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Dear Minister Macklin

By Stephen Hagan - posted Friday, 23 January 2009

Dear Minister Macklin,

With a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) Degree from the University of Melbourne, you’d be comfortable in analysing facts and figures. In fact you would have done a lot of number crunching as well as endured many sleepless nights before gaining pre-selection for and later winning, in 1996, the seat of Jagajaga. (The seat is aptly named after Aboriginal Elders who signed a land deal with John Batman in 1835, giving the white settlers 202,343 hectares of land at the North-West end of Port Phillip Bay.)

You would also have known the numbers within your party when you were elevated to Shadow Minister for Health and the Status of Women after the 1998 election, and Senior Vice-President of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 2000-2004. In 2004 and 2006 your star continued to rise when you held the portfolio of Shadow Minister for Education, Training, Science and Research, and the portfolios of Shadow Minister for Families and Community, and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation respectively.


You didn’t just get those impressive portfolios gifted to you, Minister, because of some strange affirmative action notion acquiesced by your party members who thought of you as a brilliant, if not pugnacious, woman who deserved a fair go. No Minister, those lofty portfolios that you acquired - presumably as part of a steady strategic climb towards your political summit - were the result of calculated choices and an adherence to the democratic process.

And from a cursory glance at your mounting resume it would appear that you’ve won more contests than you’ve lost.

With a Commerce Degree you could easily have climbed the corporate ladder and be earning considerably more than what you are at present.

But I guess the call to public duty and the allied allure of power for you - and indeed all your parliamentary colleagues - is the aphrodisiac that is more seductive than any other real or imagined substance, including the appeal of a significantly larger annual pay packet.

To inhale the intoxicating power as you walk the marble corridors of parliament and to see tangible effects from the stroke of your authoritative pen are experiences that very few Australians will ever realise. But it is a goal nevertheless that is achievable through considerable effort on the part of candidates like yourself, in testing their competence to lead at the ballot box every three years.

Yes Minister I’m talking about the single most politically relatable word in our vocabulary: “democracy”. This is a word which shapes the volatility of our global community today. The evening news broadcasts of world events featuring high profile conflict centres like Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia - to name but a few - are in the headlines because of the desire of their populace to gain the right to vote, or rather in these cases, their inability to exercise that fundamental right.


Zimbabwe has a tyrant in Robert Mugabe who lost the election last year: but he chose not to step down but instead flexed his considerable military muscle to change the goal posts and retain power.

Similarly, Iraq and Afghanistan were ruled by tyrants; Suddam Hussein, and the Taliban, whose views on morality and justice so incensed the West that a fabricated story of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)  became the necessary catalyst for an Allied offensive on their sovereign nations.

Russia, in October last year, on the other hand, rode rough shot over the sovereign nation of democratic Georgia to assert its might and to ensure its political and economic interests were not in dispute with their mineral rich and geographically strategic neighbour.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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