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Civil society needs better democracy

Electioneering is once again coming to town. At both State and Federal levels, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between the major political parties.

We are in the middle of a State election campaign and can look forward to a Federal poll towards the end of the year.

If the broad direction of a party's platform is indicated by the relative emphasis that it gives to the market, civil society and state, and by the interrelationships among them, choosing between the Coalition Government and the ALP is like choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Both parties make token efforts towards civil society.

They provide a small amount of money through various community grant schemes while pursuing policies that undermine the renewal of true community power.

Both parties desire a greatly reduced govern-ment.

In that way, the workings of the market can be left unimpeded in what would be a liberalised, open trading system.

In the meantime, the smaller parties have struggled to break the dominance of the big two.

The Greens, for example, have developed a broad range of policies across a range of sectors, in health, education, crime, commerce, employment and participatory democracy.

Yet they are still perceived as only an environmentally-based party due to the media's lack of interest.

The lead up to last year's presidential election in the United States saw major demonstrations at both the Republican and Democratic Party conventions.

An increasing number of Americans are becoming tired of the corporate financing of the political process.

The policies of both major US parties resemble more of a big business code of welfare than a commitment to the best interests of the people they have been asked to govern.

The process is not dissimilar here in Australia.

Once elected, politicians of the major parties are now expected to break their promises.

This is so much so, that narratives surrounding “core” and “non-core” promises are now a part of post-election speak.

Given all this, the apathy of the Australian public towards the political process is, perhaps, understandable.

To participate in a democracy is not the same as casting a vote every three or four years.

Yet we can choose to either accept the flawed democracy that we have, or to work towards a different type of democratic system.



* Rodney Vlais is a social analyst involved with several non-profit organisations.

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