Where is today’s Henry Parkes?

Does Australia have leaders willing to say what they believe, stand for principles with courage and conviction, marshal evidence, build support and enact?

Professor Ian Chubb spoke with Sabra Lane on ABC Radio today: “I don’t think we get enough of that anymore. We get little bits here and there of course, but we don’t get enough of it.”

Where is today’s Henry Parkes?

“Without a Twitter account between them … Henry Parkes and his colleagues managed to federate this country in what was a pretty hostile environment at the time. They persevered and they mounted an argument, they had vision, they knew how to construct a narrative. They knew how to pursue that story and they knew how to compromise appropriately, but didn’t lose sight of what they wanted.”

Listen to the full interview.

Professor Ian Chubb was the 2017 Henry Parkes Orator. Read his speech here.

Political communication: knowledge or noise? 2016 oration to be held in Canberra

talking to media illustration concept

The 24-hour news cycle and rise of social media provide more opportunities than ever for politicians to connect with the electorate. Why, then, is voter disillusionment with our political leaders so high?

In ‘Knowledge or noise: the problem with political communication’ distinguished journalist Karen Middleton will explore  the role of the news media in conveying political messages. Who’s responsible when politicians can’t cut through? And how do we avoid the knowledge we need being lost in all that noise?

Monday 24 October, 5.30-7.30pm. Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra

NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE

Media release: Time for major reform of the way we do government – Ted Mack

With distrust of politicians and disillusionment with Australia’s political systems at an all-time high, legendary independent Ted Mack believes fundamental change is required. Delivering the 2013 Henry Parkes Oration in Tenterfield NSW, where Parkes gave his celebrated ‘Federation Speech’ on 24 October 1889, Mack called for “examination of the many problems of our system of government in order to establish directions for reform”.

As the only person to have been elected, and then re-elected, as an independent to all three tiers of government in Australia, Ted Mack is uniquely positioned to reflect on this task.

He believes the state of the federation has never been so unsatisfactory, claiming it has reached this nadir “because of the obsolescence and self-regulation inherent in the constitution”. He believes we need “new electoral systems to reflect the will of the people”.

Mack sets out a process for approaching constitutional reform starting with a “fully elected constitutional commission convened on the basis of one-vote-one-value on an Australia-wide proportional basis”. He sees such a commission as having the power to utilise polling and to put plebiscites to the people, ideally to coincide with elections to establish fundamental directions. It would “meet for short sessions over a substantial period of time, and eventually be authorised to institute a referendum on the basis that the new constitution will not come into effect for say, seven years – in order to reduce the impact of short-term partisan motives.”

He also believes there is a need for an “integrity level of government separate from executive government and parliament”. Such a role would be spelt out in the Constitution as having no power in relation to political policy but only power to ensure integrity of government and to ensure the Constitution is upheld.

Mack acknowledges that serious reform is perhaps many years into the future and “the obstacles and enemies of democratic reform are many”. Democracy is making reasonable progress, he says, but there is a long way to go.

Find out more

Media release: Social justice through constitutional change – mission impossible?

The role of constitutional change in achieving social justice is the theme of the 2012 Henry Parkes Oration, to be delivered today in Canberra by Professor George Williams at the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Professor Williams will consider why achieving social justice through constitutional change often tends to be forgotten or dismissed as too hard, despite the fact that Australia’s Constitution has a profound, long-term effect on the nation and our quality of life. He believes this failure has major implications for community well-being in areas such as health, education, environmental protection and Aboriginal justice.

However, rather than accepting the task as ‘mission impossible’, Professor Williams will explore where change is needed and how it can be brought about.

To be held in the historic environment of the former House of Representatives Chamber at Old Parliament House, this is a unique opportunity to hear one of Australia’s most engaging expert commentators on constitutional issues.

Find out more.