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18 February 2008

Mandate schmandate - the ultimate hypocrisy

My letter today, to the Australian:

To the Editor of The Australian,


Ms Albrechtsen has spent an entire article arguing against the existence of "Mandate Theory". She makes a very convincing argument. I happen to completely agree with her. In her own words "Mandate theory? Bunkum." I don't support WorkChoices, by the way - but I don't believe the Labor party has the right to roll it back unless it can get its law changes through both houses of parliament in the prescribed manner.

Mandate theory is, indeed, the hypocritical rhetoric of both sides, used, whenever they are in power, to attempt to subvert the checks and balances we have built in to our democracy. Howard was wrong when he claimed the Senate was getting in his way. He was wrong to put forward changes that might have decreased the senate's power to stop laws - and the Labor party is wrong now, to claim they have a mandate over and above the senate's right to stop any law change they wish.

I agree with all of that.

Janet Albrechtsen then commits the ultimate hypocrisy by calling on mandate theory to defend the continuation of IR changes made before 2004. She writes "After all, voters approved those changes at the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections. Dare one remind Labor that the Coalition won four mandates for those changes?"

If every government had to maintain the laws of previous governents simply because they were once elected, and enacted them, then the Coalition should have been stopped from ever rolling back laws that Hawke and Keating implemented - after all, presumably they had a mandate to implement them when they were elected. By Albrechtsen's argument, no one should be allowed to change anything that could have ever claimed a "mandate" in the past.

She has gone from "no mandate theory", to the "hyper-mandate theory". Just think of the laws we would never be able to change.

Ms Albrechtsen spends much of her piece gathering evidence of the innate hypocrisy in most arguments that use mandate theory as their basis. Having spent so long making a reasonable argument against mandate theory, to call upon it to argue for anything at all is clearly the greatest hypocrisy of all.

Nicholas Gledhill.

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