This is the Foundation Charter of our movement. It is a statement of our guiding purpose and identity. It has 14 Points which differentiate the thinking and aspirations of the 80% of us in mainstream Australia from the failed agendas of Left and Right.
We welcome your comments.
1. Making everyone visible, allowing everyone to be heard
People who are not in the paid workforce – volunteers, ageing Australians, stay-at-home parents and carers, people with disabilities and mental illnesses, the long-term unemployed – are invisible to Left and Right. So too are the self-employed, the precariously employed, low-income earners and retirees. Our voices and opinions are never sought or heard. To both Right and Left we are numbers to be managed by government departments, clients to be managed by service providers, and voters to be patronised at election time.
It is industry, provider, employer and union interests that command the allegiance of Left and Right. The rest of us are consigned to a permanent marginalisation.
Only a movement that is independent of sectional interests can provide a platform for everyone to be seen and heard and contribute.
2. Immigration and social integration
Australia is a hybrid of indigenous, British and recent immigrant peoples with a distinctive Australian culture, but this hybrid identity has been jeopardised by the imposition by both Left and Right of an unsustainably high immigration intake; a cumbersome and inorganic ‘multiculturalism’; and permanent settlement (instead of temporary asylum) for refugees. The neglect of social integration by both sides threatens our social cohesion.
Neither citizenship tests nor employment alone guarantee social integration. The Right’s support for high immigration is business-driven; the Left’s support is driven by ethnic group patronage – neither place value on organic social interaction across racial and cultural lines in real communities.
Social integration of immigrants should be encouraged across the nation, and ethnic enclaves in cities and schools broken up. Slower population growth and greater social cohesion will take the pressure off urban congestion, school and community tensions, and housing affordability.
3. Indigenous self-help and recognition
Indigenous self-help and recognition are not alternatives – both are important. The passive welfare imposed by Left and Right on black communities has eroded personal and social responsibility – both Left and Right have failed to understand the destructive power of alcohol, gambling and welfare dependence on fragile cultures. Without the removal of passive welfare and development of a self-help culture, constitutional recognition will achieve little.
But without recognition of continuous culture and occupancy of land, and sustained personal interactions across racial lines, reconciliation between indigenous people and new arrivals will remain elusive.
Only a movement of people in the centre can bridge the rights and responsibilities approaches in indigenous affairs; introduce the Empowered Communities model of funding; and make reconciliation practical, substantive and enduring.
4. The failure of the welfare system
Both Left and Right believe the welfare system can adequately address the challenges facing people with mental illnesses, addictions, long-term unemployability and repeat encounters with the criminal justice system. It can’t. The welfare system has been able to deliver only short-term, silo-driven interventions which shuffle the system’s ‘clients’ from pillar to post. More spending from the Left simply creates bigger silos, while the Right’s market-driven reforms have succeeded only in re-badging ‘clients’ as ‘customers’. Welfare bureaucracies cannot generate the social relationships, personal stability and emotional attachments that alone can rebuild damaged and disadvantaged persons and communities.
Only a movement of people in the centre can challenge the systemic failure of the welfare system and re-design it based on the restoration of stable personal and social relationships.
5. The natural authority of families
Left and Right have been locked together in blindness to the natural authority of families and their primacy as the bedrock social unit.
Both have by-passed families in early childhood development, child care, disability, aged care and chronic illness care to fund corporate interests and contractors instead of families as the primary unit of care. Both have channelled funds for education to school providers rather than to parents who are the primary educators of children so parents can drive school choice and accountability.
In child care, parents should be permitted to use public funding to make our own informal and personalised arrangements, cutting out high-cost industry overheads.
Only a movement of people in the centre can recognise and uphold the natural authority of families in the face of powerful provider and corporate interests.
6. Devolution of power
The old politics of Left and Right have presided over the steady growth of bureaucracy for more than a century.
Neither has sought to devolve power and authority to local communities, non-government associations, families or consumers. Many community organisations, hospitals, charities and mutuals have been transformed into large and impersonal corporate entities by inappropriate regulatory frameworks set up by Left and Right.
The managerial experiments in ‘contracting out’ service delivery in health, welfare, employment and community services have resulted only in a transfer of bureaucratic functions from government to non-government contractors, disempowering communities in the process.
Only a movement of people in the centre can focus policy and service delivery on civil society and its relationships, and devolve power accordingly.
7. Concentrations of corporate power
Both Left and Right favour big business and have facilitated concentrations of corporate power. Australia’s corporate sector lacks genuine entrepreneurs and fears global markets, and has relied on domestic mergers and the restriction of competition for growth instead of global exports. Telstra and oligarchies in retail, banking, insurance, transport, energy and media should be broken up with caps on domestic market share to encourage an export culture. Curbs on competition, subsidies, handouts and protection in the name of industry policy, and the shunting of investment into property instead of real enterprise through negative gearing and capital gains exemptions, have killed the development of an export culture in Australia and should be removed.
Exclusions of family-based businesses, owner-operators, mutuals and social enterprises from tendering and other growth opportunities should be withdrawn.
Only a movement of people in the centre can challenge concentrations of corporate power from a pro-market standpoint.
8. Industrial relations and ownership
The ritualised century-old stand-off between Left and Right in industrial relations has benefited only lawyers, union officials and lazy employers. Together Left and Right have a common stake in antagonistic industrial relations: the Right’s WorkChoices option serves only to unite organised labour against a common threat; while the fear of organised wage break-outs unites employers.
Neither Left nor Right have an interest in workers as owners of capital and participants in the development of firms. Neither acknowledges that the interests of high-wage workers can be vastly different from those of low-wage workers with little bargaining power – the latter require social protection, the former don’t. Big tax cuts should be introduced for firms with significant employee ownership and shared employer-employee governance.
Only a centrist movement can break the institutionalised separation of ownership and employment in industrial relations that stymies co-operation in the workplace and shuns capital ownership by workers.
9. Fixing public schools
Despite their rhetoric about individualised learning to suit each child, both Left and Right maintain a model of public schooling unchanged from the factory age: schools operate and instruct as if all children are the same, with parents kept as far as possible from the classroom. The Left is wedded to this model, even though 40% of our kids are not suited to it. The Right has no motivation to change public schooling since it’s preference is for private schools. The result is stagnation.
To increase supply-side diversity and accountability, the leadership and management of public schools should be transferred to not-for-profits and parent associations, with an assembly of parents in every publicly-funded school having the right to dismiss a school principal and management team. With the adoption by the Commonwealth of a needs-based funding model for all school sectors, funding should be allocated directly to parents to drive demand-side accountability. A cap on fees in private schools of $20,000 should be introduced as a condition of public funding to limit social exclusivity.
Only a centrist movement can dispassionately address issues of school quality and accountability because it is not aligned with either public or private sectors.
10. Restoring universities
The Dawkins revolution in the 1990s turned Australia’s universities into factories producing technical skills for Asian and domestic markets. The Left believes that a university degree is a right of all, regardless of its content or standard. The Right has adopted a Fordist mentality, treating education as a resource for industrial ends. Neither any longer think the purpose of universities is to nurture high level intellectual endeavour and the capacity for expansive conceptual thinking and analysis.
Only a centrist movement is sufficiently free of industry interests to restrict public funding for higher education to high level generalist liberal arts and sciences programs, while imposing full or partial HECS fees for vocational and job training courses.
Public funding of universities should be conditional upon removal of ideological and social engineering zealotry in the humanities, and adoption of a 30% cap on non-native speakers of English language, to arrest the decline in intellectual standards. The ‘public interest’ in publicly-funded research should be determined by adjudications of citizen juries selected by sortition (random selection), and administered by the Australian Electoral Commission.
11. A health system for consumers
Since the advent of Medicare, health reform has stalled. A stand-off between practitioner interests on the Right and public sector interests on the Left has choked debate about further development of Medicare and rendered our fragmented provider-centred system incapable of delivering integrated and preventative person-centred care.
Both Left and Right are ignorant of Australian innovation in the 19th century in pioneering prevention-oriented care through membership-based mutuals of consumers (friendly societies and bush nursing associations). These entities developed capitation-based health care plans with mechanisms of local control in every town and suburb in Australia.
Because it is free of private and public sector provider interests, our movement is able to cut through the stalemate in health reform and build on our history in developing a consumer-centred health system. The Dutch model of integrated health financing through competing health care mutuals (with incentives to keep members well and contain costs) is our best option.
12. Energy and climate change
The negative effect of Left-Right polarisation is nowhere more evident than in energy policy. The Right pushed privatisation of our energy sector without effective competition; the Left embraced subsidies for renewables without effective competition. The result is a dysfunctional energy market with a sharp disconnect between demand and supply, with no downward pressure on prices.
Climate change denialism and alarmism are both irrational responses to emissions-induced increases in global temperatures. Innovations in technology will steadily lower the costs of renewables, leading to the phasing out of fossil fuels – attempts by governments to mandate the pace of transition or prescribe mechanisms for substitution of one energy source with another, are cumbersome and ineffective.
Citizen initiatives in association with technological innovation are a more reliable driver of transition in energy systems, without the distortions of public subsidies. Only a movement based in civil society recognises citizen initiatives and social enterprise as the engine of sustainable change.
13. Removal of the political class
Neither Left nor Right can comprehend the crisis in representative democracy that has accompanied the rise of the political class. Both believe the political system works well providing their section of the political class holds power, no matter how unrepresentative of the public they may be.
Political representation should be restored as a vocation of service to the public, undertaken for short periods of time by citizens who have real jobs before and after their time in parliament. Political representation is not a ‘career’.
We seek the removal of the political class by pegging politicians’ and senior bureaucrats’ salaries to the median wage, adjusted annually for increases and decreases in the median wage figure. A limit of three terms in office for lower house members of parliament and two terms for upper house members, and a lifetime ban on former members of parliament accepting appointments as lobbyists, should apply.
14. Defence and foreign policy
Australia is an independent country with a history of dependence on northern hemisphere powers for security. This dependence came with a heavy human cost in Gallipoli, France, Vietnam and Iraq; it wrought deep social division and fuelled our debilitating and still self-defeating ‘cultural cringe’.
Our national security and independent place in the world require a self-reliant defence capacity and non-participation in entangling military alliances. The Left has never been trusted by Australians with national security, while the Right has maintained a self-serving and inward-looking Defence Establishment that has been quarantined from civil society and public accountability for decades. Both Left and Right prefer military dependence on external powers – this allows the Right to appeal to our traditional sense of vulnerability and weakness, and the Left to fight on its preferred turf of domestic issues. Both are blind to the core feature of our security landscape: our geographic location is a huge strategic asset that makes us the safest continent on the planet.