|Dated:||16 July 2018|
We keep our watching brief on Logan City, as that special town represents the best and the worst of Australian local politics. Greater Logan is a favourite place to observe the combination of town and country, to appreciate the beauty of its natural features and respect the interesting collection of characters and lifestyles found there. Logan at times seems like a microcosm of the rest of Australia, without the desert parts. Logan also happens to be a showcase of private virtue and public vice.
Previously Australia Wake Up took a peek at the alleged moral collapse of Mayor Terrence Luke Smith, who is under investigation by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission. Luke who professed to us that he was once a Christian pastor, is himself in need of pastoral care, for he is to appear before the Court in a few weeks to face charges of corruption.
In response to the infamous goings on of Smith's Mayoralty and the parallel problems with the Mayor of Ipswich, and possibly Mayor Tom Tate of the Gold Coast, the Queensland Government recently amended the Local Government Act 2009. The new idea is to suspend Councillors (and naughty Mayors) who have been charged with certain disqualifying 'integrity offences'.
In times gone by corrupt officials were suspended from a gallows. These days rotten representatives are only suspended from reporting to work. They get to hang around on full pay, until the Courts deal with the charges brought against them. Notice how serious crimes against public trust are now labelled 'integrity offences'. Have the Queensland lawmakers coined a new Politically Correct term for moral corruption, gangsterism, graft, infidelity, shame, or common criminality?
The people of Logan and other cities damaged by corrupt Councillors can rest assured that the Court penalties for any guilty Councillors will be far out of proportion to the damage these people have brought to the community of citizens who elected them. Usually a telling off and a promise to be a good boy or girl is all the Court requires. The offender gets to keep the money and advantages they grafted from the public body, and public confidence in the political process sinks further below the zero point.
Councillor corruption brings us to the topic of transparency. We are supposed to be able to see through, or into things which are transparent. Clear glass, limpid clean water, the honest eyes of our children, these are transparent. Do you consider that principles of transparency should apply to the public affairs of Councillors, who are meant to be safeguarding the well-being of our civil society and its daily operations?
From the evidence of the activities of certain Ipswich and Logan City Councillors, they gravitate towards affairs which are the opposite of transparent i.e. turbid, muddy, opaque, hidden and dark. In these specially crafted places of murkiness, moral misbehaviour by a portion of Councillors and their cronies is more than a risk, it's a certainty. As the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission know too well, these dark places, often special select committees, afford occasions of sin for those with low-life morals. Certain Councillors operating behind closed doors are highly likely to practice and perfect activities now classified as 'integrity offences'. Certainly they will attempt to hide their doings from the cleansing powers of public transparency.
The reason we hang washing on the line is for it to dry and also to benefit from the cleansing power of sunlight. What remedy could act as a spiritual sunlight to clean up our political process and protect Councillors from their lesser selves? We need some form of insurance to protect elected officials from temptation, for we don't elect them with the purpose of being betrayed.
The Crime and Corruption Commission cannot prevent graft, for they come in after the fact to follow the money trail and catch the bad guys. The State politicians pass laws but the laws don't prevent criminal activity, they just regulate the terms of acceptability. It seems we need a more powerful remedy to protect everyone in town and in City Hall from human weakness.
Public exposure is the most powerful force for good or ill because it puts the spotlight on personal behaviour, and reward or punishment is the outcome. What do Councillors and other politicians as a collective group require to keep them honest, individually and collectively? The common-sense answer is that public officials must answer directly and transparently to the people who put them in positions of responsibility. Then they will earn praise and raise the social capital of their city. The result a win-win for everyone.
In a trusting relationship the people would have the opportunity to ensure their representatives remain honest, and their representatives would have a duty to the people to seek support in staying honest. The good guys would squeeze the bad guys to conform in transparent accountability with the rules.
Common-sense transparency is how we manage our families. Parents talk directly to their family members to maintain the principled order of relationships and everyone's respect and safety. The same principles of accountability can apply to making our community and City Councillors responsible for their actions. This way the elected Councillors would be guided by the voters' instructions, cover for each other, and provide transparent reports of their activities.
How would that system work? A practical example of transparent political accountability is found in Switzerland. There the citizens manage their elected representatives through the system of Citizens' Initiated Binding Referenda. The Swiss people have instituted a system which provides a better way to ensure that Councillors are directed to serve the people first, and self-interest is not an element of their job description.
The fact that many Australian politicians would likely oppose any measure to trim their powers, make their actions transparent, and shift the balance of power to the citizens, is perhaps the most telling proof of the value of this system. Only the citizens have the power to control their representatives, left to themselves many Councillors will plot, scheme and seek private advantage from their public position. Humans often resist the very remedy they require to correct their wayward ways.
Australia Wake Up is inviting you to consider the Citizens' initiated Binding Referenda as the best antidote to the worsening problem of corruption and abuse of power among the political classes of all stripes. It will take a while for this idea to catch on. However the seeds of the plan are now planted in your mind.
Do you consider that Mayor Smith's example has proven the need for a better system whereby residents can directly govern the performance of their Mayor and Councillors? Let us know your thoughts.
The Team at Australia Wake Up; Chris, Harry, David, Sam, Brendan, DavidCOnline copies of this newsletter and other newsletters are available at: