We talk to Mal McDermott of the Libertarian Party about Libertarianism and how the Party would tackle issues such as knife crime. We also discuss Irish politics, the upcoming General Election in the Republic and Brexit.
Never let it be said the Croydon Constitutionalists don’t
work for their readers. In early
December Mike Swadling undertook the sacrifice of visiting Australia, to be
able to share some thoughts on their politics with you, and ok take in a little
sun. Indeed the title of this article is
translated from the Latin state motto of New South Wales, ‘Orta recens quam
pura nites’. It’s fair to say this is an
incredibly appropriate motto.
I had hoped to meet-up with the, or a Libertarian Party in Australia much as I have previously in the US making the sacrifice of a visit to the Libertarian Party of Orange County, California. Sadly I was not able to get in touch with the party, partly because there isn’t much of a separate libertarian strain of Australian politics, indeed only one member of the federal parliament describes themselves as a libertarian, although a couple do descript themselves as Classical Liberals.
This might be partly because politics on the right in Australia is already coalition between the Liberal Party, the main centre right party and more city based and the more country based National Party. This coalition does allow for a more broad base for people on the economic right. It may also be partly because voting is compulsory, this results in turnout often around 91% (a $20 fine for not voting in federal elections) and a centralisation of parties.
At a federal level the general election held in May 2019 resulted in a big win for the Coalition in both the House of Representatives and Senate. This came as a surprise to the national and global media, in the same way that Brexit and Trumps wins came as a surprise. That all too often the media lives in a bubble that doesn’t speak to the people who voted., Leave, for Trump and for the Coalition was all too evident in their reaction to the win. Indeed I have written and spoke about this before citing how in 2013 the Ozzies BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, journalists were surveyed with 41% saying they would vote Green, 32% Labor and just 14.7% for the Coalition. At the next Australian general election the Coalition received 45% of the vote, and the Greens just 8.6 percent. If you’re interested in knowing more about the Federal Elections I would recommend Helen Dale on Triggernometry after you have finished reading and sharing this page with you all friends of course.
New South Wales
My first encounter down under with Australian politics was
to discover this delightful poster on a lamp post in Darling Harbour, Sydney.
I wondered if Jeremy Corbyn worried about his impending election defeat had escaped the country early. Being in an area where property prices start around the A$1.5million mark (~£750K) and increase quickly, how are these people not already the rich? Maybe the Islington set had joined me?
My next encounter was a protest against the Carmichael coal mine, set-up in Queensland. The Stop Adani group appeared to be protesting a private party at Luna Park on Sydney Bay. The protest was peaceful and from the harbour ferry looked fairly good natured, if a little loud.
A country that has had 28 years of economic growth can afford some environmental protests. However much of that growth is based on the sale of natural resources including coal to the ever hungry Chinese market. The fact that the protest wasn’t better attended may be in part because Australia has recently recorded its second straight quarter where the economy shrank on a per capita basis. Uncertainty is also growing because of increasing property prices which are pricing people further away from jobs. A private coal mine provides well paid jobs, available to people with a range of educational backgrounds and jobs that can’t be exported. What’s not to like about that.
It’s safe to say most people
didn’t pay too much attention to the protest preferring to enjoy for view of
Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
By and large the Australians I
encountered where not that bothered by politics. In a country where the weather is hot and
life is pretty good, who can blame them.
One of the immediate things I noticed about Australia was the lack of
Police. Not that it felt like they were needed,
it was in my limited experience a country at ease.
There are challenges, not least because China looms large. Chinese millionaires and billionaires are understandably keen to move their wealth out of the communist state. This has led to a major property investment in Sydney and the city expanding with new blocks of flat around railway stations in the suburbs (much like London) paid for with Chinese money. This change to an area creates some concern in areas that were full of detached Australian houses, but thankfully no real backlash. Chinese students are another area of concern. Australia has 208,000 Chinese students, this brings in much income to the universities, but also means something like 10% of all students are from China. This number is large, really large in a country of 24 million people. Walking around Sydney and Melbourne you are aware of the Chinese influence. Australia is a nation of immigrants and blends a variety of peoples into being Australians exceptionally well. It needs to continue the self-belief to do that.
The expansion around Sydney is causing problems many of us in Croydon understand as the previous suburbs become part of the city. An example of this and the part us Croydonians might not understand is at Yarra bay. The bay which is part of Bottony Bay where Captain Cook first made land in Australia, is at risk of becoming part of a port for visiting cruise ships taking people to Sydney. The locals are unhappy, and at 8 and a half miles from the CBD (Central Business District where the main attractions are) it does seem an odd choice. However Sydney Bay is busy and often has a few cruise ships in it. Whilst maybe not this solution, it’s easy it see the need to change things. The tricky part for Croydonians is imagining the River Wandle over burdened with tourists.
The woke crowd is around in Australia. In the public buildings there is always someone keen to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. In the many zoos and wildlife parks you are constantly told how everything is endangered. With a population density of 9 people per square mile, I suspect many species in Australia really aren’t. Checking the numbers for Koala Bears, you see estimates from experts in the range of 329,000 to 43,000 with doomsdayer predictions rather than any sense of actual facts. The Immigration Museum in Melbourne was painfully politically correct, but the Shrine of Remembrance was both fitting and proudly patriotic.
But Australians are by and large unaffected by it all. At one stop in a League Club, talk turned to the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. The government pledged to facilitate a private member’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage in the event of a “Yes” outcome. It’s fair to say most of those around needed to be reminded of the vote. The outcome was 61.6% in favour of same-sex marriage. Largely the people I was with didn’t feel strongly about it, and felt free to talk about the pros and cons of the decision without entrenched views in a way you couldn’t imagine happening in London. Rather than taking a strong stance on the issue they were more interested in ensuring your reporter had another pitcher of VB. Rather than make my excuses and leave, I felt best to stay to ensure I was a gracious guest and good representative of the mother country.
The League Clubs and Returned and Services League of Australia Clubs (RSL) are interesting places, supporting respectively rugby league clubs and former service men and women. The clubs are often major venues with a mix of places to eat, drink, be entertained and importantly gamble! The Pubs as we would think of them are often called Hotels due to historic licencing laws. These clubs are the main entertainment venue in the sprawling suburbs.
One welcome input from politics was Hawke’s Larger. Bob Hawke was the Australian PM of much of my childhood. Many Australians reasonably blame him for the move from a laissez-faire Australia to today’s more overtly taxed and regulated nation. However the larger was great and policies aside, we can all only wish all political legacies taste so sweet.
Australia is a federal
nation. Each state and territory has
significant independence from the national government in Canberra. So each state has its own parliament.
My first visit was to the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney. At first glance you will notice how similar to the UK parliament it is. The parliament is split between the Assembly and Council. These broadly represent the equivalent of the House of Commons and House of Lords. If you weren’t clear about that correlation the Green and Red benches and carpets make it clear. On top of that the fact Hansard take notes in parliament and the Assembly calls out Stranger in the House if they see a non-member cements the deal.
They admit they copied the model from the UK. The Britishness of the founder members and the honouring of the Queens visit make it clear how closely we are aligned. The Assembly currently has the Coalition in the majority, members are elected in single member constituencies using a preferential system. The Council also held by the Coalition is elected by proportional representation in which the whole state is a single electorate. Could this be a better model for the UK to import from the former colony?
The NWS Parliament council chamber is quite small, frankly
as it should be. It won’t come as a
great surprise the Parliament building keeps expanding as its members ‘require’
greater space and acquire greater powers.
The Victoria Parliament in Melbourne, also models itself on the UK parliament. My reputation preceding me meant I was granted a private tour, or no one else turned up on the day. I will let you choose the reason.
Victoria and specifically Melbourne split themselves from New South Wales in 1850 and a rivalry (bordering on contempt) still exists today. Victoria is politically to the left of New South Wales. The current government is Labor with a large majority in the Assembly and being the largest party in the Council. As with New South Wales the Assembly members are elected in single member constituencies using a preferential system. The Council is elected from multi member super constituencies. The more proportional system leads to some smaller parties like the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Justice focused on “putting victims above criminals”, Animal Justice Party, Transport Matters Party opposed to the deregulation of taxis, and The Reason Party a “civil libertarian alternative” formally known as the Australian Sex Party.
This leftness of Victoria has seen
a more ‘progressive’ set of laws from the parliament. My otherwise excellent tour guide was keen to
point out that the Victoria Parliament was the first to pass laws for seat belt
use and to allow assisted dying. As if
infringing liberty and making suicides easier were positives.
Still the parliament is
representative. Despite moves to ‘collaborate’
and align laws across all the states in Australia, as we find leaving the EU, more
devolved power at a local level, meeting the different needs of different areas
is immensely positive.
The last sacrifice your intrepid reporter undertook was to tour the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) the 100,024 capacity home of Australian Cricket and Australian Rules Football. The ground is home to 4 Australian rules football teams and the local area includes a Rugby League and Football (soccer to them) stadium and is home to the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
The record attendance at the MCG was 143,750 for Billy Graham in 1959. I mention this because I find it an interesting fact, and to note as someone who isn’t particularly religious it’s small wonder so many were brought together to praise god in a country quite so wonderful.
Croydon Councillor Jeet Bains stood in the arguably safe Labour seat of Luton North in the recent General Election. He first became a councillor in 2010 in the then Coulsdon West ward. In 2018 he campaigned in Addiscombe East and split the ward with Labour’s Councillor Maddie Henson winning the other seat, a somewhat surprising result written about in ConservativeHome.
Jeet thank-you for your time..
How did you find it being a Parliamentary rather council candidate, what were the big differences?
was an honour to be the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Luton North. I
absolutely loved it, so much so that I felt this is what I was born to do – not
a feeling one often gets. For me, every minute was a joy. Whether it was
pounding the streets for hours on end delivering leaflets, talking to people outside
shops, being praised, receiving abuse, answering questions on radio stations,
debating at hustings, going to different places of worship and community centres
– I thoroughly enjoyed it. I made good friends – some stayed by my side day-in
and day-out. There were the Sikh businessmen, the Kashmiri radio hosts, the
Irish construction guys, the Afro-Caribbean church community…innumerable and
wonderful community members. It is an experience like no other. I’ve been
thinking about why I liked it so much. My wife says it’s because I like being
the centre of attention…
council candidate, the issues are obviously very local – streets, planning,
bins etc. Many people do, however, vote according to the national picture even
in a local council election. In fact we come across many people who aren’t
aware that the local council is controlled by Labour – they just assume that,
because the Conservatives are in power nationally, that the Conservatives
therefore run the council too.
Running for Parliament is different. I found that people are
much more engaged and passionate. The issues are also on a wider scale: I received
questions about nuclear disarmament, abortion, euthanasia, the environment, and
the NHS. I also attended several hustings, community meetings and was
interviewed by local and BBC Radio.
In short, running for Parliament is more intense, and I enjoyed this.
led to you being a candidate in Luton North? What were the big issues in
stand for Parliament in the Conservative Party, you must be an approved
candidate. Being one, I was asked to stand in Luton North.
suffers from higher than average poverty levels, and so for me an emphasis on
improving the economy and generating jobs was important. I made the case that
getting more companies and government departments/agencies to locate in Luton
would create more jobs. This would lead to people having more money in their
pockets and feeling better about their lives, and there would be a beneficial
effect for the local economy. This was in contrast to my Labour opponent who
emphasised public spending and advocated scrapping Universal Credit. Throughout
the campaign, I felt that in this election the electorate had a clear choice
between a Marxist agenda from Labour and an economy-boosting agenda from the
Conservatives. This was quite different to recent elections in which people
would complain that there wasn’t much difference between the parties.
Housing was another big issue in Luton, as more people are coming to locate there from other areas. The experience I have of dealing with this issue in Croydon was very useful. People also felt that they were waiting too long for GP appointments, so this was an area on which I was particularly committing to focus.
sure you’re pleased with the overall election result. What do you hope to
see the government deliver on?
was a great night for the Conservatives. The Great British Public utterly
rejected Corbyn and his hard Left agenda and, frankly, saved the country. I met
people who aren’t usually very interested in politics but, on this occasion,
were quite appalled at the prospect of Corbyn in No. 10. The Prime Minister,
Boris Johnson, has committed to getting Brexit done, levelling up investment
across the nation, and investing much more in health and education. I think
this is absolutely right, and I know the government will deliver.
More broadly, the country now has that great benefit of the first-past-the-post system, viz. a clear majority. Gone is the previous deadlock in Parliament, and with it the endless gloom propagated by those that refused to accept the result of the referendum. There is an air of positivity and energy to get things done. I think we will see quite a transformation in the country. In particular, I think there is a permanent shift of political loyalties that has occurred, for example in many northern constituencies. I worry, however, about how it is that some of our younger generation have been convinced that the solutions to their very valid concerns lie in Marxism. I hope the government gives attention to re-making the case for capitalism.
used to represent Coulsdon West and are now in Addiscombe East. What are the
similarities and differences between the two wards?
West was larger, with the usual three councillors representing the ward.
Addiscombe East is smaller and thus has two councillors. It’s interesting that
in Coulsdon West there was just one Residents’ Association for the whole ward,
which is quite normal, whereas in Addiscombe East we are blessed with four!
Coulsdon West there are family homes in the main, and the issues I dealt with
there were chiefly around planning, building control, and traffic and parking
in Coulsdon Town. I was also involved in the Cane Hill development – a fine
example of Conservatives providing housing of various kinds, in contrast to the
Labour council policy of wantonly permitting highly inappropriate developments in
Addiscombe East has a greater variety of housing and, I guess with it being a marginal ward and in the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency, the politics is a little more intense. A long running issue, and quite jarring to local residents, has been traffic flows on local streets. An historic decision to make certain roads one way in neighbouring Addiscombe West has resulted in a wholly unequal distribution of traffic on neighbouring roads. In essence, Elgin Road is now flooded with traffic night and day, whereas the residents of Canning Road in Addiscombe West benefit from hearing the birds chirping and their children playing safely in the street. All sensible people agree that this is an anomaly, but the fact that Labour control the Council and all the councillors in Addiscombe West are Labour has nothing at all to do with this sad problem remaining unresolved.
East is the Boroughs only split ward. How do you find representing an
area with a Councillor of a different party?
It actually works well. I get on well with Maddie Henson, the Labour councillor here, and we keep things friendly and cordial. I have heard that in the past where there has been a split ward, the councillors from different political parties barely spoke to one another. It’s not like that in Addiscombe East. We focus on helping and making a difference to local residents rather than fighting over our political differences. I think local people quite like this arrangement.
are your thoughts more generally on Croydon politics?
is a great town with huge potential. I think Croydon has been let down by the
Labour-run council. The town centre has declined, major employers have left,
Westfield is nowhere to be seen, and
Labour have a quite deliberate policy of allowing highly unsuitable residential
developments (mostly small flats) in the middle of streets with family homes. Everyone
was hoping for some positive news from the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls,
but even that looks to have been botched, and there are complaints arising
about where and how the money has been spent.
this means that there is a lot for politicians to address. The case needs to be
made to local people on which party can best solve these problems. My focus
would be on attracting employers to Croydon, providing jobs to people so that
they feel responsible and can look after their families. I also want to see a
relentless focus on improving the standard of our schools, so that our children
have the springboard for getting good jobs.
I think a directly elected mayor could make difference, because the Council is patently failing. Let’s take a tangible example. The government announced a £28.8bn National Roads Fund and an increase to the National Productivity Investment Fund so that it totals £37 billion. I’m not aware that either the Croydon North MP or the Croydon Central MP have made any efforts to have some of these funds come to Croydon. In contrast, Chris Philp, the Croydon South MP, has made herculean efforts in, for instance, getting funding allocated to improve the Brighton-London rail line so that Croydon passengers benefit. This is the kind of thing that a directly elected mayor can really boost.
Twitter you have expressed some concern with the doom mongering of the
environmental lobby. What sensible action do you think we should be taking on
think that people don’t respond well to doom mongering, and there is an adverse
reaction to endless lectures. At the same time, most people want to do the
right thing and be environmentally friendly. If we look at how the world came
together to tackle the ozone layer issue, that is an excellent example of how
people made conscious buying decisions which stopped the ozone layer being
damaged. Similarly, the government’s measures on charging for plastic bags in
shops and the ban on the sale of products containing microbeads are
measures that make a real difference. The government has also committed to
achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That may seem a long way off but
it is realistic and achievable. In contrast Labour was talking about reaching
net zero by 2030 – something that even the GMB union refused to support.
think the key is to be realistic and help people to do the right thing –
because, most of the time, they want to. I also think we’re not hearing serious
dissenting voices, such as Lord Matt Ridley who presents data and questions some
of the conclusions that we are asked to accept. We have a great tradition of being
free to hear all sides of an argument make their cases robustly, and we
shouldn’t lose this. Shouting that the end is nigh is, I suggest,
counter-productive. Also, walking along the top of tube trains in Canning Town
is probably best avoided.
other thoughts you would like to leave us with?
is important and (as apparently Charles de Gaul said) it’s too important to be
left to the politicians. I’m encouraged by the increasing engagement in
politics by young people. It doesn’t matter which party you join or what your
cause is, it’s good to be involved in matters that affect you and your
community. I am worried, however, that someone who was utterly unfit to be
Prime Minister was one step away from achieving it. It is important that we
look at how it is that the hard Left ideology, long ago rejected as damaging to
society, has reared its ugly head again.
Finally, a word about social media. Its ability to amplify and to distort is something that we are just beginning to understand. Our greatest minds will need to be brought together to wrestle with this problem. Anonymous accounts, fake news, false utterances with no consequence – freedom and liberty need armour against them.