Establishment wants electoral reform – to make our system LESS democratic

It may have escaped your notice, but News Ltd and their representatives in parliament, the Liberal/National Coalition, are not big fans of the “hung parliament”. Voters choosing other than the establishment parties? What about “stability”! What about the devastating ongoing imaginary consequences of those seventeen days when no-one could pass legislation except on an emergency basis if there’d been one?

It shouldn’t be allowed! The system’s come up with the wrong result – let’s change the system!

So we suddenly have pieces attacking compulsory voting (“coercion” is undemocratic, except for, say, taxes to fund roads, the military etc) and whinging about preference voting (it doesn’t completely ensure the big parties’ control!)

Basically, the powers-that-be have seen the rise of greater representative democracy in these results – more views represented in parliament than just two huge catch-all clumps – and are crying out NO MORE! Whatever lets voters be represented by other than the duopoly must be prevented! Whatever locks us in for all time must be preserved, or restored!

The sad thing is that all their noise is drowning out the call for actual necessary reform – reform not about the voters being wrong, but about results that don’t match how we actually voted.

The contrast between the members of parliament who won in August and the number of votes they actually received, certainly indicates that the system needs reform – to make it more democratic, not less. The biggest travesty of the last election was not that the Liberals didn’t win government (they may have got more votes together with the Nationals than the Greens and Labor did separately, but it’s also clear on the vote that many many more Australians preferred the progressive parties to the conservatives) but that the Greens, with 13% of the vote, received 0.75% of the seats in the House of Representatives. If their support for the community was represented in parliament, they’d have 17 seats. And why don’t they? Because single-member electorates split minor party votes and feed them back to the big parties.

That is undemocratic. (When conservatives whinge about the Greens having influence in this parliament, you’ll note that every time they disingenuously attack the unrepresentatively small number of lower house seats, instead of the actual number of votes the Greens received.) We could tackle that problem with multi-member electorates rather easily – fifteen ten-member electorates, ten fifteen-member electorates, thirty five-member electorates. The bigger the electorates, the more representative, although I think you’d want to try to pick a combination that means you don’t have them crossing state borders.

But that’s not the kind of reform the establishment wants. It’s expressly opposite the kind of reform they want. They don’t want reform to make parliament more answerable to voters: they want reform to make it much harder for voters to meaningfully change the people in parliament. Reform that in practice disenfranchises the already marginalised (non-compulsory voting), and reform that even more firmly locks in the existing big parties (first past the post).

It’s rather shameless – and insulting, that they think they can bully us into accepting something so clearly against our interests. They’re lucky that this whole issue is a bit too esoteric and confusing for most Australians so that many don’t realise in just how much contempt our daring to have different views is held by our lords and masters.

Imagine the outrage if more people cottoned onto just what this mob is trying to sell us.

16 responses to “Establishment wants electoral reform – to make our system LESS democratic

  1. You can’t exactly compare Peter Brent to David Flint.

    Those of us who oppose forcing people to vote don’t appreciate being compared to reactionaries trying to abolish preferential voting.

  2. Who’s forcing people to vote? They’re being forced to attend a polling place and have their name marked off.

  3. Apart from that being completely besides the point, it’s not true. People are legally required to vote. Justifying it by saying people only have to turn up to a booth is a cop-out. Why don’t you try actually arguing for your case?

    Anyway, my point is that it’s offensive to try and tie in the voluntary voting case, that has been advocated by people from all over the spectrum, and in this case by a non-partisan person like Peter Brent, to the shamelessly partisan stuff coming from Flint.

  4. I think I can return civility and good humour to this debate by clarifying that I don’t think you’re anything like David Flint, Ben.

  5. My point isn’t about me. It’s about Peter Brent. Read his blog, he’s not a Liberal mouthpiece. I think you should be more careful when accusing people of partisan media conspiracies.

  6. I don’t think he’s a Liberal mouthpiece. I think there’s a reason the Oz is suddenly publishing all this stuff.

  7. I understand why ‘liberal mouthpieces’ don’t like compulsory voting but I really don’t understand why any other sensible person, be it from conservative or progressive mindsets, would favour a voluntary ballot. The only reason (or meaningless statement posing as reason) I have heard is the rather vague notion that somehow it is an imposition on personal liberty (to be forced to exercise your personal choice in defence of the the people who might uphold your liberties?).
    Even the article you linked to, Jeremy, had far more to say about why automatic enrolment is a good thing and why compulsory voting exists than why it maybe should not.
    If there is a good argument against it I would be curious to hear it.

  8. Wisdom Like Silence

    I am dead set against the idea of compulsory voting. If someone wants to say bugger off to the whole system, then good on them. It’s a disgusting and vile concept.

    Thank god we only have compulsory attendence. People are legally required to have their name marked off the enrolement list, after that they couldn’t tell who actually voted and who didn’t. People who recently did pre-polling would know that probably better than anyone.
    Because if they legally required you to vote, they would have to know which one is who’s.
    Which is illegal.

    Maybe people could have an opt in opt out system. If you dont want to vote, then you also dont have to pay taxes. Which would also mean you couldnt; buy food, clothes, petrol, use roads, drink water, turn on electricity, send your kids to school, get sick, use the phone for an ambulance, go to hospital, work for a living, or die, own a house or any property, own a car, have children, rent, get the dole, or public housing, call 000, drink your cares away or smoke, and most importantly, complain about how the country is run.

  9. But realistically that’s unworkable – you can’t have citizens who are simply ineligible for help if they go to the hospital, for example.

  10. Non-compulsory voting is one of the reasons why the US political system is so messed up (non-preferential voting being the other). Because it leads to active vote-suppression efforts by the major parties (particularly conservatives) to disenfranchise minorities.

    “You look foreign to me – prove that you are really a citizen with the 20 kinds of ID you don’t have on your person”. “You’ve moved house in the last 30 days and forgot to update your details? Sorry, can’t vote, even in your original district”. “You were once convicted of a minor traffic offence? Sorry – criminals cannot vote”. More voting booths in well-to-do white districts, less in minority areas, leading to long lines and people giving up before getting to vote. And so on.

    If non-compulsory voting was introduced in Austalia, how long until NewsLtd started running editorials about asylum seekers trying to vote, creating distrust in the community and suppressing the votes of migrants? About 20 milliseconds.

  11. Wisdom Like Silence

    20 miliseconds? I’d be surprised if they didn’t have pre-written ones.

    Jeremy, that’s my point.

  12. baldrickjones

    Can I just ask exactly how first past the post and voluntary voting is such a bad thing for democracy? After all – they who get the most votes win the seat and no one is compelled to act against their will if they choose not to vote! Choice – it’s a terrible thing isn’t it?

  13. Voluntary voting involves the disenfranchisent of the marginalized. First past the post disenfranchises the broad majority and prevents the rise of alternatives in the marketplace of ideas.

  14. baldrickjones

    “Voluntary voting involves the disenfranchisent of the marginalized. ”

    How? Everyone can still vote if they want to. Great sounding motherhood statement though. All that’s being offered up is the choice to have to conduct an activity or not. If people wish to not exercise this right of theirs, I don’t see why the state should punish them. And I include the notion of having to turn up somewhere just to get your name ticked off.

    “First past the post disenfranchises the broad majority and prevents the rise of alternatives in the marketplace of ideas.”

    How is the broad majority (I assume this doesn’t include the marginalized?) disenfranchised? How do people feel about the candidate in their electorate who got the most primary votes (ie presumably the person the majority of the voters in that electorate wanted to be their member) not winning because of preference deals? Why is it fair that the person who got the most votes does not get elected? That seems decidedly unfair to me – and we see deals between parties to pass your preferences around. Nobody is preventing anything – whoever gets the most votes should win, be they Green, Labor, Liberal or whoever. Perhaps those alternative ideas aren’t supported by the majority, and until they are the candidate espousing them shouldn’t get elected if they don’t get the majority of the votes.

  15. Can I just ask exactly how first past the post … is such a bad thing for democracy? After all – they who get the most votes win the seat … Choice – it’s a terrible thing isn’t it?

    First past the post is not democratic. A candidate can win without a majority of votes. Indeed, they might even not be close to a majority.

  16. How do people feel about the candidate in their electorate who got the most primary votes (ie presumably the person the majority of the voters in that electorate wanted to be their member) not winning because of preference deals?

    If the majority of people wanted that person to be their member then a majority would vote for that person through preferencing them higher. A person who gets 40% of the primary vote with two other candidates roughly on 30% got the most votes but not a majority. If that 40% candidate doesn’t get enough preferences because he/she is disliked by 60% of the electorate then he/she is not wanted as the member. Your presumption is flawed.

    Preference deals only work if people follow how to vote cards. If you look at the last federal election results you will see on the two-party votes how people preference and that they do not uniformly follow what their party recommends.

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