“Social contract” is one of those terms we
toss around without really considering its meaning. And it’s odd to think philosophy at the
same time as talking about telemarketing, but the two issues are going to run
into each other in Parliament this week.

Last week the Federal Government introduced
the “Do Not Call” legislation into Parliament to establish a register where
consumers can list their name and telephone number if they do not want to
receive telemarketing calls.

Yet, as the Adelaide Advertiserreports
today ,
we will still be subject to pesky phone calls from
politicians despite the new restrictions:

Under the Government’s
legislation for a Do Not Call register, an exemption has been made for MPs from
registered political parties, as well as independents and candidates.

Family First Senator Steve
Fielding has raised concerns about the exemption, saying politicians should not
have special treatment. He referred to the 2004
election campaign, when recorded messages from Prime Minister John Howard were
left on telephone answering machines across the country.

The concept of the
social contract is simple. It refers to the agreement among the members of an organised society or between the governed
and the government defining and limiting the rights and duties of each.

The idea is nearly as old as philosophy
itself, yet it has come under criticism from some thinkers in modern times.
Feminist thinkers, to take on example, have argued that social contract theory provides
an incomplete picture of our moral and political lives, and can camouflage the
ways in which the contract itself can depend on the subjugation of certain
groups of people.

Then there are one-sided contracts. This is
what we’re getting here.

Our politicians already enjoy exemptions
from privacy laws. They enjoy exemptions from trade practices law. Now, they
propose to grant themselves another set of exemptions which effectively gives
them the right to aggressively lie to us on the issues we hold dear.

That’s some right – one that involves very
little sense of duty.

Peter Fray

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