History of democracy of Britannic
Historical background of democracy. The history of parliament. Years of dawn of Britannic democracy. Britannic democracy and Wales democracy. The political representation of Wales before the coming of Reform. The Early Governors of New South Wales.
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2.1.3 Postwar New South Wales
The postwar years, however, saw renewed industrial conflict, culminating in the 1949 coal strike, largely fomented by the Communist Party, which crippled the state's industry. This contributed to the defeat of Chifley's government at the 1949 elections and the beginning of the long rule of Robert Menzies, a Victorian Liberal. The postwar years also saw massive immigration to Australia, begun by Chifley's Immigration Minister, Arthur Calwell, and continued under the Liberals. Sydney, hitherto an almost entirely British and Irish city by origin (apart from a small Chinese community), became increasingly multi-cultural, with many immigrants from Italy, Greece, Malta and eastern Europe (including many Jews), and later from Lebanon and Vietnam, permanently changing its character.
Labor stayed in power until 1965, growing increasingly conservative and (according to its critics) lazy and even corrupt in office. In 1965 a vigorous Liberal leader, Robert Askin, finally broke Labor's long grip on power, and stayed in office for ten years. During these years Sydney began its transformation into a world city and a centre of the arts, with the building of the Sydney Opera House as the great symbol of the period. The rest of the state, however, began a gradual decline, demographically and economically, as Australia lost some of its traditional export markets for primary products in Britain and as New South Wales' iron, steel and shipbuilding industries became increasingly uncompetitive in the face of competition from Japan and other new entrants. Sydney's share of the state's population and wealth grew steadily. One consequence of this was a strong secessionist movement in the New England region of northern New South Wales, which for a time looked as though it might succeed in forming a new state, but which faded away in the late 1960s.
Since the 1970s New South Wales has undergone an increasingly rapid economic and social transformation. Old industries such as steel and shipbuilding have largely disappeared, and although agriculture remains important its share of the state's income is smaller than ever before. New industries such as information technology, education, financial services and the arts, largely centred in Sydney, have risen to take their place. Coal exports to China are increasingly important to the state's economy. Tourism has also become hugely important, with Sydney as its centre but also stimulating growth on the North Coast, around Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. As aviation has replaced shipping, most new migrants to Australia have arrived in Sydney by air rather than in Melbourne by ship, and Sydney now gets the lion's share of new arrivals, mostly from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
In recent years Sydney has also undergone a major social liberalization, with huge entertainment and gambling industries. There has been a sharp decline in religious practice, despite the best efforts of Sydney's two outspoken Archbishops, George Pell (Catholic) and Peter Jensen (Anglican), although an evangelical Christian "bible belt" has developed in the north-western suburbs. Another contrary trend has been the emergence of a large Muslim community. Sydney has gained a reputation for secularism and hedonism, with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras becoming a world-famous event.
Sydney's increasing dominance of Australian life has been marked by the fact that for 15 years it has provided Australia's Prime Minister (first Paul Keating and since 1996 John Howard), and by its hosting of the 2000 Olympic Games. Despite Howard's domination of Australian politics, Labor has retained its grip on New South Wales, holding power under Neville Wran and Barrie Unsworth from 1976 to 1988 and again under Bob Carr and Morris Iemma since 1995. Two recent Premiers have been of non-British background: Nick Greiner (Liberal 1988-92), who is of Hungarian descent, and Iemma, the current Premier, whose parents are Italian. The current Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, is of Lebanese origin.
Most commentators predict that Sydney and the coast areas of northern New South Wales will continue to grow in the coming decades, although Bob Carr and others have argued that Sydney (which by 2006 had over 4 million people) cannot grow any bigger without putting intolerable strain on its environment and infrastructure. The southern coastal areas around Canberra are also expected to grow, although less rapidly. The rest of the state, however, is expected to continue to decline, as traditional industries disappear. Already many small towns in western New South Wales have lost so many services and businesses that they are no longer viable, causing population to consolidate in regional centres like Dubbo and Wagga Wagga. This trend will become even more pronounced if global warming makes the inland areas more arid than they already are.
Britain is an aristocracy and monarchy. Britain is a parliamentary democracy. Both of the latter statements, although paradoxical, are true. Given the nature of these prevailing systems it would seem that there could be little if any place for direct democracy. There is evidence that a great number of British citizens would like to have more say in public affairs. We cannot fully review that evidence here but will describe some recent developments and events which taken together indicate, we argue, that reform, even revival of democracy in Britain is possible.
The history of procedural direct democracy (e.g. referendums) in Britain is according to most experts very short. The first countrywide referendum in Britain was held in 1975.
All countrywide and large regional referendums have been imposed by government - indeed whether or not these plebiscites may be classified as direct democracy is debatable. The citizen-initiated referendum, with which the people can direct or over-rule their elected government, has almost certainly never existed. In recent years there have been hints of improvement starting "above", among academics close to ruling politicians and in local and central government. And "below" there have been signs that "ordinary" people are increasingly beginning to take public matters into their own hands, more often to take political action, some of which has the form of direct democracy. Firstly these latter developments "from below" will be illustrated by some examples.
Until 1824, the military governors of New South Wales were absolute rulers, the only power superior to them being the British Parliament at Westminster in England, nearly 20,000 kilometres and 8 months away by sea. The governors' rights were granted to them under an Act of the British Parliament of 1787, which gave them their commissions and instructions, but the distance and the infrequency of communication with the rest of the world meant that governors often exercised far wider powers than they had been given. While governors retained virtually absolute authority, a great deal of effective power in the colony lay with themilitary, in particular the officers of the New South Wales Corps raised especially for duty in the colony from 1790 on. The officers quickly gained significant land holdings and monopoly control over trade, especially of rum and alcohol imports.
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