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Western democracy is declining

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Scott Morrison’s actions are the standard for democracy in decline and it is time for Western governments to be held accountable for their hypocrisy, writes Sam Leckie.

THE 75 YEARS following the Second World War have been highlighted by three major international trends — Beatlemania, the internet, and Western governments chastising, intervening in and provoking left-leaning “dictatorship” governments.

In order to uphold freedom and democracy, the West has championed intervention in communist Vietnam and Korea, alienated the world’s leader, China, in manufacturing output and undermined Russia’s sovereignty and national security through eastward NATO expansion. These just scratch the surface of the bipartisan abyss between the Right and Left in international politics.

Australia may not be a cult of personality and our leaders may not build golden statues of themselves on a horse or slap self-portraits on walls overlooking a market square, but former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s actions are a huge step in that direction.

In my writing for Independent Australia, Morrison has been the gift that keeps on giving — but you never kick a gift horse in the mouth.

In the process of passing his fabled Religious Discrimination Bill, Morrison asserted that “A resilient democracy must embrace faith”. One can only assume that this includes the faith that our elected leaders will be transparent, honest and act in our best interests.

It was revealed this week that as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison awarded himself secret “emergency powers” over Treasury and Home Affairs, as well as the Health, Finance and Resources roles that were made public. With the approval of retired Governor-General David Hurley – who has stood firm on his actions which legal experts say were made to avoid a “constitutional crisis” – Morrison bypassed the treacherous seas of democracy in order to micromanage former Treasurer and Home Affairs Ministers Josh Frydenberg and Karen Andrews without accountability.

The explanation at last week's press conference was a typically deceitful melting pot of deflection and forgetfulness, including a heated exchange with Sky News reporter Andrew Clennell over the legal and moral grounds on which these appointments were made. The fact is Morrison undermined the sanctity of democracy and freedom that he seemingly loves so much.

In his book, The Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order, investment banking tycoon Ray Dalio identifies a historical Big Cycle through which states succeed and fail. Post-WW2, this new order began with strong leadership and culture in the West, particularly in the United Kingdom and United States. In the battle for influence of liberal and socialist economics, this strong culture was reflected on the world stage by the power of democracy.

As the rise to world power continues and the law of diminishing returns is activated, powerful states become less productive, lose competitiveness and the pressure of rising wealth gaps and internal conflicts reach a boiling point before the once great power is succeeded by another.

Dalio identifies this trend in all of history's great empires, particularly the British and Dutch, and the contemporary United States.

This new Morrison episode, the ability of the Australian Government to go to war without parliamentary deliberation, the overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States taking abortion rights from women and so many other incidents in the Western World tell a cautionary tale and begs the question — democracy and freedom for who?

Add to that the strategic alliance of economic and military superpowers – and the apparent bane of democracy’s flag in the West – China and Russia, and the ability of the West to continue operating the way we do is failing dramatically. The isolation of Moscow and Beijing, which has been accelerated by sanctions and condemnation of the Ukraine offensive, is an initiative fraught with danger.

The West is quick to criticise the actions of Eastern governments – often faster than they act on climate change – but there is great underlying hypocrisy. Western governments and media neglect to mention the Western involvement in conflicts and crises in places like Cambodia and the Middle East.

The “sphere of influence” over Latin America assured in the outdated Monroe Doctrine also seems to be exclusive to Western powers, with the capacity for Russia to exercise similar, sovereignty defending operations amid NATO intervention in the borderlands of Ukraine conveniently being forgotten about by Western governments.

Our way of life in the West is at a critical juncture and our governments need to adapt. It doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel, but the train is in motion and it is time for democracy and freedom to live up to the moniker.

Sam Leckie is a keen follower of sports, politics and economics. He is currently in his second year of an undergraduate degree in Journalism at the University of Queensland, majoring in Political Science and Peace and Conflict Studies.

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