Guest Post: Driftforge – A proposal for Senate reform

In the wake of the recent federal election, and the follow up by-election in Western Australia, the need for reform to the Australian Senate is widely recognised — specifically to the voting process, but also the structure of the senate itself.  However prior to getting into the specifics of those reforms, it is imperative that the purpose and contribution of the Senate is considered.

The Senate is widely called the house of review.  This is quite aimless in and of itself; for review to have value, it must take place on a known and desired basis.  The basis on which this takes place, in practice, is completely determined by the differences between the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is more correct to say that a well structured  Senate functions to limit the worst excesses of democracy through the protection of the abiding principles of governance from the follies of the day.

Only in to the extent that it differs from the House of Representatives, does the Senate provide value.

The corollary to this of course is that the Senate demonstrates its value when it modifies or rejects legislation put forward by the House of Representatives.  For this restraint to be considered worthwhile in the long run, the value of those changes must be greater than the frustration they cause.  They must be clearly in accordance with the fulfilment of the principles of difference that exist between the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Furthermore, the basic principle of the lower house must be known and fulfilled by that house.

The House of Representatives serves to completely fulfil the concept of ‘one person subject to taxation, one vote’.

Once this is understood, it becomes clear that this principle is near irrelevant to the Upper House.  Thus it is not a valid complaint, in respect of the Senate, to point out that Tasmania far fewer people than New South Wales, but the same number of Senators.  On the other hand, it is quite valid to point out and redress mal-apportionment on the basis of population in the Lower House. The Senate does not need to address that principle, except where not doing so reduces its capacity to protect the principles it exists to express.

So what principles does the Senate encapsulate; what additional principles should it capture? 

Currently the Australian Senate maintains differences of greater and lesser effect based upon length of term, proportional representation, and geographic distribution.  The principles behind these differences may be summarised:

Federal Law should not change on the whim of the day but with slow deliberation in concert with change in societal values, giving due consideration to what has held true in the past.

Federal Law should be reviewed in the presence of representatives of different schools of thought present in reasonable proportion throughout the states.

Federal Parliament should not easily dictate to a state standards that are not in keeping with its regional mores simply because more other, more populated states have different mores.

I would also submit the following for consideration, that is not captured at all in the current system:

The expenditure of Federal Parliament should be subject to review and approval by representatives of those whose primary income is not provided by the government.

Each of these issues is more or less perfectly (in most cases, less) captured in the current system. If we hold that these principles should be maintained, then every effort should be made to see that they are well captured, and not devolved in practice by the perditious political machinations of representative democracy. In detail:

The longer term nature of Senate seats, both in the term of office and the increased likelihood of seat retention works well in capturing the principle outlined above. The only change I suggest in terms of timing is that Senate elections take place on a rolling basis — one state every six months, rather than the three year half cycle we currently have. 

Quite clearly, proportional representation has become unwieldy due to the group voting ticket abomination.  The simplest method of resolving this is to adopt a proven proportional system, such as the Hare-Clarke system we have in Tasmania.  Adopted as is, with a minimum voting depth of 10 and a maximum of 5 candidates per party, the proliferation of micro parties that is occurring solely to take advantage of the current process would be addressed at the source. Furthermore, technological solutions to increase the timeliness of the result can be adopted.  The use of scanning pens in the voting booths that store each individual vote while retaining the existing full paper trail would dramatically reduce the time required for a count, while retaining the same degree of security, privacy, and the same process as currently in use.  A process refined over the course of 100 years is not lightly to be discarded, despite recent hiccups.

The resolution of the issue of geographic distribution was discussed in the comments of my previous post on the Tasmanian situation.  The result of that discussion was a proposal to excise each of the state capitals and their conurbations from the original states, reducing the number of Senators for each state to 8 (leading to a total of 100 senators once the territories are included). The lower house would increase to a scale (200 seats) that allowed an even distribution of electors there, resolving the issues of the over representation of Tasmania in the House of Representatives.  

Finally, it must be noted that the Upper House does not in any means capture the principle behind the original Upper House, the House of Lords.  That is, that those who fund government must have the capacity to limit the expenditure of government —he who pays the piper calls the tune.  This principle requires at the very least that suffrage for the Upper House is limited to those who do not depend upon the state for their primary source of income.  This constraint is deeply divisive but necessary.  It provides a driver for integrity and honour in politics; without it, democracy has a corrosive and corrupting influence upon our politicians first, and our culture second.  If that pressure is not borne by the system, it is borne by the individuals within it, a proportion of whom inevitably fail.

If we are to have democracy, it must be properly restrained. What is proposed here is a Senate intended to do just that; comprised of proportionally elected individuals within the the six states, the six city-states, and the two territories. These Senators represent the long term views of the electors in those regions who are not dependant on government for their primary source of income, and review legislation proposed by the democratic House of Representatives on that basis. In doing so, the capacity for reestablishing integrity in politics, restraint in government spending and limits on government intrusion into our private lives can be

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120 Responses to Guest Post: Driftforge – A proposal for Senate reform

  1. blogstrop

    What a load of crap.

  2. Boambee John

    Driftforge;

    having participated in the previous discussion (albeit not all the way through to completion), I thought that the feeling was that breaking the states formally into the capital conurbations and the rest would be constitutionally too difficult. However, as the Senate voting system is set by legislation, not constitutionally, it would be practical to break each state into two Senate “electorates”, one for the capital conurbation, and a second for the remainder of the state. This would achieve your objective, without the difficulty of actually breaking up the states, as seems to be proposed in your latest post.

    Otherwise, I think this moves us toward a practical way forward. In saying this, I assume that “minimum voting depth of 10″ means that a minimum of 10 preferences must be expressed on each ballot paper, for 8 senators, or is this for 4 senators in a “half-Senate election as now?

    BJ

  3. Barry

    Anything that makes it harder to legislate is a good thing. We don’t want to improve the efficiency of the legislative process. The whole point of the constitution is to restrict the powers of the states and commonwealth and make the legislative process harder. The last thing we need is common legislation across the states, supporting commonwealth power. There lies tyranny.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle

    Nice bit of thinking there Driftforge, but its a heady cocktail that you’ve created. Two sips and I be a goner.

    The Hare-Clarke idea for the Senate is not ridiculous, as it does address the current problem of micro parties without imposing threshholds (like Israel and Germany) which are undemocratic, and an impediment to new parties.

    However splitting equally between cities and country would be the most amazing gerrymander ever seen in this country, beyond the wildest dreams of Bjelke-Petersen or more recently, Weatherill.

    Another problem with Hare-Clarke is in Japan it has led to massive corruption. In Tassie that sort of thing can be controlled because its a backwater and no one has much money, but applied to the whole of Oz and you’ll have the money men orgasming in anticipation.

    Some other comments:

    The expenditure of Federal Parliament should be subject to review and approval by representatives of those whose primary income is not provided by the government.

    In your dreams kiddo. I fantasise about such an idea. That doesn’t mean I expect it ever to be the case. Its like the system of government in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

    The only change I suggest in terms of timing is that Senate elections take place on a rolling basis — one state every six months, rather than the three year half cycle we currently have.

    The public hate too many elections. Its why we ended up with 4 year terms here in NSW. Now here in NSW we hate 4 year terms as we had 4 long years of dysfunctional ALP government to sit through.

    The better option is to simply align the terms of the Senate and House of Reps, so that a senator serves exactly two election cycles, which may lead to short terms due to DD’s, but that’s fine. At the moment waiting 9 months for a new Senate composition is clearly undemocratic. But having Antony Green’s ugly mug all over our TV screens every 6 months would be ridiculous.

    The use of scanning pens in the voting booths that store each individual vote while retaining the existing full paper trail would dramatically reduce the time required for a count,

    Undemocratic and unacceptable. Part of the power of the pencil is if you are completely fed up you can write a long and obscene letter on your ballot paper. Which entertains the counters and makes you feel better. Which a scanning pen would not allow. Also scanning pens are expensive and pencils are cheap. Frustrated voters tend to exert a lot of wear and tear on things like those.

    Furthermore software is easily corruptible. Pencil on paper is not (which is why I use pencil in lab books – sulfuric acid eats ball point pen ink with alacrity). If you want transparency and accountability keep the pencil, or expect more stolen elections. Its easier to rig the computer than to stuff 1000 ballot boxes.

    Finally, it must be noted that the Upper House does not in any means capture the principle behind the original Upper House, the House of Lords. That is, that those who fund government must have the capacity to limit the expenditure of government —he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    Already got that. Its called “Supply”. Currently the major parties have a hang up about it, which will change when the sheepstations become big enough.

  5. David

    Apply the Rabz Doctrine to the current Senate.

    It no longer represents/protects State’s Rights and allows fringe whackos who sneak in to it too much power.

    I don’t have an answer [lots of opinions but no answers] but any change other than the Rabz Doctrine is carefully examined to see if it is really an answer.

  6. Splatacrobat

    What if Senate candidates could only be drawn from the House of Reps?
    A steady stream of experienced politicians instead of parachutists. Two term max in the House of Reps then the option of standing in the Senate subject to a vote by the people.
    This would also mean parties like the Greens would on current standing only have one Senator.

  7. Oh come on

    I like some of your sentiments, but…well…s.128. It’s simply never going to happen.

  8. Oh come on

    Experienced politicians? God if we limited ourselves solely to experienced politicians, we’d be well and truly fucked.

  9. JohnA

    Bruce of Newcastle #1263774, posted on April 13, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    The better option is to simply align the terms of the Senate and House of Reps, so that a senator serves exactly two election cycles, which may lead to short terms due to DD’s, but that’s fine. At the moment waiting 9 months for a new Senate composition is clearly undemocratic. But having Antony Green’s ugly mug all over our TV screens every 6 months would be ridiculous.

    I think I agree with this. Other jurisdictions with fixed terms seem to also have shorter terms (eg. USA) and manage to work, but longer terms makes for lazy representatives with tin ears pointed at their electorates.

    [Fixed terms modified as in Victoria where the government can't be voted down during its first three years are almost as bad, because the fourth year is all in election mode. And thus it's not worth bringing a vote of no confidence. Better to have two years protected, then two years when a government could be voted down.]

    I believe the Senate should also have restored its old power to reject a money bill, and bring on a crisis of Supply for the Lower House – a very useful discipline on “reckless spending”.

  10. MemoryVault

    the proliferation of micro parties that is occurring solely to take advantage of the current process

    Naturally. It could not possibly have anything to do with a growing number of average Aussies becoming increasingly disillusioned with the offerings of our major political parties could it?

    Heaven forbid that the bogan working masses should ever start seeking and supporting alternatives other than the tired, fetid, corrupt, ineffective, self-centred, elitist crap currently on offer from the mainstream political parties.

    No, obviously not. Any fool can see it is yet another example of Recursive Fury Ideation, promoted by Democracy Denialists and financed by Big Oil and Big Tobacco.

  11. JohnA

    Oh come on #1263817, posted on April 13, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Experienced politicians? God if we limited ourselves solely to experienced politicians, we’d be well and truly fucked.

    We would certainly have a smaller and less expensive Parliament. We might even get competent government, which would shock a large-ish proportion of the electorate (about 34% IIRC), and a lot of the media, wouldn’t it ABC presenters? /sarc

  12. Oh come on

    The Senate still can withhold supply; it cannot amend money bills. The only part of the Constitution that changed after 75 was the Senate vacancy procedures.

  13. Splatacrobat

    Here’s a novel idea. Make us all Senators and we can vote online every Friday. If people took this voting system as seriously as they do putting in their footy tips legislation would move faster a laxative.

  14. However, as the Senate voting system is set by legislation, not constitutionally, it would be practical to break each state into two Senate “electorates”, one for the capital conurbation, and a second for the remainder of the state.

    That may be a way around it. Obviously if a referendum can be avoided, it makes the whole thing simpler.

    In saying this, I assume that “minimum voting depth of 10″ means that a minimum of 10 preferences must be expressed on each ballot paper, for 8 senators, or is this for 4 senators in a “half-Senate election as now?

    The thought had been for half senate elections; I’m not particularly bothered which way it works out, although I do prefer the length of term longer than the house of reps.

    Another problem with Hare-Clarke is in Japan it has led to massive corruption. In Tassie that sort of thing can be controlled because its a backwater and no one has much money, but applied to the whole of Oz and you’ll have the money men orgasming in anticipation.

    I’m not aware of the issues in Japan; I’ll look into that. Mind you, given that at the moment the parties get to stack the arrangement however they prefer, making them work for it is at least a start.

    In your dreams kiddo. I fantasise about such an idea.

    I know. I’ve not come across an idea that provokes as much disturbance in the force.

    Part of the power of the pencil is if you are completely fed up you can write a long and obscene letter on your ballot paper. Which entertains the counters and makes you feel better. Which a scanning pen would not allow.

    Not sure why you think it wouldn’t be able to do that. It’s just a pen with a scanning tip built in. You get your ballot and fill it out as per normal, as humorously or as carefully as you like. You still have a paper, filled out as per now. I suspect they could even be modified to write in pencil.

  15. Naturally. It could not possibly have anything to do with a growing number of average Aussies becoming increasingly disillusioned with the offerings of our major political parties could it?

    The increase in numbers is amplified by the system, and by the current malaise. Fix the system and the number would drop; you’d still have a surfeit of options, but not 55.

  16. entropy

    I can’t believe anyone but a green likes Hare-Clarke.
    For that reason alone, Drift, I recommend you be taken outside for a flogging.
    Isn’t NZ, Tasmania and ACT enough to demonstrate that style of voting really sucks?

  17. Habib

    I like the iddea of Heinlein’s democracy, it’s got more going for it than the current shambles, which empowers the retarded, idle, entitlement-expectant, and monomanic.

  18. egg_

    Apply the Rabz Doctrine to the current Senate.

    Yup, the Qld solution.
    Talk about over representation & perks FFS.

  19. MemoryVault

    Fix the system and the number would drop;

    Yeah, right. Just make it harder for the malcontents to have a voice and for everybody else to have a choice, and the problem goes away!

    Why beat around the bush? A membership of million to get registered as a political party in the first place, plus a million dollar registration fee, should fix the “problem” of democracy once and for all.

  20. Oh come on

    Obviously if a referendum can be avoided, it makes the whole thing simpler.

    Hang on, you want to ram this through without changing the Constitution? Nup, lost me there. Talk about Frankenwashminster.

  21. Bruce of Newcastle

    I’m not aware of the issues in Japan; I’ll look into that.

    Driftforge – I don’t know whether they are formally HC, or something different, but the reputation of the Japanese parliament is those members from multimember electorates are divvied up by the various lobbies – mainly construction and farming. Hence the rice tariffs weren’t touched in the very recent FTA. Diet MP’s know suicide when they see it.

    I’d thought Japan used 5 seat electorates too, but nothing is so simple. In the lower house they have a party list arrangement for about a third of the MP’s in 11 electorate thingies. In the upper house it 2/3rds 3 member electorates similar the HC (but without preferences) and the rest full proportional.

    I suspect the upper house 3 MP electorates are the ones I’d heard of. But those strange 11 electorates with 180 MP’s spread across them in the lower house could be a mess of lobbyists and money.

  22. Anne

    I feel foolish.

    What is the Rabz Doctrine?

  23. Pyrmonter

    The Senate is a house of review in that it is not necessary for the government to command a majority there (whereas it does need to command a majority of the HR); its electorate deliberately weighs in favour of the small states to avoid majoritarian tyranny. What’s the problem with this?

  24. entropy

    The problem occurs when the number of senators gets too big. But there is the constitutional section that requires a certain proportion of senators to HoR members so that you can’t do something simple like halve the number of senators.

  25. Isn’t NZ, Tasmania and ACT enough to demonstrate that style of voting really sucks?

    NZ has a proportional system, which is not even particularly similar to Hare Clarke.

    The ACT is going to be the ACT whatever system of voting you throw at it.

    Hare Clarke serves us better than any other system I’ve seen would. No capacity for a party to safe seat a member, so the poor performers get ousted in one term. Multiple options for representation when you want it, so the whole community has a chance of finding someone local who can plead their case, and more than one option in the majors. It is a substantial improvement on the current senate system which has all of the problems and none of the benefits.

    Bruce — sounds like one of those European mixed bag methods rather than Hare Clarke.

  26. What is the Rabz Doctrine?

    Shut. It. Down.

    Fire. Them. All.

  27. Crossie

    What is the Rabz Doctrine? If it involves abolishing the Senate then I’m for it. Not only does the tail wag the dog in the form of Tasmania, and now WA, but it give misanthropic groups such as the greens the power to dictate to the majority.

  28. Anne

    Thanks Driftforge.

    That came to mind, naturally, but I thought…don’t we need the Senate? Haha…

  29. Crossie

    The Senate is a house of review in that it is not necessary for the government to command a majority there (whereas it does need to command a majority of the HR); its electorate deliberately weighs in favour of the small states to avoid majoritarian tyranny. What’s the problem with this?

    How is tyranny by minority any better?

  30. Infidel Tiger

    The system is fine, it’s the people who are broken.

  31. incoherent rambler

    Hey Drift, you suggesting Hare-Clarke on the basis of the marvellous governments it has delivered to Tassie. Bugger off!

    The problem is easily solved by the revoking the recent changes to the senate. 10 senators per state. (That was a period).

  32. Hey Drift, you suggesting Hare-Clarke on the basis of the marvellous governments it has delivered to Tassie. Bugger off!

    It’s done pretty well given the circumstances. Not the systems fault that Tasmania is a historically old Labor state, nor has it dealt particularly poorly with having an infestation of Greens.

    While it might be nice to put together a government system that doesn’t give the progressives a look in, it’s complicated to do that while you still call it democracy. If we aren’t limiting proposals to democratic ones…

  33. Rob MW

    “The expenditure of Federal Parliament should be subject to review and approval by representatives of those whose primary income is not provided by the government.”

    What a gobbley–gook statement. If you are going to say it just bloody well say it. Here…….. I’ll say it for you……. – “Any person who obtains more than 50% of their income from Government handouts should be ineligible to vote in any general election”

    As Benjamin Franklin is quoted:

    “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

  34. The system is fine, it’s the people who are broken

    It’s a vicious circle. The system that breaks the people, and the people break the system. No static system remains true to it original intent.

  35. Any person who obtains more than 50% of their income from Government handouts should be ineligible to vote in any general election

    Good summary, but note it’s not just government handouts, it’s government employment as well. And the above only applies to an upper house, not the lower.

  36. Not only does the tail wag the dog in the form of Tasmania, and now WA, but it give misanthropic groups such as the greens the power to dictate to the majority.

    The value of the Senate is seen when the party you favour least is in government in the lower house.

  37. H B Bear

    A double dissolution provides a strong enough mechanism to deal with the Senate blocking legislation. If KRudd had gone to a DD with 70% approval ratings in his first term, Australia would have an ETS and Tony Abbott would be on surf patrol somewhere on Sydney’s northern beaches.

    Abbott just needs to keep lining up the bills, have the Senate reject them twice and keep piling them up. Then take the whole bundle to the electorate and force Labor, the Greens and potentially PUP to run on keeping the mining and carbon taxes. Roll the dice and let them land where they may.

  38. incoherent rambler

    Dropping compulsory preferential voting would also sort out the party dominated mess which is the senate. Simple, the 5 people with the most 1 votes get elected.

  39. Crossie

    The value of the Senate is seen when the party you favour least is in government in the lower house.

    In our case it can only be Labor or the Coalition forming government and I saw no value whatsoever in having a Senate while Julia did as she was told by the greens.

    Rabz is right.

  40. incoherent rambler

    Either that or have the states appoint their senators.

  41. Crossie

    Dropping compulsory preferential voting would also sort out the party dominated mess which is the senate. Simple, the 5 people with the most 1 votes get elected.

    It would also simplify the count and provide results within hours.

  42. Rob MW

    “Good summary, but note it’s not just government handouts, it’s government employment as well. And the above only applies to an upper house, not the lower.”

    Driftforge – umm……….I had assumed that “government employment” constituted more than 50% of their income and we can argue until the cows come home whether or not, in most cases, it is simply not a “government handout”. For example; A government employee administrating a government regulation that applies a compliance burden upon the private sector I would classify as a government handout. And, what about the CentreLink employees who actually hand out government moola ?? A hand-outee handing out a hand out !!!!!

  43. Crossie

    Abbott just needs to keep lining up the bills, have the Senate reject them twice and keep piling them up. Then take the whole bundle to the electorate and force Labor, the Greens and potentially PUP to run on keeping the mining and carbon taxes. Roll the dice and let them land where they may.

    He should be strategic about it though and wait until the Royal Commission into unions produces results and then let rip.

  44. Crossie

    Either that or have the states appoint their senators.

    Didn’t they originally, or am I confusing ours with the US system?

  45. Gratuitous Friedman quote:

    I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

    If my LDP hadn’t gamed the senate we might not have got in and the partisan socialist media would continue to ignore us. I’m going out on a limb and saying the senate voting arrangements should not be changed.

    That more than 30% of the population happily vote for proven lying corrupt socialists and half of the rest would rip you off given half a chance it’s a wonder the country functions at all.

  46. Oh come on

    The LDP gamed the Senate? Shiat if only they had so much clout.

  47. Andrew

    No Hare Clark. Nothing pro Green.

    The current system gave us a proliferation of random minors. Every single one of them is better than every single Green that squeezed through. The motorist guy, all the PUPs, xylophone – all of them. I wouldn’t swap any for another Grublam or Hyphen-Seapatrol. So the system works – people who insist on protesting get 10 barriers before accidentally electing the Filth.

  48. Joe

    It’s simples!
    Allocate two senators from the members of the lower house of each state or similar to sit in the federal senate and vote strictly as the state lower house decrees.
    Senators are already elected – to the states lower house, and the senate becomes what it always should have been. The States governor on the rapacious federal government.

  49. For clarification: The differences between what we have now below the line and Hare Clarke are small but substantive.

    Number at least 1 to 10, rather than 1 to 77 (WA).
    No group voting tickets.
    Members of each party are randomly listed in each column.
    No how to vote cards or advertising on the day.
    An improved counting method.

    The core advantage is the inability of the parties to direct preferences either within the party or externally.

  50. Peter

    I see no country that has a first-past-the-post voting system and which is so much better AS A RESULT that I want to change. What I like about preferential voting is that – not being a lazy bastard who just ticks above the line – I can vote for the person/party that BEST represents my interests and desires, while still giving a preference to the SAFEST party.

    The benefit of such a vote is that when a minor party starts taking a bigger share of the primary vote, the majors have to look at that and ask themselves why a larger portion of their constituency is deserting them. A non-preferential system tends to polarise the voting with the two most common options being anyonebutLabor and anyonebutCoalution. As I said,I don’t see it working so well for the Yanks that I want to emulate them. Policy seems to be less responsive to the ballot box and more to the party machines.

    One idea that I rather like, is that of limited tenure. If MPs and Senators knew that they would have to live in the real world that their policies had created, and do so without several decades of parliamentary superannuation as a cushion, they might think a bit harder about how their decisions affected the rest of us.

  51. Robert O.

    The main drawback of the Hare-Clark system is that some totally unknown candidate who gets a couple of votes is elected on the coat-tails of a popular candidate based on Tasmanian experience with multiple candidate electorates.
    For a senate election what is wrong with listing candidates in columns, with several randomised lists to remove the donkey vote and voters mark the boxes of their six candidates with a tick, or cross; no 1,2,3, etc.
    Smith B.B. Lab
    Jones C.M Ind.* denotes sitting member
    Wells A. J. LNP
    Brown M. S. Lab

    End of story. The voting papers are scanned as a Tatts Lotto and the six candidates with the most ticks are elected and you would have a result in a day so. This would eliminate a very unwieldy system with complicated metre wide ballot papers that makes it very difficult to cast a valid below line vote due to the numbers involved, above and below line voting, party ranking of candidates in 1,2,3, spots, as well as preference deals between parties- I’ll scratch your back you scratch mine schemes. The electors decide the outcome directly and apart from large cost reduction it would reduce the informal vote. Isn’t that what democracy is supposed to be about? Probably the wrong question.

  52. egg_

    H B Bear
    #1263907, posted on April 13, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    The two cases cited negate the case for a Senate being simply a ‘house of review’ regardless of its constituency.

    Aids the case for Qld/Rabz doctrine.

  53. Rabz

    The simplest method of resolving this is to adopt a proven proportional system, such as the Hare-Clarke system we have in Tasmania.

    At which point I stopped reading.

  54. PoliticoNT

    Okay, so in the NT we get two Senators (who have to go to the polls every 3 years). Tasmania has 12 Senators. So comparing my Senate vote in the NT, with someone’s Senate vote in Tasmania – my vote is worth a lot less, i.e., we are not equal under the same law. That’s mal-apportionment. Why shouldn’t we fix it?

    Yeah, I get that voters in NSW et al can then turn around and argue that my vote is worth more. They have a good point. Mal-apportionment is a plague on any house of parliament, and the system it is supposed to support.

  55. Boambee John

    “Apply the Rabz Doctrine to the current Senate.”

    Never going to get through a referendum, so what’s the next best option?

    Driftforge’s proposal at least addresses some of the problems, and offers solutions. I don’t agree with all of it, but I think it is better than now, and at least potentially achievable. Abolishing the Senate isn’t.

  56. Dan

    Oh come on
    #1263828, posted on April 13, 2014 at 9:45 pm
    The Senate still can withhold supply; it cannot amend money bills. The only part of the Constitution that changed after 75 was the Senate vacancy procedures.

    Appropriation Bills cannot originate in the Senate.

  57. blogstrop

    Apologies for my brief and dismissive burst last night, Driftforge. It arrived as I was about to go to bed and read, so I lost patience with it all. If anyone’s interested (probably not) here are some more considered thoughts.

    The senate is firstly a States’ House, and secondly a house of review.

    The ability of minor parties to impose themselves on issues not of primary interest to their state, and acting contrary to the expressed will of the people via their lower house vote, shows a lack of responsibility and an over-reach on their part.

    Both Howard and Abbott have allowed a lot of Labor legislation to proceed even though they may have preferred it didn’t. The coalition can expect no such cooperation from Labor-Greens in the senate. The last time a minor party did the right thing it was Meg Lees negotiating the GST, which Labor mindlessly opposed but now loves, and wants to increase.

    Harridine used to make out he was all for Tasmania, but also went native on Land Rights, which was outside his legitimate area of concern. It affected all the other states and the nation as a whole to a much greater degree.

    The undemocratic nature of the makeup of the senate is firstly the mis-match between state populations and the number of members elected. Tasmania should have two. End of story. SA should be reduced as well, I’m not doing those sums right here, but the most populous states should be the benchmark for 12 senators, and the rest get pro-rata. Secondly, it’s the elecoral system. If it’s good enough for the federal Reps electorates to not elect rabble from minor parties, it’s good enough for the Senate.

    Proportional representation has been the loophole for minor parties to get into upper houses at state and federal level. For the most part, this system does not make for better government. Instead, it gives leverage to minor parties and individuals to warp rather than improve legislation. It is not correct to say “a well structured Senate functions to limit the worst excesses of democracy through the protection of the abiding principles of governance from the follies of the day.” It might be if we had a well-structured Senate, but seeing no problem with the smaller states electing the troublesome minors, who they would not if limited to two senators, is an impediment to achieving a well-structured Senate.

    You can fiddle around with variations on the theme like the Hare-Clarke system if you wish, but it won’t alter the basic flaw, that the Senate allows frootloops to hold the balance of power.

    “If we are to have democracy, it must be properly restrained. What is proposed here is a Senate intended to do just that; comprised of proportionally elected individuals within the six states, the six city-states, and the two territories.”
    Restrain a democratically elected government? How come the states can, if they choose, do away with their upper houses and get away with it? As long as you have an electoral system serving up an undemocratic misallocation and over-allocation of seats, each seat being potentially a seat of power, which allows the warping of a democratically elected government, you don’t have a simple restraint. You have a camel, a horse designed by a committee.

    Since most changes to the Senate are too hard, requiring referenda to change the constitution, we will get nowhere with these daydreams, yours or mine, Drift. The electoral system can, however, be adjusted and should be, to get rid of these troublesome micro-parties, stop the preference rorts, and rescind voting above the line. You should only have to mark up to 12 preferences for individuals, (six normally) depending on where you are, and whether it’s a half senate election or DD. I agree with the idea that elections for both houses be synchronised even if half senate elections are maintained, but ideally synchronise with full elections of both houses.

    Senate vacancies, unlike those in Reps, can be filled by appointment rather than by-election. More scope for mischief.
    The parachuting in of nominees should stop, and become at least a party vote not a Premier directive, but ideally why not a by-election? Good enough for Reps, good enough for Senate!

  58. Driftforge

    The main drawback of the Hare-Clark system is that some totally unknown candidate who gets a couple of votes is elected on the coat-tails of a popular candidate based on Tasmanian experience with multiple candidate electorates.

    Under Hare Clarke, no unknown get voted in on a ‘couple of votes’. It simply doesn’t occur, certainly not any more than seeing a first time candidate stand in a normal seat and be elected. In both cases, the candidate has to be known to get votes; arguably more so in Hare Clarke — in a single member seat people regularly get elected simply because the party that they stand for is known.

    Look at the results of the recent Tasmanian state election; not a single ‘unknown’ candidate got elected. There are new candidates, but those put an immense amount of effort into becoming known in their electorates. Contrast that with the recent federal election, where in most states an ‘unknown’ was elected to the senate on the basis of GVT snowballs.

  59. Demosthenes

    The senate is firstly a States’ House, and secondly a house of review.

    No, it is firstly a house of review. The second choice is, who reviews? We went with State representatives in a federal framework, which ceased to have any meaning as soon as political parties formed.

  60. Driftforge

    Tasmania should have two. End of story. SA should be reduced as well, I’m not doing those sums right here, but the most populous states should be the benchmark for 12 senators, and the rest get pro-rata.

    As soon as you pro-rata, it is no longer a state’s house, and serves no purpose, because it is undifferentiated from the lower house.. You either empower the states house to represent the states, or ditch it. The idea someone floated earlier that the ‘senators’ are nominated members from the state parliaments may be another approach that may work.

    How come the states can, if they choose, do away with their upper houses and get away with it?

    Don’t know why that is the case; I would suggest it shouldn’t be. Largely I suspect it is because the States are the original bodies of government.

    You can fiddle around with variations on the theme like the Hare-Clarke system if you wish, but it won’t alter the basic flaw, that the Senate allows frootloops to hold the balance of power.

    That flaw is in democracy itself. You can’t fix that one without eliminating democracy from the system; its an idea, but another order of magnitude of unlikelihood above even a constitutional change.

    The electoral system can, however, be adjusted and should be, to get rid of these troublesome micro-parties, stop the preference rorts, and rescind voting above the line.

    And that is what Hare Clarke would achieve.

  61. MemoryVault

    We went with State representatives in a federal framework, which ceased to have any meaning as soon as political parties formed.

    Hammer, nail, head Demosthenes.

    The current system is both unworkable and irrelevant under the influence of party politics.
    The only choice now is to revamp the system to accommodate/balance the power of the parties, or
    revamp the system to remove the influence of the political parties.

    Since the Senate is meant to be a House of Review protecting States’ interests, why not replace elected Senators altogether with people randomly selected from each state’s electoral roles, in much the same manner as juries are selected today?

    Most Parliamentary sittings are for two weeks or less. Select a new “jury” for each parliamentary session. Protect people’s jobs in much the same manner as applies to jury duty, pay the participants at the same rate as current Senators plus the standard loading for casual employment, and build a nice little boutique five star hotel to accommodate them, and their partners if required.

    Please, no arguments that the task is “too complicated”. The Senate is meant to review legislation, not formulate it. If the proposed legislation is too complex and complicated for the average Joe and Jill Citizen to understand it in the Senate, then it is too complex and complicated for the average Joe and Jill Citizen to conform to it out here in Reality Land.

  62. Driftforge

    MemoryVault, that’s not dissimilar to what Dot proposes from time to time regarding sortition. It comes down to the question of whether the problems inherent in an inexperienced, untrained random selection are less bad than those due to the current process of selection through a semi rigged popularity contest.

    Again, sans democracy, you have a process that simply selects people with the capacity and experience required to make those judgements, and get them to do it, just like you do in the corporate world.

  63. .

    It comes down to the question of whether the problems inherent in an inexperienced, untrained random selection are less bad than those due to the current process of selection through a semi rigged popularity contest.

    There is no better. The point is that you take power off personalities and groups, and leave it with the position with circumscribed powers.

  64. blogstrop

    Hare-Clarke remains a proportional representation system, which means frootloops can still apply. Unless you cut that route off by (i) raising the bar for party status, and (ii) declaring the greens to be an incoherent rabble and a threat to civilisation and therefore illegal, you have the same problem.

  65. MemoryVault

    (i) raising the bar for party status

    Yeah, make it so high that only the existing LIB/LAB parties can participate.
    After all, they’ve done such a good job of it so far.

    (ii) declaring the greens to be an incoherent rabble and a threat to civilisation and therefore illegal

    Why stop with the Greens? Just declare ALL your opponents illegal and do away with elections completely. That is how the “democratic process” works in any number of tin pot dictatorships.

  66. Driftforge

    There is no better.

    I’ll just say I remain deeply unconvinced of this. That the least worst we can do is put legislative decisions to a randomised average of the population is an awful thought.

  67. .

    I’ll just say I remain deeply unconvinced of this. That the least worst we can do is put legislative decisions to a randomised average of the population is an awful thought.

    Why not elect juries then?!

    Any legislative decision should be subject to that ultimately – be it through regular triennial or quadrennial elections or CIR.

    NSW Parliament was bad from 1999 to 2011. A random collection of idiots could have done better. It was worse than average.

  68. Driftforge

    Hare-Clarke remains a proportional representation system, which means frootloops can still apply. Unless you cut that route off by (i) raising the bar for party status, and (ii) declaring the greens to be an incoherent rabble and a threat to civilisation and therefore illegal, you have the same problem.

    As I said earlier, your problem is with democracy, not with the system that enacts it. That is a reasonable and valid position to hold, and I don’t disagree with you. Fully dealing with it in a practical manner that maintains a veneer of democracy is impossible. Democracy needs restraint, but vehemently hates it.

  69. Driftforge

    Why not elect juries then?

    Because the process of election rather than selection is the problem.

    NSW Parliament was bad from 1999 to 2011. A random collection of idiots could have done better. It was worse than average

    That may be, but I strongly suspect the average under your system will be lower, even if there is less spread.

  70. .

    Barry O Farrell has not done what the public have wanted him to do. Your suspicions are not well founded.

  71. Empire Strikes Back

    How come the states can, if they choose, do away with their upper houses and get away with it?

    Don’t know why that is the case; I would suggest it shouldn’t be. Largely I suspect it is because the States are the original bodies of government.

    The Victorian Constitution Act may be changed by a vote of Parliament. This was the process used to abolish the Qld LC in 1921. If a majority vote could be secured in both houses, the upper house could be abolished today. No referendum required. Not sure how it plays in other states.

  72. blogstrop

    Here’s some of the argument from Helen Coonan’s paper on the subject from 1999.

    We will find this same theory reflected clearly in a current minister’s critique of the Senate and the influence that minor parties can exercise in it. In a 1999 paper (Coonan 1999b) revised and republished in 2000,[201] Senator Helen Coonan, a Liberal Senator from New South Wales and Assistant Treasurer in the Coalition Government from November 2001, canvassed a variety of proposals to change the Senate, including abolishing the equal representation of the states in the Senate and authorizing a joint sitting of the two houses to resolve a legislative deadlock as soon as it occurs (not only after a double dissolution election and a third unsuccessful attempt to pass the bill). She did not directly endorse any such proposal because each would require a constitutional amendment, and Australia’s track record of approving amendments by referenda made her very dubious about securing approval of any constitutional change, especially one that would be interpreted as reducing the political leverage of some of the states. Instead, she expressed most interest in a way of reducing the numbers of minor party Senators, or eliminating them altogether, by imposing a minimum percentage of first-preference votes that any party would have to win before it could receive transferred preferences and, therefore, hope to win seats in the Senate.[202]

    Her underlying argument begins with the assertion that the Senate has become, or is in danger of becoming, ‘an obstructional competitor in the government of the country, frustrating or at least substantially delaying urgently required responses to national problems and regional and world crises,’ and so ‘is disabling Australia from realising and enjoying its full potential.’ Instead of acting as ‘a great institutional safeguard for all Australians’, ‘The Senate safeguard has in fact become a handbrake on progress.’ This situation has arisen for reasons with which we have become familiar: the adoption of proportional representation in 1948 for Senate elections and increases in the size of the Senate, in 1948 and again in 1983, combined to facilitate the election of minor party Senators and to increase the likelihood that no government party would have ‘the numbers’ in the Senate.

    The result has been that, when the government and the Opposition disagree, minor parties hold the balance of power in the Senate and can use their leverage to secure changes in government policies. The current system for electing Senators ‘permits the election of minor parties on a fraction of the national vote who may then be in a position to exercise on behalf of their minority interests not just a voice, which indeed should be able to find expression in a healthy democracy, but in effect to have a casting vote on national legislation.’ Therefore, the election laws should be amended to make it more difficult for minor parties to win Senate seats. Coonan’s argument assumes that the government and the Opposition are routinely arrayed against each other which, as we have seen, is not at all the permanent condition in the Senate. But for the sake of argument, let us accept her assertions as to the leverage that minor parties have enjoyed and how they have used it. What is the problem that needs to be solved, other than the obvious inconvenience this situation poses for the government of which she is a member?

    In using their votes to force changes in government legislation, she argues, the minor parties in the Senate are engaging in ‘political opportunism that reduces any sense of common purpose to the lowest common denominator,’ because they are interfering with implementation of the government’s electoral mandate. The government’s lack of a majority in the Senate requires the government to compromise which, she clearly implies, is a bad thing in parliamentary government:

    [P]roportional representation has ensured that neither of the major parties will have a working majority in the Senate. At the very best that means that government will be by compromise. That, in turn, means at least delay, at worst inability on the part of Government to respond in what it considers to be effective and necessary ways to crises in the national and international spheres.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Research_and_Education/~/link.aspx?_id=420A65AC138D4784B482024178ADC8CF&_z=z

  73. MemoryVault

    is put legislative decisions to a randomised average of the population is an awful thought.

    Yeah. Imagine the governed actually having some meaningful input into how they are actually governed. What a recipe for disaster.

    Apologies for ever suggesting it.
    Better to stick with the decisions of our political Elites Masters appointed party hacks.

  74. MemoryVault

    Here’s some of the argument from Helen Coonan’s paper on the subject from 1999.

    SUMMARY

    Little groups of individuals who refuse to accept that we (aka “major parties”), know what’s best for them (aka “minor parties”), keep thwarting our efforts to impose on the general population the will of the unions / major corporations / media interests / banks / pressure groups to which we are beholden for our places at the public trough.

    So let’s impose a system which eliminates all the troublesome thems, so we can get on with selling control of the country to the highest bidder, while lining our own pockets – like we’ve always done.

  75. Empire Strikes Back

    I like some of your ideas Driftforge, but there is no consideration of casual vacancies. The number of unelected senators, is IMO, a festering boil that must be lanced. Alas this can only happen via referendum.

    The 21 May 1977 was a dark day for Australian democracy. Fraser’s Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Act 1977 was a clear betrayal of democratic principles, entrenched the power of the major political powers and was a telling example of a conservative wanting to be loved by all the wrong people.

    A return to States’ parliaments having sole discretion over casual vacancies and the appointee’s term limited until the next half senate election (regardless of the term remaining for the democratically elected predecessor), would be a move in the right direction.

    I also favour retaining s.24 but amending s.7 for a hard limit of 6 senators for each state (no territory representation). That would take us back to 108 members (HoR 72/ Senate 36). 118 less piggies to feed would be a nice saving.

  76. Fisky

    There is no need to reform the Senate. Abbott will have a workable majority with lots of right-wing cross-benchers to work with. Having a minimum 5% primary rule for election will only punish small right-wing parties and help the Greens. But we don’t need to elect more Green Senators, there are enough of them already (10!). So as long as the Senate has a non-Leftist majority that passes non-Leftist legislation, there should be no discussion of reforming it at all.

  77. .

    I think it is encouraging that most new and most newly elected minor parties are nominally right wing or better still, libertarian inclined.

    That said, we should encourage list style elections right now. The LNP would have passable supply with LDP support. Which is basically what we all want, short of “President Lleyonhjelm”.

    Theoretically however, we ought to strive to make politicians weak and ephemeral. Elections ought to be sortition, and appointment to the executive ought to be some sick sort of ritualised survivor series like the Hunger Games.

  78. Ripper

    How about the 12 senators from each state be banned from party affiliation and sit in the senate AND their respective State upper houses?

  79. Driftforge

    What a recipe for disaster.

    It’s not a recipe for disaster, just a recipe for a lack of success. It a recipe that declares that we are so scared of doing poorly, that we will adopt a strategy that is solely designed to prevent that outcome. Furthermore, we are layering this on top of a democratic system, which is set up with the same aversion in mind.

    Altruism has become foreign to us. To reward it is ‘archaic’. To expect it in the actions of an individual selected for a responsible position is naive.

    … should be subject to review and approval by representatives of those whose primary income is not provided …

    In your dreams kiddo.

    As Bruce said earlier, there is an element of fantasy to this, not because it wouldn’t work, but because getting their is such a shift from where we are now. You get that one thing right, and nobility of action will start to rise. Not that there won’t be base acts committed, but the preponderance we have now will fade.

    The rest of the my proposal above is about making the best of a bad hand, acting within the limitations of the societal window. Restricting the vote requires moving that window, but once enacted continues to move that window, much in the way that evil legislation like the anti-discrimination act does, just in the opposite direction.

    Blogstrop — If you institute proper Hare-Clarke, it becomes substantially more difficult for micro parties to win seats, without denying the capacity for minor parties to do so.

    We still have to move away from the geographic gerrymander that currently exists within each state, biasing results towards the urban areas, but that is a separate part of the issue.

  80. Driftforge

    How about the 12 senators from each state be banned from party affiliation and sit in the senate AND their respective State upper houses?

    If the delegation is not fixed but rather can be varied by the upper house as occasion and insolence demands, that probably helps in the effort to reduce the influence of the federal government.

  81. Driftforge

    I like some of your ideas Driftforge, but there is no consideration of casual vacancies.

    Hare-Clarke already deals with those by a simple recount of the previous election with the vacating member (and any others not prepared to stand) excluded from the count. Normally, but not necessarily, this results in a member of the same party being elected.

  82. Driftforge

    There is no need to reform the Senate.

    There is opportunity, and the massive number of parties standing does need to addressed. The reform wouldn’t be done to affect the current senate, but the next one.

    Which needs to be able to put some barriers in the way of a Labor Green government, should such an abomination recur.

  83. blogstrop

    Memory Vault – you do sound a lot like “numbers”.

  84. Peter

    I have yet to see why the “massive number” of minor parties is a problem….
    It’s a SYMPTOM , rather than a problem. A combination of an electorate that is so cynical and frivolous that it does not take its duty to vote seriously, and major parties that are so shallow that people are voting “anyone but Lib/Lab.

    Given that a significant proportion of the electorate decided to vote “anyone-but” in the last election, why should they be denied the opportunity to do so? Even if it does offend our sense of tidiness.

  85. MemoryVault

    that we are so scared of doing poorly,

    No, Driftforge.
    We are not scared of “doing poorly”, we are sick and tired of “doing poorly”.

    Party politics was not so destructive, back in the days when each party represented some set of clearly defined principles. If you voted for one group over another, you had a pretty good idea of what you were going to get.

    These days the only thing you can be sure of when you cast your vote is that you are going to elect a professional politician whose principal aim in life is to preserve their employment. To achieve that end they will promise whatever they think they have to, to “buy” the swinging voter, and be damned with principles, or even truth, for that matter.

    In Australia today, elections are little more than auctions. That’s how you end up with a so-called “conservative” government introducing the most expensive middle class welfare program in history (PPL), financed apparently by taxing old people out of their homes, and a so-called “Labor” government introducing a “tax on carbon”, costing thousands of Australians their jobs.

    The major parties now have a stranglehold on the Australian political process, and they are killing the country. No alternative, no matter how cumbersome, naive or ineffectual could possibly be worse.

  86. Driftforge

    Given that a significant proportion of the electorate decided to vote “anyone-but” in the last election, why should they be denied the opportunity to do so? Even if it does offend our sense of tidiness.

    Hare-Clarke will not directly reduce the number of parties that are able to stand candidates at an election. However, what it will do is substantially reduce the capacity of those parties to redirect that vote according to a predetermined ticket.

    A substantial proportion of parties that stood at the last election exist solely to redirect votes to other, less micro, parties. This sort of ‘gaming the system’ is what would stop because it is no longer the most efficient way to get someone elected.

    Under Hare Clarke, Palmer would have still picked up a seat in the WA by-election, but the Australian Sports Party wouldn’t have even been in the running in the original, because secondary preferences would not have flowed to them. Most parties in the <0.3% group wouldn't have even stood for the election.

  87. MemoryVault

    Memory Vault – you do sound a lot like “numbers”.

    Nah, “numbers” definitely favours one “side” over the other.
    I detest ALL of them with an equal passion.
    Comes from having more to do with them over a longer period of time, than most people.

  88. Peter

    I also wish to call bullsh on the proposition that minor parties with the balance of power get a disproportionate degree of control.

    Doesn’t it strike s as silly to make that claim when no one person gets to do that unless at least half of the elected members of that house agree with them? How many times have we heard this said about people like Brian Harridine when any one of half the Senators present could have made him irrelevant by crossing the floor.

    It is not, repeat not, the Senate system or style of voting the gives people like Harridine power, but the party system that keeps its MPs and Senators rigidly controlled.

  89. Driftforge

    No alternative, no matter how cumbersome, naive or ineffectual could possibly be worse.

    Look around the world. This is demonstrably untrue.

    Party politics was not so destructive, back in the days when each party represented some set of clearly defined principles. If you voted for one group over another, you had a pretty good idea of what you were going to get.

    This, and most of your post, is all true. This degradation over time is a result of the inherent action of unrestrained democracy on our culture and our political institutions over that period.

    But doubling down on mediocrity is not the solution. That just makes the decay you are describing more certain, more inevitable.

    For all that it is untenable, Dot’s suggestion of a Hunger Games style elimination would inevitably work substantially better than random selection , because there is a valid, if harsh, basis for selection; resourcefulness, determination, capacity.

  90. Driftforge

    It is not, repeat not, the Senate system or style of voting the gives people like Harridine power, but the party system that keeps its MPs and Senators rigidly controlled.

    Well said.

  91. MemoryVault

    It is not, repeat not, the Senate system or style of voting the gives people like Harridine power, but the party system that keeps its MPs and Senators rigidly controlled.

    Wot he said.

  92. MemoryVault

    Look around the world. This is demonstrably untrue.

    My comments here are in the context of the discussion in this post, which is about how we elect our Federal Senate, NOT how our system stacks up against entirely different systems in other places. In that context, dissolving the Senate and getting the Governor General to flip a coin could not be more destructive than the party-dominated system we have now.

  93. Driftforge

    You said that it couldn’t be worse. Quite evidently, it can.

    I’d be quite happy to see the Senate replaced by an appointed Governor General with the same capacity.

  94. blogstrop

    I’m not clear what the attraction is some of you have for minor parties. What use have they been, really, to date?

  95. Driftforge

    I’m not clear what the attraction is some of you have for minor parties. What use have they been, really, to date?

    Ponder for a second a system where there was only a red party and a blue party, and no potential for relegation to the minor leagues.

    Beyond that, minor parties have a capacity to stake out new ground in terms of ideas that the major parties can’t approach. It’s quite a different set of drivers trying to accumulate a sufficiency of voters to exist as opposed to the number of voters required to govern. As long as the system is balanced, it works well.

    Unfortunately we’ve only had the Greens for the last while, and so we only have new ground broken to the left. Anything to the right —Extremism! — has to be introduced by the Liberal party.

  96. Fisky

    No one has demonstrated that there is a problem with the Senate. The Left are in the minority and the non-Left are in the majority. That is the only metric that matters.

  97. No one has demonstrated that there is a problem with the Senate. The Left are in the minority and the non-Left are in the majority. That is the only metric that matters.

    Has this always been the case? Will it continue to be the case?

  98. Fisky

    We don’t know. But what we do know is that all proposals for “reform” on the table right now are basically code for electing more Greens and excluding non-Left minor parties like the LDP, PUP and Family First. The current system works better than any alternative.

  99. .

    For all that it is untenable, Dot’s suggestion of a Hunger Games style elimination would inevitably work substantially better than random selection , because there is a valid, if harsh, basis for selection; resourcefulness, determination, capacity.

    Well not quite.

    I’d also want something above sortition for election to the legislature, but spared it for brevity.

  100. .

    Fisky
    #1264684, posted on April 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm
    We don’t know. But what we do know is that all proposals for “reform” on the table right now are basically code for electing more Greens and excluding non-Left minor parties like the LDP, PUP and Family First. The current system works better than any alternative.

    Correct. If NSW had the same results as a list vote for the lower house, we’d have 15 LDP members of the House of Representatives now.

    Reform should come as a poison pill, and be particularly self serving or harsh, with measures as far as list voting to the opposite end of the spectrum being sortition.

    Nothing short of snouts in the trough when the sun shines or when fortunes change, a scorched earth policy, is tactically acceptable.

  101. Driftforge

    I’d also want something above sortition for election to the legislature, but spared it for brevity.

    It’s not as though you haven’t mentioned it before :)

  102. .

    Yes, something like approval by local council then a confirmation vote after sortition and being subject to recall vote. Councillors subject to approval of a town meeting or jury in lieu of no lower representative body existing.

  103. MemoryVault

    No one has demonstrated that there is a problem with the Senate.

    The Senate exists to represent the interests of the States.
    The Senate passed a Carbon Tax - on party lines.
    Which states benefited from the Carbon Tax?
    Which states even wanted a Carbon Tax?

    The Senate exists to review legislation to ensure it represents the will of the electorates.
    The Senate passed a Carbon Tax - on party lines.
    Around 90% of voters voted for candidates opposed to the introduction of a Carbon tax.
    Only one electorate elected a candidate who supported a Carbon Tax.

    How many examples would you like me to give?

    If the Senate will not / cannot fulfill its primary functions, then it serves no purpose at all, other than to provide another trough for the party hacks to get their snouts into.

  104. Driftforge

    The current system works better than any alternative

    No. It worked once, ‘better’ (which I think means more Fiskian in this context) than other alternatives would have.

    NSW would probably have elected David L. under Hare Clarke as well, just as it would have Palmer in WA.

    What you wouldn’t have got is the Motoring Enthusiasts or the Sports Party.

  105. Demosthenes

    What use have they been, really, to date?

    Democracy is an end in itself.

  106. blogstrop

    If democracy is an end in itself, make the senate more democratic.

  107. stackja

    Driftforge
    #1264711, posted on April 14, 2014 at 4:51 pm
    The current system works better than any alternative
    No. It worked once, ‘better’ (which I think means more Fiskian in this context) than other alternatives would have.
    NSW would probably have elected David L. under Hare Clarke as well, just as it would have Palmer in WA.
    What you wouldn’t have got is the Motoring Enthusiasts or the Sports Party.

    There may be many who would vote for the Motoring Enthusiasts or the Sports Party if these parties exclusively supported motoring and sports.

  108. Democracy is an end in itself.

    A bad end.

    There may be many who would vote for the Motoring Enthusiasts or the Sports Party if these parties exclusively supported motoring and sports.

    I suspect we’ll find that out at the next election.

  109. Peter

    I’m not sure that we aren’t chasing rainbows when we are looking for an incorruptible system. No matter what system we have, it is inevitable that someone will try to game it.

    The best that I can suggest is not another set of rules, but a mechanism by which Parliamentarians get direct feedback from their electorate in a way that seriously gets their attention.

    The guillotine, perhaps?

    If not…. How about a combination of electoral recall and an constituency vote on the size of their superannuation upon retirement? Like I said, something that gets their attention.

  110. blogstrop

    Democracy may be a bad end, Drift, but it has been summarised as the best of a bad lot.

  111. bons

    On the other hand, it is quite valid to point out and redress mal-apportionment on the basis of population in the Lower House.
    Amongst the many insults to democracy in you ill-thought out diatribe is the above clanger. Mal-apportionment cannot apply in an electorate based system. You persist in arguing that States are a relevant entity in a Federal election – why?
    Apply Hare-Clarke if you insist, but make it democratic – a truly national poll, all candidates listed; but the Parties restricted to a manageable maximum of candidates. Or, admit reality and have only above the line for the Senate.
    Dissolution for an election must apply also to the Senate rump. Last year’s prawns become very smelly when the electoral mood changes – as we are witnessing today.
    With no intention of being rude, I conclude that you are a tinkerer – swayed by the existing structure and not motivated by democracy.
    One vote, one value, there is no higher order of democracy. Anything else is a gerrymander.
    You sidestep the reality that the Senate in its present form reviews nothing – it engages in a series of meaningless partisan witch hunts based upon which gerrymanded swill happen to have the numbers at the time.
    Back to democracy school my friend.

  112. One vote, one value, there is no higher order of democracy.

    Nor a greater flaw.

    You sidestep the reality that the Senate in its present form reviews nothing – it engages in a series of meaningless partisan witch hunts based upon which gerrymanded swill happen to have the numbers at the time.

    Not at all. If one is to have a democracy, it must be restrained as far as possible. An upper house that replicates the lower is a complete waste of time and money. To have value, it must capture other principles in its structure . Currently ours does not, or does so in such a poor manner that party politics supersedes that intent.

    If the senate is the same as the lower house, then it is gerrymandered into irrelevance. We might as well just have a Governor General with the capacity to send legalisation back for a rewrite.

    Unfettered democracy is leftist heaven.

  113. Democracy may be a bad end, Drift, but it has been summarised as the best of a bad lot.

    I think that statement may have been made a little hastily. We’ve had another 70 years of decline since then.

  114. I’m not sure that we aren’t chasing rainbows when we are looking for an incorruptible system.

    I suspect you are right. Any static system of power will become corrupted over time; in that sense any change brings time while those in politics seek ways to subvert the system.

  115. Joe

    Democracy may be a bad end, Drift, but it has been summarised as the best of a bad lot.

    Oh! I guess we should just give up now. Under that logic no possible solution could possibly be invented because it could only be worse that democracy.
    Look, collectivism does not work, democracy does not work, monarchy does not work, it’s time to think outside the box and try something new.

  116. Demosthenes

    If democracy is an end in itself, make the senate more democratic.

    The Senate’s purpose is not democratic. The opposite, in fact. This was the argument Queensland used when they abolished theirs.

  117. .

    Joe
    #1264918, posted on April 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm
    Democracy may be a bad end, Drift, but it has been summarised as the best of a bad lot.

    Oh! I guess we should just give up now. Under that logic no possible solution could possibly be invented because it could only be worse that democracy.
    Look, collectivism does not work, democracy does not work, monarchy does not work, it’s time to think outside the box and try something new.

    I hope so.

    Sortition, demarchy.

    I’m not sure that we aren’t chasing rainbows when we are looking for an incorruptible system. No matter what system we have, it is inevitable that someone will try to game it.

    Explain how.

  118. PoliticoNT

    Blogstrop – if the aim was that the populous states get 12 Senators, all other states and Territories get a pro-rata, with the minimum being two, regardless of population, and the NT becomes a State, and the ACT is transitioned to a (special) NSW shire (and hence loses all APH representation) – how do we achieve it?

    Is the issue of malapportionment sufficient to launch a challenge in the High Court (i.e., does the AEC have the power to change Senate numbers?), or are we talking about a Referendum? Because if it’s the latter I can’t see change ever occurring.

    Just asking.

  119. PoliticoNT

    Blogstrop – is an amendment to the Representation Act the best we could hope for? Reducing SA/TAS to six senators? (+ making the NT a state with the minimum six senators, and transitioning the ACT to a NSW Shire and taking away all of its APH reps) Numbers for the more populous states could be increased beyond 12 to counter any residue SA/TAS influence.

    You could also peg Senate numbers to economic outcomes – e.g. WA with a smaller population than NSW/VIC but better economic outcomes could be given the same Senate representation.

    Sure the system is broken, but how to fix it?

  120. PoliticoNT

    Earth to Blogstrop. Come in Blogstrop.

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