Are you really in the centre?
We are neither Left nor Right. These terms are no longer useful in explaining what is going on in politics around the world, and what ordinary people aspire to. We think Big Business is too powerful. We think Government is too big and too impersonal. We think the Media does not reflect the views of most Australians. We think many academics and public servants are hopelessly out of touch with real people.
Both Right and Left have failed to empower ordinary citizens and instead created a political and managerial class that puts its own interests before the community and national interest.
In fact, for the last 150 years, both Right and Left have tended to concentrate power in fewer and fewer hands. We aim to disperse power away from the Insider-Elites – from governments, public servants, union officials, big corporations and service providers – to the 80% of us who are Citizen-Outsiders in communities, small businesses, families and local initiatives of self-help and mutual aid.
How do I know if I am part of the 80%?
About 10% of Australians are part of the Left, and another 10% belong to the Right. The rest of us are not part of these blocs. There is quick way to test where you sit. If your current job was obtained through political connections or union or corporate networks, then guess what? you’re part of the patronage networks of Left and Right. If you sit on a government committee or have been appointed to a corporate board, ditto. If you have no patronage networks to get you into jobs or onto government committees or corporate boards, then relax, you’re part of the 80% of us who are outside Left and Right.
Can I join if I am a member of a political party?
Yes. You can join if you are a member of an existing political party, or if you have never been involved in a political organisation before. All we ask is that you tell us of any affiliations you may have when you fill in the membership form.
What do you think of Donald Trump?
The election of Donald Trump shocked elites around the world. For the first time in living memory, a citizen who was not a politician was elected to a leadership position in a Western country, promising to ‘drain the swamp’ of career politicians and out-of-touch government officials. The effect of Trump’s election has been to demonstrate just how fragile is the control on government exercised by the political class.
But Trump’s election has also sparked genuine alarm. It is clear that Trump has little idea of how to actually solve the problems he speaks about. He is just as removed from disadvantaged communities as his predecessors and most of his critics. Much of what he says is illiberal, crude, contradictory and false. Nevertheless, in every country in the world, ordinary citizens with an interest in politics are re-examining, in the light of Trump’s victory, how to produce political change in their own country.
We draw two lessons from Donald Trump’s election. First, it is possible for non-politicians to win elections. And second, ordinary citizens need to empower ourselves to win political power, without being dependent on billionaires or celebrities to lead us.
Are you anti-PC?
Yes. But we think the bigger threat to free speech in Australia comes from peer-pressure and group-think in institutions, workplaces and dinner parties than from laws. Both Right and Left tend to spend most of their time shouting for or against the distant actions of governments, when in truth the big things that affect our lives happen much closer to home – crappy jobs, stress in daily life, the frustration of dealing with Centrelink or Telstra, confusion about the role of men in society, and the epidemic of loneliness. The ‘culture wars’ ignore most of this. For most of us, they are a big distraction from fixing the important things.
Which countries do you think are on the right track?
The Scandinavian countries have a lot to teach us. For the last century they pioneered a path between free market capitalism and centralised socialism and built free and open societies with a high degree of social cohesion, economic inclusion, and political consensus. They have traditionally been known as ‘high-tax’ countries, but this is no longer the case – all the Scandinavian countries have lower corporate tax rates than Australia and a stronger entrepreneurial culture.
Australians value openness as the Scandinavians do. We have a love of the outdoors and nature as Nordic people do. We pioneered sexual equality along with New Zealand and the Scandinavians. We were innovators in democracy in the 19th century, like the Nordic countries. We have a down-to-earth non-pretentious culture which values loyalty and relationships over conspicuous wealth and personal indulgence (conspicuous personal wealth is still culturally frowned upon in the Nordic countries to a remarkable degree).
The strength of the Scandinavian countries lies in their social and cultural cohesion. For this reason, they are now restricting their immigrant and refugee intake to preserve their traditional strength.
In the 1980s, the term ‘Sweden of the South’ was used by Australian observers searching for an economic and social path that fitted our history and circumstances. We don’t need an ‘overseas model’, but we can learn a great deal from the Scandinavians as we search for ways to fix our broken politics.
Are you seeking out high-profile people and former politicians?
We are creating a movement of ordinary people to take back our democracy, and we are aiming to enlist a number of public figures, including current and former politicians, to seize the moment. Many of them need a citizens’ movement in place before they will jump. The trick in politics is always to get the right mix of public leadership and grassroots power – one without the other is a recipe for failure. We are not dependent on high-profile public figures for building our movement, but it is equally true that the stronger our movement, the more public figures will climb on board.