Democracy is a form of government wherein the regime that would be formed or was formed in a certain nation is based on vox populi (“voice of the people”) and or the rule of the majority. Furthermore, in this type of government, the consent of the governed is still based on the majority with an assumption of a free and fair election conducted, on the goal or objective of protecting for the political minorities, fair and just treatment or execution of the law and basic human rights, and political pluralism (Camp, 1841).
We can say that the people or individuals electing the government and its government officials, has the power to alter, accept or reject some decisions made by the elected rulers. In the modern-day world of political views, beliefs and principles, the definition of democracy seems vague and for others, it is ambiguous having different meanings depending on the nation having this type of government (Dunn, 2005).
The article published Last February 1, 2007 in the editorial section of The New Zealand Herald, which was entitled “Sometimes, democracy can stink,” talks about Queensland regarding public consultations, government rule and in general, democracy. It was said that Queensland is under a critical situation of having the worst condition when it comes to water shortage during the summer. So the government of Queensland asked the opinion of the majority about a proposed use of recycled water.
Since Queensland is a nation under a democratic government, as much we could say that Australians (in Queensland) live in democracy, having a political system wherein they have the power to vote for or choose through their ballots their government and government representatives, therefore, it was a proper action for them to consult the majority first. The problem was that the state premiere announced the cancellation of the said referendum.
The people of Queensland or the majority would have to drink or use the recycled water whether they like it or not. Democracy in this aspect was bypassed, but if you would look at the problem or the crisis which Queensland would have to suffer in the future, the decision of the state was just and necessary. The author of the article carefully looks at some instances wherein democracy in a nation sometimes becomes a problem.
The author may not be a government official, but it seems that he or she has good political and social background and knowledge. He or she is able to show that with or without democracy, the people of Queensland and its government officials would have to do their own parts and that they have the responsibility in taking steps for the development or progress of their nation. The author sees the action taken by the state or the government officials regarding the issue was just and shows that the ruling class has the capacity for good governance.
The action which they took might not have been a democratic one, but it was a lesson regarding a good government. Democracy, lying on the principles such as the sovereignty of the people, government based upon consent of the governed, majority rule, minority rights, guarantee of basic human rights, and the others, lies on a divine fact that within its hearts, is freedom (Thayer, 1919). This freedom is possessed by the individuals, either the rulers or the individuals ruled.
This freedom, that they posses should be enough to create ways or implementations that would benefit the majority. I think that democracy is not truly bypassed even without the consent of the majority as long as the rule or law implemented benefits the majority most, and does not cause harm of any form or in any way. In the case of the implementation of the use of recycled water in Queensland, it was a right decision, and that it does not harm the majority but rather help them survive longer.
Individuals who are very attached to the “definition” of democracy or those who are lovers of democracy would see this act of the state of Queensland as preposterous. They would argue that the majority was neglected and that due process was not done. But this is not the case. The government and the government officials of Queensland’s decided or implemented the use of recycled water because they considered and thought of the majority and it was just a fair decision. It does not matter whether the referendum results was a “yes” or a “no” from the majority.
Through public consultations or the referendum, the government could receive a majority of “no” or a majority disagreeing with the use of recycled water, but later on as the water crisis worsens, the state would implement it, thus, leading to an inconsistency in the government, decreasing the hope or trust given to the state by its people. Thus, the cancellation of the referendum was justified. If the government of Queensland did not implement the use of recycled water, then Queensland would be approaching its end.
It is a situation wherein the people of Queensland do not have a choice. They have the option of drinking or not drinking the recycled water because of certain reasons such as unpalatability, but ultimately, they have to or else, they would die of thirst. The problem was addressed by the government as to ensure the needs and the safety of the majority living in Queensland. The referendum, through the questionnaires, public polls, public interviews and other statistical measures may not be enough to ensure a firm or the best decision that has the most benefit.
The government of Queensland, more specifically its officials, had taken great depth in studying the best solution to address both the problems being undertaken and the inhabitants of Queensland. Furthermore, in their government website, the recycled water which was to be given to the majority is wastewater which highly purified and treated to an extent that it reaches the highest quality or standard. They even promote safe, environmentally sustainable, cheap source and enough water supplies through purified recycled water.
The recycled water also passes a strict series of processing and guidelines to ensure the safety of the majority and for the progress of the society. The article regarding the democracy in Queensland, ethically shows that sometimes, democracy may not be fulfilled or followed strictly or thoroughly. Socially speaking, the government of Queensland performs its duties under due process for the protection of the political minorities and for the benefit or sake of the majority.
A good government has a central role of performing plays or actions that would ensure a progress or development of the country or nation, economically or socially (Slinn, 2004). Furthermore, the referendum might have been cancelled or what the majority has to say might not have been legally considered in the actions that the state has taken, but it does not mean that democracy in Queensland is dead and the majority no longer has the power.
It only means that the actions taken shows that the majority was in power and that the action taken was for their benefit, and not for the benefit of the ruling body. In addition to this, the government or the state was also at risk regarding the cancellation of the referendum, because they could be perceived to violate the democracy in Queensland, when in fact, they do not. The democratic law of giving benefit to the majority is the sovereign entity in this issue (Oswald, 1986).
The author does not mislead people in stating that democracy sometimes stink. He or she does not generalize democracy to be a burden and he or she does not imply that democracy is a weak type of government. From the title of the article, he or she initially states “sometimes”, implying that it democracy is not always that bad, but in this case regarding the crisis in Queensland, it was.