You have to be a bit careful these days when you refer to democracy and Australia in the same breath. This week it became obvious that the idea of democracy got a bloody thumping as ideologues and bureaucrats moved into full gear.
To some degree, this week showed how a “Bill of Rights” could operate to the detriment of our democracy. It’s bad enough now, without one.
Although not a perfect system of organising the affairs of men and women, democracy is the best we have — at least if we stick to certain principles and ideals. One of these is to let people have a say in any changes to laws and regulations that will impact upon their lives. Generally this is done by our representatives in the parliaments or through Aldermen or Councillors at local government level.
The first bit of nonsense to get off the ground was the announcement by Minister Greg Combet that an assessment was to be done into the removal of restrictions on females fighting in the front line or undertaking other hazardous tasks during military operations. You would imagine that such a decision would come via the military command, assessing operational risks involving all aspects of life in the armed services. In particular, you would imagine that the thoughts of the men, fighting within SAS and other units, would have their opinions sought and that their feelings and thoughts would be paramount. Not so!
Mr Combet is going to have University of Wollongong academics work out the physical limitations of the female body and decide upon what is possible within a fighting unit. Feminist ideology will be the deciding factor, and certainly not what the troops think, or their commanders consider appropriate. Military decisions will be based on gender rights and ideology.
Moving on, we next had the Australian Human Rights Commission forcing a requirement on Virgin Blue to allow people with disabilities to fly without an accompanying carer. Again you would imagine that the rights of the flying public — to expect the greatest possible safety standards— would be absolute and have priority over calls from disability activists. Not so!
Anyone who has experienced getting off an aircraft under normal conditions would know what is involved. An emergency evacuation can be traumatic. The notion of people with disability needing help during an emergency, you would think, would be self-evident. Airline staff having to attend to disabled
people means that they can’t concentrate on the emergency situation. The requirement that people with major disabilities are accompanied by a carer would seem a reasonable requirement. Not so!
The champion of this new imposition upon the flying public is Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes, who some years ago held up an interstate flight, arguing with the pilot about the tethering of his guide dog to the passenger seat arm-rest. It was of no interest to Innes that the flight was delayed 20 minutes as he argued the toss.
In 2008 the Human Rights Commission granted Rex Airlines an “exemption” from the Disability Discrimination Act for five years, relieving airline staff from assisting disabled passengers eating, drinking and helping them going to the toilet. What a thoughtful Human Rights Commission we have.
Meanwhile in Hobart this week, the city’s citizens learnt that a Hobart City Council decision to reject a proposal to place six huge wind turbines on the roof of a harbour-front building was to be appealed by the proponent. In a city where some of the most appalling modern architectural developments sit very uncomfortably with historical colonial buildings, you would think that the Council’s decision was reasonable. It was certainly popular.
The proposed wind turbines project, six giant metal egg-beater looking objects, has the backing of the government’s Minister for Climate Change, but the final decision will be made by a couple of non-elected members of Tasmania’s planning appeals authority. The lack of democratic process here is obvious — bureaucrats will decide.
In the above three examples it is evident that minority groups, exercising their “rights”, can triumph over the possible wishes of the majority. This might be reasonable, except that when you look at who is engineering the process and making the final decisions. They are all non-elected, faceless functionaries.
As the full impact of Julia Gillard’s destruction of Work Choices becomes evident — and people find that they no longer have “choices” but are directed by faceless union officials, courts and bureaucrats — the realisation may dawn that “a government that gives you want can usually take all you have”. And that includes democracy.
The above is just a taste of “The Bill of Rights”. Enjoy!