Political Reform

Let’s see. What have been the great political reform proposals of late? The 2 main ones offered up most recently and most frequently have been to neuter the Senate and to extend parliamentary terms from 3 to 4 years. Gee. I wonder who comes up with those?  Could these grand ideas have come from incumbent politicians?

The pattern is predictable.  Increased centralisation of power. Increased ability to pass legislation. Increased power of the executive.  Increased disenfranchisement of minor parties.  The cherry on top being, not surprisingly, bipartisan support of the major parties for these great ideas.

How about a quick quiz for the Cats. Which areas of public policy will almost always gain bipartisan support:

  1. Increased remuneration for politicians.
  2. Increased entitlements and fringe benefits for politicians.
  3. Increased public funding of political parties.
  4. Increased resources for politicians.
  5. Increased powers for politicians.
  6. All of the above, any time, any day, any how.  Not matter the state of the budget.  No matter the state of the economy.  No matter the view of the citizenry.

When it comes to political reform, it never seems to be about improved accountability or efficiency or effectiveness. Nope. The political reform proposals from politicians seem to always be about systems and rules to get the annoying citizens out of their way.  You see, politicians need to be comfortable and ensconced in their gated, secure and very well catered nirvana so that they can more easily take the liberties and assets of citizens.  For whose benefit is it to have a shining city on a hill with a giant steel fence around it to keep the unwashed masses out.

What about some reform to return power to citizens or to reduce the size and scope of government?  What about a proposal to reduce parliamentary member numbers or to introduce a house of repeal or to have citizen initiated referenda or to have recall elections or policy by citizen juries?  But such ideas aren’t to the benefit of the political class, which is why they never speak of them.

Ok.  That’s not entirely correct.  Former Senator John Madigan introduced a private members bill for Citizen Initiated Referenda, but should it not surprise Cats that both Senator Madigan is no longer a Senator and the bill has disappeared.  But also, the Australian Conservatives have a policy proposition to reform parliament:

We support the introduction of term limits for all politicians and restoring the principal role of the Senate as the States’ house. Australian Conservatives support Senate reform including: having Senators sit in State instead of party blocks, having no Senators form part of executive government and constitutional reform to resolve deadlocks without recourse to a double dissolution election.

If nothing else, preventing Senators from being part of the executive would spare Australians of the “executive” skills and wit of Senators Brandis, Wong, Birmingham, Carr, Dastyari, Cormann, Payne and Gallagher. If they want to be in the executive (or shadow executive) let them run for a lower house seat.

Political reform should not about protecting and further embedding incumbents and reducing political competition; because like every other anti-competitive marketplace, what happens is that prices (cost of politicians and cost of government) goes up and outcomes go down (educational performance, health performance, energy, NBN, I can go on for pages here).

Where once blaming the message (and not the policy) was the last refuge of a failing government, it seems that now the last refuge is blaming the citizens.  We, the politicians, cannot implement the agenda we want because you, the citizens, are clearly too stupid to give us unfettered legislating majorities and longer parliamentary terms.  We, the politicians, know what is good for you and you, the citizens, need to get out of the way so that we can give it to; and give it to you nice and hard.

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16 Responses to Political Reform

  1. zyconoclast

    We support the introduction of term limits for all politicians and restoring the principal role of the Senate as the States’ house. Australian Conservatives support Senate reform including: having Senators sit in State instead of party blocks, having no Senators form part of executive government and constitutional reform to resolve deadlocks without recourse to a double dissolution election.

    I’ve wanted this for a long time.
    Also to remove parties from the Senate, no above the line voting just need to list preferences from 1-6 or 1-12 depending on the available seats at the election.

  2. Bear Necessities

    The next political reform will be:

    For a representative or senator to have the option on relinquishing their office they can nominate the person to succeed to their office.

    Why go to the bother of having these expensive things called elections. The fruit of their loins (i.e. Palachook) is just as good or if not better!

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    The best immediate political reform would be to extend exhausting to the HoR ballot, as in NSW.

    The major parties are captured by elites. Just look at the Liberal Party insiders who booted their own members’ resolution out the door not long ago. The Labor Party is of course a union closed shop.

    Both sets of elites (and the elites stratum in Australia substantially overlaps party political affiliations) are favoured by the enforced preference vote towards either the ALP or the LNP in almost all lower house seats. You cannot now vote for another party without having to choose which of these mobs gets your ultimate vote. That is undemocratic.

    With preference exhausting in the HoR a political message from the voters can be better sent.

  4. Joe

    Re: the senate. If the senators are to site in state blocks instead of party blocks and cannot be a part of the government. Why have elections at all. Let the state government select who is to represent the state – and vote as the state government decrees. Then it will be a true states house.

  5. Joe

    DOH! … are to SIT not site…

  6. Joe

    Better yet. Replace the senate with a majority vote of the state governments (excluding territories).

  7. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Let the Senators be elected at each STATE election, as ambassadors of that state. Perhaps half elected by the people directly, and half appointed by the current state government.

  8. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Q. Why did the politician cross the road?
    A. Because the average politician is a chicken, and that is what a chicken would do!

  9. Mak Siccar

    Agree with zyconoclast. Optional preferential voting. Also I can’t see how we can get rid of political party affiliations from those who sit in the senate. The whole system and the current crop of self-serving politicians is a source of immense frustration, to me anyhow.

  10. What if what’s wrong with democracy is public opinion?

    If any one of us was arrested we wouldn’t clamour for an opinion-polling exercise or shallow show in gathering votes with puff and bluster. We would want a randomly selected group to look at all the evidence and see if they can find some common ground: the criminal jury.

    I look at the “change the Senate voting structure” options and wonder if that would really result in us making trusted public decisions. All of us would still see careerists and people saying things they dont totally believe in to win a headline and keep their job. I would like to see us trial a randomly selected Senate alongside the existing format. My guess is that it will reach practical compromises and generate government decisions most of us see as ‘fair enough’. That’s my threshold for a democratic reform.

    We don’t make major decisions on the basis of uninformed opinion, yet our method for making multi-billion dollar public decisions has public opinion at its epicentre. Let’s replace that with public judgement as we do with the criminal jury.

  11. JohnA

    If nothing else, preventing Senators from being part of the executive would spare Australians of the “executive” skills and wit of Senators Brandis, Wong, Birmingham, Carr, Dastyari, Cormann, Payne and Gallagher. If they want to be in the executive (or shadow executive) let them run for a lower house seat.

    Unintended consequence: in the present electoral climate of knife-edge-thin majorities, the two major parties will lock up the executive arm of government, possibly forever.

    Talented people who are out of favour within the major party (say, for argument’s sake, Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott) would be stuck. A minor party would have little chance of mustering sufficient electoral support to get into the lower house at all, let alone to form part of a coalition to govern.

    Result: up to 25-30% of voters disenfranchised.

  12. Greg

    The best argument against 4 year terms, is that this would mean that the dickheads in the senate would have 8 year terms.

  13. Sfw

    How about demanding that for each new law an old law must be repealed, preferably two old laws.

  14. Entropy

    On your list you forgot :increased delegation of decisions from Ministers to technocrats.

    Can’t be blamed for decisions by bureaucrats, its out of our hands ect. Also, decision making requires one to read briefs, and might interfere with elevenses.

  15. Rob MW

    A simple IQ and common sense test would suffice subject to the bar not being lower than at least 5 on the IQ test and higher than 6 on the common sense test. That should greatly improve the moronic interventionist fuckwits currently running the show.

  16. Mon

    How about taking back control of the Federal Government as it was first planned.
    The repeating of Ministries, Federal and State would have to be the greatest waste of money.

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