I have been enjoying Barnaby Joyce simply because he carries his inner-debate between representing his conscience, his state, his party and the coalition government so publicly. Joyce had predominantly voted with the coalition and has been notable more for the few times he has dissented, however, he delivered a very independent minded speech last month to the Law Institute of Victoria;
Crossing the floor: Political Hero or Renegade?
The sensationalist title aside, it contains a good insight into Joyce's view of what democracy should be.
Due to the preferential multi-member nature of the Senate the last twenty-five years has seen the Australian Democrats be elected as the independent minded representatives in the Senate. Acting as a check and balance on executive largess since we have such poor separation of powers between the executive and legislative in the Australian parliamentary system.
The Australian Democrats branch structure is currently struggling, and this is being reflected in the difficulty they are having being elected and re-elected. Consequently the integrity of the Australian system may become ever more dependent on independent minded Senators and House Parliamentarians. Hopefully Joyce and Georgiou are the beginning of this style of movement.
I don't hold out much hope for an independent parliament or Senate though.
The Labor Party were a disruptive political technology in the 1890s. Their two innovations of the pledge and a local branch structure revolutionised Australian politics, and not necessarily for the better. The pledge effectively makes Labor block voting permanent in parliament. The only negotiating room for Labor parliamentarians is with the National Executive to influence their decision.
The branch structure has not been destructive, the modern Liberal Party restructured itself along those lines under Menzies to make a more permanent party than the United Australia Party was capable of. The Greens and Australian Democrats have also benefited in stability from adopting a branch structure.
In the speech Joyce aligns himself as a legislative check and balance on the Executive. This is the correct philosophical position and stance for a Senator in a parliamentary system. Joyce says;
In the world where selling political parties is now like selling brands of bottled water, the contents are indistinct but the packaging is colourful, there has been a democratic devolution that has been exploited by the executive.
When the executive calls public debate and associated dissention in the Senate Chamber bad manners it stands to reason that we should be discussing the principle of coram populo.
Is a Senator a renegade, a hero or just doing what he or she swore an oath of office that they would do? ...
The so called discussion behind closed doors, as opposed to informed debate in front of the public in the Senate, is no more than a usurping of your democratic right. ...
If it is believed by the executive that a more just form of government is one not subject to open and diligent review then this should be proposed to the public as an alternative to the bicameral system of parliament and taken to an election.
The constant moves for Executive dominance are insidious and persistent. Constitutional systems make usurping the constitution openly a difficult and daunting prospect so Executive dominance and centralisation is often done by less direct and obvious means; party discipline, direction of tax monies, or emergency powers.
I consider the Executive the most dangerous component in a liberal democracy. Unfortunately in a parliamentary system the predisposition toward Executive avarice is a weakness that can only be maintained by strict constitutionalism and a vigilant legislative.
Both those actions require, in my opinion, an overhaul of the present Australian constitution to give the legislative and judicature the correct constitutional tools to maintain their independence against executive usurpation and as well as act as an explicit check and balance against each other and the executive.
Joyce suggests that Senators are failing to perform their constitutional duty, and this in part to the mixing of legislative with the executive as well as the party structures;
The demise of the Senator's roll has come with the inclusion of the executive in the Senate. How can you be an ardent and forensic arbiter of the person who sits in front of you in the chamber of review and beside you at every other lunch? What is even more peculiar is how the Senators who are in the executive can be the directors of an informed debate to flesh out the contrarian views of their own decisions. This would have to be thought of as slightly schizophrenic at best but more likely insincere.
The preselection process of a Senator is failing to catch the imagination and capture new Senators who will fight for more for democracy than for their personal political future. The Damoclesian issue of disendorsement and the laurels of a ministry, committee chair or general bonhomie in the party room override what should be a deeper obligation to our nation, i.e., that you are a Senator not a Member.
The party system is currently corrupted or, at the least, ill informed because the basis of its selection criteria for a Senator is those who are the least likely to fulfill their constitutional role to their fellow Australians. How the preferred candidate is then hidden is that they stand as Mr or Mrs Liberal, or Mr or Mrs Labor, or Mr or Mrs Green. They are made to feel beholden by sections in that party, that their responsibilities to that party are greater than their responsibilities to the Senate and the proper operation of review.
Simple changes that probably only need to be conventionalised, rather the constitutionally ratified, though it would give them greater authority to be constitutional, would be the prohibition of Senators from being in the Executive Cabinet or Executive Secretaries.
Other changes which would be positive would be simple checks and balances changes such as the Senate having to ratify treaties and endorse executive appointments.
Making the Senate a purely legislative body, while the House remains an unhealthy mix of executive and legislative, may give the Senate more prestige and encourage more independent minded Senators. I don't know how much this would have an effect on Joyce's complaint of parties restricting the constitutional duty of a Senator.
I think it is a mistake to call the Australian Democrats a post-materialist party. They were structurally formed to plug the hole of parliamentary failure. They were an emergent response to the pitfalls of poor separation of powers, lacking checks and balances, as well as independent parliamentary action.
For instance, in the Australian Democrats constitution, an elected representative can conscience vote against the national executive. Something that is denied Labor representatives. The Australian Democrats platform also focuses heavily on parliamentary procedure which found its jingoistic expression in "Keep the Bastards Honest".
Strategy and Predictability
Joyce also comments on the predictability of the Senate voting in blocks giving him a tactical advantage;
Currently in the Senate there is a position of leverage that is given by the fact that I can rely, almost totally, on other Senators voting as directed.
Absolute party discipline has been an Australian innovation, though not necessarily a positive one.
Joyce's speech is well worth reading the whole way through.
Phoenix Eats Out
is the restaurant review site for Phoenix
and Old Town Scottsdale
which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
My personal favourite restaurants in Phoenix are AZ88
, Humble Pie
, Orange Table
, The Vig
and others coming close behind. View the complete list with the photo-journalistic style images on phoenixeatsout.com
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org
, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
The constitutions were built using principles from Montesquieu's separation of powers, the enlightnment's universal political rights and the ancient Athenian technology of sortition and choice by lot.
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.