Government-Business Relations 1004PPP Week 3: Democracy at Work
What is democracy?
How parliamentary liberal democracies work:
Government in Australia
Democracy and the media
Democracy – what is it?
YouTube - The coming of democracy to ancient Athens
Etymology: demos (people); kratos (rule)
But what is rule by the people?:
Who are the people?
How should they rule?
How extensive should their rule be?
Compare & contrast ancient and modern:
Direct vs. Representative democracy
Popular vs. Liberal democracy
Functions of Parliaments
YouTube - Best Taiwanese Parliament Fights Of All Time!
Representation; understood in two different ways:
As a mirror or ‘microcosm’ of society (see identity politics)
Deliberative – representing the interests of ‘the nation’ as a whole; representatives as ‘trustees’
Traditional role in constitutional theory
However, today most legislatures do not legislate much
Most legislation originates in the executive and is only processed in the legislature
In parliamentary systems, the govt. emanates from the legislature
The govt. must retain the confidence of the legislature to survive and govern
Legislatures are responsible for overseeing the executive:
Is Parliament in Decline?
The growth of organised political parties and mass electorates has diminished the role of the individual representative
Changes in the nature of laws – more legislation and more technical legislation (parliaments cannot review effectively)
Growth of organised interests
Traditionally targeted parliament
Now often by-pass government and go direct to the executive
Mass media ( more on this later ...)
Has concentrated public attention and interest on heads of government rather than parliaments
I.e. made politics more about leadership and personality, namely presidential
Functions of Executives
Historic core of government since legislatures and judiciaries come later as restraints on the actions of executives (Kings)
In constitutional theory, to execute, or carry out, the laws
In practice, the state apparatus executes laws
Therefore, today executives lead rather than ‘execute’ – ‘the seat of authoritative power’:
To provide direction for national policy
To oversee the implementation of policy
To mobilise support for its policies
Ceremonial leadership/charismatic authority
Parliament in Australia
Australian Federal Parliament has 2 Houses – House of Representatives (Lower) and Senate (Upper)
The House of Representatives
Holds 150 seats
The political party that wins a majority of these
becomes the government
Seats are allocated to States by population (e.g. Tas 5; NSW 49)
Most bills (aiming to become laws) originate here
The Prime Minister and senior ministers (Cabinet) and the Leader of the Opposition, by convention, sit in this House
Elections to this House are held at least every 3 years
Originally intended as the “States’ House”
Holds 76 seats, 12 each state + 2 from Territories
Equal representation regardless of State’s population…
… Violation of majority rule?
Senators are elected to 6 year terms
Constitutionally almost equal in power to Reps
Because of electoral system, governments rarely control the Senate
But when they do it becomes a “rubber stamp”
Is an upper house necessary?
The Executive: The Power of the Prime Minister
Selection of Ministers (Cabinet Govt.)
Control of Cabinet (Chair)
Setting of the political/policy agenda
Has almost guaranteed support of the party and the parliament as leader of majority party
Exercise of patronage (appointments)
But, power limited by Constitution; HC; Senate
Democracy and the Media
Media as the “Fourth Estate”
Media links governors and the governed
Checks government power
YouTube - The Watergate Affair (Part 1)
YouTube - Nixon Disses the Press
Scrutinises policies and performance
Is an extension of right to freedom of speech
Produced the ‘demonstration effect’ behind the ‘Third Wave’ of democracy?
The Power of the Media
Reflects or Shapes Public Opinion?
YouTube - Outfoxed: Fox News: Everything in Iraq is great!
Fuels cynicism towards politics and unpopularity of politicians?
Shared interest with political elites in the ‘politics of fear’?
Evident in the advertising budgets of large corporations ( Over US$ 1 billion each for the 10 biggest spenders says Greenpeace)
Baudrillard: The Gulf war never happened!
YouTube - First Gulf War
How Politicians Use the Media
“ Media advisers” and “spin doctors”
But media also need politicians
Who has the upper hand? ...
British New Labour Party and the Media
Tony Blair, British PM, in 1994 on his campaign to become party leader: “ You have got to understand that the only thing that matters in this campaign is the media. The media, the media and the media.”
Blair: “ How we treat Rupert Murdoch’s media interests when in power will depend on how his newspapers treat the Labour Party in the run-up to the election and after we are in government.”
Media Tycoons - Murdoch
News Ltd has interests in over 100 newspapers in Australia and 68% of capital city and national newspaper market
Owns most influential papers in Melbourne and Sydney
Owns only newspapers in Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin
Also has interests in AAP with Fairfax and a 25 percent stake in Foxtel
The Power of the Media Barons
“ Some newspapers exist simply to promote the political goals of their proprietors…” (Bartle 2006).
But are they more interested in profits than politics?
Their profits in part depend on politics, e.g. cross-media ownership laws
Media Ownership Policy
Cross-media laws (from 1986) affected TV, radio and newspaper ownership
Howard Government used control of the Senate to weaken these restrictions
Will these new laws reduce diversity in content or just diversity in ownership ?