‘What we really need is a benign dictatorship’

February 13, 2015
Tom Elliott

There has been plenty of analysis and navel gazing from the mainstream media in the wash-up from the Queensland elections. While some looked at the personalities, others looked for someone or something to blame.

One commentator, Tom Elliott writing in the Herald Sun, laid the blame for the state of the political system on voters and suggested what he called "a benign dictatorship".

In an opinion piece, Elliott wrote: "Our democracy is failing. As voters we’ve developed short attention spans and high expectations. Consequently our political masters are beholden to opinion polls.

"Up in Queensland, reformist Premier Campbell Newman has been kicked out after a single term. Apart from his abrasive style, Mr Newman’s sin was proposing a series of asset privatisations to reduce state debt."
Instead of seeing the swing away from the LNP as a rejection of the Newman government’s neoliberal privatisation model, Elliott sees this as an electorate not prepared to make the hard decisions. For him, the problem is not with the policies, it's with the voters.

Luckily Elliott has the answer, a parliamentary bypass: "There is a solution. Let’s agree on a set of truly important problems — mounting debt, population growth, lack of jobs, rising health care expenditure, inefficient welfare and an inadequate defence force — and appoint a committee of eminent and competent Australians to sort it out."

But don't get too excited, Elliott isn't proposing to do away with the parliamentary system. "This committee would consist of experts in their fields without political axes to grind. It’d need at least five years to complete its tasks during which time elected governments could administrate, but take no major decisions."

Elliott doesn't spell out who would decide which problems needed solving or who would appoint the committee that would be given absolute power. Presumably it would not be decided by an election as Elliott doesn't seem to have any faith in them.

Elliott is not your ordinary right-wing mouthpiece with a Herald Sun column — he has ruling class pedigree. As well as being a columnist and radio presenter on 3AW, Elliot was a former investment banker and is the son of (in)famous Australian businessman and former Liberal Party president John Elliott.

Elliott's comments should be met with alarm, because they reflect an attitude among the ruling class that if parliamentary democracy isn't working — meaning parliament is not making decisions that benefit them — then democracy can be easily removed.

There is an element of truth in what Elliott is saying. There is a fundamental problem with our political system. But things won't be any better under a Labor government because it is beholden to the same corporate interests as the Liberal party. It may not be as vicious as Tony Abbott’s government in carrying out cuts, but its track record shows Labor is just as willing to inflict cuts and austerity measures on those who can least afford it.

Australia does need a different political system, but not Elliott's benign dictatorship. It needs a system that increases democracy and decision making in favour of the majority of society, the 99%.

That is why we need a media that is independent from corporate interests, that challenges the fundamental inequality built into the system. The ruling class will always have a platform in the capitalist media. This is why we need Green Left Weekly to bring the coverage and analysis of the social movements that is sorely lacking in the mainstream media.

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