Mark my word, democracy’s dead, so we need to act

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BY all accounts participatory democracy is dead.

The contest of ideas has died quietly without many people noticing or an obituary written.

Except maybe a handful of people, including Mark Latham, who addressed the Campbelltown chamber of commerce last night at Tabcorp Menangle on just this issue.

The former Labor leader, for all his faults, is an insightful bugger, and always has been.

When it comes to the zeitgeist, our Mark has his finger on the pulse, so to speak and last night he showed that he was back in form.

Of course he mentioned his latest book, The Political Bubble, which looks at what has happened to our political system, and, more importantly, why.

As he argued last night, when trust in politicians slowly evaporated, the people became disengaged from politics to an extent, as he pointed out last night, more than 400,000 young people of voting age have never enrolled.

What an absolute tragedy.

I guess nobody really knows which came first, the growing apathy exploited by politicians to get away with more shenanigans and less policy, which in turn fed into less trust for them, until we come full circle and the current crisis in our democracy.

Mark told me after the meeting that he would on balance not be interested in politics if he was 17 years of age right now.

This is from a man who seriously believed in the contest of ideas. In 1999 for instance, I organised a republican debate in Mawson Park, Campbelltown, and he jumped at the chance to be involved.

In fact, despite very little promotion we ended up with a decent crowd from every part of Sydney and plenty of locals by the time Mark and the anti-republicans lined up to take turns at the microphone.

There was plenty of heckling, too, but all good natured.

Can you imagine organising a debate like that today, on say, refugees? They would meet in a phone booth, and still be very comfortable, thank you very much.

Mark Latham also assigned some blame to the 24 hour media cycle which sucks politicians into finding new and interesting ways to get some publicity.

He mentioned how Kevin Rudd operated on this basis as Prime Minister, seeking ways to be mentioned somewhere in that cycle.

Well, that’s another way of saying TV news, surely.

The old print newspapers certainly don’t operate like that. In fact they would be hard pressed to publish anything on any given day that wasn’t old news by the time their papers turned up in newsagents eventually.

As for local weekly print papers, well, they were notable by their absence at the chamber meeting.

When I was editor of both Macarthur papers – not at the same time obviously – chamber of commerce meetings were religiously covered by one of our reporters. I know they are doing it tough with redundancies and regular resignations and staff shortages generally, but if it was me chamber of commerce reporting would be a priority.

So, are there any signs at all that the tide may be turning? Unfortunately, no, nothing major anyway.

A small step, to be fair, is the Labor Party having the odd “primary” election to select candidates as they did for the seat of Campbelltown, which produced Greg Warren when around 1,000 people voted.

As Mark Latham said last night, we need a lot more of that.

Yes, we do. And it is we westies that need to lead the way. Let’s not expect the inner city elites on their fat salaries and all the infrastructure, from public transport to art galleries, to become agents of change. They are just too comfortable to be bothered, and why change a system that looks after your lifestyle.

They are the status quo, the establishment, whereas out here we are still talking about issues, we are working together to build better communities, and we are not as totally disenchanted with our politicians. We may as well be two nations even though we’re just 25 kilometres of the M5 apart.

ON Tuesday night I was at the monthly meeting of Campbelltown City Council and those of you who followed my live reports on Facebook and Twitter will know, the first hour was one big yawn over a subject that some people just won’t let go.

The Airds renewal project is a great idea whose time has come, finally, and to try to delay it as some are doing is just a total waste of time.

It’s time these people moved on to other things before their credibility plunges even lower.

We need Airds completed as soon as possible, as we do Claymore, which is next on the list. But some people however may be disappointed that there are no koalas in Claymore.

On Wednesday morning, I walked into the Michael Wenden in Liverpool pool thinking that’s what I would find, just an indoor pool. But what a revelation for me: the place has indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, indoor stadium, I could go on for a while but you get the picture. A bit like the man they named it after, I guess, absolutely brilliant, so all it needs now is for more people to use its excellent facilities.

I reckon the man who won Olympic gold medals in swimming for Liverpool and Australia all those years ago would be very proud of the complex named after him. He’s up on the Gold Coast, by the way.

Finally, a cheerio to Mark Latham, who last night promised to check out the South West Voice. Mark, I hope you enjoy it.




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