OPIN­ION An­ning is a symp­tom of our flawed sys­tem

ED­I­TO­RIAL

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

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,

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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

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