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Political Oddities

   

  • The minimum voting age in Nicaragua is 16. The minimum voting age in Italy for the upper house is 25.
     
  • The members of the Canadian Senate (which has full powers to veto any proposed legislation) are arbitrarily selected by the executive council (Prime Minister and his inner cabinet) of the day. Despite having tenure for life (at least until age 75) Senators are neither appointed by, nor answerable to, the people.
     
  • Irish citizens with a university degree enjoy the privilege of electing six extra members to the Irish upper house, the Seanad Eireann.
     
  • As compared to Australia where some federal members of Parliament represent single electorates with as few as 80,000 people, the average Indian member of Parliament (lower house) represents a single electorate of well over one million people.
     
  • As compared to Victoria, Australia where the average state Legislative Assembly MP represents a single electorate of approximately 34,000 voters, the average state Legislative Representative of the American state of New Hampshire represents approximately 3,000 voters.
     
  • Subject to mental illness or certain criminal behaviour, all adult British citizens have the right to vote, except: the titled aristocracy who make up the peers of the realm.#
  • One Person One Vote, Not
     

  • Even in the twenty-first century, the principle of one person one vote is still to reach the inhabitants of the state of Western Australia with regards to their elections.

    “The notion of one vote, one value is that each Member of Parliament represents, and is elected by, a comparable number of electors. In Western Australia this means that Legislative Assembly districts would have boundaries distributed on the basis that every district would have an equal number of electors (+ or - 10%). In some cases legislation may provide for exceptions to give separate consideration to remote and regional areas. Electoral boundary Distribution legislation in Western Australia has provided for allowances to be made for some districts in remote and regional areas of Western Australia to have fewer electors than other districts in the State. One vote, one value legislation does not currently apply in the Legislative Council. Each region is made up of the number of complete districts within its boundaries irrespective of the total number of electors in the region.”++


    This allowance of “separate consideration” for the state’s upper house, the Legislative Council, has meant in practice that the 127,431 voters of the so called Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral regions have received the same number of upper house parliamentary members (and thus votes on issues) as the 560,818 voters of the North and South Metropolitan regions: a ratio of more than four to one.
    It is interesting that in practically every political reference book in the democratic world the concept of “one person one vote” would be referred to as a principle, yet in the Western Australian Electoral Commission’s website it is merely referred to as either a “notion” or non-existent legislation.
     
  • The Rule of Law

  • Living in a dictatorship a policeman would have to be a very brave soul to give a ticket to the president’s wife for speeding, or to arrest the chief of police for being drunk and disorderly. One aspect that separates the autocracies from the democracies is the rule of law. In western democracies from America, Japan to New Zealand, Germany and the rest, all citizens, whether president or peasant, are subject equally to the penalties and privileges of the law.  
    Well, one would think.
    In 2003 Queensland Chief Magistrate Di Fingleton was convicted of the recently enacted offence of intimidating a witness. After being in jail for six months she launched a final appeal with the Australian High Court (her initial appeal to the Queensland Court of Appeals was dismissed). In a decision(Fingleton v R (2005) HCA 34)  that surprised many, the HCA dismissed the conviction on the grounds that, in the course of her official administrative duties, a Queensland magistrate has immunity to commit crimes. As then chief Justice Murray Gleeson declared “The appellant should not have been held criminally responsible for the conduct…By statute*, she was entitled to a protection and immunity…”

 

    Law for the rest of time

  • In a democracy any law the currently elected government makes is a permanent law (unless it contains a sunset clause), at least until it may be changed by any subsequent government. This is a manifestation of the concept of democracy that the people maintain the laws and executive officers under which they live. The concept, for example, of ‘President for Life’ would be incongruous with democracy.  In November 2009 Australian federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland  introduced the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill into Federal Parliament. With regards to the death penalty aspect, he stated: "It will ensure the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia in the future."1
    Assuming that Australia will remain a sovereign nation then this is truly an amazing statement. To begin with, laws introduced by the Australian federal or state governments can only be ruled illegitimate if they are constitutional invalid. A-G McClelland did not bother to attempt to change the constitution but merely introduced legislation. For the last 800 years plus, the nature of law making has been that new legislation nullifies both common law and existing legislation where it may conflict with the new law. So if his new law were to invalidate existing law authorising capital punishment, then it logically follows that laws legislated tomorrow can also invalidate McClelland’s 2009 Act. The only manner that future legislation may be curtailed is when the constitution (federal or states) is altered for those ends. However to change the constitution for those ends it must mean that the constitution can be changed; and if the constitution can be changed to introduce an anti-death penalty section then it also logically follows that in the future the constitution can again be changed to abolish such a section.
    It is truly a confidence destroying motion when the senior law officer of Australia displays such a limited understanding of civics and democracy. 

# Bartram, Peter The Puzzled Voter’s Guide to Politics W.H. Allen & Co London 1983 p.208

++http://www.waec.wa.gov.au/faq/index.php?faq=one_vote_one_value

http://www.waec.wa.gov.au/elections/state_elections/election_results/2008_State_General_Election/legislative_council_results_by_region.php

* “A magistrate has, in the performance or exercise of an administrative function or power conferred on the magistrate under an Act, the same protection and immunity as a magistrate has in a judicial proceeding in a Magistrates Court.” Section 51 Qld Magistrates Act 1991 -Protection for Administrative Acts-
1. Press Statement 19 Nov 2009 http://www.robertmcclelland.alp.org.au/news/1109/19-01.php

Canadian Parliament
Western Australia
not to be trifled with Magistrate Di Fingleton
Robert McClelland

Political Trivia

 

British MP Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s claim to fame was that:

  1. He was the longest serving member of the House of Commons in the nineteenth century.
  2. After fifteen years service he once could not get into the House for an important vote because he was not carrying identification and no one could recognize him.
  3. In the twentieth century he was prime minister for three years.
  4. After his maiden speech he served a full twenty years without asking a question or making another speech.

2) Millard Fillmore is/was:

  1. TV show Marge Simpson’s crazy uncle who is the mayor of rural retreat Otisville.
  2. Thirteenth president of the United States.
  3. Alias given by John Wilkes Booth when obtaining access to Ford’s theatre to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.
  4. Character in 1930’s Disney animated film who runs for president.

3) The first British Prime Minister was:

  1. Sir Robert Walpole
  2. Gladstone Gander
  3. William Pitt the younger
  4. George Jeffreys, Baron of Wenn

4) The first five American presidents represented either the Federalist party or the Democratic Republican party. Has there ever been an American president who represented no party?

5) Migrating to Australia as a child with his recently widowed mother and siblings, British born Thomas Ley worked and studied hard to become a articled clerk, then solicitor and eventually in 1922 New South Wales Minister for Justice . His claim to fame is that:

  1. Leading his party to the next election, he won more seats than the opposition Labor Party, but was denied the right to be appointed Premier by the New South Wales Governor due to the fact he was not Australian born.
  2. After a political and legal career he ultimately became the Governor of New South Wales himself whereby he later became the first representative of the Queen to remove a state Premier.
  3. He was accused of bribery in the 1925 election but the main witness mysteriously disappeared before charges could be drawn. On losing his seat in the following election he subsequently moved to England where, in 1947, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang.
  4. On being pressured in parliament to do something about a recent horrific multiple murder, he not only led a criminal investigation into the crime but on attending the arrest of the believed felon, personally shot to death the suspect when he reached for a gun.

6) In April 1979 Marxist Antonio Negri was arrested by Italian police and charged with the offences of plotting to overthrow the government and masterminding the kidnapping and murder of Italian politician Aldo Moro.  His comrades were able to successfully free him from jail before trial by:

  1. Kidnapping another Italian politician and arranging an exchange of captives.
  2. Presenting themselves to the jail warden as American CIA operatives and requesting they could take Negri away for 36 hours for special interrogation.
  3. Running him as a candidate for the Italian Parliament in the 1983 election, and when winning a seat, claiming parliamentary immunity so as to be released from any incarceration.
  4. Successfully putting his name forward to the office of the President of Italy who had declared a limited criminal amnesty on the occasion of Italy winning the 1982 World Cup.

7) As well as being the victor at the Battle of Waterloo, Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, was also at some time in his life:

  1. ambassador to France
  2. member of the House of Lords
  3. member of the House of Commons
  4. Prime Minister
  5. All of the above
  6. A, B and C

8) Is it true that apart from a brief flirtation with the Liberal Party when he was at university, Winston Churchill remained a loyal member of the Conservative Party for all of his 65 years in Parliament?

Answers

1) Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was the Liberal Prime Minister from 1905 to 1908.

2) Millard Fillmore was American President from 1850 to 1853.

3) The first British Prime Minister was Sir Robert Walpole.

4) The sixth President, John Quincy Adams was an independent.

5) John Ley was the first (and hopefully the last) Australian Minister of Justice to commit murder. His death sentence was never carried out and he died in Broadmoor asylum a few months after his conviction.

6) Antonio Negri was indeed a candidate for the 1983 election. He won a seat and was duly released from prison. His freedom in Italy however, did not last long as a few months later the members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (lower house) voted (as was their right) to remove his immunity.

7) As well as his military accomplishments the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830 as well as for a few months in 1834.

8) No. Winston Churchill first entered the House of Commons in 1900 under the auspices of the ruling Conservative Party. In 1904 he crossed the floor and took up with the Liberals. This seemed to be a prescient move as they took power the following year and remained the government, either independently or in coalition, until 1922. At this juncture Churchill left the Liberals and became an independent. The following year he joined what were then the ruling party, the Conservatives, and remained with them for the rest of his career.

Campbell-Bannerman
first PM
the Iron Duke
Churchill

potpourri

Financial Crisis: Eurocrats are terrified of democracy

 

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