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The new age of direct democracy in Australia

By Famida Rahman

While the notion of direct democracy epitomises the true will of the people, the impracticality and inefficiency of this system has lead to the majority of the world’s democratic nations being vested in the elected representative. Online Direct Democracy is an Australian ‘micro-party’ with the purpose of re-introducing the uninterrupted voice of the people back into our elected governments.

‘Micro Parties’, more commonly referred to as minor parties, exert their influence by holding the balance of power in Commonwealth and State Parliaments. They work to minimise the dominance of the 2 Australian major parties and in scrutinising the government and proposed legislation, particularly in the Senate. They usually represent a limited or singular political stance or special interest. In Australia, it’s not difficult to decipher where the interests or politics of the ‘Help end Marijuana Prohibition’, ‘Outdoor Recreational’ or ‘Australian Cyclist’ parties (just to name a few) would lie. The Online Direct Democracy party is similar in that they remain true to their name in following their one prime policy. This is described by party Leader Francois Crespel as ‘Providing the people with a direct voice in parliament between elections’ and in doing so ‘minimising parliament from acting in accordance with their own desires’ rather than that of the people they represent.

The execution of such a philosophy may seem fanciful on a larger scale, however can credit the technological revolution and the internet for its success on a smaller spectrum. The elected representatives of this party vote in parliament directly in accordance with the will of the people. This ‘will’ is determined by posting current bills and proposed legislation online so that people have a chance to directly vote on the projected policies themselves. A clear majority in an online poll is required before the elected representatives in the party go to parliament and cast their vote reflecting this will. If no clear majority is reached online on a particular piece of proposed legislation, the representatives abstain from voting in parliament on the bill. Thereby directly mirroring what the people want. Crespel believes that the internet has rapidly become an integral part of our lives and that it is ‘the future of democracy, especially for young people’. It is the widespread scope and unique execution of their purpose which simultaneously distinguishes them from the narrower political views and actions of their counterparts.

The minor party movement in Australia however, is currently under threat. The Turnbull government recently passed laws making it almost impossible for minor parties to get elected into parliament. It requires voters to place preferences in all 6 boxes above the line on their ballot papers. Previously voters could place as many or as little preferences as they wanted in these boxes. This meant that where voters put preferences of 1 or 2 parties above the line, the preferred parties could then negotiate and exchange preferences with the minor parties in order to obtain a majority of seats. In this way the minor parties could win seats in the parliament and contribute to the legislative process. The new legislation is particularly advantageous to our current Liberal government as the Labor party often relies on this exchange of preference to gain majority come election time. Crespel says that the new legislation is likely to have a hugely detrimental impact on the influence of Online Direct Democracy and of all other Australian minor parties in the parliament. He states that ‘The major parties in Australia don’t want the minor parties to hold the balance of powers’. This allows them to maintain their dominance and makes it potentially easier for them to pass laws consistent with their ideologies.

In one perspective, dis-enabling the exchange of preferences has made the government more democratic, as it prevents minor parties who have not directly been voted in by the people from winning seats. However, it also means that there will now be almost no representation of minority views in our parliament, and diminished scrutiny and accountability of the government and legislation. In Crespel’s view, ‘the current state of democracy in Australia has been lost’. In response to new laws passed by the NSW government preventing students the right to peaceful protest, he feels that ‘we are losing many of the basic civil rights that we have fought so hard to gain in the past’. The Turnbull government’s new legislation will no doubt make it ever harder for minority voices to be heard in parliament, and for revolutionary and modernised means of direct democracy to be realised in Australian parliaments. However Crespel continues to build awareness of their plight through the internet and hopes to reconnect the youth of today with the things that really matter.

This article was originally published on Read About This.

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17 comments

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  1. townsvilleblog

    In Queensland, I will be putting the Glenn Lazarus Team in boxes 1 and 2, followed by Labour 3, 4 and 5, then Greens 6 and 7 and the other 5 spots will go to minor parties, the LNP will not make an appearance on my Senate ballot paper:

  2. Gangey1959

    Same here in Victoria, except that Ricky Muir will be #1, followed by Independents/Greens, then Labor. Don’t vote liberal.
    I’ll have the same as usual nearly 100 boxes to fill in. Lucky I went to a State School and was taught to read and count.

  3. Matthew Oborne

    this particular Senate has reflected well the mood of the people in many issues, I would say that is democracy, Lambie was suckered into agreeing to something and then betrayed so she acts betrayed now, Ricky sees through their games and decides we can have this without the games in a way that works better, we have seen very well how this senate has stood up to Turnbullying and said no. The new system will most likely not do that, we will end up with more nodding donkeys, that isnt democracy and it isnt the purpose of the senate.

  4. townsvilleblog

    Gangey, if the election is held with the new rules you will have 6 boxes above the line and 12 below the line, unless durbrain Senator Bob Day wins his high court challenge we will have the new rules so you won’t need to fill in 100 boxes.

  5. townsvilleblog

    Matthew, I agree, I’d suffer the odd insufferable Senator under the old system (not that I like Family First – USA cult, the assembly of god) being represented in our Senate, but potentially nothing has to change if we use our heads and use the new system to leave the LNP right off the ballot paper.

  6. Sir ScotchMistery

    In Qld I will put ODD first, then other micros, then ALP and I will make my statement on the subject of refugees.

    I am yet to meet one single person, equipped with something resembling a brain, no matter the direction of their vote, who has stood up to me and said “I don’t believe there is a place in this country, for refugees”.

    Plenty who ask “should we take every refugee” but that has never been and will never be the question.

    ODD may not have all the answers, but the ALP and coalition have none on this one issue.

  7. townsvilleblog

    “I don’t believe there is a place in this country, for refugees”. what on Earth is ODD?

  8. Jexpat

    Leaving aside for a moment any discussion of direct democracy’s benefits and drawbacks (of which there are many) the underlying logic of the argument here makes no sense.

    Complex preference flows and deals (regardless of which party they benefit) in a tablecloth ballot are largely unknown to most voters when they vote above the line. From a direct democracy perspective, what that amounts to is handing over the voter’s choices to “preference whisperers,” adding yet another layer between the voter and their favoured policy choices.

  9. kasch2014

    The need for direct removal of politicians who are corrupt and / or reneg on policy commitments is easy – have one initial general election to vote them in, and then vote them OUT when they dirty their bib. Only by-elections are required. If nothing goes too wrong, they stay in, but can get booted out any time by their original constituents simple majority, or a majority in some larger forum. See http://www.lifesupportinternational.org for a vision of a responsive and more a-political administration. One that’s actually responsible to people in the 21st century, not the crown in the 19th century.

  10. François

    Well Mr Scotch Mystery, thanks for your support. Stick to it. Towsvilleblog still doesn’t get what is ODD. It requires a bit of vision. 116 years ago people thought women voting was atrocious, Go OnlineDirect Democracy.

  11. Jexpat

    “The need for direct removal of politicians who are corrupt and / or reneg on policy commitments is easy – have one initial general election to vote them in, and then vote them OUT when they dirty their bib.”

    Direct democracy proponents would argue that there’s a need for a process of recall, so that those who’ve been elected on false pretences or who’ve violated the public trust can be removed by their constituents before their term in office is up.

  12. townsvilleblog

    We need to use this new system of Senate voting against the LNP. I will simply vote the Lazarus team first, followed by Labor, folloed by Greens, folloed by minor parties and leave the LNP off the Senate ballot paper completely.

  13. townsvilleblog

    Well Mr Scotch Mystery, thanks for your support. Stick to it. Towsvilleblog still doesn’t get what is ODD. It requires a bit of vision. 116 years ago people thought women voting was atrocious, Go OnlineDirect Democracy. ODD is what it says it is, odd.

  14. townsvilleblog

    life support international

    Hi Folks – this is the temporary web site until I have sorted out the new content and format. I’m still learning how to, and I’m trying to make it more modern and simpler.

    THE BASIC MESSAGE HASN’T CHANGED:

    life matters

    money is not a resource

    there is no such thing as ‘the economy’

    there is a need for a managed life support system

    politics is a social disease; management is a service

    good ethics and morality are essentials in management

    we make the mistakes; the universe imposes the consequences

    LIFE SUPPORT HOME

    W TREE MISSIVE DOWNLOAD:

    A NICE LITTLE COFFEE TABLE BOOK

    THIS IS A VERY URGENT APPEAL – TO GET AUSTRALIA (AND THE WORLD) ONTO A NEW PATH WHICH ACKNOWLEDGES THE CHALLENGES FACING US ALL IN THE 21ST CENTURY. OUR CURRENT POLITICS, ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS ARE NOT ABLE AND / OR WILLING TO DO THIS QUICKLY, IF EVER.

    THE STRANGLEHOLD OF NOSTALGIA, FEAR AND GREED, NARCISSISM, DESPERATION, FEELINGS OF DISEMPOWERMENT, AND ENTRENCHED WEALTH AND PRIVILIDGE WILL OPPOSE CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGE. SADLY, MOST OF OUR SOFTER OPTIONS HAVE BEEN ALMOST USED UP.

    WE DIDN’T OPT FOR A GRADUAL TRANSFERENCE TO A MORE SANE ILLUSION WHEN WE HAD THE CHANCE. INSTEAD OF MODERNISING AND RATIONALISING OUR GOVERNMENT, INDUSTRIES, WORKING PEOPLE AND FINANCES, OUR POLITICIANS AND OTHERS CHOSE TO SEND IT ALL OVERSEAS FOR THE LAST THIRTY YEARS, BECAUSE THEY WERE, AND THUS THOUGHT WE WERE, NOT UP TO THE JOB.

    SO NOW WE ARE THE “CLEVER” COUNTRY? MORE LIKE THE TRAGIC COUNTRY, THE HOLE IN THE GROUND FOR THE MANUFACTURERS OVERSEAS WHO SUPPLY US WITH ALMOST EVERYTHING.

    THE DAMAGE WE ARE DOING NOW WILL TAKE GENERATIONS TO HEAL, IF THE WILL CAN BE FOUND TO TRY. THIS IS OUR LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM WE ARE POISONING – BUT, OUR MOSTLY URBAN POPULATION MAY FIND IT HARD TO RELATE TO THIS IDEA UNTIL IT’S ALMOST TOO LATE.

    SILLY ABSTRACT POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC …..pipe dream, a utopia that the apathetic Aussie will never embrace, as realistic as Mr Odd.

  15. townsvilleblog

    Vision applied Old Dirty Drongo, seems to fit you two. lol.

  16. nurses1968

    townsvilleblog

    I find myself a little ill at ease with ODD, in two areas.
    One, 75% must agree to a proposition or Bill, which in itself seems a big stretch and then,rightly or wrongly I begin to have questions about the motive, which could well be “what’s in it for me” as the founder of ODD have some past skeletons in the closet
    The following, the findings of ASIC on the founder of ODD

    “”ASIC formed a view that between August 1999 and October 1999, Mr Der Sarkissian was involved in making 420 applications for Telstra 2 Instalment Receipts (T2IR) using names that may have been contrived.

    Further, ASIC was concerned that Mr Der Sarkissian caused 26 transfers of T2IR’s from names that may have been contrived to another person who was associated with DB Management Pty Ltd, in order for these T2IR’s to be sold in the future for the benefit of the company.

    ASIC was concerned that Mr Der Sarkissian had engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive, in respect of his dealings in the T2IR’s. ASIC was concerned that Mr Der Sarkissian may not in the future, perform his duties as a representative of a dealer or an investment adviser, efficiently, honestly and fairly.”

    http://asic.gov.au/about-asic/media-centre/find-a-media-release/2002-releases/02377-asic-accepts-enforceable-undertaking-from-mr-berge-der-sarkissian/

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