Sunday, June 19, 2005

A bad outcome, and some other possible factors for Petro's recent stand

I stood as the Greens candidate for Kooyong (against Petro Georgiou) in 2001 and 2004.

In 2001, Kooyong received the highest Green primary vote % of any conservative held seat in Australia (10.7%, +6.67 swing)

In 2004, Kooyong received the tenth highest Greens primary vote in Australia (12.54% +1.82 swing) despite a very negative "anti Greens" PR campaign waged by the Murdoch Press and the Liberal and National parties. Kooyong was one of only 3 seats in Victoria that swung (-1.36%) against the Liberals. The others were Corangamite and Higgins.

In both elections, my platform included ending mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

While Petro has taken an admirable initiative in proposing his private member's bill on ending mandatory detention (I have sent him two emails of support), it think it is interesting to note that:

  • He has nothing to lose by this initiative as he is on the outer circle of the Howard government.
  • He has had an undistinguished career on the backbench for 8+ years. There is not really much to show for his claimed "influence in the party room".
  • He has been losing votes in a blue ribbon seat - Kooyong is now held by less of a margin (9.58%) than Aston (13.15%), which was a marginal seat in 2001.
  • He stands to gain votes on this issue in Kooyong, where the treatment of asylum seekers has been causing a lot of ongoing serious concern for both conservative and ALP voters.
  • He has now done a deal with Prime Minister Howard and gained some concessions, but not ended mandatory detention, in exchange for not tabling his private member's bill.

The outcome looks to me like it is being regarded as:
  • a "win for Howard" - softening the Liberal's stance slightly (but little substantive policy changes). Letting the children out of detention is a good thing - but they should never have been there in the first place.
  • a "win for Petro" - for his bold initiative and "taking on John Howard". He has gained a lot of uncritical media on this issue - despite not having delivered much. He has not succeeded in ending mandatory detention.
Unfortunately it is a loss for Australia as we still have a policy of incarcerating innocent people - in breach of their human rights - as a deterrent against more coming, and we have granted further discretionary powers to a minister (Vanstone) who has proven her reluctance to use them.

It is also a loss for our democracy. Yet again, our parliamentarians don't have to vote on an issue that is of critical importance to the social health and international reputuation of Australia. Howard has gone to extraordinary lengths to stop the proposed private members bill.

Every vote in parliament should be a conscience vote, rather than along the "party lines" which are written by apparatchiks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Conscience vote required

Sent: Monday, 13 June 2005 4:58 PM

I think Petro Georgiou is doing a fine job as my local member representing me on the issue of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers. I have conveyed to him that I find the locking up of children and asylum seekers for an indefinite period behind razor wire to be barbaric and inhumane.

The Howard government uses mandatory detention as a deterrent to would-be boat people. This puts us in breach of basic human rights and the United Nations convention on the treatment of refugees.

Georgiou and the other "renegade Liberals" are to be commended for seeking change to this inappropriate policy via his private members bill.

Our democracy is in a sorry state with John Howard desperately seeking to prevent the bill being tabled. In addition, both John Howard and Kim Beazley have flagged a likely block of a conscience vote on the private members bill.

This would be an abrogation of our democracy. Let's have true representation, conscience, and see how our parliamentarians vote outside the shelter of indefensible and morally bankrupt "party lines" of both the Coalition and the ALP.

Peter Campbell
Former Greens Candidate for Kooyong, 2004 Federal Election

The Wellbeing Manifesto & conscience votes

Starting this blog to enter my thoughts and observations on the environment, living sustainably and breathing some life into Australian democracy.

I attend the launch of the Wellbeing manifesto in Melbourne tonight. It was an inspiring event - highlighting the need to guiding principles in society and better democracy. I commented that every vote in the Australian Parliament should be a conscience vote, and we should get to vote on referendums for substantive issues like going to war or policies such as mandatory detention of asylum seekers (see the letter I have written on this in the next post).

Currently, major party policies are created in the back room by apparatchiks with little or no member participation. They are trotted out to buy votes during elections and to score political points. Then we vote for an MP who never knows what his electorate wants and can't represent us anyway because they have to vote along party lines ...

The ALP moves to the right to try and gain economic credibility, the Howard Government moves to the left by handing out cash to buy votes in marginal seats.

Where is the vision and leadership we so desperately need?. We run out of Bass Straight oil in 3 years. World oil production has just, or very soon will, peak, yet we are still building freeways.

I ran as the Greens candidate for Kooyong in the 2004 and 2001 Federal Elections and the 2002 Victorian State Election. Our success in 2002 was rewarded by repeated attacks and smears by the likes of John Howard, John Anderson and Peter Costello. Despite all this, the Green vote increased 2% to 14%, putting Kooyong in the top 10 Green seats in Australia.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Mahatma Gandhi.

Good on Petro Georgiou for pushing his two private members bills on ending mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Let's hope they get tabled and voted on in parliament.