Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Trustee Model of Democracy and John Howard

I think about this Trustee model of government, and I think about the critics of John Howard, and something worries me. Criticism of John Howard over Policy X or Decision Y or Action Z is useless. Why? Because our system of government is a Trustee Model of democracy. Criticising Howard over specific issues misses this fact entirely.

Howard stays in power not because of the voting population's perception of his decisions, but because of the voting population's perception of how he makes decisions.

This trust that he will make the right call on issues extends to trusting him to make the right call on future issues that are unforeseen and/or unforeseeable. It is that, not the results of any particular decision that he makes, which is the source of his hold over the Australian electorate.

So how does the electorate think Howard makes his decisions? Here's a hint to start with:
"I think all Australians would want this Victoria Cross to stay in our country and preferably at the War Memorial." - John Howard, Howard hopeful Australian will buy Victoria Cross medal. 24/07/2006. ABC News Online
"And nor is there any desire within the Australian community – in a more entrepreneurial and self-reliant nation – to turn back the clock to what we would now see as a highly illiberal industrial relations system." - John Howard, Address to the Menzies Research Centre Melbourne 'Reflections on Australian Federalism' - 11 April 2005
"I think that is a step that the Australian community doesn’t want to occur, whilst at the same time there are many genuine areas of discrimination." - John Howard on gay marriage, Doorstop Interview North Ryde, Sydney - 08 June 2006

See the pattern? If you listen to Howard speak, read his media statements, you'll hear over and over again the message that John Howard tries to make decisions based on what he believes the Australian community wants, tries to consider the interests of every Australian, tries to improve the lot of all Australians. It's subtle - almost subtextual - but I believe that it's definitely present.

There are almost certainly other memes which Howard and the Liberal party push that send the message that their basis for decision-making is the one to trust. People who want to see Howard and the Liberal party gone should not be wasting their time criticising the outcomes of specific decisions as it won't make any difference. Has it made a difference so far?, Instead, the focus should be on determining and undercutting the reasons that the Australian public chooses to entrust the Liberal party with all the decisions of government.

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