On the Senate

Andrew Bartlett writes: Re. “The cowardice of their conviction” (yesterday). I know the concept of a political party doing something because it’s the right thing for democracy may seem implausible, but it is worth considering that it is at least possible.

Those who oppose the major improvements to democracy that will come from Senate voting reform are trying to derail it by bringing on debate on other legislation that the Greens also support. The Greens are simply choosing to prioritise one piece of legislation they support — which has a real chance of being implemented if it is voted on this week — over other legislation they support which is very unlikely to pass at the moment.

It is a total misreading of the situation to suggest that the Greens refusal to go along with this equates to “politics trumping conviction”. What is happening is precisely the opposite. The easy politics would be for the Greens to fold in the face of the massive attacks and monumental misrepresentations which have been put around on this issue by a range of people who are clearly putting short-term interests ahead of long-term opportunity. The fact that some of those people know that the Greens are the strongest defenders of the issues they care about makes the politics even more difficult for the Greens and the attacks all the more disappointing (not to mention dangerous for progressive politics). Instead the Greens are showing strong conviction by holding firm on grasping the first real opportunity to fix the Senate voting system, after 20 years of advocating for that reform.

This is not a minor matter. It is about ensuring that Senates are actually elected by the voters, thus ensuring those future Senates are able to be held accountable by the voters for the decisions they made.  That affects not only the specific issues that progressive politics cares about now, but every single one of them that might come before the Parliament for decades to come.

On China and human rights

John Richardson writes: Re. “Australia finally taking China to task for human rights abuses” (yesterday).

I think most would agree with Michael Sainsbury when he states that “respect is earned, not taken”, which is precisely why China should treat Australia’s sanctimonious lectures about its human rights record with the respect they deserve: zero.

That Australia expects to be taken seriously on the subject of human rights, given our criminal treatment of asylum-seekers and our own Indigenous people, succeeds only in demonstrating to China and the world just how morally bankrupt our nation has become.

As for our laughable criticism of China for its alleged bullying of its neighbours, I would have thought our criminal and cowardly behaviour toward East Timor would be more than enough reason for Australia to be happy to keep its big trap shut.

The day our so-called political leaders are able to demonstrate that they have some backbone by taking exception to the excesses of our “special friend” is perhaps the day that others might consider our diplomatic views as being worth listening to.

Of course, as long Canberra displays an openly cynical indifference to human rights issues by appointing the likes of Phillip Ruddock as our Special Envoy on Human Rights, we should hardly be surprised if no-one treats us with respect. Why would they?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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