Williams' Word | Removal of dual citizens leaves an undemocratic result

TIME FOR AN ELECTION

It’s not only the politicians who are suffering from this ‘perceived loyalty to another country’ thing’ that is removing so many of them from their elected roles. While it is important that we stick to the letter of the law, this exodus also means that the voters are also losing the value of their votes. The way things are going, many Australians will be represented in parliament not by the person who received most votes but the second place-getter, and that doesn’t seem very democratic.

Surely the answer would be a completely new election, one in which the person receiving most votes is the one who will represent the people in parliament.

At the moment, however, we don’t seem to have any decision making by parliament, apart from that same-sex issue, It would be frustrating to go the polls again but, to be fair, the people do need an opportunity to know that the people they voted for are the ones representing them in parliament.

RESTRICTING THE LOBBYISTS

Sadly, far too many members of the Federal Upper House of Parliament are merely puppets of the major parties who will always vote on party lines, but there are a few pollies who present intelligent thoughts. We tend to listen, for example, when Labor’s Doug Cameron or (we hope temporarily absent because of those loyalty laws) Jacqui Lambie speak. You don’t have to agree with them but they are usually worth listening to.

Former Senator Lambie is keen on tackling a big problem – the worrying influence the hundreds of lobbyists in Canberra have on decision making by our parliamentarians – and she argues that it is not right that a serving Member of Parliament, even a minister, could resign from parliament one day and take up a job as a lobbyist on the following day. She argues that MPs should be banned from becoming lobbyists, at least for several years after their retirement. She is also rightly concerned about the number of lobbyists who have ‘sponsored passes’ that gives them access to every office in the parliamentary building. 

She should go further. Lobbyists can do an important job in explaining sometimes complicated issues but they should present their message to both sides of parliament, not only the existing government. It should be parliament, not the political party in power, that makes the decisions – that’s why they all vote on all issues – and any meeting with a representative of the government of the day should also be open to a representative of the Opposition. If the lobbyist has an important issue to promote it should be presented to both sides of parliament, not just the government.

There should be an official list of all lobbyists, who should have access to the decision makers on both sides of the House. If they have an important story to tell and it’s all above board, why not a roster of government MPs and those on the Opposition benches to hear that story and to have those discussions officially recorded – although not necessarily made public. This would also remove any suggestion of any improper conduct between the elected MPs and the lobbyists 

If the lobbyists have an important story to tell the decision makers it should be open to all the decision makers on both sides of the House.

LOSING TOM – A TOUGH DEBATE

Tom was funny, intelligent and a long-time friend with a lovely wife. A few years ago, Tom told us he had been diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. His wife took over driving and gradually, over the months, he started stumbling with words and had trouble remembering names and then he disappeared from the scene. In time, he ended up in a nursing home and after a long time, died.

I passed on my regrets to his wife who had visited him regularly for many, many months but she commented that, “The person I knew as my husband died many months ago”. He had not recognised her for a long time.

No matter our personal beliefs we must respect the difficulties faced by the parliamentarians in NSW and Victoria who have been debating the euthanasia issue. They have a really tough decision to make but we must ask why we could be charged with cruelty if we allowed an animal to suffer a long process before death but that rule doesn’t apply to humans who can linger for months, just waiting death. It is unfair on the victim and their loved ones.

This ‘end of life’ is something we should all consider and talk about, well before we reach old age. There are some important things we can do to make decisions easier. First off, everyone (including young adults) should have made a will and the family should know where it is kept. A rather wealthy neighbour died a few years back without leaving a will. That created huge problems for the family and much of his assets went into legal costs with the courts having to make the decision on the distribution of those assets.

We should also consider a Power of Attorney which gives someone the power to act on your behalf if you have an accident or become ill and can’t carry out other important work. Just how much authority given to them depends entirely on the person signing it. 

This can include your treatment if you are involved in an accident or can no longer get around. It can also include the sort of treatment you would expect if you were incapable of making your wishes known. It is important because the health professions believe it is their duty to keep you alive, no matter how serious your illness might be. I have told my family that I don’t want to be remembered as ‘that object in a bed’ if I have lost my quality of life. Maybe the euthanasia issue will be resolved before then.   

Copies of the Power of Attorney are available on line.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.

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