Antony Green has some lines in The Age today that will be familiar to Crikey readers. He says the Victorian Legislative Council results do not represent the will of the voters but instead benefits the party seen as the most expedient by backroom powerbrokers:

Proportional representation is a fair system. What is unfair is the system of group ticket voting. The DLP came third-last in the seat of Western Victoria, but because it benefited from preferences from others below it pushing it up, it won the seat.

The election result is not the will of the people. It comes close to corruption because it is being done by a bunch of people sitting in a room deciding to do deals.

Antony says a fairer system would be an above-the-line preferential voting system, where voters can decide which party their preferences go to if their first choice does not win enough support to get elected.

He’s had us sold on optional preferential for a long, long time. It gives power to voters, not backroom boys. But this isn’t just a debate about political systems. The pains from some very nasty political and sectarian conflicts with their roots in Victoria that go way, way back have suddenly been felt again.

Former Labor premier John Cain – whose father was premier, too, and lost power because of the split – and his successor Joan Kirner are outraged that ALP preferences helped their ancient enemy.

But what’s the big deal? Cain and Kirner both have shameful political records. The DLP received just under two per cent of the vote. They have one seat in a 40 member upper house. The percentages fit. We live in a democracy, after all.

Crikey cosmopolitans mightn’t like it, but Steve Fielding is right to warn that “The major parties ignore mainstream and family values at their peril.” After all, in the 2001 census 68 per cent of Australians identified themselves as Christians.

The Acton Lecture by our pre-eminent popular historian, Paul Kelly, to the Centre for Independent Studies on religion and freedom  could not have come at a better time:

Despite the decline of the hierarchical churches, Australia has two political leaders who are declared Christians and believe in the influence of religious ethics in politics.

Contrary to claims, Australia is not following the US path, where the decentralised, populist, market-based evangelical impulse embedded in America’s soil and psyche has led to the rise of the Christian Right, much exploited by George W. Bush…

Yet there are contrary trends apparent in politics. There is a growing revolt against the secularisation of public life. Howard’s prime ministership captures this trend in its explicit quest to restore values and ethics and mobilise the Christian vote.

Howard recognises the public’s mood for a reassertion of standards. Although this does not necessarily involve religion, the revival of tradition, unsurprisingly, usually does contain religious elements…

For Rudd, religion has an important and constructive role to play. The state, in turn, has an obligation to listen, if not to endorse… Rudd lectures politicians on how to deal with the church. He puts secularists on notice: Christian views should be heard and respected. They should not be “rejected contemptuously by secular politicians as if these views are an unwelcome intrusion into the political sphere”. That would diminish our civic life…

Kelly is right. This is all about civic life. This is about democracy.

Too many Labor figures, too many members of the Greens and their predecessor parties of the left either have had their tongues stuck firmly up the ars-s of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Castro and other mass-murdering dictators – or at least are guilty of casting the odd longing look at their buttocks.

They have been soft on tyranny. The DLP has stood for freedom – a pretty idiosyncratic sort of freedom – but freedom nonetheless.

Peter Fray

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