This Paper shall address an integral question posed to a society that is concerned with its own politics and primarily how their leaders go about their politicking. This question being, Should government follow the will
of the people or ought they follow their own informed will? In dissecting this question the will of the people is viewed as the will represented by the majority
. Whilst the informed will is that which belongs to a government
who acts in the best wishes of the state, however perhaps not concurrent with public interest. Several points will be brought up that either support or deny either side of the argument. The ideas that support action purely based upon public interest are that politicians are known to be corrupt
with ample amounts of power and also that as a democratic
state it is only just that the nation rule itself and none other. However in a more cynical sense the government being the highest bureaucracy in the nation may not understand what the state wants but does understand what it needs is a notion which supports solely government led leadership, along with the idea that the public do not know what they need for they do not have the ability to grasp the requirements of the whole nation. After such discussion a conclusion will be reached that addresses the question of whether the government should or should not follow the will of the people.
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating articulates the question on a more practical level in stating that “Leadership is not about being popular. It’s about being right and about being strong” (Wilkinson in Cohen 1997:168). This poses the question on what exactly constitutes being right? In a democratic logic the public’s voice has to at least be taken into consideration when forming policy and making decisions. Former MP Gary Johns suggests that the reason Labor lost the 1998 election was because “it has been listening to minorities rather than the mainstream” (Sawer in Bean 1997:73). This relates to the first point given in favour for following public opinion, for in according to the people democracy is exercised.
However something else must be exercised for this process of leadership to be successful. For a politician may argue that they represent the will of the people but in fact are only pursuing their own interests. An example is given by “Adolf Hitler would argue that he spoke the true values of the German people” (Macgregor-Burns, J., 1979:150). Thus what needs to be exercised is temperance for although the people may want one thing, it may not necessarily be what is good for them.
Despite this clear spectrum between acting rationally and acting irrationally other variables upset the formulaic answer to the question. Hypothetically politicians may be able to deem what is and is not a rational decision based upon public opinion however they themselves may act with vice due to their own lack of strength; as stated by Keating as a requirement of effective leadership above (see Wilkinson in Cohen 1997:168). It is illustrated in the introduction to a contemporary text that nepotism is wide spread in this age for the “major political parties seem to have largely abandoned the ethics of government” (Fitzgerald 2004:1). It is further explored to show that without ethical leadership there has been a “collective failure of imagination” (Fitzgerald 2004:1). For some illogical reason when this occurs “Politicians mesmerised by power seem to be unconcerned that, when leaders fail to set and follow ethical standards, public trust is damaged” (Fitzgerald 2004:2). Thus if politicians can discriminate between rational and irrational decisions without giving in to their own interests perhaps there is a chance for effective leadership as seen by Keating to be “right… and strong” (Wilkinson in Cohen 1997:168).
However to incorporate both political corruption and irrational public opinion the notion that perhaps the government creates our own will in accordance to its own interests disrupts Keating’s maxim. Recently the government has used a distinctive process for inflicting its own will upon the nation with fear and then legislating upon this fear in order to appear justified in listening to the public’s apprehension. In order to do this affectively the government in regard to terror laws must “fetishise proposed anti-terrorism measures by depicting them as imperative in the War of Terror” (Tham 2004:1). In doing so “the coalition government is exploiting the real fears that the Australian public has… and paradoxically making Australians more vulnerable to the arbitrary state power” (Tham 2004:1). Thus only with an objective government who acts with not only strength over the nation but also over itself can political leadership be effective.
A suggested model for modus operandi is the “servant leader” (Hunter 2004:7). It is advocated that through this type of leadership “servant leaders can be hard-nosed, even autocratic” (Hunter 2004:11). As long as when the “benefits are handed out not only do they provide for people by engaging their hearts and mind” (Hunter 2004:12) but also remain “purely accountable at all times” (Hunter 2004:13). One may link it with a Machiavellian trait of “acting to win honour” (Machiavelli 1961:119). Within the example of Ferdinand of Aragon it is illustrated that this sovereign rose “from becoming a weak king… to a being of fame and glory” (Machiavelli 1961:119). Ferdinand would have understood that “unless you reach your audience they will walk off and listen to someone else” (Horne 2001:109). Also Ferdinand would have believed though that you must “lay it on with a trowel; voters are the upstart swine who think they know what is good for them” (MacCallum 2002:82) when in fact it is the “government who knows what is best” (Anthony in Department of Family and Community Services
2004) for the nation. Thus Ferdinand “has always planned and completed great projects, which have kept his subjects in a state of suspense and wonder, intent on their outcome” (Machiavelli 1961:120).
This secretive type of suspense keeping, whilst appearing to act as a servant and not an autocrat has worked in the past because the government has learned from its mistakes. A mistake to note is in the idea of regulation and its consequences. This is reinforced in the case of Albert D. Lasker who stated that “If there is one thing worse than government ownership as we now have it; it is the ownership and operation by the Government” (Lasker in Nation Business 1923:36). However also privatisation is met with opposition for “the opposition to the sale of Telstra has been, and still is, highest in regional Australia” (Barns 2003:44). Thus although in both circumstances are at either ends of the social/conservative spectrum, the public are enraged in both scenarios. A conundrum is formed asking “How can the Government Act in its own uncorrupted interests whilst addressing the public will and not appear despotic?”
The answer lies with the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments of the 1990s. As Treasurer Paul Keating “began the process of deregulating the financial system” (Barnes 2003:13). Under the Keating government “neo liberal ideas associated with economic rationalism” were undertaken (Parkin 2002:311). However Keating also tore apart the Liberal policy of “privatising the government’s stake in the energy company Santos” (Barnes 2003:16). The Labor feeding frenzy cast a foreboding shadow over Adelaide where their “scare campaign began in earnest” (Barnes 2003:16) claiming that the Liberal’s “Thatcherite ideology” (Barnes 2003:16) would cull jobs and and allow a rise in “everything from telephone calls to postage stamps” (Barnes 2003:16). Consequently Keating’s scare campaign won over the South Australian electorate and its incumbent Olsen lost (Barnes 2003). The conflict here however is that initially Keating was an economic rationalist with privatisation at heart and then totally against the idea when the Liberal Party proposed it. How is this tactic feasible when each process opposes each other? Keating cleverly made each situation appear to be in the public’s benefit. Although this strategy appears simple enough, even in the above state of affairs it is still effective.
Thus through appealing to the public, by claiming it is in their best interest and not the government’s, effective leadership over the nation is possible.
The question of whether the government should follow the will of the people may still seem unanswered yet Keating’s approach has foreshadowed it. It is the thesis of this paper that the Government should either not follow the will of the people, it should instead create the will, through appeal and implement this through policy accordingly. Or follow the will incognito and then not actually provide the public with a realistic result but appears to on the surface. For if the Government did exactly what the public asked the autocracy of the government would dissolve. Also if the government did not follow the nation’s ideals they would soon not be government. Thus these two procedures answer the need for the government to be always in control but also provide for the public will, or appear to act so at least.
This entire method can be illustrated in the Labor Party’s policy platform on Aboriginal affairs ranging from Whitlam in the 1970s through to Keating in the 1990s. What is proposed here is that the Labor Party appeared to answer the nation’s desire for Aboriginal Rights but the result was next to nothing. Using the 1967 Referendum change in constitution as a basis for stating that public interest was towards Aboriginal welfare being taken seriously, this illustrates that the government did follow the will of the people; but in fact not as succinctly as it would appear. For the referendum resulted in “a big ‘Yes’ to include Aboriginal people in the census and to allow Commonwealth legislation re Aborigines” (Bulbeck 2004:82). However “the referendum in no way changed the legal status of Aborigines… it simply gave the Commonwealth power to legislate with respect to indigenous people” (Robins et al. 2002:504) not an obligation. This is exemplified by Prime Minister McMahon’s Australia Day Address “On the 26th of January 1972 the Prime Minister brought out his land denial policy for Aborigines” (Gilbert 1994:25) which articulated that “Blacks were not… to be given land rights because this implicitly threatened the ‘security of tenure’ of white land owners” (Gilbert 1994:25). Despite the new power of the Federal Government “nothing had changed, nor would it while the Liberal-Country Coalition Party governed” (Gilbert 1994:23).
What was to follow was an almost chivalrous call by the Labor party in 1972 to adopt “a policy of ‘self determination’,” (Robins et al. 2002:508). This was the start of the appeasement of the public’s result in the 1967 referendum. However due to a rare situation in the senate Whitlam’s 166 million dollar increase in Aboriginal affairs budget was cut short (Robins et al. 2002). Once again the Liberal Coalition under Fraser in 1975 shortened the extent to which Aboriginal Affairs would be part of the nation’s policy. Although the Aboriginal Development Commission “guaranteed some freedom from Ministerial direction” (ADC in Robins et al. 2002:511) the Aboriginal Affairs Minister speaking in a divisional tone contradicted this limited autonomy to add that “we do not want them to develop separately from us” (Viner in Robins et al. 2002:511). Thus even the Liberal Coalition at this point appeared to be following the public’s will displayed in the 1967 Referendum but informally rendered this double sided good will nothing but diabolical malevolence.
There was one key example which this recount is leading up to, that being the Mabo Case of 1992. This recognised that “native title… potentially still existed” (Robins et al 2002:516). The ‘potentiality’ is however stressed in the last quote for the claimed inhabitants must have “maintained their connection with the land through the years of European Settlement” (Attorney General’s Department in Robins et al 2002:516) as well as the land not being “extinguished by valid acts of Imperial, Colonial, State, Territory or Commonwealth Governments” (Attorney General’s Department in Robins et al 2002:516). Thus although to the public this decision fulfilled the requirements of the 1967 referendum’s grant of power to the federal government, below the surface “the out come was still a disappointment to many indigenous leaders who felt that the certainty required by the government had been achieved at the expense of indigenous rights” (Robins et al 2002:519).
Thus in conclusion this paper asserts that government should either follow public opinion but not actually legislate it literally as shown above in the 1992 Mabo case. Or the government should in fact follow the public’s will, but this will should be created by the government out of fear and compliance, this was used in the Anti Privatisation method of Keating in the possible sale of Santos. Without government man is in a “condition of Warre of everyone against everyone” (Hobbes 1968:189) thus some form of government is needed to govern and maintain civility. However the government must remember that they are accountable to these people and must appear in their actions as they are aware of such restrictions. Therefore bluntly put “all the electorate wants is a good fuck every couple of months” (MacCallum 2002:78), no orgasm was ever implied.
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