Compulsory voting – or the removal of it – has been in the news a bit lately. I’m not surprised. Nick Minchin had his fingers all over the issue a couple of months ago so it was only going to be a matter of time before something else surfaced. If Nick Minchin is against compulsory voting I can only assume that he does so because voluntary voting would be in the best interests of the Coalition. His recent foray into the issue came after an Adelaide man who lost a Supreme Court challenge against Australia’s compulsory voting system announced plans to take his legal fight to the High Court. Anders Holmdahl argued that voting at federal and state elections is a right, not a duty. Minchin attended the Adelaide hearing to lend support to the legal challenge, adding:
“I’ve always said that compulsory voting is an infringement of the democratic rights of Australians, so I’m delighted this case was brought to court,” he said.
“I’m sorry that the matter has been dismissed at this level, but I hope it will be taken to the High Court.
“I think the Commonwealth Electoral Act’s requirement on Australians to vote, whether they want to or not, is wrong and I think it should be tested in the High Court.”
Yes, you read that correctly; one of the founding fathers of the draconian WorkChoices and the vocal advocate of a harsher WorkChoices Mach II is concerned about an infringement on the democratic rights of Australians.
He has been calling for voluntary voting for many years now and way back in 2005 he speculated that an election victory to Howard (in 2007) may well have seen his desired amendments to the Electoral Act, though back then his call for voluntary voting was not based on any infringement of the democratic rights of Australians, but that:
. . . voluntary voting’s a very important barometer of the health of a political system, which compulsion can disguise. That’s one of my main complaints about compulsory voting.
That sounds about as unconvincing as his concern for the democratic rights of Australians.
Howard himself had fiddled with the Act prior to the 2007 election when he removed the seven day period after the issue of the election writs during which voters could enrol or update their enrolment. This was a sneaky move. With the opinion polls showing strong support for Labor from 18-21 year olds, Howard wanted to exclude as many of that cohort group from voting and removal of the seven day enrolment period was a dastardly means at his disposal.
I have my suspicions that Minchin’s motives are no different to Howard’s, particularly when we consider some of the crucial attributes of compulsory voting:
- Higher sample of public opinion with higher voter turnout
- Legitimacy of government is more accepted by a high voter turnout
- Equalises participation and removes bias from less-privileged citizens
- Increases citizen interest in politics and government
- Forces the silent majority to think about elections which safeguards from extremism
And more importantly, this:
Compulsory voting reduces power of lobbying groups. A benefit of compulsory voting is that it makes it more difficult for special interest groups to vote themselves into power. Under a non-compulsory voting system, if fewer people vote then it is easier for smaller sectional interests and lobby groups to control the outcome of the political process. The outcome of the election reflects less the will of the people (Who do I want to lead the country?) but instead reflects who was logistically more organized and more able to convince people to take time out of their day to cast a vote.
That has the smell of Minchin all over it.
In a parting shot as he retired from politics he appealed to his party not to drift into populism.
It would be far more easier to avoid drifting into populism and pandering to lobby groups with the removal of compulsory voting (referring to the dot points above).
That extreme Liberal Party think tank, Menzies House offered some very radical opinions that leave the reader convinced that the removal of compulsory voting would damage the Labor Party.
- Under voluntary voting leaders must empower the electorate, which means they must promote freedom. They must sell freedom. They must defend and protect freedom.
- Voluntary voting will reverse our slide towards totalitarianism.
- Australians don’t like compulsory voting. Not really. Australians like to see evidence of high voter participation and they think high voter turnouts indicate this. The government has deceived the Australian people for far too long.
- Until the Australian government stops lying, Australia will continue to deceive the world into thinking that freedom is bad for democracy.
- Could it be that compulsory voting favours a particular type of voter? Could their deception be politically motivated? Julia Gillard supports compulsory voting.
In my opinion everything revolves around that one question: “Could it be that compulsory voting favours a particular type of voter?” Yes, it does:
. . . compulsory voting supposedly favours political representation of the educationally and economically disadvantaged and marginalised – predominantly Labor supporters.
There we have it in a nutshell. Forget Minchin’s concern on the infringement of the democratic rights of Australians. Forget his argument too that voluntary voting’s a very important barometer of the health of a political system. Replace it with voluntary voting’s a very important barometer of the health of a political party: the Liberal Party.
Quite simply, Minchin wanted whatever will eliminate a few Labor voters thus enhancing the opportunity to fulfill the expectations of big money, big business and big media. And if Nick Minchin raises an issue – it will never go away.
While researching this post I came across many pages that have put forward the pros and cons of compulsory voting, however each argument overlooked one crucial point: if some members of the far right are so vehemently opposed to it, than it must be to their political advantage to remove it.
For that reason alone, let’s keep voting compulsory.
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