Equality

When I sat down to add this topic to the list gathered together under the post “Some thoughts on some issues”, I was intending to create one labelled “Indigenous Issues”. The twitter gang had been tweeting extensively about how to talk about indigenous issues, to the point that the growing list of twitter handles left around 20 characters in which to develop a pithy rejoinder.

But as I thought about what I wanted to write, I realised the fact that “indigenous” issues are nothing more than issues of how we treat different members of our society or, more to the point, members of the society who are “different” from us. So I realised a better title is Equality because ultimately, that what this whole topic is about. In the end, the issues are about equality in opportunity, in the protection, encouragement and control our society places on its members and in the sensitivity and tolerance our society has for people who have different values. So here goes my $0.02 on the subject of Equality.

First of all, let me definitely say, people are NOT equal. The American Constitution aside, this is self-evident. In fact, the inequality of people spreads as far as it can, to every single individual being different from every other (even identical twins start diverging, (somatically if not genetically) the moment they become two separate fertilised eggs). To me, this is a clue as to how we approach the equal treatment of all the members of our society. We constantly compare ourselves to others, often forgetting that they have had a completely different genetic base and environment from us and, indeed, from everyone else on the entire planet. We are all of us unique and so can’t be equal. So social equality just cannot be based on anything genetic – male, female, big, small, black, brown, yellow or pink, clever or not. Instead, it needs to be based on outcomes and be targeted to individuals who exhibit something that requires social intervention. If someone is bitten by a snake, we rush them to a clinic or hospital and we treat them with anti-venom or whatever. We do this no matter if the person is young or old, white or black, male or female, Australian or a foreign tourist. The issue is that someone has been bitten and needs treatment and the issue is completely without any other categorisation.

Now how about someone struggling with alcohol. Perhaps they are getting violent when they are drunk and the society decides it needs to step in to save them from injuring either themselves or others. Again, it really shouldn’t matter into which categories the person falls, but what can best be done to ease the situation. If there are a better clinical way of handling a situation when the person has, say a chronic illness, then that information is a useful director into the most appropriate action.

The overwhelming difference between people is between individuals. So all categorisations are generalisations of the true state and often dangerously so. Time was when it might be put about in Australia that Irishmen were all thieves, that Chinese are all penny-pinching or Greeks are all lazy, or New Zealanders are simply magnificent 🙂 These are sweeping generalisations and dangerously so and are, of course, simply not borne out by any facts. There are thieving, penny-pinching, lazy people in all walks of life, of all ages, sexes, ethnicities, etc as well as simply magnificent people everywhere you look.

So my desire would be to have absolutely no mention in any legislation on race or ethnic background, sex or religion, but to identify issues that individuals may have and how society should respond to the issues. If, for example, some people have a connection with certain locations, then that should be considered when legislating about land, regardless of any other factor about the people having the connection.

Categorisation, the allocation of individuals to pre-defined “boxes” is a basic human predisposition and quick categorisation into danger/opportunity has historically helped us tremendously with our survival. The initial categorisation is done immediately and in seconds, and is almost all based on previous and taught experience. “Is this person a danger to me? No, okay, is there an opportunity to gain from an interaction with this person? Can this person inform me more about how the world is, help me to grow, to understand?” To properly participate in a complex, heterogeneous society, we need to be aware that these categorisations are going on but not to act reflexively to them – and, perhaps to evolve them into more accurate and useful categorisations as in – “This person is lying to me – I wonder what they want.”

Now that I’ve so cleverly persuaded you that it’s the interaction of a society with its individuals that matters, the society still needs to decide what are acceptable and unacceptable actions on the part of its members and then to act accordingly. If we as a society decide, for example, that child or forced marriage is wrong, then it should be wrong for all, even for those members practising a religion that condones it. The “category”, for want of a better word to the members of which specific social measures are applied becomes those enforcing the marriage, the parents or legal guardians of the children in question, etc. regardless of religion, age, sex etc.

Some thoughts on some issues

These are, I should stress, my thoughts and my thoughts alone.  In other words they definitely do not represent any formal position of the Virtual Party.  In fact, the Virtual Party doesn’t yet have formal positions on anything, because we don’t yet have a system by which participants can register their preferences by way of a vote.  Instead, this is just one person’s opinions and I’m simply putting them in front of you to get a reaction and, perhaps, to spur you to respond – in righteous indignation, enthusiastic concurrence or anything in between.

The balance of this post is some ideas for topics we could discuss.  I hope, when I get the chance, to expand of these each into its own post, but they will initially exist only here, as the labels of potential ideas, nothing more (Although I have started expanding the Web Democracy post)

I hope you enjoy them.

Peter Bayley
Sydney

Web Democracy

Corporations

Equality

Religion

Science

Education

Health

Web Democracy

This whole Virtual Party thing came about because I (and others) were thinking about the potential impacts to our current democratic process of a ubiquitous, freely-available interactive communications network linking the members of said democracy together. That network is, of course, currently Twitter and Facebook, but is essentially a web-connected network that could relatively easily be reconstructed should Twitter or Facebook, as large, profit-seeking US Corporations, become too compromised and no longer fit for purpose.

In order to link the social internet to the democratic process, we introduce the basic concept of one person, one vote. The people are, initially, members of the Virtual Party and the vote is a click on a button from that person to represent their position on an issue. Votes should be requested on many different issues and as part of the many steps that might be taken in developing a policy. Rather than place one mark on a ballot once in three years, technology allows us to indicate our preferences often and on a wide variety of issues with a click of a button.

Well, that’s wonderful but it’s not really very practical. You would like to read up on all sides of a particular argument – say Public vs Private Hospitals – but there are lots of people saying lots of things on the topic. You will find it increasingly difficult to be across all the arguments and information so we introduce a second concept of vote delegation

Vote Delegation
When you vote for someone in a normal election, you are effectively ceding them the power to make decisions on your behalf. Vote Delegation acts the same way but, thanks to the underlying technology, we can improve the process somewhat.
For example, you might provide your vote to one person for anything to do with, say, the environment, but to another person who’s ideas on finance you like for any decisions about the economy. Every time your vote is used by the person to whom you delegated it, you can, if you like, automatically receive a message, email, SMS or whatever informing you about what happened – “Richard Smith, your delegate on the environment used your vote today in favour of the proposed “Trees are People Too” policy. (I’m joking :-))

When you delegate your vote to someone, you can also indicate whether the vote can be further delegated. In other words, you can allow that person to delegate his or her pool of votes to another delegate, and so on.

Vote Rescinding and Reallocation
You can take back your vote at any time and give it to someone else or choose not to participate in a particular debate. In that case, you vote is not counted at all.

Vote Allocation
You have one vote that can be used anywhere. However, you can also divide your vote into fractions. For example, You might like two people in the Environmental debate. You can give them each 50% of a vote. Or you might prefer one a little so give them 75% and the other 25%. Because the underlying tech can manage all the intricacies of counting up the votes and ensuring no one is able to express more than one vote in total, we can provide voters the subtlety of casting a nuanced vote.

Membership Votes
Membership of the party will, eventually, be put to a vote of existing members. In other words, people will choose their membership. Of course the party can also vote to remove membership from people.

Virtual Party: Education Points & Plan draft:

Education is a right, not a privilege. Education should not be restricted to or out of reach for any Australian. The future of Australia is dependent on how well we use and therefore how well we educate and prepare knowledge and skills. Education should not be just for those who can afford it or limited by age but the right for all Australians who pursue it. Through better education we achieve greater things as a society and as a country. Our goals are to help facilitate and encourage every Australian to continue to better their opportunities by making education available, affordable and relevant to their and the country’s needs. The reality of the current system where students are encouraged and or compelled to gain a degree by staying within the education system is not the best use of the system for many individuals. Far too many people have degrees in a field they do not practice or work in. This means the qualifications prove only that the individual has demonstrated the ability to learn. Whist this is desirable by some institutions it does not represent good value for the individual who has acquired the debt studying a subject they have now, no interest in. Leaving school and obtaining life skills and work knowledge will for many, lead them to study and acquire qualifications they will apply to their working career and life. This is for some, is a far better advantageous approach. There is also the potential that the individual has made saving in their time in the workforce which can significantly reduce or remove the amount of debt the individual has on completion of their learning.
Virtual Party: Education Points & Plan draft:
• The future of our education program will begin by looking at world’s best practices and adopting and adapting them to suit Australia’s needs, limitations and advantages. All teachers in Australia will be asked to but not compelled to, assist in creating workable platforms for measurable outcomes. It is only through participation and a consulted approach can we expect to achieve a better and a more productive platform of education. We must take into account rural, remote, regional and local needs and limitations and advantages to achieve this goal.
• Primary education: The basics of Maths, English, Reading and Writing will be addressed as the corner stone of early years in education. This will assist and ensure students are adequately prepared for further education and when ready, entering the work force
• Secondary education: Greater emphasis will be placed on advanced primary education skills and learning together with set curriculum classes and elective courses to accommodate the individual’s aspirations. Guidance councillors (G.C.) will meet with students regularly to review the strengths and weakness of their academic status. The G.C. will have the grades of students on hand and will meet with parents and teachers to agree on changes to the student’s curriculum to facilitate means of bring students up to an acceptable standard to achieve adequate grades. The G.C. will also assist in guiding the student towards a career path going forward.
• Higher Learning Education (1): The Technical and Further Education centres will be better funded and reviewed for participation and relevance of courses. Different requirements or industry specific areas may take additional courses whilst others will be moved to more appropriate or industry specific areas. We will seek participation from Companies, Corporations and Institutions to assist in Apprenticeship programs. We will introduce a competition programs between simular programs/courses across the country and seek support from Companies, Corporations and Institutions by way of taking on participants at the completion of the courses with regards to aptitude and relevance of skills and abilities. We will also seek/lobby for participation from State owned media to show case the breadth of talent within these competitions and courses. Individuals who enter the workforce as trainees or apprentices will be reviewed regularly and employers will need to show the individuals have spent a minimum of 60% of their time in the work place in a practical learning environment.
• Higher Learning Education (2): University studies and Degree’s. We will look for ways for all Australians to re-enter the education system as they desire to do so. We will introduce new ways of reducing student debts and investigate ways of increasing the opportunities available them at the completion of their qualification. This will include options such as, students being contracted to work on Governments projects part time to repay loans acquired to facilitate their education. Contracts for minimum time to work in Australia before taking up employment overseas to be considered as a prerequisite for loans. Mentorships will be introduced with successful graduates being able to assist in group participations for understanding the fundamentals of a course or degree. In some cases, entering into a contract where the Government is to be a shareholder in ventures and or technology where it is deemed a greater dividend than the debt is the outcome. The shareholders stake can be sold to other persons and or entities with consideration to its partners and the national interest.
• The Education System in a holistic approach: We will advocate that every person in Australia is able to leave the education system once a year 10 or equivalent has been reached. However, they will be encouraged to return at any time in their life to gain further education whether it be as a trade or and a degree. Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) from work place achievements and knowledge will be assessed through exams and will play a part in fast tracking those already versed in aspects of a course or degree reducing the time out of the work force and the potential of additional debt.
• Some of the points in this plan already exist. However, we will continually through consultation and reviews fine tune these practices. The changes or new aspects are in place to assist the students and education professionals in what is the end goal, which is once entering into mainstream work place the individuals are properly prepared to be constructive and valuable members to their employers.

Asylum Seeker Policy – Draft

1. Australia’s Abstinence from Participation in Military or Interventionist Actions

First, and foremost, the Virtual Party does not support or condone the participation of Australia’s defence forces in military actions or interventionist actions outside Australia which result in the terrorising of a country’s population and/or the destruction of a country’s infrastructure such that the domestic population resorts to fleeing across the sea or land borders of their home country to escape such terrorism and destruction.

2. Australia’s Establishment of Authorities and Centres to Assist Asylum Seekers

The Virtual Party does support the establishment of authorities and centres based in the original countries to which current asylum seekers have fled and are now housed in tent cities. These authorities will act on behalf of the Australian government and in the best interests of those asylum seekers in establishing
their identities and verifying their credentials as bona fide asylum seekers.

These authorities will work with those of other countries, NGOs and other accredited bodies to ensure every asylum seeker receives adequate shelter, food, water, access to acceptable sanitation, clothing, medical attention, translation services, and personal care items necessary for them to maintain their health while such investigations are being carried out.

Staff hired for these centres will undergo a period of induction which will include mandatory defensive self-defense and compassionate, non-violent behaviour response training to an accreditation standard.

3. Australia’s Obligation to Ensure Unbiased Processing of Asylum Seeker Claims by Staff of Established Authorities in Countries to Which Asylum Seekers Initially Flee

The Vitual Party advocates that the authorities are staffed by individuals who have been assessed as those who do not hold any identifiable biases or phobias which would result in their failure to ensure each and every claim for recognition as an asylum seeker is processed in a manner which can be assessed as fair by a reasonable person of the same nationality, culture or religion.

4. Australia’s Obligation to Ensure Unbiased Processing of Asylum Seeker Claims by Established Authorities

The Virtual Party advocates that the directives made to the authorities do not impose biases or phobias on the staff in those authorities or offer inducements based on rejections of asylum seeker claims.

5. Australia’s Obligation to Ensure Unbiased Processing of Asylum Seeker Claims by Staff of Established Authorities in Countries to Which Asylum Seekers Secondarily Flee

The Virtual Party does support the establishment of authorities and centres based in the secondary countries to which current asylum seekers have travelled in order to journey on to Australia by any means that they are able to take.

These authorities will act on behalf of the Australian government and in the best interests of those asylum seekers in establishing their identities and verifying their credentials as bona fide asylum seekers.

These authorities will work with those of other countries, NGOs and other recognised and accredited bodies to ensure every asylum seeker receives adequate shelter, food, water, access to acceptable sanitation, clothing, medical attention, translation services, and personal care items necessary for them to maintain their health while such investigations are being carried out.

Staff hired for these centres will undergo a period of induction which will include mandatory defensive self-defense and compassionate, non-violent behaviour response training to an accreditation standard.

These authorities will be required to process claims as quickly and efficiently as possible and will use knowledge acquired from Australian government departments tasked with this processing  to establish acceptable timelines and guides for this process.

6. Australia’s Obligation to Ensure Asylum Seekers are Not Confined or Restricted While Their Claims are Processed

The Virtual Party does not support the confining – in any form – of asylum seekers whether that be in tent cities, or to specific areas of a town or city, or to specific areas outside a town or city.

7. Australia’s Obligation to Protect Asylum Seekers from Further Harm

The Virtual Party does support the protection of asylum seekers from any form of harm by the local inhabitants or by staff employed in centres currently holding them. Staff currently employed or subsequently hired for these centres will undergo a period of induction which will include mandatory defensive self-defense and compassionate, non-violent behaviour response training to an accreditation standard.

8. Australia’s Obligation to Educate Local Inhabitants About the Motivations of Asylum Seekers

The Virtual Party does support the education of local inhabitants about the reasons asylum seekers have for fleeing their home country.

9. Australia’s Obligation to Contribute Funds to Assist in the Care of Asylum Seekers

The Virtual Party advocates that funds are made available to assist host countries and communities who are housing asylum seekers.

10. Australia’s Obligation to Increase its Annual Intake from Countries to Which Asylum Seekers Initially Flee

The Virtual Party advocates the immediate increase in numbers of processed asylum seekers accepted into Australia for resettlement as a means to decrease the number of people moving from the first country to which they have fled.

11. Australia’s Obligation to Provide Safe Transit from Countries in its Region

The Virtual Party advocates that Australia ceases its agreements with countries in its region to confine refugees to internment camps and to conduct offshore processing and provides immediate safe transit from those countries to Australia.

12. Australia’s Humanitarian Obligation to House Asylum Seekers in the Community

The Virtual Party advocates that asylum seekers be provided with housing equal to that provided to low income Australian residents and citizens.

13. Australia’s Humanitarian Obligation to Educate Asylum Seekers

The Virtual Party advocates that asylum seekers be  enabled to learn English and to acquire a skill or trade which will allow them to find employment.

14. Australia’s Humanitarian Obligation to Allow Asylum Seekers to be Employed in Paid Work

The Virtual Party advocates that asylum seekers be assisted to find suitable work and to ensure they are paid at a rate equal to that of any Australian resident or citizen undertaking equivalent types of work.

Draft Environment Policy

Australia has a unique environment that is extremely fragile and needs protection. It includes the world heritage areas of Far North Queensland’s tropical rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Southern Alpine Areas, the beautiful wilderness of the Kimberley & the deserts of Central Australia. Most of these environments are under threat from climate change & development.

We will deliver strong laws to protect these environments their flora and fauna.

We will wOrk with international organisations to move to a sustainable global economy.

A price will be placed on carbon pollution that reflects the social costs of that pollution.

All fossil fuel subsidies will be phased out.

Money raised from the carbon price and withdrawal of fossil fuel subsidies will be used to fund renewable energies including solar, wind & wave energy. This will create thousands of jobs in renewable energy manufacturing that could be exported globally.

No new coal mines or coal mining infrastructure will be developed. Existing coal mines & other fossil fuel mining including coal seam gas will be phased out.

Buildings Regulation.
Building regulations will be introduced to make sure all homes & commercial buildings are properly insulated & have solar panels & hot water systems. Excess energy produced will be bought at the wholesale price of electricity.

Transport.
Regulations will be introduced to encourage fuel efficient cars & trucks & eventually electric or other non polluting vehicles. The use of public transport will be encouraged & cars banned from central city areas. Bicycle paths will separate cars from bicycles. Networks of bicycle paths will be developed including racks & showers at convenient locations. Most rail lines will be electrified & powered by renewable energy. Long distance freight will be by rail. Fast electric trains will carry passengers between major cities. Aircraft will use biofuels.