Get ready to make some Global Noise

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Global Noise kicks off tomorrow in Australia, with people all over the country making noise, demanding to be heard. Iurgi Urrutia reports.

IT'S NOT the first time that everyday people all over the world have decided to reclaim the streets, and it surely won’t be the last. In the face of discontent and apathy about politics – in response to the democratic deficit between citizens, politicians and financial markets – citizens will always look for better alternatives to the existing political structure.

Global Noise is about making ourselves heard. In a democracy, the government should be by the people and for the people. The reality is that we are asked to cast a vote once every three years, watch our elected representatives change all their policies and just shut up. The world is facing a great variety of issues that perpetuate conflict, poverty and political apathy. We must identify those issues and propose alternatives. I think the three main areas that need to be addressed are democracy, economics and rights.

Real Democracy

It’s clear that a large number of citizens feel disenfranchised from the current political system. A considerable number of people simply do not feel like they are represented by the politicians at either Federal, State or Local levels. The reasons for this are numerous, but could be summarised by the dual perceptions that

a) politicians serve business and corporates rather than the citizens who vote for them; and

b) a democratic deficit between the wishes of the majority of Australians and what MPs from both major parties and the government do.

For Real Democracy, comprehensive political reform is needed so politicians are more accountable for the promises they’ve made during election campaigns. Additionally, I believe a large number of citizens would like to have more of a voice.

To this end, some ideas that could be implemented might be:

  • more referendums on key policies, or anything that was actually not part of the electoral promises

  • the opportunity for citizens to give public feedback to the government with a requirement for the government to respond.

  • a more proportional system for parliament. That is, 15 per cent of votes would equal 15 per cent of seats in the house.

  • Whilst many people may rush to dismiss these ideas, let’s have a look at two foreign examples. If Iceland can draft a new constitution with direct citizen involvement, with all the meetings being streamed online and with daily feedback, and amendments given by people through email and Facebook, I believe Australia can also come up with new, creative, and interesting ways of making our democracy more direct and participatory.

    If Switzerland can have regular referendums (11 referendums in 2012 so far) about a wide variety of political and social issues, including gambling revenues, healthcare and foreign policy, I believe Australian citizens can also have their voice heard about key issues, instead of eternal spin and parliamentary deadlocks that undermine rather than build democracy.

    Real Economy

    The real economy is gone and has been replaced by a speculative casino economy that only benefits a few, whilst it creates high volatility and instability in global markets. As Ignacio Ramonet reported in Le Monde Diplomatique last December:
    ‘Every year, the real economy (goods and services) creates, in the whole world, wealth (GDP) estimated to be around 54.6 billion* Australian dollars. On the other hand, at the same time, globally, the financial markets move wealth to the value of 4,188.5 billion* Australian dollars; that is 75% of the value of the real economy.’

    This speculative casino economics does not produce anything of value to society (it doesn’t create any product) and does not create jobs. These global markets have been attacking European states via speculation, with the obviously disastrous results we see in the news now every day.

    Why not invest in a Real Economy instead? One that produces value for citizens and creates jobs. It is essential that we ask why it is that only these speculative financial transactions, which move billions of dollars every day, are exempt from being taxed when they are the most damaging to the world economy and are primarily responsible for the inherent instability in the global economy.

    The implementation of a financial transaction tax, or Tobin Tax (named after, Nobel Prize winner for economics, James Tobin who first proposed it) could help alleviate some of the damage the markets create. This tax would help bring a degree of stability to the world economy by imposing a tax on speculative financial transactions. Additionally, it would also collect large amounts of money that could be invested back into the real economy to meet the major challenges the world faces, such as alleviating poverty, combatting global warming and implementing clean renewable energy systems. This is a tax that has been predictably and scornfully derided by the financial markets, but nevertheless, just this week eleven countries in Europe agreed to implement it.

    The Tobin Tax should be followed by the abolition of tax havens. Through tax havens big corporations and financial institutions divert money so they don't pay taxes in Australia. Tax havens rob nations benefitting only the wealthiest people. As The Guardian reported back in July:
    ‘…a global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.’

    Tax havens should simply be abolished.

    The Right to Live With Dignity

    The gap between rich and poor in Australia has been consistently widening since the 1980s. Prime Minister Bob Hawke began the importation of neo-liberal policies into Australia, and a nation that was often spoken of as an example of equality – with small differences in wealth within the society – suddenly became a nation of a few millionaires and the rest.

    Let us dream for a moment.

    If we could close the gap between salaries, between people earning millions and people under the poverty line; if we could close the shameful gap of imprisonment, deaths in custody and life expectancy between indigenous Australians and the rest; if we could reward good, clean, sustainable practices and punish polluting, dirty, unsustainable practices — wouldn’t it be a better Australia?

    The sustainability of our environment is also essential for people’s right to live with dignity, and I hope that the absurdities we face every day will begin to be questioned.

    Isn’t it absurd, for example, that Germany is the leading country in the use of solar energy in the world, when Australia has vast tracts of uninhabited land, where the sun shines brightly almost all the time?

    Isn’t it absurd to continue practices that create waste and pollution? Why not create packaging for products that is totally recyclable? This is not only possible, but in many cases significantly cheaper.

    Global Noise begins tomorrow, and the streets of cities across the world will be filled with citizens who share one thing in common — concern about the way the world is now and for the way it’s heading. I don’t claim to have all the answers. This is simply a collection of possible alternatives and reflections. I’m not even sure whether the ideas above are the solution, but I strongly believe that we must begin to have an organised dialogue about Real Democracy, Real Economy and the Right to Live with Dignity.

    Global Noise is an invitation to open the discussion, to reclaim the streets, to bang your pots and demand a change, because as the World Social Forum agreed and stated in its first meeting, “another world is possible”. Because as Eduardo Galeano says, we must walk towards the sun, towards the horizon, we may not reach it, but we will be on the path towards it.

    Let’s identify the key problems and address them democratically, with fresh ideas that put people before any monetary consideration.

    Global Noise events are happening in cities all across the world this Saturday October 13, including all Australian capital cities.

    For more information go to:, Real Democracy Australia activist Carl Scrase chatted to 'Anarchist World This Week' about #globalNOISE Melbourne, listen to the podcast by clicking here.

    * Note: a billion, here, is a million million.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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