When we launched New Matilda on August 25 this year, we described the reasons for our launch and we asked for your support. Last Saturday’s election result makes the need for New Matilda even more essential, we believe.
The first reason we gave for the launch of New Matilda was the need for truth in public life. The events leading up to the election on October 9 confirm our concern about the corruption of public debate, the spin and the untruthfulness. Parochialism and fear have been promoted. Prejudice has been encouraged. From Tampa to Children Overboard and to Iraq, the pattern is the same “ a lack of frankness.
The government facilitated a debt binge and then posed as the protector of lower interest rates, despite all the professional advice to the contrary. To rebut the charge of lack of truthfulness, the government turned the argument on its head by posing as the ones who could be trusted. Is there no limit to the corruption of language and meaning in public discourse?
The second reason for the launch of New Matilda was the need for independent political commentary, particularly in those parts of Australia that are afflicted by the Murdoch monopoly. The existing media is tightly controlled and predictable. With a Senate majority, the government is likely to amend the cross-media ownership laws that will facilitate the existing media monopolists. Alternative media will be more important than ever before. The internet provides new opportunities to provide new voices. In this environment New Matilda will be even more important.
The third reason for promoting New Matilda was the need for ‘policy based on public good’. For years there has been a dearth of good policy development and public discussion. What policy innovation there has been has not been sufficiently timely to involve the community in sensible discussion. As a result clear policy differences between the parties have not been established. In the election, we saw an avalanche of programs and spending. There was little chance to absorb and understand what was being proposed. Many just turned off.
The projection of programs and bribes designed to appeal to our selfishness was particularly objectionable. We all have a selfish side, but we need leaders who tap what is most generous within us “ concern for the public interest and the public good. Public life must be based on enduring values “ truth and openness, respect for all, justice, fairness and human flourishing. These values are more important than a few extra dollars.
Finally, New Matilda was launched because we wanted to involve ‘citizens in decision making’. Insiders within the political parties control the organisations for their benefit. They attempt to manipulate our consent through advertising rather than winning our approval through debate. Our alienation from institutions is widespread, not just political parties but corporations and the health and education systems. Mark Latham proposed important reforms of the national parliament, but they were lost in the avalanche of dollars and trivialised by the media.
We believe that New Matilda is more necessary than ever. But New Matilda will not succeed if we only have passive readers. We seek to support and energise a movement of reform that activates and involves civil society. We will critique the problem of disengagement and alienation from unrepresentative institutions, but also develop and promote solutions. As the election showed, to make a change, participation must involve more than voting every few years.
Our activities will be directed to an intergenerational audience, linking an older generation of activists with young activists and new voices. We aim to attract people who share our values, ideas and importantly, want to be included in the process of policy and decision-making.
We have an ambitious agenda and we won’t always get it right. Our resources are limited so we must focus on the essentials and walk before we run. The response to New Matilda has been positive and heartening. We’ve had much constructive feedback and we welcome more.
We need your support. Please consider joining us and encouraging your friends to do the same.
We must not give way to pessimism and despondency.
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