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Political transparency

By Nick Chapman, Independent NSW candidate for the Australian Senate

A politician’s job is to represent the people, and run the country for the national interest.

But who is holding them to account? How do we ensure transparency? How do we restore trust in the system?

I believe trust in our political system is vital for a healthy society. We need to know our politicians are working in our interests; not their own, their parties, or vested interests. We need to trust that the national interest is always put first.

Also, I believe we need to get more direct involvement in the political process to improve our democracy.

We need reform in the political arena.

There are a number of reforms that I will push for as an independent senator:

• Establishment of a Federal ICAC to investigate government corruption.

• Investigation of Peoples Referendums. An example: Any citizen proposed law with a certain number of signatures (eg 100,000) would be voted on in the following federal election. If passed it would need to be implemented within 12 months. (Similar systems operate in Switzerland and US states).

• Donations reform. Organisations should not be allowed to donate to politicians. All donations must be personal only and publicly accessible. Politicians represent the people, not vested interests or organisations.

• Parliament should have fixed 4-year terms with fixed election dates to allow governments to spend more time governing and less time plotting and electioneering.

• The rules within the political expenses system need to be simpler and all expenses must be publicly accessible in real time.

• Removal of above the line voting in the Senate as it favours incumbents and major parties, and disadvantages new political entrants and independents. Parties would still be able to group their candidates, but it would be up to the people to choose their candidates directly.

These reforms will provide a more democratic and open political system so politicians can represent the people in a transparent manner. It is about building trust in the political system.

Personally, I am also committed to ensuring the people I represent can provide direct input on the current issues of the day and their ideas for a healthy society. These days social media and other tools make connecting with people easy – politicians have no excuses!

That’s my thoughts on improving trust in the political system. I believe this is core to improving our democracy, and therefore the quality of public policy.

What do you think needs to change in our political system?

About Nick Chapman: Nick is a consultant whose experience includes working in Canada and the UK. Nick values freedom, respect, integrity and innovation and believes in policies that benefit society as a whole. Nick stands for:

• A fair economy for a healthy society

• An independent check on government power

• Individual freedom and individual responsibility

• Political transparency

Find out more at


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  1. etnorb

    I like all your suggestions Nick, but I would go “further” with the “political expenses system” (if you are referring to what they all claim!), & suggest that ALL the many & various “perks” that they all are “entitled” (sic) too, should be thoroughly examined & the “list” drastically culled! There is no “need” for any politician to claim for electricity & other so-called expenses when staying in Canberra in their spouses or relatives, unit or house. There is no NEED for any of these very dubious “travel expenses” for all these overseas junkets that they all seem to “have” to go on! As for chartering planes & helicopters to fly around the country, WTF?? I could go on, but I am sure others will be able to add many more to these! As for the obscene amounts of money they ALL get for being an MP, what can I say–if the President of the USA can “make do” with about half or less than what our bloody inept incumbent gets, then why are all our pollies so overpaid?

  2. Miriam English

    Good list, Nick.

    As etnorb said, the perks are too open to rorting. Personally, I think they should be removed altogether.

    If a politician wants to travel then they should use public transport, or if public transport is not available then economy class travel, with costs refunded later, not chargeable upfront. If the politician wants to travel with the glitterati then they should pay for it out of their own pocket, as all the rest of us do.

    If a politician needs medical care then it should be through the public system. I don’t think they should be allowed to use the private system even if they’re willing to pay for it.

    Their kids should only use the public school system; private school should not be available to them at all.

    My reasoning here is that politicians, in living an elite lifestyle, have completely lost touch with the people they are supposed to be serving. If they were constrained to use only the public system we would suddenly, magically see great improvements in those facilities. We will never see them improve while politicians live in an entirely different world where ignoring or deliberately degrading the public system has no personal impact upon them.

    The other change I would make is that there should be no contributions allowed to any political parties. Ever. Under any circumstances. To allow contributions is to invite corruption — political favors for money favors. All political parties should have to work within a budget supplied by Treasury. There should be a certain number of free advertising spots on mass media for all parties, but beyond that they have a set budget to pay for staff, printing, and so on. No party should have a financial advantage over any other. My hope is that this would mean policies would become the important thing in a campaign instead of expensive, targeted, saturation advertising. At the very least it would stop us going down the USA road of ridiculously expensive elections that raise the barrier higher and higher against any party that might have the next solution to fix the country’s problems. It would also help independents get a fair go. At the moment they barely get heard above the cacophony from the two big parties.

  3. Carlton Longhurst

    I would remove all political donations or limit personal donations to very small amounts. No-one should be allowed to purchase political access & favour.

    Miriam, I agree our pollies are way out of touch but, they should still be afforded the same rights as ordinary citizens. If you want a private school, pay for it, it if you want private medical treatment, pay for it…

    Travel should be economy, it’s good enough for our military who ‘serve’ our nation. Superannuation should be just like everyone else’s & they should have to wait until they are of retirement age to be paid it…

    Perhaps we will then attract people to politics with a genuine desire to serve our nation & all of it’s population rather than to drain what they can from our easily exploited system.

  4. Don A Kelly

    Nick….A fair economy and a healthy society can only be achieved if all politicians understand exactly how the economy works. In other words, all politicians understand the National Accounts Income – Expenditure model in Macroeconomics.
    The basic rule derived from the National Accounts, which must apply at all times, states that the sum of the Government Sector, (Govt.Spending – Taxes) plus the Private Domestic Sector, (Investment – Savings) plus the Current Account, (Exports – Imports) must equal Zero, at all times. This means that, if households and firms tend to save some of their income and imports are greater than exports, then the government budget will always be in deficit. Also, if imports are greater than exports which is accompanied by a government surplus of equal size, then households and firms will be spending more than they earn, using credit cards to pay bills (borrowing). All politicians must stop comparing the household budget with the government budget. The government has no financial constraints whatsoever because they are the issuers of the currency, they can never go bust. Households are the users of the currency, they must earn, borrow or run down savings in order to spend, they can become insolvent

  5. Miriam English

    Carlton Longhurst, limiting donations to small amounts begins the process of corruption again. I don’t understand the point of allowing it. It creates advantage and disadvantage. The incumbent party can raise millions easily and saturate the airwaves with slick, negative advertising campaigns, further increasing their hold. It becomes a vicious cycle. Imagine if a small party that genuinely had the solution to all our woes, headed up by a small group of truly brilliant minds interested only in helping Australia. In such a circumstance they would have Buckley’s chance of being heard in a very unequal election. Much better to make it fair and enhance the ability of independents and small parties to stand against entrenched power.

    Yes, I thought hard about the restriction on politicians’ rights regarding health and schooling, but I think it would be in the best interests of the country to prevent politicians becoming the self-seeking snobs that comprise our current government. We need them to understand viscerally what the public system feels like. They can not do that if they live in la-la land. You can not understand the public health system by taking a few tours of a hospital and talking to a few people. You have to live it. The same with public school. The only way to ensure government doesn’t destroy the public school system is for politicians’ own kids have to deal with it. You can bet we would see sudden, massive increases in funding magically become available, and private schools would lose their cushy public funding (as they should).

  6. Backyard Bob

    What do you think needs to change in our political system?


    “Investigation of Peoples Referendums”

  7. Jexpat

    Backyard Bob:

    Direct democracy sounds great on the surface, but it’s a two edged sword.

    Especially where there are few constraints on money in politics- and a media that has has few to no ethics at all beyond their own next paycheck.

  8. Miriam English

    Jexpat, yes, there are problems with direct democracy, especially, as you say, when we have a corrupt mass media with dangerously concentrated ownership, and rampant bribery and corruption in politics, but even then it is still probably better than having a few unintelligent, uneducated, self-important, easily bribed people in control of everything, with mainstream media colluding.

    At least direct democracy offers a possible way out of our current predicament.

    The current system relies on the remote hope that some incorruptible politician rises to power who has only the good of humanity at heart. Look at those in power now and those waiting in the wings, hungrily eyeing that power. What hope have we?

  9. Denis

    Nick…”A politician’s job is to represent the people, and run the country for the national interest.” That would be a joke of cause?????

  10. Nick Chapman

    Hi everyone, thanks for your feedback.

    Some responses to you points:

    1. Direct democracy has issues but we need to considerate it as a serious option.

    Some of my ideas to address issues of unworkable legislation and aggressive marketing campaigns would be:

    An independent advisory group that reviews each proposal at at early stage (e.g. 10,000 signatures) to provide an assessment on the pros & cons of the change, and it’s impact on existing legislation. This would give voters independent guidance prior to the citizen obtaining the required signatures for a people’s referendum (e.g. 100,000 votes)
    Ban on any advertising to support the proposal. Potentially a ban on organisations promoting the proposal. This is to avoid situations in places such as California where special interest groups have spent big to promote their proposal.

    1. Expenses system needs a major overall to make it fair and transparent. Many expenses seem overly generous and there seems a real lack of clarity of what is allowable.

    2. Yes, politicians need to stop comparing the government budget to household budgets!

  11. totaram

    Nick Chapman:
    “3. Yes, politicians need to stop comparing the government budget to household budgets!”

    It follows that “budget repair” or “bringing the budget back to surplus” is not the be-all and end-all of macroeconomic management.
    I hope you agree with that too.

    Finally, you must accept the financial identity described by Don A Kelly. While household debts are at record highs, this means that the govt. must continue to run deficit budgets until the households have had a chance to reduce their debts.

  12. Denis

    Bill Mitchell states that when politicians talk about getting the budget into surplus they are lying or they do not know what they are talking about. He teaches Modern Monitory Theory and Practice:

  13. Kyran

    Bearing in mind a federal ICAC is out of the question, due to the ‘majors’ denial of any need for such a body, and your time spent in Canada, would the prospect of media oversight not be a more practical approach?
    The self regulation of media in Australia, through the Australian Press Council is, quite clearly, absurd. The ‘new’ media laws from this government allow Newscorpse greater penetration, subject to their own oversight. Anyone allowing ‘le merde’ to look after his own ‘merde’ clearly has neither read, or heard of, ‘Hack Attack’ by Nick Davies.
    The Canadian laws pertaining to journalism, overseen by CRTC (an independent public authority in charge of regulating and supervising Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications), are fairly explicit about “broadcasting false or misleading news.”
    “The rest of the standards touch on basic tenets of honesty (don’t fabricate, mislead, deceive, silence opposing views), humanity (show compassion, respect and sensitivity to subjects who have undergone trying or traumatic events), and integrity (avoid conflicts of interest and disclose those that cannot be avoided).
    That’s not too much to ask, is it? Seek the truth as best you can determine it, go about it with candor and compassion, and do so “without fear or favor”—a phrase attributed to New York Times patriarch Adolph Ochs, conveying independence and impartiality.”

    Thank you, Mr Chapman. I hope you are closer to Ricky Muir’s integrity than Clive’s. Take care

  14. silkworm

    Your proposal to remove above the line voting is a good one. However, the recent changes to the senate voting procedure will favour below the line voting anyway, making it perhaps inevitable that above the line voting will one day be removed.

  15. you can't be serious

    Another one to consider.
    Minister’s should not be prevented from taking up a salaried or consultant position post parliament that is directly related to any portfolio they oversaw during their Political career, for 5 years after leaving Parliament.
    Politicians cannot act as lobbyists or advise lobbyists for reward after they leave Parliament – ever.
    If necessary, those restrictions should be compensated with higher salaries while in Parliament.

  16. Terry2

    Nick the major parties will continue to fight in the House of Reps. and it seems that we will have to live with this. But the Senate is another matter ; it is “the States House” and a “House of Review”

    I am very hopeful that this Double Dissolution election will deliver a truly independent Senate so that we will get proper scrutiny of everything coming from the Reps. and eliminating as far as possible the excessive ideological zeal particularly that coming from the Liberal Party : I have stopped calling the coalition a coalition as it has become increasingly obvious that the Nats. are just dragged along in the slipstream of the Liberals and whilst the Nats. themselves are not a Threat, they are contributing to the excesses of the Liberal Party.

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