OPINION Anning is a symptom of our flawed system
ABOUT the only difference between a neo-Nazi and a Nazi is the absence of a membership number and a swastika lapel pin. Blokes giving Nazi salutes and carrying coal scuttle helmets bearing SS runes make the difference even more academic. Yet people still nitpick over the political nuances of the bunch of louts and convicted criminals who preached hate at St Kilda beach last weekend.
One who apparently saw no taint of national socialism or racism and heard and saw no Nazi slogans was Queensland Senator Fraser Anning, the only politician from any Australian parliament who felt the need to attend the rally.
For that he has been condemned, kicked and decried so loudly that many expect it to spell the end of his glittering political career at the next election. Please, let it be so. However, his actions merely confirm that he is a nasty bit of work, and not overly bright – qualities he shares with more than a few of our politicians.
More hurtful is the reaffirmation that the method of election in the Australian Senate is dysfunctional, and that the oversight of expenditure of public funds remains lamentably ineffectual.
Anning, as most people would know, stumbled into the Senate with just 19 personal (below the line) votes to replace One Nation’s foolish and citizenship confused Malcolm Roberts (77 votes).
In quick succession he took his seat (briefly) as a One Nationite, fell out with Pauline Hanson, declared himself an independent, joined Katter’s Australian Party, was kicked out, then became an independent (with some fairly unsavoury friends).
This accidental accession and elastic loyalty are the sort of things you might find in a 1950s Ealing comedy, but it’s all true,
it’s all legal, and it all passes for democratic process in Australia.
Since Federation we have tried just about everything short of dartboard selection to fill our Senate, going from first-pastthe-post voting to preferential block voting, single transferable vote proportional representation, and group ticket voting with the refinement of above and below the line voting.
Whatever the merits or demerits of any particular system, we have opened the door to minority party and single-issue representation (for good or bad) and allowed all manner of strange people to creep into our Parliament on the back of big-name or major-party blocs.
This, along with a constitutional amendment requiring casual Senate vacancies to be filled by members of the same party, has proven to be a Trojan horse for malcontents and misfits.
Anning, who entered the Senate on the back of his One Nation credentials, is now free to offer at least tacit support or comfort to the sort of political fifth columnists who littered the landscape in St Kilda.
And, as has been widely publicised, he has done it at our expense, brazenly flying to Melbourne and back and arriving at the rally site in a Commonwealth car costing us close to $3000.
Perhaps he was emboldened by his previous forays into the world of far-right politics, including trips to Sydney for a rally to protest against the treatment of (white) South African farmers, and to Melbourne, where he was keynote speaker at the Australian Liberty Alliance’s Rally for Free Speech.
Free speech, it seems, is not cheap speech because his three junkets are estimated to have cost us up to $10,000.
Unrepentant, Anning defended his attendance in St Kilda, saying: “It’s official business, I am a senator.’’ And in that parallel universe of our Parliament, he is quite probably right as the travel entitlements for parliamentary, electorate or official business (plus party business, for those who belong) are so loose, you could drive a panzer through them.
Unless the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (a tiger that rarely seems to exercise its teeth or even roar in public) or the president of the Senate can find the will or means to act, Anning will shrug this off. His motives might be egregiously offensive but his actions are no worse than many others in the sorry history of parliamentary atrocities.
This revolving door of passing political allegiances and the inability of politicians to adhere to reasonable community standards could be huge electoral issues.
Reform of the Senate voting system plus the introduction of a system of expenditure oversight that is understood and trusted by the electorate could be game-changers in an electorate that is sickened by indulgence, extravagance and arrogance. However, they will not be taken up by the major parties, the minor parties or the independents because each in some way stands to benefit personally or politically from a system that has failed us so frequently.
The tragedy is that despite that self-centred inaction, it is already an issue with the voting public, which is disgusted by a political process that’s already enfeebled and demeaned by greed, cynicism and stupidity. sweet[email protected]mail.com.au