Allan Takes Aim Blog

ACT Opinions

Posted on: 4 November 2012


K&S the ACT’s new political department store managers

Well, we now know who will manage the ACT’s political department store (better known as the ACT Legislative Assembly for the next four years. Katy Gallagher MLA, leader of the parliamentary Labor Party will continue as Chief Minister after a valiant attempt by Zed Seselja MLA, leader of the ACT’s parliamentary Liberal Party to remove her at the last election.

For some people that Katy Gallagher has again become Chief Minister with the support of Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, the only non Labor or Liberal Party MLA in the new Assembly, has stretched their notion of democracy to the limit.

Their reasoning is not difficult to understand when leaders in virtually every other democracy are people who secured the support of the majority of voters whether a majority of one or thousands. That the Liberals had forty or so votes more than Labor suggests that the intentions of a majority of voters were not heeded.

Separate to that, many others are of the opinion the Greens obtained their vote by false pretences because they did not say in their policy platform that they would allow an MLA to become a Minister in a Labor or Liberal led Assembly and had they known, they would have voted differently.

However, that does not mean they would have voted Labor or Liberal: that’s too big an an assumption to make and also too big an assumption to suggest that parties auch as, for example, the Australian Motorist Party would have benefitted. But what it does suggest is that the ACT’s election process is flawed. The fact that so many other countries use a variation of the ACT system (or should that be the other way about) might say something about the current instability in the world.

But we don’t need to go as far as looking at other countries. No two electoral systems in Australia are the same. And I doubt if they will ever become the same in my lifetime. Even the shibboleth of one vote one value is questionable. If a voter moves from the ACT to NSW between elections, until such time as an election is called in NSW the mover’s vote has no electoral value.

And another thing, that parties are given funding on the basis of achieving a certain percentage of the vote at the previous election seems to me to be a less than democratic process as it prevents voters of modest means from being candidates. Indeed unless an independent candidate is wealthy enough to afford the cost associated with running an election campaign, it seems likely that only the views of big parties will ever be expressed in any parliament. Even taking a generous view of them and their constant boasting of how democratic they are, their internal voting practices leave much to be desired.

All of this, in turn, suggests it’s about time Australia’s electoral systems in general were looked at as well as the systems employed by political parties and their affiliates so that they can put their own houses in order. This is not to suggest parliamentarians do not feel that democracy is the best system of governance but it does suggest that no one system of democracy is better than another and perhaps as a matter of urgency, the various electoral systems used in Australia are subjected to a close examination; that a uniform electoral process is followed; and that funding arrangements that better represent democracy are put in place.

With respect to the latter suggestion, the overall effect of this could mean that candidates of quality and with ideas who have been barred from contesting elections because of finance, might be encouraged to stand. If this happened the effect would be the creation of a democracy that all Australians could support. And wouldn’t that be a change!?

Another effect might be that candidates who seem afflicted by the ‘firstitis’ syndrome that becomes noticeable at election times when they say one of their policies would be the first such policy in Australia, will disappear and be replaced candiates afflicted with truth and honesty.

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