By Philip Ayton
Freedom. What does it mean to you? Truth? Democracy?
Well to me, the three go hand in hand. If democracy works, then freedom and truth flow freely. Unfortunately, democracy, by definition, stopped working many, many moons ago. What we have left is an empty shell, bearing the same name and all the familiar markings, except for truth and freedom.
We are no longer free to voice our opinions. We are no longer able to express our views free from backlash, or authority stopping the expression.
The truth has been long lost to the marketing and rhetoric that is spewed forth onto us from every angle in today’s society.
Case in point is the proposed changes to the senate system. We currently have a system that allows minorities to be heard. This system facilitates the kind of level playing field required for democracy to work. A number of processes that the everyday voter finds confusing have been put in place to counter other biases in the political arena, like the size of a party’s purse and long standing political deals.
There is a silent attack on this democratic system. An attack that the people are only hearing a one-sided argument on.
The two biggest sticking points for the major parties are the group voting tickets, and re-allocation of preference votes. Essentially, the major parties want to remove the smaller parties’ abilities to work together toward a common goal and have an opposing voice to the two party preferred system.
Now The Greens, who are not one of the two, have decide to jump into bed with the majors because they have now created a little bit of sway in Parliament, which ironically they built on the systems that they now want to remove.
The preferential system is part of the democratic process and has been used by many parties in Australia to forge deals and alliances that they believed benefited the people of Australia. The Liberals and Nationals have shared preferences for years, to help ensure Labor does not win seats, especially in regional and rural areas.
“Voters are able to cast valid votes by simply indicating which group of candidates they prefer. In the 1998 election, 94.9% of voters opted for the Group Voting Ticket method. The decision on preferences is thus effectively made by the political parties.”
These systems exist for a reason, and they can be used to benefit all sides of politics. They allow smaller parties with smaller donation ponds, no public identity and less reach, to get their voice out there and to find and connect with people. Were the major parties always thousands of members strong and toting a promotional budget into the millions? No. The preference and group voting system is one of the only ways the minor parties can work together towards a common goal and stand up to the Labor and Liberal/National monopoly on Australian politics.
A number of broad references have been cited, though they clearly take aim at a single specific instance in the 2013 election. Motoring enthusiasts party leader Ricky Muir, who managed to score himself a seat when he did not receive as many “direct votes” as other standing candidates, but through the minor parties utilising the system that exist to do so, was pushed forward into a seat by combining (preferential allocation) the votes, so that he would manage to win a seat.
This was a successful attempt of the minor parties working together as a “coalition”, a term we’ve heard before, but apparently only acceptable or allowed if you’re a Labor, Liberal, National or The Greens.
Senate voting is not a simple 1+1=2 system. It’s a complex piece of democratic processes and procedures that allows for the act of self-balancing of government. Remove this and the balance is lost.
The final blow within the proposed changes is the request that new parties have 1500 members minimum to register as a political party. That would effectively remove every single micro and minor party from Australian politics. That sounds balanced, doesn’t it?
Make it harder for small parties to exist and all you do is silence the minorities, isolate specialist groups and totally reshape the way the Australian democratic system works.
The Greens have argued that there will no unbalancing of power, this week issuing their own little graphic on how the Senate changes are needed. The Online Direct Democracy Party replied to these suggestion by The Greens by replicating The Greens’ graphic to illustrate the point, pointing out the lack of information and transparency in The Green prop piece.
Australians, please, I ask, don’t just take their (the government and supporters) word for it, get out there and ask the questions.
Do the hard yards and see for yourself that this is nothing more than a power grab from the big boys, taking the smaller teams out of the game.
It is pretty hard to lose an election when you ensure you have systematically removed most of the competition.
Feel free to join the discussion below.