Entitlement, Cuts, Corruption: What Is Government Even For?

A NASTY UNDERCURRENT in political debate that has been tangible for some time now raises the obvious question: what is government even for? It seems that too many people — voters, commentators, and MPs — have lost sight of what the institution represents, and what role it should play in Australian society. Do we want a high-tax regime that doles out services? Or is government a niche manager and facilitator to otherwise be kept from people’s lives?

I’ve been moved (finally) to write an article of this nature by — of all things — a dogfight on Twitter with a supporter of Clive Palmer that lasted more than 24 hours; it wasn’t especially nasty until close to my third and final attempt to terminate the conversation, by which time she (I think it was a “she” – you can’t be sure with Twitter) had turned abusive against “LNP agents” like me when I refused to start championing her tinpot single issue in this column. After trying wit, sarcasm, an outright declaration of a cessation of proceedings and then giving her both barrels in shooting down her silly arguments — all to no avail — I ultimately told her to piss off.

It’s an obscure way to open my remarks, I’ll grant you; but this kind of conduct — this time on Twitter, which seems to empower people to behave like anarchic oaves without courtesy, ethics, or restraint — is getting to be far too prevalent in our national discourse for my liking. It seems that away from the pristine pages of some of the more reputable organs of journalistic record, it’s not possible to be “honest” or “sincere” any more when discussing politics without being offensive, and it sometimes seems that if you’re not being as insulting or as insidious as possible, then you are not considered to be prosecuting your objectives in an effective manner at all.

It is true that there are a number of people in Australian politics for whom I have little or no personal regard, and readers know that I am upfront about this (Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard, Christine Milne and Peter Slipper being the most obvious). By the same token, there are others who I like enormously on the personal level, and have great respect for — Malcolm Turnbull springs to mind — but with whom I have serious problems from time to time about his stances on certain issues, and who this column has taken to task once or twice (not recently, and not since he stopped agitating against Liberal Party policy).

Even so, a colleague baled me up after one of those columns a couple of years ago: I must really hate Turnbull, he said. Not at all, I replied, making remarks very similar to those I have just shared here. I’ve met him a few times, I said. He’s a really great guy, I said. We agree on most things but differ on a few others we each feel very strongly about, I said. My colleague listened very courteously, a huge grin appearing on his face. “Go on, admit that you hate him,” he said. After all that, I had to be lying: nobody who had taken Turnbull to task as I had — legitimately — could possibly regard the man with anything other than contempt.

This focus on the politics of personal debasement is becoming a national obsession (and if my remarks on Rudd, Gillard, Wayne Swan et al tar me with the same brush then I must plead guilty). Yet this is all part of a broader cocktail mixed around deeper attitudes to politics and government, which is why I’d been mulling over talking about these things well before the Twit from Twitter exhausted my patience yesterday.

If we think back to the last Parliament, there are two images seared into the national conversation that sum all of this up.

The first is a group of anti-carbon tax protesters who travelled to Canberra — some of them from very far away — to confront Julia Gillard over her broken carbon tax promise. They carried placards. “Bob Brown’s Bitch,” one read. “Ditch the Witch,” read another. Then-opposition leader Tony Abbott met with the protesters to support their demonstration.

Later (and in defence of the grub Slipper when his position as Speaker was threatened by the revelation of filthy text messages he had been sending) Gillard rose in Parliament, and gave a confected speech filled with mock outrage and invective aimed at Abbott. “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man,” it began, which was ironic in view of the sexually explicit and disgusting material Slipper had been sending by text message to his associates. That speech went viral, defamed Abbott, and earned Gillard a poll boost from people who heard the reported punchlines, but weren’t even interested in the circumstances in which the speech was made to make a balanced or informed judgement.

All of this — part of the political hurly-burly as it is — is merely superficial.

What it points to, however, is an increasingly aggressive and less civilised manner by which politics are practised in Australia — and, in turn, this points to the issues that the contest is being fought over.

And this, ultimately, raises the question I posed at the outset. What are politics and government even for?

Right now, a conservative government is readying to deliver its first budget since taking office.

It follows a period of Labor government — latterly in alliance with the Communist Party Greens — which left a slew of expensive social and socialist policy packages on the statute books and the federal government’s balance sheet in an appalling state of disrepair, with the national debt slated to rocket above half a trillion dollars within four years of its electoral demise.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has spoken often of the government’s need to end “the culture of entitlement” and whilst I agree, the remark is incendiary in terms of the modern ALP’s standard narrative that “Labor governments build; conservative governments cut to the bone.” It isn’t as simple as that and such a mantra is intellectually dishonest, to say the least, but into the equation come assessments of Abbott as “Dr No” which will be followed, as sure as night follows day, with depictions of Hockey as Scrooge and the Grinch.

There are really two models for governance, and two only, and whilst that will sound to some (like the fool from Twitter) as being incredibly closed-minded, it is the case that most ideas of governance — even those that might be termed “out of the box” — generally fit within one of these two templates.

The first (represented in Australia by Labor and the Greens) involves high real taxes and the accrual of significant national debts to fund new social welfare initiatives, to expand others, and to advance causes in the name of being “progressive” that its intellectual elites and other champions of non-traditional visions of democratic society are wont to push. All of this runs parallel to “crackdowns” on “the rich” to get them to “pay their share,” a proportion that never seems to have been realised irrespective of the increases the Left are able to inflict on that pilloried patrician faction.

The second (represented in Australia by the Liberal Party and reflected, in varying degrees, in the Nationals and Clive Palmer’s outfit) centres on reducing government, cutting taxes, empowering people to take responsibility over their lives and fostering the expansion of choice for everyday Australians to exercise rather than government doing so on their behalf by decree.

As a result of the first of these models, the current Coalition government has assumed office to find a carbon tax in place that damages industry and imposes soaring costs on consumers; a mining tax that is so poorly designed as to raise no money, albeit with a string of electoral bribes (schoolkids’ bonus, superannuation top-ups for low-income earners, etc) contingent on the enabling legislation remaining in place; a package of Education funding (Gonski) that will cost tens of billions of dollars but is not tied to improvements in educational outcomes, and will likely be used as a reservoir to fund the pay claims of  teacher unions; the National Disability Support Scheme, which will also cost tens of billions of dollars simply over the initial rollout of its trial stages; various schemes to pay unionised workers in a number of sectors (child care, government cleaning contractors etc) substantially more than their non-unionised counterparts; a bloated, inefficient federal public service stacked with ALP appointees earning an average of $150,000 per annum; a raft of so-called Green schemes also slated to cost tens of billions of dollars; and the Commonwealth budget haemorrhaging red ink at the rate of nearly a billion dollars a week: this money has to come from somewhere, and right now, it is being borrowed from China.

My list covers only the headline items. I know it’s incomplete. The items in it are enough to make the point.

And still early in the latest incarnation of the second model, the path to its implementation seems fraught.

The obvious major target requiring urgent redress is the state of the country’s finances, yet the method by which politics is increasingly practised in Australia — vitriolic, personal and by no means constructive — sees the new government locked out of the most obvious targets for abolition.

Abandoning the so-called Gonski reforms is a no-brainer, but having flirted with just the suggestion of it, Abbott and his Education minister Christopher Pyne surrendered their handsome “honeymoon” lead in most polls in the face of a vicious onslaught from the union movement and the ALP, and have spent the months since tracking even-stevens on average in the reputable measurements of public sentiment. It is clear that this can’t and won’t be attempted again.

Abandoning the National Disability Insurance Scheme is another: a noble idea that is almost totally unfunded in terms of provision by the Commonwealth to pay for it, the ALP’s chief mouthpieces in the Fairfax media even admitted prior to the September election that when fully operational this scheme would cover just 130,000 people nationally (although there was discussion in other forums about how 15% of the Victorian population might be able to be hooked onto this expensive new welfare drug). The political atmospherics of any attempt to squash this program (or even trim it) remain unclear. But it’s a fair bet that the tens of billions of dollars it will cost are unlikely to be recouped by abolishing it.

Yet Abbott and Hockey were elected in a landslide, in part, because they won the national argument over the so-called “debt and deficits” issue: that is, simply stated, that they convinced a majority of Australians that the country faces a budget emergency.

You bet it does. But those same voters who were convinced of the problem also form part of the bellicose bloc hellbent on shouting down some of the best options for fixing it.

It is true that a potential co-payment regime on otherwise bulk-billed doctor visits set at $5 per consultation failed to elicit the outrage a similar measure did when the Hawke government tried to introduce it in 1991. Even so, unless the charge extends to public hospitals they will be overrun with fee-evading patients, defeating the objective of using the charge a) as a patch on the budget, and b) to discourage ambit use of Medicare for insignificant minor medical symptoms. And even if that hurdle is overcome, the measure is only projected to raise about $700 million per annum, and hardly solves the wider budget issue on its own.

Australians object to higher taxes and charges and hikes in their cost of living expenses that were imposed on them by the Rudd/Gillard government.

Yet so ingrained is the culture of entitlement when it comes to things tax dollars have been paying for (and seem set to pay even more for) that to talk about modest cuts to family tax benefits, or deferring the pensionable age, or abandoning schemes that haven’t even started (Gonski and the NDIS) or looking at things like the First Home Buyers’ Grant is akin to high treason.

The country can’t afford any of this, and the fact remains — as I fervently and passionately believe — that allowing people to hold onto more of their own money through a lower tax take, allowing them to decide where, how and on what their money is spent, with government as far removed from day-to-day life as possible, is the soundest and best model of governance there is.

But the country is in a mess, largely because we’ve spent years robbing Peter just a bit too enthusiastically to pay Paul, and now that something has to be done about it, nobody wants to shoulder the burden.

Instead, we yell at each other; pick fights over “issues” that descend into abuse, whilst the real issues are unaddressed; and our politicians spend more time on dumb stunts and chasing photo opportunities than they do producing intelligent and/or workable ideas that might resolve the root cause of the problem.

Clearly, three into two does not go. Yet that, it seems, is what voters want: their fistful of dollars in one hand, with the other clasping their hip pockets closed to the government to render that handful of handouts irrecoverable.

Ultimately, the bill has to be paid if the order is placed.

Model A — the socialism and class warfare of Labor and the Greens — was clearly unpalatable to the electorate. Model B, whose big moment comes in early May with the budget, isn’t looking like receiving the rapturous reception it might have expected either. What gives?

The animosities and the alliances, the friendships and the enmities, the corrupt bastards and the honest toilers: politics and politicians in every shade and hue, both ugly and glorious.

Readers, you tell us: what do people want? What are our institutions of politics and government even for, from the perspective of community and individual expectation? Because as things stand now it seems they want it all for nothing, and irrespective of whether you sit on the Left or the Right, that approach — quite clearly — is a one-way ticket to nowhere.



A Slippery Customer And A Shifty Deal Too Clever By Half

At 7.30am on Thursday morning, the resignation of (former) House of Representatives Speaker Harry Jenkins looked noble and innocuous. Six hours later Jenkins’ image was unbesmirched, but his resignation had spawned a grubby, sordid and cynical little episode in Australian politics.

Before we go further — to avoid any charge of “jump on the bandwagon” syndrome — I want to post links to two articles I published on 4 September and 10 September, respectively, this year:



By now, everybody knows that the respected former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Labor’s Harry Jenkins, has been replaced by Liberal Party traitor and self-serving turncoat, Peter Slipper.

ALP apparatchiks and backroom types are quietly congratulating themselves on realising the political coup of the decade; their incompetent government and its useless Prime Minister would appear to have secured the full length of their current parliamentary term in office.

I would caution that this is an exceedingly bad deal, executed in characteristically half-baked fashion, and which may very well rebound on the Labor Party — and fatally so.

First, to Peter Slipper.

Readers who have seen either of the articles I’ve reposted here (or who’ve followed public affairs over the years or, indeed, actually read the paper in the last ten weeks) likely already have an idea of what Peter Slipper is all about.

In the few days since his election as Speaker, it has rankled and irked me enormously that sections of the press have sought to tell a tale of his “disillusion” with the Liberal Party (or should I say, the Queensland LNP) through the prism of its manoeuvres to push him out of Parliament through a preselection challenge by former Howard government minister Mal Brough.

It rankles, because Slipper is a classic manifestation of the adage “so as you sow, so too shall you reap;” having been — at best — an intermittently constant embarrassment to the Liberal Party through his own actions for decades, it sought to get rid of him.

At worst, it has been suggested, e’er gently, that he is actually a systemic rorter of the public purse, committed not to the good and proper service of his electorate and country, but rather to himself.

And it irks, because the journalists publishing this sort of pap ought to know better: there were excellent reasons for Slipper to be kicked out of his party, out of Parliament, and — depending on the outcome of various inquiries into his activities — potentially charged.

So let’s hear no more of Slipper’s “disillusion” with his own party; having been too tolerant of him for too long, the Liberals were gearing up to throw him out, for reasons he had only himself to blame for.

As a member of the Liberal Party I can only say “good riddance.”

Even so, what “Slippery Pete” has done, in engineering his own elevation to the Speakership of the House, is breathtaking in its audacity and in its sheer disregard for probity or any sense of standards in common or public decency.

This is a backbencher who has amounted to nothing in a parliamentary career spanning close to thirty years. His value to Australia as a parliamentarian and lawmaker therefore has to be questioned.

He sat in a Coalition party room during twelve years of conservative government, in an era in which natural attrition saw a modestly constant turnover in the Howard ministry; Slippery Pete could rise no further than a brief stint as a Parliamentary Secretary.

There were exceptions, but for the most part, Howard did promote people on merit — even people he personally or politically detested.

Therein lies a clue as to how much of his pay cheque Slippery Pete is actually worth.

Yet over the years he has cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses; a substantial portion of this has had to be repaid on the back of various inquiries into his claims; and even now, Slipper faces formal investigations into a raft of outstanding matters relating to his various parliamentary expense claims.

I don’t intend to pre-empt those inquiries and so make no pronouncements on their likely outcome.

But I will say that Coalition MPs (who, obviously, refuse to be named) are promising that an avalanche of unspecified dirt will be dumped on Slipper in coming weeks and months; when that avalanche hits — and I believe it will — then Slippery Pete will be the ALP’s problem, and Julia Gillard’s problem, and not that of the Liberal Party.

Our crowd was trying to get rid of him, and to see he was brought to answer the questions hanging over his head in terms of probity and accountability.

Labor has now trashed that endeavour for the sake of its own expediency.

And the problem with expediency in politics is that it usually returns to bite the perpetrator on the derriere.

Much has been made in the mainstream press of how this “coup” will deliver stability to Labor, and of how it will “virtually guarantee” the government will now serve out its full three-year term.

I disagree completely; indeed, I now lay out no less than four highly possible/probable scenarios that could see Labor forced to the polls, ironically on a quicker timeframe as a result of the grubby deal to install the questionable Member for Fisher as Speaker.

1. This is the obvious one; there is a rumour circulating among insiders who ought to know that the errant, hapless Member for Dobell, Craig Thomson — he of “Hookergate” fame arising from the alleged misuse of a credit card — is set to be charged by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions early in the new year.

Should this happen, a by-election in his NSW Central Coast seat would almost certainly be won by the Liberal Party; the ALP would be right back where it started there alone.

2. There’s speculation that the seemingly more secure numbers in Parliament might lead to Julia Gillard disciplining, demoting and/or sacking outright her Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd. It’s true that I am on the record as absolutely detesting Rudd, and that I have opined that from the perspective of maintaining party discipline, Gillard would be well-shod of the imbecile.

However, getting rid of Rudd — ironically — might have been safe to do six months ago, but it certainly isn’t now; sacking him would trigger a by-election in his Queensland electorate of Griffith that the Liberals would also almost certainly win — even if Peter Beattie were the ALP candidate, as has been mooted in some quarters.

One will acknowledge something about Rudd for once, however — whilst the selection of Peter Slipper as Speaker is a politically idiotic move of the lowest order, Rudd at least has been seen to be doing something to try to shore his government up, rather than to destabilise it, however misguided that attempt at assistance might be.

So ticking time bomb #2 is Kevin Rudd…

3. Eccentric Independent MHR Andrew Wilkie — with his near-obsessive campaign over so-called poker machine reform — cannot be afforded the opportunity of pulling his support from the government if you sit in Labor shoes.

There has been considerable (and correct) speculation that Wilkie will now be fobbed off as far as possible to appease the concerns of the very clubs in Labor electorates who stand to be hit the hardest by any implementation of the measures on his wish-list.

I don’t think Wilkie has a right-of-centre cell in his body; indeed, he tried to conduct a one-man campaign to run John Howard out of office prior to the 2004 election, which failed.

But if he’s adequately aggrieved, I could see him refusing to support Gillard’s government and — even if not voting with the Coalition — abstaining from voting in any motion of confidence or no-confidence in the government.

If it gets to that point and his vote becomes pivotal, it doesn’t really matter whether he votes with the Coalition or abstains: either way, Gillard loses a vote in a confidence motion on the floor of the House.

…and…4. Peter Slipper himself.

Again, I don’t want to pre-empt the findings of any inquiry into what Slippery Pete has been up to over the years. However, speaking generally and given the nature of the subject matter of such inquiries, a possible outcome could be criminal charges and eventual disqualification from Parliament.

In other words, another potential by-election; and in that particular electorate, with Slipper out of the way and the Liberals represented by a gun candidate rather than a leech, the ALP would have no prospect of victory, and thus lose the extra number it has so assiduously worked to secure.

What can I say? Much has been written elsewhere in the past few days, and I’m late to the subject because I have been so, so busy in my day job in the advertising industry.

But these are the considerations that have largely been missed elsewhere, and the conclusion is this: far from having secured its future for the balance of the parliamentary term, by its actions this week and its recruitment of Peter Slipper, the Labor Party may very well have invited its own demise.

The scenarios I list are all well and truly possible; if any two of the four come to pass, Labor is history.

That’s a hell of a price to pay for a short-term triumph, but if a moment of triumph is what the ALP seeks, I’m sure Tony Abbott can spare a moment.

Talking of “Tonies,” the other one — Windsor — surely signed his own death warrant during the debate on Slipper’s election; behaving like an undisciplined Labor backbencher, taunting the conservatives, and likely infuriating those of his own (archly conservative) electors he hasn’t already alienated in the course of the last 16 months.

And can I just correct, in closing, something that has been misreported in most mainstream media channels? This government does not have two years left on its parliamentary term; it has, in all likelihood, about 18 or 19 months.

It is true at law that a term in government runs for three years from the first sitting date of a Parliament, and that an election campaign may take place after the expiry of those three years, which would indeed buy the ALP a polling date in late November 2013.

However, the public at large mostly has no comprehension of this and, indeed, expects elections to occur every three years at the most.

Kevin Rudd made much of the public ignorance about this, when he sought to portray Howard’s failure to call an election in late August 2007 (with a polling date around the 9 October anniversary of the 2004 election) as evidence Howard was frightened of facing voters when in fact he was exercising a constitutional right.

But to finish on the point, Peter Slipper will pocket a great deal of additional money at the expense of the taxpayer as a result of this week’s developments.

He will render no proportionate service to the Commonwealth in exchange for that money.

And the Labor Party politicians and backroom henchmen who seized so ruthlessly on the opportunity provided by an honest man’s decision to relinquish a cushy job may very well regret their actions.

I think the election of Peter Slipper as Speaker of the House of Representatives may well be the terminal mistake that eventually, and ultimately, flings Labor into the abyss of opposition — perhaps for 15 or 20 years.

The final nail in the coffin, if you like.

What do you think?

Constitutionally Possible: Getting Rid Of The Carbon Tax Without An Election

If the Gillard Government’s so-called “clean energy bills” pass the Senate, and if the Prime Minister refuses to call an election before the resulting carbon tax is implemented next year, is the hoodwinked Australian public bound to cop the fruits of an election lie? Not necessarily…

First, a disclaimer: I’m indebted to Tom Elliott, who is standing in for Derryn Hinch as 3AW Drive host, for the bones of this article; he pointed out on his program this afternoon that sections 58 and 59 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act — the Constitution, in short — still provide for the Queen to disallow any bill passed by both Houses of the Australian Parliament.

I’ve done a little digging around in the hours since Elliott led his program with this; not only is this true, but those sections of the Constitution are unencumbered.

And this got me thinking about our system of government within a Constitutional Monarchy, recourse open to our citizens within that system, and attempts to bastardise it by the Whitlam, Hawke and Keating governments — whilst keeping sight of the arguments of the republican movement from the corner of my eye.

It’s an irony, but no coincidence, that this subject presents on the day Her Majesty has been in Melbourne. Apparently a small band of noisy protesters attended one of the public gatherings with placards reading “Welcome, your Majesty, please dissolve parliament” and “Carbon tax corruption.”

Elliott joined the dots and dug out the relevant sections of the Constitution, and I thank him for that.

However, I’d like to go further.

Before I do, and so readers can see what I’m on about, here are the relevant sections 58 and 59 in full:

S58. When a proposed law passed by both Houses of the Parliament is presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent, (s)he shall declare, according to his/her discretion, but subject to this Constitution, that (s)he assents in the Queen’s name, or that (s)he withholds assent, or that (s)he reserves the law for the Queen’s pleasure. The Governor-General may return to the house in which it originated any proposed law so presented to him/her, and may transmit therewith any amendments which (s)he may recommend, and the Houses may deal with the recommendation.

S59. The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General’s assent, and such disallowance on being made known by the Governor-General by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, shall annul the law from the day when the disallowance is so made known.

There are reasons — good reasons — why Australia’s founding fathers embedded so many checks and balances into the Constitution; succinctly put, one of these was to ensure that power in Australia was decentralised, and to ensure that each tier and institution in our structure of governance was accountable to another.

With the Monarch — in this case, the Queen — at the top of the structure.

The merits or otherwise of republican argument are utterly irrelevant to the discussion I’m putting on the table; as it stands, today, the present Constitution represents and underpins the laws of the land.

Mind you, I’m partially surprised to find these sections of the Constitution intact and unchanged; only partially though, which reflects the nigh-impossibility of enacting constitutional change by referendum — the only way that august document may be altered.

My surprise derives from remembering — before thinking the matter through fully — that previous ALP governments have already abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council; passed the Australia Acts; abandoned knighthoods as part of the national honours; and removed many references to the Monarchy from government and institutional life. Just to name a few that spring to mind.

Yet at the end of the day, we remain a Constitutional Monarchy; the Constitution retains powers for the Queen or her representative to act; and some carbon tax protesters appear to have made the link.

And I think that power in the Constitution should be used in appropriate circumstances.

How could this mechanism be used to overturn the so-called “clean energy bills” once the Senate passes them?

To me it’s a question of making use of the provisions of the Constitution, an exercise in direct democracy, and a challenge for Tony Abbott to utilise his leadership of the Liberal Party to galvanise public opposition to these measures in a tangible and practical fashion.

In Britain, the current Conservative government has introduced a mechanism by which any petition bearing 100,000 signatures from registered voters (whose bona fides are validated against the electoral roll) automatically triggers a vote in Parliament on whether the issue in question ought be put to a referendum.

This happened just this week — 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the UK to leave the EU (something I endorse, but that’s another matter).

The government took the petition and instructed its MPs to vote against it to the man; it was duly voted down, but only after 30% of David Cameron’s MPs crossed the floor of Parliament to vote in support for the referendum.

I think that on the issue of carbon tax, a petition needs to be made, in the first instance, of the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, in her titular role as Head of State and Vice-Regal representative of the Crown.

There’s no point petitioning the Prime Minister, who’s beholden to the lie by her commie mates; nor is there any point in petitioning the Speaker (a member of the ALP) or the Clerk of the Parliament (a public servant).

There are 14,000,000 enrolled voters in Australia; of these, half cast a vote — after preferences — for the Liberal and National parties at last year’s election.

In the 15 months since, their ranks have swollen by as many as another 1.2 million, largely on the back of Julia Gillard’s broken promise on refusing to introduce a carbon tax.

Now, if 100,000 can sign a petition in the UK on an issue of governance, 100,000 signatures in Australia carries three times the weight — our population is 22 million; the population of the UK is 63 million.

But given the depth and intensity of community anger over this issue, the gathering of 100,000 signatures should be child’s play; indeed, I’d be unsurprised if there aren’t hundreds of thousands of people who would sign a petition for the G-G to intervene.

Let’s say half a million signatures are gathered…it’d be the biggest opinion poll ever conducted in Australia outside an election.

The petition would be presented to the Governor-General, who (in the proper execution of her duties) would declare a conflict of interest (her son-in-law, Bill Shorten, is a minister in the Gillard government and thus bound by government policy).

The appropriate course of action in such circumstances would be to send the petition “upstairs” for the Queen to consider.

At this point, the Monarch would be the arbiter. However, such a course of action would likely involve representation from both sides of Australian politics, and with advisors and equerries at Court to minimise the direct involvement of the Queen personally as far as possible.

Does this sound far-fetched?

Well, the Constitution confers the authority on the Queen; clearly, given her family relationships, the Governor-General would be compromised in ruling on such an issue.

In 1975 — when “Labor Man” Sir John Kerr dismissed the Whitlam government to resolve a political deadlock (without consulting the Queen) — “experts” said that convention dictated he could do nothing of the kind; the law won the day, the deadlock was broken, Australia had an election, and Whitlam was swept into the dustbin of history.

I reiterate: the Constitution provides for the Queen to break the deadlock. Just as the “reserve powers” in the Constitution had never been used or explored prior to their employment in 1975, sections 58 and 59 need to be employed now.

This could take the form of a national campaign orchestrated by the Coalition and funded by its donors; backed by a significant media campaign (remembering trade unions threw $13 million at John Howard’s WorkChoices legislation) it could provide a singular focus point for Tony Abbott’s leadership of the Liberal Party — especially considering the fact that once the laws are passed, they’re likely to be forgotten for a while until the tax itself materialises.

This government lied to the people of Australia; its Prime Minister said — unambiguously — that “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead” and then proceeded to introduce one.

It’s completely irrelevant as to whether it was an outright lie, or one told in the process of selling out to the Communist Party Greens, but the fact is that Australians were duped.

It’s made much, much worse by the Labor Party and the Greens already saying they will refuse to recognise any mandate obtained from the people by the Liberals and Nationals at an election to rescind the tax, and will vote any attempt to do so down in the Senate if they collectively retain the numbers to do so.

The Parliament should not be above the people; it should be answerable to them.

This is a special case; it’s been many years since such a flagrant lie was foisted on people, only for them to be told after the event that they would never be able to avail themselves of redress.

People want an election. The clamour for a fresh vote is virtually unprecedented in my own 39-year lifetime. If the government won’t give the people a say, then an appeal to another arbiter — any legal arbiter — must be made.

It turns out that the Constitution provides one.

The law is the law, and the Constitution the ultimate expression of it in Australia.

And if our system of government allows it, then it should be utilised.

God Save The Queen!