Trying to clean up some of the bloat on this WordPress, I decided to publish this–I probably chose not to post at the time of writing, for various reasons, but none I can remember, so here, have an out-of-date rant:
The 2010 Commonwealth election had a number of interesting outcomes–a hung parliament being the most obvious, but after the 2013 result I think it’s imperative to look at our system and how we can improve it for the future of all Australians. As many of you would be aware there has been much discontent on both sides of the political spectrum on the current state of Australian politics, and for us all to have a better say I have come up with four areas we should address.
Education of The Preferential Voting System
Most Australians have a very abstract knowledge of our political system, and one of those areas that seems ambiguous to many voters is the preferential voting system. If you ask the average voter who they voted for the response would more likely be the head of the respective party, that the party which the candidate they voted for belongs to. This misnomer is what keeps local issues from the Commonwealth agenda, as they won’t engage in dialogue with a candidate that is invisible to them.
This education of Preferential voting does not necessarily have to be part of a school curriculum, it can occur from the candidates themselves; By getting out into the community and engaging with their constituents. But for this to be truly effective, addressing politics and the Australian political system in a curriculum aimed at school aged children will be a benefit for our future democracy.
Education on Bicameral representation
As with the above this can be achieved with community engagement. Most people would have a hard time naming more than one senator from their State, and usually its one who has had some media exposure (for better or worse, most often the latter). If Senators became more media visible, and put themselves amongst the community then the Upper House would be more effectively representational.
Additionally, tho not directly related to Commonwealth democracy: Queensland must at some point in the near future install an Upper House as its mono-cameral system has lead to a number of fringe parties entering the political arena without any political background.
Incentives to enrol and muster
There are nations that disenfranchise, or impose penalties on voters if they do not participate in the electoral process if required:
Belgian voters who repeatedly fail to vote in elections may be subject to disenfranchisement. Singapore voters who fail to vote in an general election or presidential election will be subjected to disenfranchisement until a valid reason is given or a fine is paid. Goods and services provided by public offices may be denied to those failing to vote in Peru and Greece. In Brazil, people who fail to vote in an election are barred from obtaining a passport and subject to other restrictions until settling their situation before an electoral court or after they have voted in the two most recent elections. If a Bolivian voter fails to participate in an election, the person may be denied withdrawal of the salary from the bank for three months.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_voting
Personally, I don’t think these measure would be effective on the average Australian non-voter; The carrot, not the stick is the best approach. My immediate suggestion is a voting rebate, where after voting you are given a receipt which will allow you to be re-enumerated for the time taken out of your day to muster. (A possible side effect: By allowing rural voters larger re-enumeration due to distance travelled, it might soften the blow of adjusting rural malapportionment?)
This is an important factor; In the 2010 election there was 14,086,869 enrolled voters and only 13,131,667 (93%) showed up to muster; Of them 729,304 voted informally (5.55%). In 2010 more people voted informally that voted for the National Party, nearly twice as many. And when our seats are decided by just a couple of thousand votes, it painful to see that the result could have been different if they actually made their vote count1.
This is the big one. The media have taken issues away from politics and replaced them with the talking head. Today’s politicians are praised more for their media-savvy of being able to dodge unsolicited questions, rather than for their ability to address them with intelligence and substance.
There is no magic bullet solution to the media, regulations become ineffective once a new technology penetrates the main stream. The internet for example is exempt from a media black-out prior to polling, in an age where more and more people are relying on new media for their information is this short-sighted?; I think so.
I don’t know; Just some thoughts about today’s… what my cousin called “democracide”