Democracy. What democracy?

| November 3, 2014

The word ‘democracy’ has its origins in the Greek language and combines ‘demos’ meaning citizen living within a state and ‘kratos’ meaning power or rule. Leicester Warburton deplores that our government is going about its business quietly without sufficiently consulting the public.

Ever since John Howard plunged us into a pointless war without any real consultation with the Australian people and at a cost of so many beautiful young lives, I’ve been fuming.

It’s so easy, isn’t it, for politicians to fulfil many whims, make damaging decisions, create extravagant concepts, without being really answerable to anyone. They also have the power to ignore, which, perhaps, is even worse. And then they can walk away when they feel like it, leaving their legacies for others to remedy – often an impossible task.

Take the very recent case of the proposed (and now approved) application to build a retirement home on public harbourside parkland at Balmoral. The local residents opposed it vigorously. It was a fire risk from bushland. It was an area supposedly protected by an inviolable Harbour Trust. It was at the end of an access road. There were so many reasons for this precious public land to be left unspoiled. But no, the Minister quietly approved the application.

At Barangaroo, that wonderful swathe of resurrected harbour front, James Packer’s proposed towering temple to vulgarity and greed seems ready to go ahead without going to tender, without consultation with the public. No matter that future generations will ask “Were they quite mad to monopolise prime public parkland with a monstrous gambling palace they were restricted from using even if they were foolish enough to do so?” Yet our secretive government seems secretly on course to go ahead.

Is this democracy in action?

I recently wrote to the NSW Minister for Transport on a subject dear to my old nonagenarian heart. While I am still able to drive with a certain mellow and carefully honed style, I am aware that many of the over-85s in this State regard the approach of the compulsory licence test with something close to terror. The sheer fact that the future of their ability to get easily from A to B rests on that test can turn them into nervous wrecks.

Other States do not require this. They understand that this imposition is unnecessary and unfair. Old drivers know when to hang up their driving gloves and their record is as good as most.

So I asked the Minister to consider a compassionate change of ruling to bring the State into line with all the other States. After the passage of the extraordinarily long time it always seems to take to read a letter and act on it in government circles, I received a reply. It was admirably courteous and negative.

I was told that a government Task Force had been appointed in November 2011 “to review the current licencing arrangements and in particular to make recommendations on the effectiveness of mandatory testing”. In September 2013, the Task Force delivered its recommendation “to maintain the existing licensing system for older drivers”.

Nearly two years to recommend changing nothing!

My letter had apparently been passed down a chain of command through three people until I was told if I required more information there was a number I could ring and a person I could speak to. I tried that.

Would I leave a number?

I haven’t heard.

That’s democracy in action.



  1. Sparkeygirl

    November 3, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Re: What Democracy?

    Great blog, Leicester, I feel my blood boiling.. Our government does seem intent in handing over precious public resources to help the very very wealthy get wealthier… that which should be preserved for future generations.. How is that a democracy for the people indeed?