One thing most people would agree on is that they don’t trust politicians – and with good reason.
A summary of ‘Truth in Political Advertising Legislation in Australia’ published in 1996-97 succinctly explains one major reason why our democracy is failing.
“The potential impact of misleading or false statements made in the course of electioneering is undoubted. Such campaigning obviously has an adverse affect upon the public interest. It may distort election outcomes, divert voter attention from substantive issues and may even discourage qualified individuals from seeking election.”
Yup. But it goes on….
“The notion that the law should provide for truth in political advertising is misleading. Any such law would be unworkable. Who is to say what is the ‘truth’? How could such a law be enforced? Instead, when the argument is put for truth in political advertising legislation, it is really being suggested that the law should penalise electoral statements that can be shown to be false or misleading. No law could require that such statements actually be ‘true’.”
“The rise of practices such as push polling has perhaps been a factor in what some have seen as the deepening cynicism of the electorate towards the political process and highlights the need for ethical standards in electioneering.”
But it’s not just the electioneering process that lacks integrity.
Our system of bestowing power on one side of politics has been abused by governments becoming increasingly secretive about their actions.
There are constant court cases to withhold seemingly innocuous information. Reports to government are suppressed. Advice from departments is ignored without explanation. Contracts and grants are awarded without tender.
If, as has been suggested, it is too hard to get politicians to tell the truth either by legislation or a call for ethical behaviour, then we must change the system.
One way to ensure the electorate hears the truth would be to have a multi-party executive based on proportional representation.
Our preferential voting system could still elect local MPs, but the Cabinet should represent the first preference voting patterns of the nation.
If we had a 24 person Cabinet with 10 Coalition members (7 Liberal, 2 LNP, 1 Nationals), 8 Labor, 3 Greens, 1 Centre Alliance, 1 One Nation and, say, Andrew Wilkie, we would be a lot closer to representing the nation and it would be almost impossible to lie or obfuscate. Decision-making would be transparent.
We really should be putting a lot more thought into the design of a Republic because democracy is not well served by the current system.
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