Thursday, 9 September 2010

Lessons in Parliamentary Democracy: a duty to make Government work?

Ok so now you've had a day or so to vent your horror at the outcome of the election, rejoice, or wallow in indifference.  What now?

A duty to respect proper authority

Let me suggest that it is actually the duty of Catholics to get behind the Government and make it work.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that as persons subject to authority we should "regard those in authority as representatives of God and offer their loyal collaboration for the right functioning of public and social life." (No. 464).

That duty is not abrogated because some or all of the personal beliefs of the leader of the Government  are ones we disagree with.  The duty to pray for and work as good citizens with the government of the day, at least within certain limits, was tested in the earliest years of Christianity, under pagan Emperors, many of whom were persecuting Christians actively.  And we are still a very long way from that situation!

A mandate comes from having the numbers in the House of Representatives...

Reading facebook, I continue to be astounded at the apparent failure of many Catholic Australians to grasp how our parliamentary democracy actually works.

No we didn't elect Ms Julia Gillard as our Prime Minister.

That is because we do not elect Prime Ministers - we elect our local MP. And then whoever has the numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives as a result of the votes in each seat gets to be Prime Minister.

If you want to directly elect the leader of the country, work for a Constitutional Referendum, and let's move to a presidential (elected monarchical) system.

If you don't want to do that, stop the rubbish about lack of mandates already.

And in fact (even though irrelevant constitutionally), even The Australian today admits that the Labor Party has in fact win the two party preferred vote - the numbers haven't been finalised yet, but the count that Mr Abbott has been relying on in his expostulations on the subject excludes eight seats that favour Labor.

So what can you do?

Constructive criticism of the Government of the day is perfectly legitimate - with the emphasis on constructive.  Should the Opposition simply seek to be destructive out of a sense of peak at being beaten, they would be behaving immorally.

It is also a positive duty to work to remove existing or to oppose the prospect of new immoral laws.

The new Parliamentary reforms actually make getting private members bills considered seriously a lot easier.  So perhaps Coalition supporters should be lobbying to get Mr Abbott to introduce bills to reverse the cloning laws introduced under the Howard Government, prohibit the abortion drug RU486, and remove medicare funding for abortion before the Greens take control of the Senate.  Somehow I suspect though, that this is one leadership opportunity he will not be rushing to take up.

Ratbagery ahead?

Indeed, Crikey's Possum Comitatus had some robust predictions to make yesterday, including this:

"...But this constitutional reality will not stop some. Indeed, it merely marks the beginning of what will become a long festival of delusion, conspiracy and outright lies – where its hysteria will only be surpassed by its grubby bitterness and its commercial exploitation....The goalposts of what constitutes government legitimacy will be moved from the constitutional to the convenient, from the reality of the parliamentary majority to concocted nostrums about mandates to govern...

The Liberal and National parties have a profoundly successful ability at attracting a disproportional quantity of the most embittered, politically pungent elements of Australian society as supporters – a dark, angry, belligerent underbelly that believes the only acceptable outcome of any political contest is the one they believe in."

We are seeing it already. 

Let's work to stop it, and focus on the real policy issues at stake and work for the good of our country.

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