Each passing day, the leadership, direction and democracy of our nation prompts more responses as to where we are headed.
For instance, under the heading, "Death of debate: Loss of language and memory", our living Australian legend, Barry Jones, recalls that when he first was elected to federal parliament in 1977, only two per cent of Australians were graduates and 53 per cent of the MPs.
"In 2021," wrote Jones, "we have a much more tertiary qualified community - seven million graduates - and 85 per cent of MPs have degrees. That ought to mean a far higher quality of debate/discussion on issues than at any time in our history. Right? Wrong, actually. Paradoxically there appears to be an inverse relationship between the number of graduates in Parliament and the quality of political debate and it is now impossible to get a straight answer to a question".
"Typically, MPs are drawn from a very narrow gene pool and follow a depressingly similar career path: Student politics, graduate, party/union/corporate/lobby group/ organiser/minder, all onwards to MP or senator or minister".
Lobbyists, of course, have been a further depressing and utterly useless addition to politics, particularly in Australia, according to my contacts.
Hopefully, there is strong evidence things politically may be changing, and the next federal election may be the yardstick for essential change.
In an enlightening and thought-provoking article by former businessman, Kim Wingerei, in Michael West Media, a publication of independent journalists, last month, he wrote: "The recent announcement of Kylea Tink for the federal seat of North Sydney marked the first of many new independent candidates looking to join Helen Haines, Zali Steggall and Andrew Wilkie in a growing group of independent politicians in the lower house of parliament".
"There are already 35 independent support groups established (under the banner, Voices Of), and more are popping up each week. The groups cover almost 25 per cent of eligible voters (based on the latest count by the Australian Electoral Commission). Twenty-eight of them are Liberal or National seats, only two are Labor seats".
Wingerei writes that the rising success of independents is their "focus on positives".
It's a standard former Indi MP, Cathy McGowan, introduced when she won the seat from the Liberals and was retained by Haines after she took over the seat when McGowan retired, the first time ever a different independent had successfully held the same seat. McGowan is now driving the "Voices Of" campaign.
McGowan, supporting the focus on positive change and on issues, said: "avoiding the messages of fear, uncertainty and doubt, which so often is the mainstay of the major political parties", were also important and, "independent candidates in safe seats will often get more of a hearing from disillusioned voters, because safe seats tend to be overlooked due to government largesse such as pork barrelling, designed to entice votes".
Further evidence of an electorate demanding meaningful change came to Friday on my Mind this week from the Pearls and Irritations Policy Journal by John Menadue, written by the former Australian diplomat, Bruce Haigh, who hammered former PM, Tony Abbott, for "his ham-fisted (and poorly timed) Taiwan intervention about China", describing it as "inept diplomacy" and questioning, "who put him up to it?".
Haigh added: "Leadership in these difficult times whether from (Abbott) or the current prime minister has been and is appalling. We really have been condemned to a mob of losers under Morrison.". Haigh served as a diplomat in South Africa, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and other embassies; a true diplomat of the highest integrity who befriended Steve Biko before he was murdered in custody in South Africa. Haigh also helped banned newspaper editor, Donald Woods, escape the country.
All these matters in today's column are mentioned because of a mounting increase of concern about where Australia's governments and parliaments, federal and states, are taking us and it is not a comforting picture. "We have become the architects of our own demise", said one reader; another: "what has happened to principle, commitment and accountability" by governments.
Two striking examples of those concerns in the past fortnight have been the exposure by The SMH of the NSW government's shameful failure of public education, which is facing an unprecedented staffing crisis with the supply of teachers likely to run out by 2026, which it has attempted to keep hidden. Another is what The DA has described as a "serious lack of psychologists (counsellors) for Wagga students", uncovered by the Riverina group bastion of regional guardianship and protection, the NSW CWA, with assistance from Joe McGirr MP; more to come about this shameful NSW teaching crisis.
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