MUNGO MacCALLUM. Saving democracy.

Protests are all very well, but only if they are seen to be ineffective. … It is yet another indication that serious dissent cannot and will not be tolerated. 

Once again our fearless legislators have combined their collective might to destroy democracy in order to save it.

A ring of steel, with spy cameras and border guards, will be deployed to encircle the citadel of parliament house. This is not, as some might have hoped, to keep the politicians in, but to keep the people out – a worthy objective in a system which has always prided itself on its openness and inclusiveness.

The excuse is, as always, security – who knows when a terrorist will attempt to hurl a custard pie at Cory Bernardi? There have not actually been any terrorist attacks, and none are anticipated, but you can’t be too careful. And the bonus will be that it will help to keep away the riff-raff – those who would dare to disrupt the solemn processes of the deliberations of their betters.

This, of course, is what happened just last week: a group of protesters tried to superglue themselves to the public, as it used to be called, gallery and shouted messages about the detention camps of Manus and Nauru. And in the process they interrupted question time in the House of Representatives. The sacred ritual was delayed for nearly half an hour before they were forcibly removed, after which both sides excoriated the hiatus as an attack on democracy itself; members vied in hyperbole about the outrage.

No one ever beat the former Liberal Attorney General Billy Snedden who once described anti-war demonstrators as “political bikies pack-raping democracy,” but the current lot did their best.

And indeed, they were right to feel that the work of their elected representatives could not be compromised by slogans, bluster, insult and abuse – that, after all, is the job of the honourable members themselves.

The daily forty minutes devoted to question time has long since devolved into an unedifying cage fight – which is, perhaps, why the ring of steel has become an appropriate metaphor. Nothing of substance or interest is allowed to intrude in the tirades and ranting of the proponents.

Answers to questions are no longer accorded even token relevance, which hardly matters as the questions are generally equally without value: constant predictable baiting from the opposition and a stream of pre-packaged Dorothy Dixers for the government.

The rules have been bent so far from the idea of providing information that nothing is left except the mud wrestle – who gets on top on the day. The umpires – the press gallery — allot points according to their own predilections and prejudices.

The public, in general, couldn’t care less, so in a one sense the new measures to keep them out of the place may be considered superfluous – except, of course, in that it feeds the egos of the inhabitants. But it another sense it is yet another indication that serious dissent cannot and will not be tolerated.

Protests are all very well – but only if they are seen to be ineffective. The idea is that the punters – the voters, the people who are supposed to be those who actually employ the politicians – are allowed to go to the polls once every few years (if they really must) but that is it. Democracy – the politicians’ democracy – must come first. Suck it up, peasants.

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One Response to MUNGO MacCALLUM. Saving democracy.

  1. Julian says:

    All too true Mungo, unfortunately.

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