From our readers: Can independent MPs save our system?

Nov 6, 2021
election ballot box democracy voting
(Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

In letters to the editor this week, the case for more independent MPs, Gladys Berejiklian at ICAC, and generational conflict.

The calls for more independents in federal parliament was a hot button topic at Pearls and Irritations this week, with readers responding to a number of our articles on the topic. And we started the week transfixed by former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s appearance at ICAC, as summarised by Stephanie Dowrick in a widely-read article that inspired quite a few letters. We also heard from you on Don Edgar and Patricia Edgar’s argument against blaming older generations for the difficulties faced by younger people.

We welcome your responses to our articles. To submit a letter to the editor, please email us at, including your full name and town or suburb, and the article to which you are responding. Letters should be no longer than 200 words, and may be edited for clarity, style and length.

Lessons from ICAC — Stephanie Dowrick

Business as usual: The price of Gladys Berejiklian’s politics

Stephanie Dowrick’s assessment underestimates the price of politics. The comments about Covid are dubious and trivialise the situation. The real NSW issues include: false charges leading to resignation of a minister; pig-headed discrimination against Western Sydney — copying Victoria — until the cusp of civil unrest. Similarly, the ICAC focus — on the potential of private life to conflict with public duty on the odd small grant — appears to be a lesser matter but for involvement of the premier. John Menadue and I have pointed to much more consequential NSW issues — e.g. inexplicable decisions about Sydney Metro; “independent” advisers recommending multi-billion-dollar projects before costs are known; almost fraudulent reports from Commonwealth departments. On “everybody does it” — unfortunately this resonates with the community. Among reasons: the methodology for the present federal pork barrel came from Labor’s 2019 platform eg. Woy Woy car park. I am unaware of any significant improvement. I’m not sure restricting scrutiny to minor case studies is all that important.  Any federal integrity commission ought to aim much higher. — John Austen, Leumeah, NSW

Like Scott Morrison, Gladys Berejiklian is one of those politicians who are incapable of admitting mistakes and will go out of their way through spin and subterfuge to justify their decision making, even in the face of community opposition and bureaucratic advice. They never apologise and in their minds, they are always right. Berejiklian in giving her evidence before the ICAC inquiry acted as though she’s still in Parliament at Question Time and on multiple occasions avoided directly answering the question, drifting off into speech making until pulled up by counsel assisting and the assistant commissioner. — Ray Laverack, Epping, NSW

A carefully written, and incisive, article that subtly asks the questions: “What other funds may have been ‘splashed’ around? And to whom?” No wonder Morrison pre-emptively attacked NSW’s corruption commission while also lauding Berejiklian’s integrity and public service. After all, he is the “impresario of rorting”, as documented by numerous investigations, and could hardly savour the idea of having an independent body investigate his administration of public funds. Berejiklian’s defence strategy isn’t hard to divine. She just denies everything, even attempting to downplay her romantic attachment to Daryl Maguire. Of course, the commission may be kind to her; we simply don’t know yet. What should change, however, is the blatant favouring of some electorates over others when money is being disbursed. It’s our money, after all, not theirs. — Robert Harwood, West Hobart

Our failing political system — Allan Patience

It’s time for good independents to come to the aid of the country

Allan Patience fails to mention The Greens with 10 members in the federal parliament. He refers to the “deep disaffection” among voters evidenced by “the growing numbers of donors signing up to Simon Holmes a Court’s Climate200”. He goes on to list the following issues (his words): “climate change policy, asylum seekers, human rights, Indigenous rights, handling of the pandemic, growing socio-economic inequality, housing affordability, women’s rights, domestic violence, costs of childcare, neglect of education, mending the economy, foreign and defence policies, the list goes on and on…” For every one of these, The Greens have comprehensive policies that they have been prosecuting for years. Most of their parliamentarians are women, two Indigenous, one disabled, one Muslim — the most diverse by far of any party. What is it about the people who are given voice in Pearls and Irritations that they are completely blind to The Greens and their progressive policies? My answer: they are not members of “the club”, this elitist group of the governing class who, in endless and subtle ways, exclude or look down upon anyone who is not a member by means of academic or other status. It is time for the unsung people who spend their lives at the coal face of these issues to be heard. — George Burkitt, Arrawarra, NSW

Allan Patience correctly diagnoses the major current ills in our political system. The corruption, incompetence and bombast on the Liberal side as well as the supine approach of Labor are all too evident. Patience has outlined part of the solution. Support for independent candidates in Liberal-held electorates by community based “voices of” groups is growing. This is welcome and some may be elected. A change is necessary to end the charade of the current self serving ruling clique and restore governance founded in the national interest. As the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is the only group realistically able to gain sufficient seats to form the basis of a new government, but has failed miserably to outline a program tackling the numerous issues needing attention, we have a dilemma. Labor needs a kick in the backside while the Coalition needs a thorough walloping. Preferential voting provides part of the way to do this. Progressive independent candidates in most Labor seats, including “safe” ones, should be encouraged; followed by a “vote two ALP” campaign. A desirable outcome would be a telling fall in the ALP primary vote followed by formation of a minority Labor government backed by Greens and progressive independents. — Bob Aikenhead, Carlton, Victoria

In defence of Baby Boomers — Don Edgar and Patricia Edgar

The age-old debate on generational conflict is deeply flawed

This article totally failed to capture the the reality of the 1960s, when the oldest baby boomers, born in 1946, came of age. It also wrongly claims that subsequent generations were more rebellious. This is demonstrably incorrect. In the early sixties, women were paid less than men for doing the same work. We agitated, successfully, for equal pay for equal work, a major achievement for women. Many women had to leave their jobs when they married or became pregnant, and there were barriers to women entering various professions. The contraceptive pill was unavailable to single women, and abortions were illegal. Women had to have approval from their husbands to borrow money. In 1969, the ANU library would not allow women to wear trousers to work. We eventually prevailed. We joined trade unions on mass, and supported moves for equal rights for Indigenous people. As for the low numbers taking advantage of free university places, free university was not introduced until 1973. The oldest boomers graduated in 1965, well before free places were offered. We did, however, have access to merit based scholarships. The boomers were the most radical, politically active and influential generation in Australian history. Their legacy has been enjoyed by subsequent generations. Sadly, in the late seventies and eighties moves were underway, led by the US, to reverse such “excesses of democracy” by weakening the arbitration system and the union movement and by privatisation and reintroducing university fees. As for allegations made elsewhere, that “the Baby Boomers climbed the wealth ladder, and then pulled the rope up behind them”, it was politicians of the pre-Boomer generation, such as Hawke, Keating and Howard who introduced “neoliberal” reforms. In fact, the first Baby Boomer prime minister was Kevin Rudd, who did not hold office until 2007, long after privatisation, individual contracts and the rest of the “neoliberal reforms” had long been introduced. It has become common practice to blame the Boomers, in order to deflect blame from those who actually introduced US-style predatory capitalist measures to Australia, following the convenient demise of the Whitlam government. — Pauline Westwood, Dickson, ACT

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