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Our organisation was founded with eight (8) beliefs which we hold to be common sense for Australia:
1. Government policies are best guided via principles of utilitarianism (albeit not dictated by same). Why?
Utilitarianism is our shorthand for ‘the greatest long term good for the greatest possible number’. We believe utilitarianism to be intrinsic common sense. Its best known proponents are England’s Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873). Utilitarianism is consistent with the exercise of strong discipline, in avoiding undue influence, by sectoral interests.
The limits of utilitarianism are succinctly put by lexico.com (May 2021): “It has been criticized for focusing on the consequences rather than the motive or intrinsic nature of an action, for the difficulty of adequately comparing the happiness of different individuals, and for failing to account for the value placed on concepts such as justice and equality.”
Our belief is not that government policy should be determined according to ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, but rather that government policy is best guided by that proposition. Our adoption of the term utilitarianism is not proposition for suppression of minority interests. A society inhabited by such proposition is not welcoming to individual freedom of liberty.
Interestingly, our nation’s founders, in uniting our country under the name The Commonwealth of Australia reflected a utilitarian philosophy: Wikipedia’s entry (May 2021) for ‘commonwealth’ commences “A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good.” Wikipedia’s same entry notes Australia is one of only three countries (along with The Bahamas and Dominica) whose names includes the word ‘commonwealth’.
2. Government services are best delivered via principles of subsidiarity (localised decision making). Why?
We believe ‘localised decision making’ tends overall, to improve both quality and efficiency of government service delivery, relative to ‘centralised decision making’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as: “the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level”. Subsidiarity’s downsides are the difficulties in its spelling and pronunciation (‘suhb-si-dee-a-ruh-tee’, with emphasis on the ‘a’).
Wikipedia’s entry (May 2021) for ‘subsidiarity’ includes these different rationales for localised decision making:
“Decentralization has, not only an administrative value, but also a civic dimension, since it increases the opportunities for citizens to take interest in public affairs.” (France’s Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805 – 1859)
“Will the American people never learn that, as a principle, to expect swift response and efficiency from government is fatuous? Will we never heed the principle of subsidiarity (in which our fathers were bred), namely that no public agency should do what a private agency can do better, and that no higher-level public agency should attempt to do what a lower-level [public] agency can do better – that to the degree the principle of subsidiarity is violated, first local government, the state government, and then federal government wax in inefficiency? Moreover, the more powers that are invested in government, and the more powers that are wielded by government, the less well does government discharge its primary responsibilities, which are (1) defence of the commonwealth, (2) protection of the rights of citizens, and (3) support of just order.” (America’s Reid Buckley, 1930 – 2014)
3. Government solutions are best implemented via principals of proportionality. Why?
We believe the plain English meaning of proportionality – in the matching of solutions to problems – to be common sense.
Its more obvious application pertains to levels of expenditure, where our ‘common-wealth’ (public money), is identified as the solution for an identified need (whether for ongoing social needs, capital expenditure or for any other purposes). The fact that our ‘common-wealth’ is being spent, is never of itself rationale, for ‘using a Rolls Royce rather than a Holden’ to ‘get from A to B’.
The less obvious application of proportionality (but a principle we believe to be more important) is a government’s division (and prioritisation) of its focus. Government concentration on solutions should be ‘proportional to realities’. We propose these four:
First: Looking at a reputed problem’s causes, has the ‘underlying or real problem’ been truly identified and recognised?
Second: Looking at that ‘real problem’, is it one we can expect government to be both (i) the fixer and (ii) able to fix?
Third: Again looking at that ‘real problem’, is it best addressed (or unresolved) primarily through expenditure of money?
Fourth: If money is the solution, to what extent (if any) should our ‘common-wealth’ (not private wealth) be the funder?
4. Each level of government must be accountable to voters, for raising the money which it spends. Why?
Only such government accountability, can impose due responsibility upon voters, for the quality of governments we choose.
Whilst our state governments remain unresponsible for raising the monies they spend on services, state governments will never be properly accountable to us voters, for the quality and efficiency of the government services which they deliver.
Whilst our federal government continues to be responsible for raising monies, for the services which are delivered by our state governments, our federal government will continue to be distracted from its unique and exclusive areas of responsibility.
Reform of Australia’s Federation
If we can force ‘honest brokerage’ of federation reform on our major political parties, we will have served Australia well.
Imagine state elections, where all candidates must assume full responsibility for delivering quality health and education services, without shifting blame for funding deficits to counterparts in Canberra (of the same or a different political party).
Imagine federal elections, where no mention is made of health and school funding, and where all politicians are focussed instead on issue (as an example only) of whether we buy ‘Theoretical Camel Submarines’ from France OR ‘Existing Underwater Sea Dragons’ from wherever (for Australia’s contribution to deterring undemocratic nations, from attacking democracies)?
For government across Australia to be anywhere near its most effective and efficient potential, substantial ‘will for change’ is needed on both sides of our politics (at both federal and state levels), to eliminate the ‘fiscal imbalances’ which restrain our ‘common-wealth’. Federation reform has been left lingering by too many Australian governments. This is because federation reform requires important discussion and decision on: Who must be responsible for raising revenue. Confirming which arms of government (federal, state or local) should be responsible, for which particular functions, is the easy part of federation reform.
5. The greatest economic problem facing Australians is the cost of shelter (a roof overhead) for millions of us. Why?
Shelter, along with food and clothing, are our most basic needs. Neither food nor clothing is beyond the economic reach of most Australians. In comparison, the price of shelter (to rent or to buy) is astronomical. Home ownership in major cities is typically now beyond ‘independent reach’ of people earning less than Australia’s median income. In theory (if not fact) that’s half of us.
There are simple reform measures which can moderate inflationary pressures on Australia’s cost of housing.
Proposals offered by politicians in recent years, in purported response to home affordability, reflect poorly on the problem solving capacities of either side of politics. One side offers poorly thought out solutions, exposing itself to ideological ridicule by the other side, which implements ‘solutions’ which display even greater stupidity and sectionalism.
For past generations paying off the home mortgage over two to three decades was a ‘rite of passage’. A few decades ago, the mortgage to buy a modest inner city dwelling was generally within reach of households with a sole income earner. Today for many of us (both young and not-so-young) the security of mind of a mortgage-free-home is an improbability. All cities need a variety of workers, yet fewer of our lower paid professionals can live in the inner city, to help Australians who can afford to.
Larger populations, and reductions in land supplies, have clearly played a role in escalating city home prices. It is possible to debate whether the emergence of more dual income families has pushed prices higher, or whether higher prices have pushed more families to maintain dual incomes. It is not debateable that today’s cost of shelter reduces our individual lifestyle flexibility (including options for care of our nation’s youngest children, and how many children the parents of our nation choose to have).
6. Families (intact or otherwise) are the building blocks of our communities. Why?
“Everybody needs someone to love” (musicians Solomon Burke, 1964 and The Blues Brothers, 1980).
Family (whether of the traditional form or otherwise) offers each citizen opportunity for levels of protection, emotional and financial security, life long care and love, and opportunity for personal development, that no government or any societal group can ever replicate. We can’t put it more eloquently than these people:
American actor/conductor David Ogden Stiers (1942-2018):
“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten”
British author JK Rowling (born 1965):
“Family is a life jacket in the stormy sea of life”
American journalist Jane Howard (1935-1966):
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one”.
American writer Marge Kennedy (born 1950):
“The informality of family life is a blessed condition that allows us all to become our best while looking our worst”
American poet Mary Karr (born 1955):
“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it”
American poet May Angelou (1928-2014):
“I sustain myself with the love of family”
British statesman Winston Churchill (1874-1965):
“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human, are created, strengthened, and maintained”
American author Jodi Picoult (born 1966):
“My mother used to tell me that when push comes to shove, you always know who to turn to. That being a family isn’t a social construct but an instinct”
7. Smaller government non-capital spending (whilst ensuring assistance to those of us in need) is best. Why?
We believe it ‘common sense’ that individuals do not live beyond their means and that the same applies to governments.
In many countries, increased government spending as a proportion of gross domestic product, appears to be irreversible.
We believe that whatever the tide of government spending in Australia, it is inarguable that indebtedness incurred by today’s society should not be placed on shoulders of unborn generations. Australian government indebtedness, relative to many countries, has been modest. That does not mean that our own relatively lower debt levels, are necessarily prudent.
We believe in the following ideals of ‘smaller government spending’:
First: Recurrent expenditure should not be funded through borrowings;
Second: Non-monetary solutions should be preferred over monetary solutions;
Third: Private funding of monetary solutions should be preferred over public funding;
Fourth: Borrowing for capital spending should be matched to projects and repaid within 30 years (within one generation).
8. Policy makers should lead public opinion; and listen but not be beholden to sectoral interest. Why?
Common Sense for Australia Inc exists to encourage the development and advocacy of common sense political policy. Common Sense for Australia Inc does not exist, to secure political power by chasing popular sentiment or subservience to sectoral interest. We all win, if our communal efforts can improve national politics, by encouraging major parties to yield to common sense.
Common Sense for Australia Inc is dedicated to thoughtful and respectful debate (both in public and in private spheres). We believe there is need in contemporary Australian politics, for adoption of more civil and intelligent discourse, with less bluster and belligerence: Because better accord between people of different views, offers us better prospect of good outcomes.
Common Sense for Australia Inc believes in Representative Democracy: That we elect persons to Parliament as our Representatives – to exercise their best judgment in decision making on our behalf – not as mere human post boxes, for the purpose of retelling our own opinions, to our parliaments. Adapting the words of Ireland’s Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797):
It ought to be the happiness and glory of a Representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence with her or his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with her or him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. But her or his unbiased opinion, her or his mature judgment, her or his enlightened conscience, she or he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any person, or to any set of people living. Your Representative owes you, not her or his industry only, but her or his judgment; and she or he betrays, instead of serving you, if she or he sacrifices it to your opinion.
We believe that Representative Democracy works best, when the politicians we elect to make decisions, possess Common Sense.