A chance meeting in a taxi between Graham Higgins, a former media advisor to a senior Howard Government Minister, and myself, a former ALP parliamentarian and police anti-corruption campaigner, helped kick-start the formation of Australia’s newest political party - the Republican Democrats.
We started talking and realised we might have once held opposite political affiliations but still shared common ground on many issues. We also discovered similarity in that we’d long been disconnected from the parties we had once supported. We both felt the parties we had belonged to had degenerated into organisations focused on doing whatever it takes to win government; the results being increasingly apparent in diminishing standards of public policy and disappointing national leadership.
When I told Higgins of plans to put in place a new centre party in Australia based on commonsense and a fair go, Higgins agreed to take on a leading role. He is now Deputy CEO of the Republican Democrats which announced its existence nationally on June 22 this year.
In the first three weeks, the Republican Democrats have been swamped by people all over Australia interested in joining, volunteering, becoming candidates and seeking information about policy.
It’s a bold undertaking to try and create a third mainstream political force in Australia but we believe that the recent electoral success of the Liberal Democrats in the UK - where they won the balance of power - shows that modern western democracies want more than a forced choice of left or right. As Republican Democrats we say that the Greens are not a real alternative - its members sit to the left of Labor.
As CEO of the Republican Democrats I would suggest that the recent asylum-seeker race-to-the-bottom debate shows that there is little real difference between the ALP and Coalition on moral issues and Australia desperately needs a centre party as a moderate counter-balance to either side.
The Republican Democrats advocates increasing immigration quotas from transit countries, onshore processing of asylum seekers and rapid release into the community of women and children and family groups. After all most Australians know that more than 90 per cent of asylum seekers banished by the Howard government to Nauru and Manus Island under its Pacific Solution were found to be genuine refugees. Onshore processing is viewed favourably by many Australians because it is the humane and compassionate solution which will generate far better outcomes for refugees. A large number of asylum seekers suffered severe mental and physical harm as a result of the Pacific Solution, forced to exist in a veritable limbo for years.
MPs from all sides of politics know the asylum-seeker issue is a beat-up.
The Republican Democrats agree with Tasmanian lawyer and political commentator Greg Barns that Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s similar positions on asylum seekers are nothing more than the shameful outsourcing of public policy to small numbers of irrationally fearful fringe-group voters in a mere handful of electorates in south-east Queensland, western Sydney and some regional areas.
A Republic for Australia
But Republican Democrats say there is another issue where the fringe will continue to drive major public policy unless the two-party system stranglehold can be broken. In this federal election, the Republican Democrats believe theirs is the only party with the political will to put the republic question to the people. They see that becoming a Republic of Australia is an essential over-arching step which must be taken quickly to bring Australia’s structure of government and public administration into the 21st century.
The Republican Democrats want to help drive reform to change the shape of Australia’s public administration and create true separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The opportunity beckons for Australia to have a head of state who can appoint competent federal ministers who aren’t MPs, instead of factional political mates or cronies selected on the basis of their support for a party leader or by faceless party bosses behind the scenes. With respect to our chief law officer and defence minister, for example, the benefits should be clear.
Because the Republican Democrats disavow the extremes of both left and right, they alone are free to talk the talk of a republic ahead of this year’s election campaign. Republican Democrats intend to make the 2010 Federal Election a referendum on Australia becoming a republic before the next election in 2013.
For details of the Republican Democrats’ Democratic Platform and recently announced policies visit their website: www.republicandemocrats.org.au.
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