Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Australian elections - democratic?

In Australia, we have preference voting. For the local member of the Lower House, it's quite straightforward - if your first preference doesn't win, the full value of your vote goes to your second preference.  If that one doesn't win, it goes to the next.  And so on.   I tend to feel that it would be better if votes passed on had a lesser value than first preference, and it would be definitely far better if voters would only think for themselves instead of slavishly following the 'how to vote' papers issued by each candidate as you head towards the voting booths.

In the Upper House, The Senate, the same principle applies, except that some time ago, there was a change.  Instead of voting for the candidates you wanted, usually up to around 20, (by imperfect memory,)  now you have a choice.  You can vote 'above the line',  which means just putting a '1' above the party of your choice, and nothing else. Then, when counted, the preferences are allocated as the party dictates. 

Or you can vote 'below the line.' If you vote below the line, you have to fill in every single number - 83 in the election just gone. The voting paper was over a metre long.  If you make a mistake, your vote is invalid.  Not surprisingly, nearly everyone votes above the line - 97% in this election. And very likely, quite a few of the remaining 3%  will be invalid, as numbering 1 to 83, while neither duplicating nor missing a number, takes some concentration.

My supposition is that this system is designed by the two major parties in order to discourage people from exercising their democratic right to vote for just exactly who they want.  I think it came in around the time of a new party that was enjoying a real groundswell of support - One Nation. It also makes voting for independent candidates difficult.

If this was what the major parties wanted, then the results of this Senate Election will make them think again. All sorts of oddball 'Parties'  sprang up, did preference deals with each other as well as the major parties, with the result that the new government will have to deal with a Senate that includes some who are totally unsuited for power.  One of our new Senators is likely to be a fun-loving chap who thinks it is funny to throw kangaroo dung and to pull down his mate's pants.  (If you're thinking of going into politics, do not share your juvenile behaviour on You Tube.) 

So what do we do to prevent oddities with hardly any first-preference votes coming into power?  It is simple.  Ban every candidate or party from issuing 'how-to-vote'  instructions, and drop this nonsense of  'above the line' or  'below the line' voting.  Simply number 1 - 20,  not every single candidate of a metre-long paper.

I would also like to see votes lose value as they are passed along from unsuccessful candidates.

And meantime, I hope the new government has fun dealing with their new Senators and the new 'Micro-Parties.' 

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