July 28, 2004 | Graham

National characteristics trump technology and truth.

Well, as far as I know, if you live in Australia you probably read about it first here on this blog. It took next off the block, the AFR, another 4 days to report it here. I’ve yet to see any other Australian news media cover it at all, but I don’t spend all my time reading, so I could have missed something. I’m talking about the move of Skype into landline telephony.
When the Fin did cover it the major financial context was missing – no mention of its potential effect on Telstra – and it was syndicated from the Wall Street Journal – hardly original content.
Which made me wonder just how much of an effect the Internet really is having in, and on, Australia. The ’net potentially empowers we Antipodeans by putting us as close to the centre of the world, wherever that is located, as just about anyone else. Isolation and isolationism have long been defining national characteristics, and the ’net should sweep both away. So far, it hasn’t, suggesting that national characteristics trump technology everytime.
It also opens up a new digitally enabled divide. When I speak to a particular stockbroker friend who has lived or worked overseas, he is as likely as not to direct me to an overseas news source for investment information, because the domestic sources just don’t cut it. There are those of us who read hardcopy, and then there are those of us who read on the ‘net. The first group are lagging behind.
It’s not just investment news where domestic media no longer cut it. Overseas news is another area. Frustration with the “bombs and coffins” local coverage of Iraq events led On Line Opinion to seek out real Iraqis living through the current transition to provide coverage.
Yet overseas news sources are full of nuanced, in-depth coverage of the real situation. I’m claiming another first for this site, even if it is sort of “syndicated”.
Take this linkfrom the New York Times. Where has the Australian press carried anything about the grass roots caucuses in Iraq to elect 1,000 or so delegates who will attend a national conference in Baghdad next week to elect a 100-seat transnational council? According to the Times this council will have the power to “veto government decisions, approve the 2005 budget and question Dr. Allawi.”
On Line Opinion carried a piece by Colin Ruben, republished from the Fin, which looked at the problems likely to be caused by the US imposed system of proportional representation. But where are the articles examining this part of the electoral process? While the legitimacy of the transitional Government is obviously limited because it was appointed with heavy US influence, the transnational council is an exercise in democratic decision making.
Constitutionally it is a model similar to the monarchical precursor to full parliamentary democracy where the parliament had an advisory more than legislative role. The US system retains some of these features with the administration separate from the legislature.
The description of the system for election of delegates is also very similar to what actually occurs in Australian pre-selections held by the major political parties. Small groups meet, the prospective candidates glad-hand around the room, make presentations and take questions. Ballots are filled out on paper and counted openly. I can empathise with Dr Abu-Raghif, one of the candidates for election in Baghdad. Three times I have been through a very similar process to become a preselected Liberal Party candidate.
The conference will be held this Saturday, according to Reuters. Who will cover it here and how timely will they be? Or is it just too far away? We’ll try to keep you up to date.

Posted by Graham at 10:35 am | Comments Off on National characteristics trump technology and truth. |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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