Does a masculine leadership style represent our multicultural society?

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Shouting, bullying and bickering are characteristics of our masculine Parliamentary leadership (Screenshot via YouTube)

A masculine leadership, such as the one evident in our Liberal Government, results in the belittling of minority groups, writes Dr José van den Akker and Dr Klaas Woldring.

NIKI SAVVA'S BOOK Plots and Prayers reports on the events that took place last August, events that reflect the relationships at the highest level of Australian Government today — and little of it is pretty.

The relationships at the highest levels of Government are damaged but also damaging the multicultural fabric of Australian society. The prospective of yet another political crisis also remains intact. The authoritarian attitude of various Coalition MPs, epitomised by Peter Dutton, suggests the development of a technocratic police State.

Short-term thinking and egotistical self-aggrandising manners are also evidenced in the current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. As Savva’s book suggests, Morrison is the top political leader of this country, but he is also someone who can be brusque with ministers and engages in shouting matches.

Their adversarial nature dominates the Australian political culture and its discourse and is offensive and unacceptable in various non-Anglophone, particularly feminine, cultures.

There are various leadership styles

The more “feminine” leadership styles are common in what Dutch social psychologist Professor Geert Hofstede refers to as feminine cultures that value teamwork, collective decision-making processes, equality and harmony. Feminine cultures care for the “underdog” and prefer leaders with high people orientation and participative management style.

The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, for example, have a feminine culture, with a preference for transformational leaders who inspire people, promote effective and intelligent communication and stimulate creative environments. Servant leaders encourage teamwork and collective decision-making, improve diversity and boost morale.

“Masculine” leaders are common in masculine cultures such as Australia, the U.S. and the UK. They are task-oriented and autocratic. Their transactional leaders, for example, promote compliance by followers through rewards and punishments. Rather than engaging in dialogue, they fight and bicker when discussing policies. They rarely share power with others and are moralistic. The “underdog” (such as homeless people and minority groups) is punished for “bad behaviour”.

Undervaluing and devaluing CALD migrants’ skills

Political leaders in the current Australian Parliament, mostly white males from privileged backgrounds, ignore that many unemployed and underemployed people are female Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) migrants and refugees. As a 2018 Deloitte Access Economics report suggests, 49 per cent of well-educated and skilled migrants and refugees with overseas obtained post-school qualifications work in lower skilled jobs, while people whose qualifications are under-utilised are likely to be female. The problem is systemic, Deloitte Access Economics argues, because Government, industry and the community do not collaborate.

The concept of a multicultural Australia primarily suits political purposes

The concept of “multiculturalism” is often bandied about in political discussions, but to maintain the status quo and suit political purposes. There is no action on multicultural representation in parliaments, governments, public services, universities, the upper echelons of the corporate sector, the judiciary and the police, as a recent University of Sydney study demonstrated.

Section 44 in the Constitution has not changed, showing that the current political leaders are not interested in changing the status quo, despite Australia’s multicultural society. The Australian Parliament remains monocultural, unable to represent the Australian multicultural population. It remains a British colony with a masculine culture that unashamedly supports and celebrates Anglophone philosophies and political structures, as argued by H.K. Colebatch in The Conversation.

The need for electoral systems change

The Westminster system in Australia is problematic, not only because it supports Anglophone philosophies and political structures, but because all ministers come from a very small, select group of people. Those elected into Parliament represent only a major party and the claim that the system is grounded in the separation of legislature, political executive and judiciary is inaccurate. The Government (and Opposition) sit in the legislature and, to a very large extent, dominate it. In addition, only politicians can initiate Constitutional amendment proposals.

The Westminster system and Australia’s Single Member District (SMD) model cannot produce a government that represents a multicultural society or enables feminine leadership. It is a system that generates potential for corruption and enables pork-barrelling. People elect Local (District) Members of Parliament (MPs) who cannot and do not represent the majority of voters across the nation and do not represent minority groups. The SMD system results in a polarising political culture and two-party system, based on an outdated Westminster model that suited colonial Australia and is built into the Constitution, which makes constitutional and political culture change difficult.

Without a democratic electoral framework, the emergence of true democracy is impossible. The remedy is to change the electoral system into a Proportional Representation Party List system, used in 89 democratic States including New Zealand. A superior remedy for Australia would be a Proportional Representation (PR) Open Party List system for the House of Representatives. The Australian political culture would change as a result.

The seating plan of the Chamber also needs a change, because it literally divides the Coalition and the Opposition, as shown below.

Source: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/About_the_House_of_Representatives/Diagram_of_Chamber

The photo below shows the seating plan of the Dutch Parliament. This design encourages dialogue and negotiation.

Source: https://www.tweedekamer.nl/zo_werkt_de_kamer/de_nederlandse_democratie

Having researched various countries, Brett Hennig writes in his 2017 book The End of Politiciansthat the Dutch have the most proportionally elected Parliament of all. Also Netherlands-born Arend Lijphart, a political scientist and psephologist advocates for the Proportional Electoral system as the most democratic, limited in its ability to overstep minority rights.

Australia's electoral systems both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate are deeply problematic, yet rarely explored in community discussions due to lack of information about alternative systems such as the Proportional Representation (PR) Party List system.

By referring to the Dutch system with which the authors are familiar, the authors hoped to have filled (part of) this gap. The Single Member District system needs to be abolished and constitutional referendums need to be initiated by the people, not politicians who protect their own position and the status quo.

Australians who do not support the Westminster system need to investigate electoral systems current in non-English-speaking countries and feminine cultures such as the Netherlands.

Major Constitutional reform is needed as well, not ineffectual piecemeal tinkering left to bodies like the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. This body was unable to resolve the 2018 dual citizenship drama.

We can only hope that the emergence of new, feminine leadership will result in a reformist attitude on governance issues such as the electoral system. And perhaps a redesign of the Chamber’s seating plan is helpful to improve relationships at the highest levels of government. To date, these relationships are damaged and damaging the multicultural fabric of Australian society and the authoritarian attitudes of various Coalition MPs, suggesting the development of a technocratic police State and an increasingly adversarial political culture.

Dr José van den Akker currently works as a Postdoc researcher at CQUniversity’s School of Education and the Arts.

Dr Klaas Woldring is a former Associate Professor at Southern Cross University. He is a committee member of ABC Friends, Central Coast.

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