system. After all we're all going to die. It's important that when we do, life can go on, and that even though our friends and loved ones miss us, the greater work of love, justice and peace can continue in our absence, driven on by the collective efforts of many people.

1 comment:

chatterbox said...

No I don't think you're being pedantic - its a valid point