Consensual Democracy vs Conflictual Democracy

2010 - Volume 13 Number 7

The role of leadership is to envision and enlighten, to put the national interest before personal gain, to think about the next generation rather than merely the next election, to look for what is right and good and fair so that most can agree to it rather than seek only to humiliate and embarrass political enemies. An over-emphasis on adversarial or combative politics can lead to parliamentary ineffectiveness and a deprivation of the wisdom and contribution of half its members.

An adversarial approach means conflict where beating the enemy at all costs means that truth and wisdom are early victims and whilst bickering occurs real problems are ignored and meaningful action is impossible. Social reform has come under the control of cynical calculators who measure success by winning elections, patronage and status on the political ladder . Political parties seek power, not change. Causes have given way to careers.

Though there are politicians who would like to adopt a more meaningful, inclusive and less aggressive approach to politics, civil and reasonable dialogue on major issues seems the exception rather than the norm, and the volume and shrillness of debate contributes to policy gridlock, civic disengagement, declining standards of behaviour , and lack of accountability.

We need go beyond the view that the status quo is the best one can hope for.


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West Papua: Colonisation is alive and well

2010 - Volume 13 Number 6

Papua’s abundant natural resources have made it another focus of the ‘resource curse’ – the curse of being resource rich. Significant natural resources often give rise to power struggles to control them and Papua is no exception. The Grasberg mine operated by Freeport-McMoRan and the Indonesian Government is the largest above ground copper mine in the world, but there is a protracted conflict in the area bounded by the mine. 

Imparsial, the Indonesian human rights monitor maintains that violence in Papua often targets human rights activists, whom the Indonesian military presume to be members of separatist groups. Although torture of radical students and separatist sympathisers by security forces was no longer in practice, there were ‘still rights violations, arbitrary arrests and detention of Papuans voicing their opinions, especially the young.’

Countries such as Australia and New Zealand use the approach of ‘quiet diplomacy’ which amounts ‘to polite and ineffective representations on human rights’. Australia and New Zealand are also complicit in providing military training to many of the officers who have breached human rights in Papua. They continue to be complicit in resource exploitation.


Climate change - still a great moral challenge

2010 - Volume 13 Number 5

Climate change is happening, is primarily caused by human activity and is complex.

Studies of various scenarios of temperature rise predict that Australia will experience increasing difficulties with its river systems, with water availability for agriculture, industry, residential purposes and broader environmental needs.

There will be coastal flooding due to sea level rise, increasing extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, heat waves, and extreme precipitation. Infrastructure and public health will suffer. For example:

  • a 2-3° rise will mean an expansion of the dengue transmission zone as far  as Brisbane and the malaria zones will increase;
  • temperature related mortality for those 65 and over will increase by 89-123%, to 200% with a 3-4° rise.

Although Australia has a particularly vulnerable eco-system, it can draw on significant resources to adapt to the changes; resources that it has accrued through GHG pollution.


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Reconciliation in 2010

2010 - Volume 13 Number 4

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2010 was Reconciliation: Let’s See It Through! This theme reminds us that, ten years after the historic Reconciliation bridge walks, we have a journey to complete. If we are to “see it through”, Reconciliation must be a part of our lives every day, not simply during one week of the year.

This edition of Just Comment First peoples, first priority: what priority? reproduces an interview given by ERC's Indigenous Education Officer, Cassandra Gibbs, for the May 2010 issue of Just in Time the bulletin of the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes - NSW. Cassandra asks, as a society, what priority are we placing on indigenous equity and assures us that our small daily actions are just as important as “big picture” ideas.


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Haiti - Forced on Dependency, Starved of Independence

2010 - Volume 13 Number 3

Just over a week after the earthquake it was evident that the initial phase of the US-led relief operation conformed to three tendencies that have shaped Haiti’s recent history. Three tendencies of the US intervention which are not only connected, but mutually reinforcing:

  • they adopted military priorities and strategies. 
  • they sidelined Haiti’s leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority; 
  • they proceeded to reinforce the already harrowing gap between the rich and the poor. 

These tendencies of the US military "relief-intervention" will continue to govern the reconstruction effort unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.

Haiti has been robbed of its food, money and popular government. The ‘looters’ come from the colonial West that has never wanted a free Haiti, whose history consists of subjugation, revolution and further subjugation.

The USA and France have profited from the ‘three-cornered trade in sugar, manufactured goods and slaves’. In the name of free trade, US neo-liberal policies ruined Haitian agriculture when forced to lower its own tariffs that protected its rice growers. US subsidised rice flooded the market forcing mass migration of small farmers to Port au Prince, further adding to the overcrowded slums which made the earthquake so much more devastating.

The predatory ‘looters’ are still coming from outside Haiti’s fragile borders. Haiti needs genuine allies. It does not need to be occupied under the cover of aid.


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