The sham that is our modern political systems never ceases to amaze or know any bound.
Recently the Centre for Independent Studies hosted a panel on Women in Politics. It was a discussion with four very bright, very capable and very talented women. As the title suggested, the discussion was about how to get more women into politics and parliaments. Not surprisingly the discussion veered into the differences between the major parties in their approach.
Although the conversation slightly touched on it near the end, there was no real or substantive discussion of WHY there is a movement to get additional women into parliaments. 98% of the discussion was on HOW to get women in parliament, but not WHY.
You’d think this was an important consideration, but it’s not as if HOW takes precedence over WHY in many aspects of political life. Some of TAFKAS’ favourites include how (not why) to nationalise Australia’s fixed telecommunication network and how (not why) to spend an additional $12 billion of Gonski education money. Oh and how to build over priced submarines in South Australia.
But back to women in politics and parliament. There may be many reasons why Australian might benefit from more women in parliament. Might benefit. Although they are never articulated, there are 2 reasons that come to TAFKAS’ mind – optics and cognitive diversity.
Whilst TAFKAS thinks optics is a poor reason, it can be argued that humans are more likely to trust people who look like them and have similar life experiences to them. On the other hand, cognitive diversity; diversity of experience, perspective and understanding, can lead to better problem solving and decision making.
At a time when our political system is suffering from a significant trust deficit and an inability to solve problems and make decisions, one might think that both these things would be good. Unfortunately though, the way our political parties seek to achieve diversity actually further erodes trust and further reduces cognitive diversity.
Citizens don’t trust a system where preference is given to people because of their chromosomal combinations. Similarly cognitive diversity is not determined by chromosomal combinations. A law graduate with no professional experience outside a ministerial or electorate office will not offer any particularly different perspective if they have an XY chromosome combination or XX.
If the political class really wants, real diversity and not just a slightly different means to select from the same ex-staffer pool, then there is solution that would be much more effective than quotas and the other nonsense programs proposed. It is called sortition.
Populating parliaments with a random selection of citizens from across Australia would deliver better trust in our representatives and greater cognitive diversity.
The only problem with implementing sortition, for the political elite at least, is that there would be fewer professional political, ex-staffer, lawyer, hack, insiders in Parliament. Male or female.
But sortation is also unlikely to be implemented because the power to implement it rests with those who would be the biggest losers.
Let’s get real. The current debate about women in politics is not about diversity. It’s about power and branding for the insider class. It’s about winning and not losing. It’s about the insiders and not the outsiders.