Ludlam’s future in doubt as WA Senate re-election likely



news The parliamentary future of Greens Senator and Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam is once again in doubt, following a decision by the High Court today that will likely mean a fresh election should be held for the Western Australian Senate, following mistakes made during last year’s Federal Election.

In early October, the Australian Electoral Commission announced that Ludlam had lost his seat, with candidates from the Liberal, Labor and Palmer United parties elected to the Senate from Western Australia in September’s Federal Election, despite the fact that the Greens took 9.48 percent of the initial vote and the Palmer United Party took 5 percent of the initial vote.

The news came as a blow to the Australian digital rights community, due to Ludlam’s role over the past half-decade after he was elected in 2007 increasingly coming to focus on holding powerful government departments and law enforcement bodies, politicians, corporations and other groups to account for increasing privacy rights violations and the encroachment of telecommunications surveillance in the digital age. Ludlam has also been extremely active in the National Broadband Network debate.

However, the Greens and the Australian Sports Party successfully appealed for a recount of the vote, given the very small margin in some parts of the counting (just 14 votes in one place) and the reported existence of anomalies in the count. At one point, Ludlam revealed “hundreds” of misplaced votes had been found.

Ludlam eventually retained his seat in the AEC’s recount, but a permanent decision on the issue was taken to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, with the Australian Electoral Commission and several other parties arguing that the loss of 1,370 ballot papers during the election meant that a new election should be held.

In a brief statement released this afternoon, the High Court noted that the legal issues had required the court to consider whether it could decide who should have been elected and whether it could come to that conclusion by looking at records made in earlier counts about the 1,370 lost ballot papers.

“The court held that it was precluded under the Act from looking at records of earlier counts of the lost ballot papers,” the High Court’s conclusion read. “It found that, without regard to the voting intentions recorded in those ballot papers, the conclusion that the loss probably affected the result of the election was inevitable. The number of ballot papers lost far exceeded the margin between the candidates at the determinative point in the count.

“And the re-count yielded different tallies of votes and different decisions about rejection or acceptance of ballot papers from those reached in the earlier counts, in numbers which could not be dismissed as irrelevant or trivial.”

The court rejected the argument of some complainants that it could determine who should have been elected in the WA Senate electiion by combining the results of the re-count with the records
made in earlier counts about the lost ballot papers, stating that method of ascertaining the result of the polling was one for which electoral legislation did not provide.

“The court concluded that it is therefore unnecessary for it to consider whether certain ballot papers had been wrongly accepted or rejected by the AEC in the re-count,” it stated.

The decision does not mean that the WA Senate election has been declared void, but it does mean that it may be declared void soon, and additionally that it will be likely that Western Australia will need to hold a new Senate Election, given that the current result cannot be considered valid. The High Court will hold a further hearing on Thursday this week on the issue. The Senate roles in question expire in mid-2014, so there is still some time before the election absolutely needs to be held.

And the wait continues ;) In all honesty, with the importance of the NBN and Internet surveillance issues at the moment, I believe this wait will benefit Ludlam. But who can say how the preference allocations will affect the vote — last time it was a shambles, as the result shows.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. Hopefully if we have to go to another election, Ludlam makes it in. But then again, what’s to say this whole fiasco doesn’t end up happening a second time :(

  2. There will be a new election in WA (unless un tampered missing votes are found very quickly), the PM will approach the WA Premier to have the writs issued at a time that would allow the elected senators to sit with the new senate.
    2 seats will be won by both Labor and the Liberal parties, the Greens will win one and the sixth and final seat could be either Labor or Liberal.
    None of the shadow (Lib or Lab vote funnels) or kook candidates will win a seat (that includes Palmer).

  3. I sincerely hope Scott Ludlam retains or is re-elected to his seat. He’s the one politician I’ve seen in these last few years who seems to have genuine integrity, and both understands and is passionate about the issues he represents in the Senate. He’s the one person who has repeatedly shown he has the interests of the Australian people at heart when it comes to the internet and our online rights. He’s been a staunch opponent of the Mandatory Filter, the Data Retention Scheme, the new CBN policy, and so on.

    • +eleventy billion….

      Scott Ludlum is one of the few respectable, notable and hard working people we have representing us. Australia would be well served by many more of his kind, regardless of political persuasion.

      • A respected politician, serving his constituents and country to the best of his ability? Protecting the peoples interests??? Can’t have that old chum, better get rid of him as soon as possible! –Thus the recount…
        Any time a decent politician comes along, he will be quickly corrupted or destroyed by the rest of them, what a great country we have. Just like the old union line, “Don’t work so hard, you make the rest of us look bad”

  4. I am waiting to see how the High Court judgement is framed.

    IMO it is imperative the AEC is required to implement a proper multi-factor audit trail on all ballot papers, so this can never happen again.

    Australia’s version of “democracy” is shaky at best, given it rests entirely on the compulsory vote, and any stuff-up now will only serve to strengthen the argument for computerised voting as is being introduced in the USA. And that would be the end of democracy in Australia.

    • “Australia’s version of “democracy” is shaky at best, given it rests entirely on the compulsory vote, ”
      Prima facie analysis of our compulsory franchise seems like a bad thing, but on closer examination and comparison with the US system we can see that, ironically, compulsory voting protects against the kind of disenfranchisement that occurs so frequently in the USA. Another benefit is that it also gives Australian governments more credibility to claim that they govern with the consent of the electorate, which is fundamental in a democracy.

      The biggest flaw with the current federal system is the group ticket voting for the senate, and how it makes the house of review so un-representative. Properly implemented optional preferential voting above the line would do away with this, and stop the gimmick/loony parties being used as vote funnels to subvert voter intent.

      It’s a shame that a senator like Ludlam, with and apparently genuinue interest in good government and policy, is at risk of losing his spot to some faceless party hack from the red or blue team.

      • I believe that compulsory voting is necessary (so that the AEC is compelled to reach voters), but actual votes from disinterested parties are unnecessary.

        I believe that people should be able to fill out a form (for each compulsory election), to abstain from the vote for that election – however, they must fill out the form, or else receive the fine.

        This way you get the best of both worlds: the disinterested not needing to vote (and the social liberals not having any objection), and maximum possible participation in the democratic process. Additionally, it’s not a huge jump from the existing system we have now, so it should not be difficult to implement.

        In reality, this system already exists as the informal vote, but there’s a semantic difference that will be significant to many people.

      • “…we can see that, ironically, compulsory voting protects against the kind of disenfranchisement that occurs so frequently in the USA.”

        Unfortunately we do not have the space here to properly analyse the Australian version of Democracy (Renai?), but while we wait (for the High Court) we may care to think of some other governments that had or still have Compulsory Voting.

        Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei

        The People’s Republic of China

        Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik

        And several other bad smells.

          • You’re right, I can, and probably should.

            But in the meantime, I will concede that Beano was comparing Aus with the USA. And yes, it does give Aus governments more credibility, but only on a superficial reading.

            Association Fallacy? We should remember Compulsory Voting was introduced in 1924, because pollies were worried that the electorate (for some unfathomable reason, I can’t imagine why) just couldn’t be bothered voting for people who really thought they were going to improve the Australian way of life (

            Compulsory Voting is mandatory if you’re a polly, optional if you’re a pleb.

          • Compulsory voting in Australia is entirely a semantic construction.

            1) It is only nominally compulsory to enrol to vote. The AEC and state electoral commissions do not have the resources to chase you up, or knowledge of you unless and until you enrol to vote.

            2) If you are enrolled, you are not heavily penalised if you don’t turn up to vote, it’s just a $20 fine. Only if you refuse to pay the $20 fine, and it goes to the Court, is your fine increased.

            3) Even if you don’t turn up to vote, it is very easy to get out of voting and get out of paying the fine.

            4) If you do “vote”, you don’t get fined for an informal vote aka a donkey vote (a non-vote) because we also have a secret ballot.

            In what way is compulsory voting actually, practically compulsory?

            Gordon, you are making much ado about nothing. The only objections to compulsory voting are purely philosophical (and often based out of laziness), but if you look at the practical application, there are no drawbacks and there are only benefits from compulsory voting.

            In Australia, the moment someone turns 18, they can vote – they can even enrol before they turn 18 to ensure they get the vote on election day.
            In Australia, the old and infirm and those with disabilities can easily vote.
            In Australia, when you’re NOT in Australia, you can easily vote.
            In Australia, the poor and marginalised can easily vote.

            Why? Because voting is compulsory. Because voting is compulsory, the AEC and state electoral commissions are compelled to reach voters to the best of their ability, and they are compelled to allow and enable voting to occur.

            Gordon, what would you be trying to achieve, exactly, if you had the power to abolish compulsory voting?

          • OK, first have a re-read of my OP. Suss out what I actually said.

            So. What is Australia’s version of Democracy? For that matter, what–exactly–is Democracy?

            Now we might think the Australian Constitution gives us democracy. Has anybody read the Constitution? Where are we guaranteed, for example, Freedom of Expression (aka Free Speech)? Or Freedom of Assembly? Or take the States. How many States have an incredibly-difficult-to-alter document as their Constitutions? I know for a fact that Western Australia doesn’t: it’s got (count ’em) two Acts of Parliament as its Constitution, and regularly amends whichever Act is most amenable to this massage. Does “democracy” permit such things as Charlie Court’s Section 54B of the Western Australian Police Act which banned gatherings of more than three people in a public space without police permission?

            It’s not mentioned anywhere, especially in Tim Evans otherwise excellent paper “Compulsory Voting in Australia” (, but Compulsory Voting is absolutely essential to support the statistical excercise we know and love as Preferential Voting. In order to arrive at the arcane (and archaic) figure called “Two-Party Preferred”, we need a minimum of 95% turnout. Even then, the Confidence Level must be reduced to somewhere close to 90% simply because we don’t know the effect of the Donkey Vote, and we’re too stingy to implement the Tassie Hare-Clarke variable ballot papers which reduce Donkey Votes to nearly nothing as an informal informal vote. BTW, would you like computerised/electronic voting which won’t let you out of the booth until you have lodged a “valid” vote? And which could be hacked before, during and after the event?

            “Because voting is compulsory, the AEC and state electoral commissions are compelled to reach voters to the best of their ability, and they are compelled to allow and enable voting to occur.” So how come they did not aready have a multi-factor audit policy/trail of each and every ballot paper? And while I don’t mind bagging Brits, it’s drawing a long bow to claim–even indirectly–their Electoral Commission does not make every effort to allow and enable voting to occur. Hell, even allowing for the illegalities in 2001 Florida, that State’s Electoral Commission did make every effort to ensure everybody who might vaguely have the franchise was able to cast a vote for or against George Dubya Bush!

            I repeat: Australia’s version of “democracy” is shaky at best, given it rests entirely on the compulsory vote, and any stuff-up now will only serve to strengthen the argument for computerised voting as is being introduced in the USA. And that would be the end of democracy in Australia.

          • First of all, you’re talking about liberty, not democracy. Western liberal democracies attempt to conflate the two, but they remain only aspects of the whole. Australia has democracy, and it is not “shaky at best” – at least not because of compulsory voting – that’s absurd. Our democracy could be shaky because of mass media and corporate influence, maybe, but they’re a scourge on most democracies (see Copyright for a major example).

            Preferential voting results in the least-worst option. It is a form of instant run-off voting. e.g. You vote between three candidates… Your vote is for Candidate C (preference ‘1’). Candidate C has the least votes and gets eliminated. Now you vote for either Candidate A or B (preference ‘2’ or ‘3’). Preferential voting ensures a majority: the majority votes against the worst candidates and the “best” (least-worst) candidate remains. It’s a shame that few people understand that. A large part of the reason that many people preference one of the two major parties first is because they’re worried that if they don’t do so, “[their] vote won’t count” – in other words, they seem to think it’s a first-past-the-post system. But think about this, if it were a first-past-the-post system, then their concerns would be valid: not voting for one of the two major parties would mean that their vote didn’t count.

            And who’s talking about electronic voting? I’m saying that Australian elections, in large part, work as they are. There are issues to sort through with Senate voting because of 1) group voting tickets, and 2) the requirement to either use a group voting ticket or to number every number below the line (more than 100 in the recent NSW election). GVT’s should be abolished, and you should be able to number several boxes above the line, or number only a minimum of, say, 12 boxes below the line. I think we could have electronically-assisted voting (here’s one example of that), but not electronic voting – elections should remain with paper ballots.

            What exactly does “multi-factor audit policy/trail” actually entail? Run me through an example of such a protocol. Why do you think such a policy doesn’t exist? How much do you know about the AEC’s processes?

            And your last post made it ambiguous – do you believe that voting should not be compulsory? Why?

          • I’ll tell you what “multi-factor audit policy/trail” is if you tell me what you think Democracy is. Or you could ask an accountant.

            Do I believe that voting should not be compulsory? Yes.

          • A poor response.

            Democracy is simply, in its purest form, “rule by the People”. In Australia and other Western Liberal Democracies, we’re talking about Representative Democracy. The People (of a constituency) elect their Representative(s), who Represent them in Government (in Federal Australian politics, that’s the Senate and the House of Representatives).

            You appear to have this very American view of what Democracy is – but you’re mistaken, because when you’re talking about Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly, you’re actually talking about Liberty (which is what the Americans were all about). Americans were concerned about “taxation without representation”. In that sense, Americans were rightly concerned, because they did not have democratic representation.

            Western Liberal Democracy presumes that the basis for a healthy democracy is in civil liberties. The power to organise (freedom of assembly) and to make your views heard (freedom of speech) are essential to political debate, which is essential to ensuring fair and proper governance. However, whether or not that is enshrined in our Constitution is irrelevant – up to a point: when groups are suppressed and views are suppressed because of the lack of enshrinement in our Constitution (or laws, or whatever) only then might there be an argument that the foundation of our democracy is weak. However, that’s a shaky argument at best. The powerful will compel and influence and poke and prod and do whatever it is they must to maintain and enlarge their power, whether they work within the laws and the Constitution or not.

            The funny thing is, according to the Democracy Index 2012, Australia was ranked 6 as a Democracy, while the United States was ranked 21.

            The right question to ask is not “What is democracy?” but “Why democracy?” – Only by looking at it in that way can you see the failures and successes of democracies as systems for the governance of people, and what kinds of democracy should be championed.

            Australia inarguably has a democracy, and arguably one of the best in the world. Compulsory voting (with very light penalties for failure to conform) is one part of our success.

            You need to explain why you believe there should not be compulsory voting, and you need to explain why you believe that Australia does not have a strong democracy. You also need to explain what shortcoming the AEC has, but you already promised to do that.

    • I must disclaim any special knowledge of AEC procedures. There are things I would have recently assumed they would do routinely, and other things I had assumed they would not do. But all was assumption, including an ideal universe. On a personal level, in previous lives working as a storeman I actually used Multi-Factor Audit Policies and Trails but not under those names. One would be surprised at the level of security required in most stores and warehouses, and nobody should be surprised by the real level of (in)security practiced there. Think people using the Admin account for terminal work on the system server…

      In reference to security matters, we mostly see the term “Multi-Factor” in permissions and authorising. The most publically visible usage these days is in bank transactions. The term refers to (almost always) three attributes pertaining to any transactor: identity, knowledge and possession. That is (for example), user-name, password, and code-key.

      Multi-Factor can also be used very comfortably with Authorisation, as distinct from Permission. We want to avoid blurring the lines here, as both these terms can be used interchangeably as both “property” and “attribute”. The code-key in the bank transaction can be thought of as the “Authorisation”, given by the bank to its client so as to enable the secure use of the remote technology. In the bad old days, this would have been the Pass-Book, or Cheque-Book…

      So, any security regime (pro tem., think financial accounting) will have some mechanism to ensure the books are kept honestly. This we would call an Audit Policy. And in any audit there is a trail, and in finance we would think “transactions”. Who gave or received how much to/from whom, when?

      And from there, we see that a Multi-Factor Audit Policy must not only consider if the transactors have authority, but also whether the items being moved and the people moving them also have permission. Specifically, did the AEC keep all ballots (in or out of boxes) in a removal-proofed manner? And did the AEC allow only specified people a) to be in certain locations, and b) to touch or otherwise access certain documents or containers?

      And, fairly obviously, the “Multi-Factor Audit Trail” would consist of documents and other recordings detailing all activity by all people in all locations, and all movements of documents and other physical records at or between all locations, with reference to both the permissons attached to the items and to the authority held by the people.

      This little screed is very basic, an overview of one small section of Security 1-0-1. It does not address any part of security remediation, otherwise known as “If I have been penetrated, why can’t I feel the shaft up my backside? And if I haven’t, what is that big thing sticking out of my backside?” If you have not yet done so, read LeCarre’s wonderful novel, “Smiley’s People”.

      • Why do I believe Australia does not have a strong democracy?

        I’d like to go back to Beano’s post, “Another benefit is that it also gives Australian governments more credibility to claim that they govern with the consent of the electorate, which is fundamental in a democracy.” There are 4 important words here: “credibility”, “claim”, “consent” and “fundamental”.

        Now I don’t know Beano, his manner of expression, his sense of humour. But the phrasing of the statement leaves me in no doubt that only one interpretation is possible: complete cynicism. However, two words point to my reasons for believing we have a weak democracy in Australia. “Consent” must be informed, and I don’t mean by the partisan press/media. And “Fundamental” indicates the absolute importance of the referred phrase “consent of the electorate”.

        An illustration. The 2010 election produced a “hung Parliament”. Oddly enough, not only our Westminster inheritance but also many Governments more experienced than Australia know exactly how to handle these. So why didn’t we?

        Well, we didn’t. We have an unedifying example set by Paul Murray writing in the “West Australian” ( retrieved 23-02-14@15:13:

        It has been obvious from the start that the independents were only interested in securing longevity for their balance of power. And they wanted as much pork as they could wrestle, which appears to be about $9.9 billion, and a whopping old-fashioned cross-subsidy for regional broadband users.

        The truth is that their single overwhelming duty, having been put in this historic position, was to reflect the will of the people and act in the national interest.

        Their response has been to show the finger to the majority of Australians Mr Windsor says would return a coalition government if another election was held now.

        Ummm… What, exactly, was the will of the people? What, exactly, was the national interest? It would seem the NBN wasn’t. (Sorry Renai, but according to Paul…)

        And look at the number of people who still believe Sir John Kerr did not have the (reserve) power to dismiss Gough Whitlam’s government!

        An educated electorate understands that in adversarial elections close results are common. Some of them very close.

        So what’s needed to produce a strong democracy? Obviously not elections. Not even compulsory, preferential elections.

        In America, in every classroom in almost every school in the nation, students stand up every morning and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while saluting their Flag. In almost every school in the nation, students are taught politics both in the classroom and in the annual student council electoral campaigns. Does this happen in Australia? I can remember when (West Australian) teachers were forbidden to teach both religious and political content in the 60s and 70s, for fear of offending parents!

        How on earth can any elector give consent to something (s)he knows very little about? And I ask, for how much longer must we suffer Federal and State pollies arguing over education? When my daughter was in Year 4, I had to put to the school that a child who had almost no knowledge of where in Australia her State capital city was, not even sure what its name is, was a failure of the system equivalent to the “Dark Ages”–I was told “…There is nothing wrong, your child is above average…”

        In what way is compulsory voting actually, practically compulsory? In short, when people have to pay a fine for not enrolling (1 penalty unit, Au2013$170) or not turning up to have their name crossed off ($20/$170), plus a criminal record if dealt with in court. It’s also compulsory when it is illegal to tell/advise electors how to not actually vote.

        “…you’re talking about liberty, not democracy.” Ah, no. “Liberties” are what one is allowed to do. Here’s a big word: DUTY. Learn it. Duty is what one is required to do, and often there are penalties attached for failure to perform one’s duty. There is no Liberty here. Take for example, my compulsory Senior First Aid and Resuscitation. Compulsory because I’m not allowed on most worksites without it. The OHSA legislation provides that as I have First Aid and Resuss then failure to render assistance to an injured person on or in the worksite will result in prosecution. At work I have a DUTY. Off-site, I have a Liberty to render First Aid and/or Resuss if I feel like it, I can if I want just turn around and walk away.

        Get the difference?

        “…but you’re mistaken, because when you’re talking about Freedom of of Speech and Freedom of Assembly, you’re actually talking about Liberty (which is what the Americans were all about).”

        OK, here you have the wrong answer for the right reason.

        Back to Beano: Democracy is founded on the right (Liberty) of the People to speak freely without fear of State reprisal. (And I wouldn’t lean on the USA too hard, that crutch is rotten with racism and slavery. The Land of the Free wasn’t, and too many times you had to be Brave if you made a Home there.)

        Our Constitution guarantees us nothing. No State Constitution guarantees us any Liberty. We are not free to get a good education. We are not free to assemble. We are not free to speak, be heard. And we are not free to ignore the elections. We do get schooling, yes, and we can congregate and speak. But only as a convenience for the State, not as our right.

        And we must address the question, which is the louder voice: the education system, or the adversarial media moguls?

        Whether these things are enshrined in our Federal Constitution or not is very relevant. Our Westminster System uses a paradigm called “Fusion of Powers”. Essentially, the Legislature (House of Reps) enjoys an untested executive function, in addition to its law-making and policy direction functions. I doubt very much that any Federal or State government would limit education to the “3 R’s”. But there is nothing to stop any Australian government from so modeling education funding that the system would be fatally biased in any chosen direction. Similarly, as demonstrated by the Court government of Western Australia in 1975, anti-association laws can be passed very quickly to prevent undue protest of almost anything.

        We need to heed Malcolm Fraser’s unintended warning from 1994:
        …but there’s another very significant difference between Her Majesty in Britain and the Governor-General in Australia. The Governor-General has no tenure. He is there at call. He can be sacked with a telephone. Now the telephone call won’t – Her Majesty would say, ‘But Prime Minister I really need to have reasons in writing’. ‘Well these reasons will follow Your Majesty, but as from this moment, this man is not to be regarded as your representative in Australia.’ ‘Well I accept that Prime Minister, but I insist on having coherent, forceful reasons in writing’, which will then be made up after the event. So a phone call could destroy the Governor-General’s power. Now the Queen has tenure.
        Interviewer: Robin Hughes
        Recorded: April 13, 1994
        [“The Queen has tenure, and she couldn’t be sacked. But a Governor-General holds office at pleasure, and if he ceases to please then he can be removed by a Prime Minister.”]
        (As variously quoted.)

        Australia’s version of “democracy” is shaky at best, given it rests entirely on the compulsory vote, and any stuff-up now will only serve to strengthen the argument for computerised voting as is being introduced in the USA. And that would be the end of democracy in Australia.

        • I’d say we actually have a pretty good system going, it’s delivered a (mostly) stable government for over 100 years. Even though people complained about the instability of the recent hung parliament, that was still actually much better than any other country.

          The real perversion of system, however, has only really started recently where ‘The Party’ is more important than those that elect those parties. That was one of the big failings of ‘Rudd/Gillard’ Labor (the internal party power lines were more important to them than the ‘rank and file’) and it’s an even bigger failing under Abbott who is breaking promises he made to the people (he hasn’t ‘Stopped the boats’, he’s just stopped information about them for example). His super secret government (that was promised to be a transparent one prior to the election) has actually turned out to be diametrically opposite of what he promised.

          The way the system is supposed to work is a member is supposed to form a consensus with other members that gives them the best outcome for their local electors. ‘The Party’ system totally skews that objective in many cases (though kudos should got to Sharman Stone for stepping outside ‘The Party’ line to stick up for her electors).

          And don’t even get me started on commercial lobby groups :/

          • Yes.

            We’ve been the “Lucky Country” in more ways than one. The vast majority of pollies have been at least cognisant of the people’s needs, and keenly aware of the metaphorical bloodshed needed to get Federation and the Constitution up and running. (As an aside, the Spanish Flu outbreak in the 1920s nearly brought it all down as State Governments struggled with not enough of anything to keep people from dying…)

            Unfortunately, while democracy is the best form of government, it is also the weakest because it cannot easily defend itself. So it falls prey to (especially) Plutocratic forces enabled and sometimes driven by (News)Media interests. This is exacerbated by our Colonial hangover and replacement of Britain by the USA as our geopolitical exemplar: we have to imitate them to show we’re good enough to mix it…

            The failure to develop a consensual democracy doesn’t help. Like almost every other “democracy” in the world, ours is adversarial, with all the negative baggage that goes with it. In this sense, it is sad the Australian Democrats never had the gonads to stand up and be counted, and the Greens have taken far too long to develop the breadth of policy needed to become a major player. It is also unfortunate the Nationals carried forward their Country Party inheritance as the Liberal Rump Party.

            FWIW, I have more detailed background here.

            Our next important step forward is to develop and write a new Constitution, which explicitly protects the basic human rights needed to support a consensual democracy. However, ATM I’m not holding my breath. (And for PRISM etc, yes, this is revolution-ary. Suck it.) (Renai, if necessary, we can remove the finger from PRISM.)

          • Thank you for your posts. Very informative and thought-provoking.

            I’m just not quite sure how it is you reach your conclusion:
            Australia’s version of “democracy” is shaky at best, given it rests entirely on the compulsory vote, and any stuff-up now will only serve to strengthen the argument for computerised voting as is being introduced in the USA. And that would be the end of democracy in Australia.

            You oppose compulsory voting… which you believe is the foundation of our democracy. So take out the foundation, take out compulsory voting, and what do you have? Probably the USA-lite.

            Voting is a citizen’s right, is it not? Compulsory voting protects that right. I would go further and say that voting (and voting well) is a citizen’s responsibility.

            I think that there are problems with our democracy, and compulsory voting doesn’t register on that list.

            The inherent problems, I believe, with our democracy are:
            – The party system.
            – Geographical electorates.

            Other problems with our democracy are external:
            – Corporate influence.
            – Media bias to the point of inventing controversies and falsehoods.
            – Lack of political education (as you rightly point out).

            Things that are good with our democracy:
            – Our high participation rate thanks to compulsory voting.
            – (Only because of the party-electorate-system that currently exists) Our preferential voting system that (should) result in the least-worst candidates.

            All of these things link up together to result in governments that don’t really rule in the people’s best interests – but instead in whatever interests the elected wish to see advanced – interests which have a hand in influencing the election outcome. Of course, the best kind of influence for one of those interests is one that isn’t split along party lines, like for example what seems bipartisan support for maintaining Copyright monopolies.

            If it were up to me I would:
            1. Allow people to opt out of voting (but it must be opt out, not opt in).
            2. Do away with political parties and/or do away with geographical electorates.
            3. Have a politically-informed population.
            4. Make Australia a republic with a popularly-elected independent president with veto powers. How this works with #2 (or even with the existing system) would be interesting to brainstorm.
            5. Make voting (e.g. in the Senate) easier.

            If those things don’t go far enough, measures should be taken to curb corporate influence first, and then media bias.

            Maybe one or more of these measures will allow the rest to sort themselves out. Do I expect any of these changes to actually occur in my lifetime? Probably not, because it suits the status quo, and the powerful have always sought to maintain the status quo.

          • Thank you for your appreciation.

            …which you believe is the foundation of our democracy. Well, there’s foundations and there’s foundations. I dig the footings for the house, then get some nice railway sleepers to use as the foundations. Slap some termite killer and creosote, a bit of cement and lay the brick walls… How long will the house last?

            How long has England lasted? The USA?

            Actually, the wood foundations are a bit extreme, to make a point. To bring down a democracy is difficult, just ask Adolph. He needed a Great Depression and piratical post-WW1 reparations to enlist the sympathies of the German electorate, and was immensely helped by the world-wide anti-Jewish sentiments of the time. Our democracy is not going anywhere any time soon.

            OTOH, we live in a much more adversarial environment, and one where individual extreme protest is much more widely practised and harnessed. Not that the threats to our democracy are that much greater, but they still exist. And we note that voting got Adolph into power, but it took a nearly gobal war to get him out.

            The proper foundations of any democracy are the guaranteed Liberties (the Rights) of Speech, Education and Assembly. Voting is a manner of Speech, and no person really should Speak until S(s)he has had an Education… If we have the Right to Free Speech (which is NOT the right to shout “Fire!” in a packed movie theater!) then we also have the Right to not Speak.

            It is that simple. Compulsory Voting was introduced in Australia because no politician could be bothered making peace with working class electors who had no reason to like or trust the aristocracy, as politicians were perceived to be. Consider Lloyd Biggle Jr: “Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.” (Various novels.) Or Mahatma Gandhi: “The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.” and “In true democracy every man and women is taught to think for himself or herself.”

          • Just a quickie point I didn’t pick up earlier:

            The inherent problems, I believe, with our democracy are:

            – Geographical electorates.

            One of Cleisthenes’ reforms in ancient Athens was to base individual political responsibility on citizenship of a place rather than on membership in a clan.

            This single reform–which, BTW, died with the Greek city-states–removed family partisanship and clan warlords. Today, it enables effective government in any mode (democracy, autocracy, etc) simply because street addresses are much easier to deal with than (again) recalcitrant clan hierarchies.

          • I actually had a comprehensive read of your website yesterday, so I saw that reference earlier.

            What I’m trying to get at is this gaming of the system by reaching “critical mass” in key seats. Parties with significant support but whose support is geographically disparate (such as the Greens for instance) cannot easily win seats, even if they achieve the quota of votes nationally that would ordinarily allow them to win multiple seats. Theoretically, a political party with just 26% of the national vote could win government, because they’d only need 51% representation in 51% of seats (0% elsewhere). And perhaps worst of all with this geographical electorate system, political parties (and a complicit media), in their campaigns, pander to “marginal” electorates, and put the focus on those electorates, instead of on the country as a whole.

            Now I’m not advocating a return to clanship or tribalism – in fact, quite the opposite. Political parties are a modern and prevalent form of clanship or tribalism.

            If we did away with political parties entirely (abolished and banned them), we could have elected independents who only represent the people in their electorates. But that brings up other questions: 1) How might these independents reliably form (Executive) government? 2) Why not simply use a popularly-elected local administrative body (a council) to represent these people?

            On the other hand, why couldn’t we simply have proportional representation in the lower house (Australia-wide, say) like we have in the upper house?

            I think that in a way, the Senate and the HoR are backwards. The Senate, with proportional representation (or pretty close), better represents the mix of policy views of the overall electorate, through party first preferences. The HoR, which are based on geographical boundaries, should in theory represent the people within those boundaries.

            What if the lower house (with Executive power) were formed by proportional representation of political parties (actually, I’d still prefer if they were independents), and the upper house were formed by non-partisan (independent) single-member geographical seats?

            Of course there would be challenges: in order not to restrict the upper house to wealthy candidates, you’d have to provide public funding for campaign expenses (within reason) and you would need to restrict private funding; a single electorate would result in a massive ballot paper for the lower house that would put the NSW Senate vote to shame.

            Also, as to free speech:

          • Love your link! Something some folks in the Land of the Free should read! I actually see a difference betweeen Free Speech and Freedom to Speak…

            I agree with almost all of your last. I did see (recently, dammit!) a think-piece on upper and lower Houses, but do you think I can recall the link? Upshot was that the Upper House was a necessary limitation on the Executive Power of the Lower House.

            Remind me one day to study up the state of play in Queensland’s uni-cameral Parliament. They don’t pork-barrel there as much now,do they?

            BTW, and completely off-topic (or is it?). Would you believe we actually are a republic now? For example, H. G. Wells regularly used the term “crowned republic” to describe the United Kingdom. The key piece here is the limitations placed on the Monarch in the 1700s, reducing the hereditary office to a ceremonial figurehead, thus–eventually–vesting power explicitly in the people & blah blah blah. And guess what? We don’t have to spend squillion$ electing a new prez every 4 years! She’s very economical is our Liz!

          • To be clear, I believe that a bicameral parliament makes sense: one house balances against the Executive power of the other. However, it’s the current implementation of that which I question.

            Here’s what I’d like to see:

            1) The lower house is formed by a nation-wide vote – with proportional representation (similar in practice to how the senate should operate). The lower house retains Executive power.

            2) No political parties in the upper house (the check and balance against the Executive power of the lower house).

            3) Either the upper house formed by strictly independent representatives (that must not have a political affiliation with or financial support from a party in the lower house), OR represented by elected local governments (councils), OR simply drawn at random from eligible citizens just like jury duty – it couldn’t be any worse, probably better.

            4) Have a far more fluid Executive government without Government and Opposition, perhaps without Prime Minister and Cabinet; and achieved perhaps by means of greater separation of Legislative and Executive powers. Of course, this is the part of my model that I am most unsure about – how do we ensure a fluid democracy that revolves around policies without bogging down the day-to-day running of government?

            5) Opt-out voting. I’d explain this the following way: Compulsory voting (you must vote); Voluntary voting (you might vote); Opt-out voting (you may choose not to vote). The key here is that the effort required to not vote is roughly equal to, or perhaps slightly exceeds, the effort required to vote. The compulsion for the electoral commissions to reach all eligible voters is no less. We can have our cake and eat it too.

            Now, I’m not going to claim that if we went to voluntary voting, either the electoral commission would be too lazy (or under-resourced) to enable voting, or that parties and interest groups might suppress voters. But given time? It might just happen.

            And as much as I hate to admit it, it makes some sense to have Executive power granted to elected party representatives – because that’s what the bulk of policies and party platforms are based around – and it is those policies that (we hope) people vote for.

            As far as republics and the monarchy go, I find the monarchy has no modern appeal. I’d go further than the crowned republic and remove the crown. One suggestion I have seen for an elected president in Australia is that they could serve in the role currently undertaken by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

            As for freedoms, I think it is important that they are not enshrined in legislation or our constitution, as it’s a slippery slope. It would be too easy to defend an act “in the name of freedom”. Everyone already has freedom of speech – just not the freedom to abuse others. We should not allow freedoms as that a) allows abuse of those freedoms, and b) means that someone is deciding what freedoms we may be allowed. Instead we should simply disallow abuses of freedoms (commonly known as the law). We should treat laws as exceptions that prove the rule (of freedom), rather than make laws that enforce the rule (of freedom), as that becomes too inflexible. Our rights are a different thing to our freedoms, and should be kept separate. Complete freedom is anarchy – and anarchy could be a true threat to our rights.

      • I am happy to see us coming together both in robust debate and in ageement to disagree. There is certainly a place to continue this in a more “topical” list: I do wonder how many are following this one?

        BTW, at least some of my delays in response are due to a “can’t see to can’t see” work schedule–very remunerative, but hell on social interaction!

        Anyway, in the matter of Freedoms, I don’t share your trust in human nature. Yes, a document (no matter how protected) can be ripped and torn by a sufficiently powerful political lobby nearly as easily as legislated freedoms. I have already referred to WA’s two Constitutions, which are amended at the governing Party’s will. If Brandis is able to make alterations to Section 18C, what is to stop another AG from re-altering that Law?

        However, many of your concerns about popular misuse of these guaranteed Freedoms in a document rather than legislation can be addressed by the use of Negative Phrasing, hinted at in Essentially, we don’t make Freedom to Speak, we make Protection from Assault (purely an example, not to be taken seriously without thorough development) which would allow only constructive Speech while permitting any potentially troublesome voice to be tested. Here we follow the Entitlement to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (not that that gave any joy to the slave population) in America. Having said all that, it is important that our Rights be as few in number and as broadly phrased as possible.

        I am having trouble with your “slippery slope”. Certainly some of the Rights in the USA Constitution and its Amendments are nothing but invitations to catastrophe–is this what you have in mind?

        About the Australian Monarchy. The very best thing about the arrangement is that they live somewhere else! We get to choose (OK, the ruling Party chooses for us, but almost always does a good job) our Governors, and the reality is that their salaries and other expenses are far less than a quadrennial presidential election would cost us. Even the appointment of Peter Hollingworth was a good choice. It was no fault of the Government that people (I’m probably not allowed to name a certain child protection worker here) who had knowledge of Hollingworth’s failings chose deliberately to conceal their evidence prior to his appointment in such a way as to inflict the maximum damage on a government they hated. Maybe John Howard should have done better homework, but OTOH… And when we look at Heads of State overseas… IMHO we have a good bargain here!

        Ummm… Anarchy simply means “A State with no rulers”, possibly the ultimate in democracy, given that all citizens who wish a peaceful life would be morally bound to the Athenian requirement of (legislative) participation! Anarchy as a term is the complete antithesis to the Collection Of All Other *archies. I am sure there is a term somewhere that means “Total absence of Government”, but my Classics don’t go that far.

        • Hello Relim & gordon451. very interesting thread, thanks. Some questions for Mr 451 to provoke thought/discussion:

          Is there a country that’s a better approximation of well-functioning democracy that Australia? Does your uncorrupted libertarian democracy exist somewhere?

          How do you reconcile the idea that the real libertarian parties only get into parliament on the back of the same preferential voting system, and some measure of voter ignorance? (LDP in NSW as an example.) Not stirring, genuinely interested. Me, I think some form of preferential voting is necessary for a plurality of voices, including libertarian ones, to avoid a permanently entrenched political duopoly. All voting systems are imperfect, I think ours has served us well, but we’ve just discovered a “bug”, a software vulnerability that the fringe party script kiddies have worked out how to exploit. So it needs patching, but not a full rewrite.

          I like your freedom song, but I’m always a little nervous about the echoes of the “Oh, sweet liberty!” tune sung by conservative US politicians. Corporate corruption cloaked as libertarianism. And my problem is that I think it’s inevitable that those things go together:

          – the free-market-as-liberty-creates-wealth idea gets co-opted by businesses that want to maximise their control of government for anti-competitive reasons…because most people can’t tell the difference between free markets & benefits for individual businesses;

          – upstanding business-like-figures gain from a tribal alignment with social conservatism, social control, and strong respect for institutions of power;

          – which then aligns with militarisation & mass surveilance, etc.

          So you get mass surveillance, militarisation, social control, business/government entanglement for entrenched monopoly powers, cloaked in that libertarian mantle. What’s the way out? If not preferential voting?

          Mr Ludlam seems to be doing a better job of fighting those things than anyone! Remaining an eminently reasonable, top bloke, while he’s at it.

          • Hi Uncle! Welcome to the Party! You do realise we could be starting a Revolution here?

            Is there a country that’s a better approximation of…
            Sweden, as of Democracy Index 2007. Overall score, 9.88. Note that Sweden has a unicameral Riksdag, plus County Council, Municipal and EU Parliament. It uses Proportional (Sainte-Laguë) optional single-preference elections, and VOLUNTARY voting but compulsory registration.

            I wish The Economist would get a more current version up…

            In the USA: “Many people, at some time in their lives, change political party affiliations. You may, for example, identify with a different political party because of a change in their views. In some cases, it may be necessary to change parties in order to vote in that party’s primary election. Fortunately, changing your political party is as easy as registering to vote.”

            Uncorrupted? Try Utopia.

            How do you reconcile the idea…
            Preferential reduces fragmentation, but favours close results. Proportional (Senate) favours small parties, and therefore fragmentation. We also note that many new Parties do not have a broad set of policies to attract a broad demographic…

            but we’ve just discovered a “bug”…
            See previous. TBH, I think Canberra should have adjusted upward a long way the number of members needed to be a Party. I have no problem with new “fringe” parties, they make life interesting, but there is a limit.

            What’s the way out? If not preferential voting?
            Rigorously defined Liberties, or better, Prohibitions (Thou Shalt NOT…) We have already observed that the #1 democracy doesn’t share our electoral/political way!

            Occasionally I daydream about being Dictator of Australia, what I would do to reform the system. Much of my thinking very closely resembles Relim above, especially in the elimination of political parties. However, Human Nature being what it is, the Castles in the Clouds tend to fall in the rain with monotonous frequency. However, I do feel that a well-conceived Constitution could forever force National Unity Cabinets, composed of the best parliamentarians (as opposed to mere politicians) for the job. I also feel that a well-conceived Constitution could dictate the caliber of electoral candidates, helping to rebuild the trust in Australia that people in other nations used to have in their representatives.

            Just to put the icing on the cake, I see no reason why the Speaker in each House could not right now, this week, be replaced by an appointee from the appropriate Public Service, or even dragooned from non-political life.

          • Been busy with work myself.

            I think we may have just misunderstood one another on the freedom thing. I agree with negative phrasing – as such, I disagree with writing “freedom of speech” into our constitution, a la the US. Are you saying that you wish the negatively phrased versions of our rights to be added to the constitution, so that they cannot be easily changed (relative to “mere” laws)? In that respect, you might have my support.

            I don’t buy the cost argument. Why couldn’t we elect the President in the same elections as we elect senators and representatives? You’d just get a third ballot paper.
            How could his or her position cost more, for instance, should we give the President the positions that the current Speaker of the House AND Governor-General occupy?

            Now you’ve lost me. How can anarchy possibly be equal to democracy? They contradict one another. Democracy is rule by the people. Anarchy is a state without rule. A harmonious anarchy would be the best form of “government” that humanity could ever possibly develop – all of us could be free to do what we want, without ever stepping on the toes of anyone else – but it is NOT a democracy, and such a fantasy, such a Utopia, cannot exist – for three main reasons: human beings must interact with one another; resources are finite, so there will always be conflict; and being free to do what we want will include and perhaps necessarily involve stepping on the toes of others. The Internet is the closest thing we have to such a beautiful system, and even then we’re finding people can be hurt.

            Yes, the US Constitution and its Amendments are examples of the “slippery slope”, and that’s what I had in mind. The constitutional right to freedom of speech pretty much allows you to say whatever you like, damn the consequences. And let’s not talk about the right to bear arms…

            Why do you cling to the idea that voting must be opt-in? Have you considered the happy medium (opt-out) that I have suggested?

            You do mention that your thinking closely resembles mine, but I’d like to get the full picture. What is your hoped-for vision of Australia?

            As for your idea about appointing the Speaker from the public service – well, we could take that further, really. Why democracy at all? Why not simply have an administration, formed by the public service, with full Executive power? Certainly, I’d still expect some democratic veto power in case the country’s “Chief Executive Officer” gets ideas that are too big and ridiculous, but the idea seems workable.

            Your more radical idea of drafting the Speaker from ordinary citizens, I have to say it has some appeal. But let’s face it, why couldn’t we randomly draft our parliamentarians from our ordinary citizenry? Do away with all of the popularity contests entirely. They could hardly do worse – they’d probably do better.

          • …you wish the negatively phrased versions of our rights to be added to the constitution…
            I think that would be the way to go, yes. And no, it’s not that simple.

            I don’t buy the cost argument.
            The cost argument is the cream on the cake, like their 95% absence. It’s the convenience I like. Why have an election for a figurehead?

            OK, from a purely humanitarian viewpoint, no person should be groomed from childhood to do that type of duty, without even a dignified right of refusal or any consideration of leadership potential. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think “There but for the grace of God…”

            …should we give the President the positions…
            No, not the Speaker or the Senate President. They have specific tasks and very important ones. I’m not happy they are elected from the elected members, but that is a historical tradition from just after the year dot.

            However I would be happy if the Speaker and Senate President were members of the GG’s staff.

            How can anarchy possibly be equal to democracy?
            Aaaahhh, it’s all in the smoke and mirrors of our language ;) From,
            word-forming element meaning “rule,” from Greek -arkhia “rule,” from arkhos “leader, chief, ruler,” from arkhe “beginning, origin, first place”;

            word-forming element forming nouns meaning “rule or government by,” from Greek -kratia “power, might; rule, sway; power over; a power, authority,” from kratos “strength”.

            So, “demos”+”kratos” –> “people”+”authority” = democracy, and “an”+”arkhia” –> no ruler. Oddly enough, Australia was a collection of anarchic democracies prior to the arrival of the white men: one definition of “Terra Nullius” is “No sovereign or government known to Europe”, and no Aboriginal language has terms for “chief”, “servant”, or any title of distinction. I have a feeling many South American jungle tribes are also anarchic democracies. Almost by definition, an anarchic non-democracy is prey.

            Why do you cling to the idea that voting must be opt-in?
            from “The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy 2007”.
            III Political participation, page 10.
            27. Voter participation/turnout for national elections.
            (average turnout in parliamentary and/or presidential elections since 2000. Turnout as proportion of population of voting age).
            – 1 if consistently above 70%
            – 0.5 if between 50% and 70%
            – 0 if below 50%
            If voting is obligatory, score 0. My emphasis.
            Score 0 if scores for questions 1 or 2 is 0.

            TBH, I’ve only just discovered this gem!

            And I’ve always considered voting as a form of paying respect. You cannot buy respect, and it cannot be forced. You want it, you earn it. And I’ve seen precious few pollies (the term is derogatory by the way) who even begin to earn my respect.

            What is your hoped-for vision of Australia?
            ATM, I’d settle for some glimmer of independence, some vague intimation of self-reliance instead of always looking for permission or approval from the rest of the world. We’re an island: don’t you think by now we’d have a flourishing maritime industry for *()&6’s sake? And don’t get me started on our waste of iron ore!

            Why not simply have an administration, formed by the public service, with full Executive power?
            Italy is a marvellous example of Parliamentary disfunction with a perfectly functional Public Service making sure the nation keeps somewhere near the straight and level. Let me count the iconic industries: automotive, aeronautical, electronic, maritime…

            …why couldn’t we randomly draft our parliamentarians from our ordinary citizenry?
            If I could think of some way to make it work…

          • …you wish the negatively phrased versions of our rights to be added to the constitution…
            I think that would be the way to go, yes. And no, it’s not that simple.

            Well, you have to start somewhere.

            On cost, you have this odd idea that money is wasted when we have elections. Money doesn’t get wasted any more than evaporated water disappears from existence. It simply recirculates. Money just exists to enable the trade of goods and services. If the temporary stimulation of consumption in the economy by those employed in elections is something you object to, then that’s a different issue. If that money largely ended up in an off-shore bank account, well then I’d agree it would be a waste – however, I suspect such concerns are unnecessary.

            OK, from a purely humanitarian viewpoint, no person should be groomed from childhood to do that type of duty, without even a dignified right of refusal or any consideration of leadership potential. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think “There but for the grace of God…”
            I must say I find your sympathies for the royal family rather admirable… written with some irony.

            We will have to agree to disagree on what the President’s roles should be. I believe they should be much more than just a figurehead. Because when you put it that way, ‘why should we elect a figurehead?’, honestly, why should we need a figurehead at all? What use to us are the Queen and her heirs and the Governor-General? Why cannot Australia itself, its land and its people, be the “Head of State”?

            Whether we become a Republic with a President or a Republic with a figurehead or a “headless” Republic is a matter of flavour. The Republic isn’t so much a hope as it is an inevitability. It is time to welcome it.

            We will also have to disagree on the viability of modern “anarchic democracies” (which aren’t, in the opinion that I continue to hold, democracies). Modern civilisation, unfortunately, doesn’t lend itself well to such ideas. Certainly, it’s not a level playing field – an unbalanced game, as it were. The rich and the powerful have greater ability to become more rich and more powerful, at the expense of the poor and the powerless. They can, of course, do that now, but take away the rules, introduce anarchy? Our current society will seem like a paradise.

            Why do you cling to the idea that voting must be opt-in?
            If voting is obligatory, score 0. My emphasis.

            Nowhere do they use the term “voluntary”. Regardless, voting is not obligatory in an opt-out system. Obligatory voting is the opposite of opt-out, because in obligatory voting you cannot opt out. A non-obligatory system would be one where you can opt out.

            If we didn’t elect our representatives, and we voted on policies directly (a little more Athenian in that respect), then it would, theoretically, make sense for voting to be opt-in. In theory, those who care about a policy will learn about it, and those who know about the policy (area) will care about it – maybe we’d have good decision-making. Conversely, you wouldn’t want those ignorant (of the policy) to be voting on the policy. But it can still go the other way, those who care about the policy one way or another can lead the ignorant (of the policy) towards voting for or against a policy that they understand nothing about. Simply having the numbers on your side does the trick. So, generally speaking, I honestly can’t imagine anything worse for decision-making than democracy; imagine if wars were fought democratically. Democracy does not produce results from our collective wisdom, but our collective ignorance; why? because for every piece of knowledge and wisdom that humans possess, the majority are ignorant of it. And if the majority rules (which we call democracy), then the ignorant rule.

            Maybe a little too philosophical at the end there.

            The fact that you talk about respect – specifically respect of politicians – who are simply other human beings, is symptomatic of the problem with our democracy (and most democracies). It’s so focused on personalities – it almost doesn’t matter whether you respect one politician over another, or none at all – you are still one of those in the personality trap. Who politicians are and whether we respect them should be irrelevant, if they’re getting the job done right. Ours aren’t, so of course (among other reasons) we don’t respect them, but while respect or disrespect will be the result of our judgments of them, our personal feelings should not be a reason for making a (voting or non-voting) decision. Of course, I understand that’s just human nature and I’m hardly innocent of making voting decisions at least partly based on whether I think someone (Tony Abbott) is a prick, but throughout human history we’ve created systems to regulate the excesses that result from our natures, so the situation isn’t hopeless.

            What is your hoped-for vision of Australia?
            ATM, I’d settle for some glimmer of independence, some vague intimation of self-reliance instead of always looking for permission or approval from the rest of the world.

            Amen to that.

            Why not simply have an administration, formed by the public service, with full Executive power?
            I’ve often thought that this would be the best way to go, because public services are generally meritocratic, and I’ve always believed in meritocracy over any other system including democracy. But then, you have to ask, how much of a democracy would we have left? At best we would have democratic oversight – but maybe that’s all that we need. Why cling to the idea of democracy? But then, while public services are excellent at keeping things well-oiled and running, public services are notoriously slow to adapt and advance, so there still needs to be something to light a fire under them, to initiate new… initiatives.

            …why couldn’t we randomly draft our parliamentarians from our ordinary citizenry?
            If I could think of some way to make it work…

            If not in full (as in, a full replacement of all our parliamentarians), I genuinely believe it needs to be implemented in part. Imagine if we had engineers and doctors, writers and teachers, both the poor as well as the wealthy, those from both fortunate and unfortunate backgrounds, in parliament. Would it not still be democracy? Less “majority rules” perhaps, but still “rule by the people”.

          • Well, you have to start somewhere.
            Let me think. This resembles a Rubik’s Cube in that to reach your destination in the next suburb you have to first travel to a far distant land :[ Start with “Thou shalt not assault thine neighbour.” “Teacher, I live out near Giles Weather Station. Who is my neighbour?” “We-e-e-ll, there was this turkey walking alone in the badlands and got robbed…”

            If the temporary stimulation of consumption in the economy by those employed in elections is something you object to, then that’s a different issue.
            Advertising is good. In most cases. Overdoing it generates alienation and other non-social feelings. And when you spend the GDP of a small nation in spruiking how bad the Opposition is compared to the social desirability of your candidate…

            We will have to agree to disagree on what the President’s roles should be.
            The “headless Republic” would appear to have much value. TBH, what does a non-executive Prez actually do? The Brits actually get value-added from their monarchy, from tourism and social status, but that wouldn’t rub off here if they don’t live here. Having said that, how do we get rid of a government which has gone off the rails? Yes, I’m thinking of Gough Whitlam. This is not a case of good or bad decision on Malfunction’s part, I refuse to enter any argument. It is “How do we get rid of a government which has gone off the rails?” Is this a place for “Citizen-Initiated Referenda”? And I have to say that regardless of one’s political sympathies, The Dismissal rested entirely on a faith in both the inherited Wesminster tradition and the authority of the Monarch.

            Whatever we choose as a replacement for the current Head of State, it must above all else carry the authority to dismiss a (possibly hostile) government. The thought of the population of Australia collectively using its authority as Head of State and marching on Canberra makes me feel seasick. Back to La Revolution en France… Avec la guillotine…

            The Westminster System rests on three legs: the legislature, the judiciary and the enforcement (police). The Armed Services have always been the Crown’s instrument of defence, and the only times they have been used internally were in Civil War, of which England has had far too many. The legislature is the “Senior Service” (with apologies to the Navy!), but it is not generally realised the judiciary has law-making powers, and the police is the “Junior Service”. It would be for the police (the Feds?) to enforce a Dismissal, and I think more than a few in our community would be getting that heaving sensation in their stomachs if things got that far.

            …disagree on the viability of modern “anarchic democracies”…
            No disagreement needed. I cannot think of any scenario in today’s world where an anarchic democracy could succeed. We are not a jungle tribe of simple hunter-gatherers. The reality is that some form of delegated leadership, read “legislature”, that can make informed decisions “in real time” is vitally necessary. If nothing else, the complexity of a modern Public Service mandates it. This does not detract in any way from your thoughts of a Public Service Executive Administration, whether or not it has legislative functions–which, BTW, I think could easily bed down with a democratic oversight, possibly an adapted Upper House (Senate). Obviously I’m thinking about transforming the Lower House…

            I think we will always disagree over opt-{in|out} voting. It’s OK, because we seem in most places to be pointing in the same direction, and more importantly we appear to kicking toward the same end of the ground. Disagreement is calming… I get worried when everyone has identical rhetoric.

            As far as respect goes, I have no wish to vote for the least offensive candidate. It’s a bit like the MultaNova operators: I’m sure most of them are in fact very reasonable humans–who have chosen to be the modern equivalent of night-soil contractors emptying your dunny and spreading the stuff on the rice paddies. When used-car sales-people are considered more trustworthy than elected politicians… I would be happy if the AEC had a box labelled “None of the above”, which in today’s PC climate is about as rude as I could hope for lest we offend them. My preferred label would be along the lines of “about as useful as a pile of double-gees”.

            … And if the majority rules (which we call democracy)
            Da. We should use “pleionocracy” (Gk pleionótita: majority). I refuse to consider the possibility that Ancient Greece were using “demos” as a euphemism for “proletariat”. Yes, I know it’s mixing languages :)
            …, then the ignorant rule.
            We would have an agrammatocracy :p (Gk agrámmatos: ignorant, unlettered, illiterate, uneducated). One could be forgiven for thinking our current and recent crops of pollies have been working toward this…

            An agrammatarchy ruled by a pleionocracy. O Dear Deity!

            …why couldn’t we randomly draft our parliamentarians from our ordinary citizenry?
            I think we could implement a draft system, paying travel and accomodation and etc, with demographic selection to gather a range of opinion. Maybe start with 25% of Parliamentary seats? As I am always interested in meritocracy, I think there is room to exclude anyone with less than a minimum education: some people could demonstrate they have the required ability to absorb new ideas? (OFF-TOPIC): In SE Asia there is a tradition that the children must leave school in a position to get a better (higher-paying=socially more appealing) job than the parents have. Dare I call this “The pursuit of excellence”? (BACK ON-TOPIC)

            We (Australia) need to do something quickly. A quote from Renai:
            …Mahatma Gandhi. “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” It’s time to end the cycle of hatred in politics. Only then will stable, long-term governance in Australia be achieved… Australians want elected politicians to actually govern, not to fight with each other incessantly.”
            Renai Lemay ‘”Witch hunt”? Turnbull opens Labor NBN policy review’,

            It’s not just our lack of maritime resources, or parlous comms. The fact is we depend on somebody else for almost everything we need or desire. We are not a Nation, we are still, after 114 years, a colony; and unless we have a revolution in our political thinking, we always will be.

          • O-o-o-K-a-a-a-yyyy! Back to the beginning:


            The acting commissioner said the AEC would document and track the movements of ballot papers more than ever before to establish a “chain of custody” each time a ballot paper changed hands.

            Mr Rogers said the commission was also imposing measures to reduce the movement of ballot papers and “even the movement of unused ballot papers” would be done via a secure cage.

            Following concern that the missing ballot papers might have accidentally been thrown in the rubbish, Mr Rogers said removal of rubbish from polling centres would be not be permitted without it being checked and certified.

            He said recycling would also no longer be permitted within polling centres themselves.

            It would seem that the AEC will shortly have a nearly-current security paradigm in their operations, and not a moment too soon.

    • My very first attempt to rewrite our Constitution! Cut between the tildes. Enjoy.

      This new section is intended to replace section 127 repealed by No 55, 1967, s. 3 in Chapter VII (Miscellaneous).

      127. This section shall take precedence over all State and Territory legislation. In the case where a State does not have a Document of Constitution with the same protections against change as declared in Chapter VIII of this Constitution, this section shall take precedence over that State’s Constitution.

      In this section the word “person” shall be construed to include any corporate entity or any other non-human entity and the singular shall include the plural and the masculine shall include the feminine.

      A person shall not deprive any other person of his quiet enjoyment of life or his ability to go about his lawful occasions; save that such deprivation is made in the defense of another person.

      Any person who has been so deprived may seek recourse in any court of law in Australia and that court shall determine if it has the capacity to make appropriate redress; and if it has such capacity it shall apply redress in due proportion to the extent and effects of the said deprivation; and if it does not have such capacity it shall make application to the next higher court to have the case heard at the soonest possible time.

      The wording has been made as broadly as possible
      1. to eliminate as much ambiguity as possible; and
      2. to permit the judiciary to make informed decisions on what exactly are our Civil Rights and the limitations of those Rights.

      The use of “deprive” in the context allows courts to consider all offences including physical assault as theft of property, being a person’s possession of dignity and freedom in addition to the mundane considerations of money and goods.

      It is conceivable that someone could bring a “third-party” case to the courts on behalf of an incapacitated first-party. I would expect that type of case to succeed. The word “incapacitated” could include the meaning “dead by un-natural causes”.

  5. I’ll be voting for him and my close family will also be.
    Liberal not in the good books at the moment over here in WA with the shark crud going on.

  6. I wish him luck, hopefully folks can see they got the wool pulled over their eyes last time and now the LNP has it’s real agenda(s) out in the open folks can make a real, informed choice.

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