On eve of his CQ visit, Albo shares vision for our democracy
CLEARLY aware of Central Queensland's role in handing Federal Labor a devastating defeat in May's "unlosable" Federal Election, Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is on a mission to restore the faith.
Following months of soul searching and an extensive review into where Labor went wrong, Mr Albanese (better known as "Albo") will tour our region on Wednesday.
While on one hand he'll hear from locals on how his party went wrong, the objective of the visit was to continue Labor's rebuilding and rebranding process, which he has begun by presenting a series of vision statements.
Following a University of Canberra study that found satisfaction with our democracy has more than halved in the last decade, down from 86 per cent to 41 per cent, Mr Albanese is deeply concerned with the direction that Australia's democracy is headed. Mr Albanese has provided the The Morning Bulletin with an advance copy of his Democracy Vision Statement - a speech that he planned to deliver on Saturday at the Chifley Research Centre Conference in Sydney. Labor's leader highlighted five priorities for strengthening our democracy, allowing us to deal with the challenges of today and build a better tomorrow, together.
1) Rebuild our capacity to have constructive national conversations about the big issues
Mr Albanese said he wanted to focus on respect, inclusion and rational discussion without falling into the "monotonous pattern of culture war arguments".
"If you disagree with someone, your facts are fake, your character is questioned, and you're denounced as an elite," Mr Albanese said.
"On the other side of the coin, if you're not progressive enough, you're cancelled."
He said the country's current climate debate was the most obvious example.
"I think those of us who advocate change need to understand the viewpoints of those who will feel insecure by that change," he said.
"We must consider their point of view, their interests, their security, their future, their solutions. The (Stop Adani) convoy into Clermont was not helpful.
"I believe the country only advances when people engage with each other in meaningful ways."
2) Break down our echo chambers
It was time for a "little less anger", "a little less outrage" and "a little less volume" according to Mr Albanese.
He said social media algorithms - aided by artificial intelligence - encouraged people to follow sources and publishers that largely reinforce and entrench their existing views leading to an increased polarisation of political discourse.
"Genuine political discourse and problem solving is discouraged. Alternative views are not just dismissed, they're not even considered,' he said.
"One of the consequences of the increased polarisation of politics is that compromise and searching for outcomes are seen as weakness.
"I argue we need to talk with people who disagree with us. Engage. Debate. Advance."
After Labor was hurt by the 'Death Tax' issue going into the Federal Election, he took issue with online platforms unwilling to filter out content proven to be misinformation.
"Why do Facebook's laws of the jungle trump Australia's laws of the land?" he asked.
"This increased volume of anger and misinformation is robbing our political debates of civility and making the public's poor opinion of our political system much, much worse."
3) End government attacks on freedom of the press and the right to protest
Mr Albanese was concerned with threats to people who had the courage to speak out to protect the welfare of their fellow citizens.
This included journalists raided by police (with prosecutions not fully ruled out); protests labelled secondary boycotts so they can potentially be outlawed; and union offices raided after the TV cameras have been tipped off, and unions threatened with deregistration.
"You don't govern in the national interest under a shroud of secrecy," he said.
"What are they trying to hide?"
"Royal commissions are now exposing to public view all the things the government won't."
He said this included poor regulation of our banks, neglected aged care services, and violence, abuse and exploitation of people with disability.
"Dissenters expose corruption and waste. They spark innovation. They start positive social change," he said.
"We don't have to agree with every dissenting voice, but if we don't even let such voices be heard, our society, our economy and our quality of life will stay trapped in a state that will make us poorer and less equal."
For this reason, Mr Albanese and the Labor Party stood with Australia's journalists and the Right to Know Coalition in their campaign to defend and strengthen press freedom.
"Journalism is not a crime. It's essential to preserving our democracy. We don't need a culture of secrecy. We need a culture of disclosure," he said.
He called for the protection of whistleblowers; reforming freedom of information laws and bringing in stronger protections for public interest journalism; and bipartisan support for enshrining changes to protect press freedom into law.
4) Restore public accountability
Mr Albanese believed cynicism was the biggest enemy standing in the way of renewing the nation and it was essential to restore the integrity of the government.
He took aim at the controversies surrounding Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Prime Minister Scott Morrison's question deflecting technique of referring to the "Canberra bubble".
"That's why, as a major first step to restoring integrity to our democratic system, Labor supports a National Integrity Commission," Mr Albanese said.
"It should have all the powers, independence and resources of a standing royal commission to root out corruption in the federal sphere.
"Confidence in our democratic system would also be supported by other strong public organisations (like the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the CSIRO and the ABC) contributing truthful information and well-informed and reasoned analysis - free from interference and intimidation."
He said fewer and fewer decisions in parliament were being subjected to democratic debate and decision-making, and public confidence needed to be restored to the institution.
Reforms he suggested included enforce the direct relevance rule so Ministers give sensible answers to the questions; creating an independent speaker whose loyalty is to the standing orders; and exploring the idea of a parliamentary integrity commissioner to align the conduct of our parliamentarians with community expectations.
Another change he would like to see is protecting the integrity of the election system by preventing high wealth individuals buying power by capping electoral spending and making disclosure of donations happen in real time.
5) Modernise our constitution to make it reflect contemporary realities
Mr Albanese regarded the most urgent and pressing issue for the improvement of the constitution was the recognition of the First Australians by creating a First Nations' voice to parliament.
"If we want to create a better society, we have to listen to Indigenous Australians," he said.
"Without their input, we will never close the gaps in living standards and never heal the psychological pain that our history continues to cause. We will never be truly democratic.
"The concept of the voice, indeed the whole Uluru Statement - including their call for the telling of truth about Australia's history, embodies all the important human and democratic values I've talked about."
He acknowledged the government's positive first step in creating a Senior Advisory Group to begin to work through the proposal.
"We support the Uluru Statement in its entirety, including a referendum to enshrine a voice in the constitution, and that is the position we will pursue," Mr Albanese said.
In line with Labor's long standing policy, he said the country should have an Australian Head of State once the recognition of the First Australians was settled.