Words by Duncan Willis
Illustration by Jennifer Crow
In Graeme Green’s Magnum Opus The Quiet American, American CIA agent Alden Pyle argues that the way to protect democracy in 1950s Vietnam is to fund a “third force” who will overcome both communists and colonialists to be Vietnam’s saviour. The idea of a third option is one that is becoming commonplace in world democracies.
In the polls leading up to the recent Indian elections, the Aam Aadami Party (AAP) sought to present a transparent alternative to the dominant parties, showing a fresh face in the Indian political scene, different to the Hindu fundamentalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the corruption riddled Congress party. In Australian politics we have our own third force, bigger than most, of Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party. But for some reason Clive’s policies haven’t seemed to have taken hold in Victoria, quite possibly because we’ve always preferred watching birds over watching dinosaurs. Instead we’ve got the Greens, who in all honesty are probably better for everybody than the Clive Juggernaut.
In our Westminster system, third parties are rarely seen in the Lower House and when they are, they’re usually—bar the 2010 election—not important. When they do get elected they generally find themselves squeezed by the two major parties who don’t need the help of the cross benchers to pursue their agenda. However, this all changes in the Upper house, with our unique voting system permitting a swathe of minor parties into the house. The current Senate constitutes some parties which have been on the minor party scene for a while (Greens and Family First) and others which fall into the “there’s a party for that?” category, like the Motoring Enthusiast Party.
With the 2014 Victorian election coming up, statisticians all around the country will be licking their lips, thinking of all the ‘preference whispering’ they’ll be able to do for the minor parties, getting as many of them into the Victorian upper house as possible. At the moment, the Victorian Legislative Council consists of 21 Coalition members, 16 Labor members, and three Greens. Current poling suggests that the balance will change with more Greens and Labor representatives likely to enter the upper house. The Greens may well gain the balance of power in the upper house, meaning all legislation would have to be passed with the Green’s consent, unless Labor and the Liberals collude.
I, for one, think that this would be the worst thing since Tony Abbott reckoned that there was nothing wrong with a bit of body contact. Why? Because the balance of power is fundamentally a shit idea. Parties who gain the balance of power receive very little of the vote and then force their agenda onto the nation as a whole. It allows Nick Xenophon, a man who received 14.78 per cent of the vote in one state, to compel the Government to spend $900 million on his pet project in the Murray-Darling Basin. It allows kooks such as John Madigan and Jacqui Lambie to have a say in how our government is run and how our tax dollars are spent.
Being young and left of centre, voting for the Greens does become tempting. I mean, if the policy is good, why shouldn’t I be happy to see it implemented? Yet too often what results is a knee-jerk reaction the other way. The populace becomes very pissed off if they see a policy implemented which they didn’t vote for, even if it is a good one. The prime example is the carbon tax, where the majority of Australians wanted the world to burn, got very pissed off when we took steps to save it, and left us with the clusterfuck that is the Abbott Government
That said, the principle of third parties holding the balance of power isn’t the worst, provided that the minor parties seek to vet the dickheadishness of legislation rather than seek to impose their own agenda on it. Sadly, these parties no longer exist. The Australian Democrats, made a career out of ‘keeping the bastards honest’. In 2000 they ensured that GST did not extend to things such as books and fresh food and survived in the Australian Senate for 30 years. Yet haven’t been seen since 2007.
Campaigning with no policy other than improving the policy of others has become unfashionable of late and every party comes up with a policy statement, even if it is intangible (like the Motoring Enthusiasts policy of ‘Mateship). Everybody gets sick of the Labor/Liberal paradigm, but the reality is that these two major parties will be the ones who will decide the future of our state and can implement long term policies. The Greens will likely pick up at least four upper house seats and possibly one in the lower house yet this could be damaging for the progressive movement. Voting for a minor party is tempting, but when heading to the polls we need to acknowledge their inability to provide long term change.
Words by Danielle Croci
Hillary Clinton’s latest book, Hard Choices, was released in June, to much curiosity. Would Clinton reveal any secrets in her political memoir? Would she announce her second effort for the presidency?
The 596 pages are divided into chapters organised around countries and events, reflecting the 112 countries that Clinton visited during her term as Secretary of State from 2008 to 2012. One chapter focuses on the Benghazi incident in 2012, expressing Clinton’s remorse for the deaths of two US diplomats along with members of the CIA. Another goes behind the scenes of the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Clinton admits, for the first time, that her 2002 Senate vote to authorise military action in Iraq was a “mistake”. Although some chapters are a little dry, they are certainly an interesting political read.
The recent headlines in the Australian media about Clinton’s comments on sexism are quite loud for an excerpt so small. In Hard Choices, she briefly mentions Julia Gillard as an example of female politicians experiencing double standards. The rest of the book is sprinkled with a few of Clinton’s personal experiences of prejudice, as well as her hopes for the improvement of the position of women.
While the book does focus on the more serious side of Clinton’s political role, there are a few lighter anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Clinton describes how she and President Obama pushed past Chinese security guards and barged into a private meeting at a climate conference in Copenhagen. She once met with the uncharacteristically anxious Prime Minister of Bulgaria, discovering that he’d been briefed that her hair pulled back meant that she was in a bad mood. And one tense exchange with Vladimir Putin was defused when Clinton raised the topic of Putin’s campaign to save the tigers in Siberia, resulting in Putin inviting Clinton’s husband to tag polar bears with him.
For some readers, however, the most important part of Hard Choices is what hasn’t been said. The anecdotes that I’ve noted are about as controversial as the book gets. This is no tell-all memoir, along the lines of Bob Carr’s recent autobiography. Some believe that this lack of candour spells Clinton’s second run for the presidency in 2016. For the record, towards the end of the book, Clinton states that she hasn’t decided yet whether she will run.
Whatever the outcome, Hard Choices stands as a fairly interesting look into the life of Clinton as Secretary of State.
Words and photos by Mikaela Davis
Tweets and videos by Kate Lawrence
Students of a first year politics class were left frustrated after a protest against Sophie Mirabella led by the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) organisation interrupted their lecture.
As a newly appointed part-time Public Policy Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Ms Mirabella was invited to speak to the first-year cohort, but was unable to begin.
After 25 minutes, Ms Mirabella was escorted out of the lecture theatre by police when the members of SAlt swarmed around her and it was looking like it could become violent.
Although entertained, the politics students were annoyed by the disruption that the protest had caused.
“It was a potentially valuable learning experience that was tarnished by protesters who weren’t even members of our class,” front-row student Shari Lohardjo told Farrago.
“This was definitely the wrong time and place for something like this to happen… it cost us students our time, not to mention the fact that we all paid to attend this class”.
Many of the students recognised that in a democracy everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and that SAlt had the right to protest.
“I’m fine with Socialist Alternative protesting with their megaphones to and from lectures they disagree with,” Xavier Boffa—another student from that lecture—said. “That said, harassing and assaulting staff and students is not an expression of free speech, and has no place in our society”.
The protest was mostly about the 2014-2015 budget cuts in the lead up to SAlt’s rally ‘Emergency Rally Against Cuts and Fee Hikes’.
“As you can both see and hear in the video, members of Socialist Alternative were both physically and verbally assaulted by students in the class who support the Liberal Party and their ruling class agenda,” Robert Narai—a supporter of SAlt—argued on his Facebook page.
However, as many students pointed out, Ms Mirabella was not there to speak about policy.
“Love her or hate her Sophie has experience in politics, her lecture was not meant to be about her political views anyway, it was on media and politics,” student Stefan Valjanoski said.
Ms Mirabella returned shortly after and continued with her planned lecture.
Read Adele Brookes’ news piece on Sophie Mirabella’s appointment here.
Farrago writer Kate Lawrence was also in the lecture theatre when the incident happened. Here’s how she documented the occassion via Twitter and Youtube.