And now for something completely different . . .
I have been critical lately of our system of government and have been inspired by the words of Ted Mack, Tony Fitzgerald and others (including commenters here) as well as looking at other democracies, to think about a system that might address some of the concerns I have.
In my opinion, many of the problems would be solved if the electorate voted directly for people to fill Ministerial positions rather than them being MPs appointed by the government. Those Ministers form a cabinet which is the federal executive government. Membership of a political party is irrelevant. Choose the best person for the job.
First step is to work out how many Ministers we actually need. For each Ministry then work out essential and desirable criteria for the particular job. Applications/nominations can then be put forward either from political parties or from public/private organisations. The Public Service Board could narrow down the nominations to a set number of applicants for each job and the Australian Electoral Commission could produce a booklet/website that lists the candidates, their qualifications for the job, and a statement from them.
Do away with a single head of state. The tourism minister can do the meet and greet and wine and dine. If someone wants to talk trade then talk to the trade minister. If they want to talk defence, talk to the defence minister. If another head of state wants to have a general conversation, they either do it with a committee from the executive or with a minister that has particular knowledge of their country. Ambassadors could act as liason and tour organisers.
Each minister will head a department, not full of spin doctors and image consultants and parliamentary staff, but people with actual knowledge about the portfolio and managerial or administrative skills in the appropriate area.
State governments should be structured the same way.
Rather than electing a single representative for each electorate, both federal and state, elect the ministerial executive governments by individual voter majority and then have local councils be the ones to represent their areas in the vote. They are a representative body for their area, are aware of local issues, and are accessible to the public. After discussion they can come to a majority decision and cast their representative vote in proposed federal or state legislation. State legislation would have to be passed by a majority of councils, federal legislation by both a majority of councils and states.
There should be more referendums in which the people can take part in the decision making. A system should be developed where people can use the internet or SMS to vote on certain issues with postal votes as an alternative and perhaps onsite voting at post offices? Votes have to be in by a certain day rather than on a certain day. I wonder if making this non-mandatory would be the way to go.
As I have discussed in a previous article, Swiss citizens can propose amendments if they collect sufficient signatures in a set time frame that will then go to a referendum. They are a smaller country but it is an interesting idea.
This reduction in the size of government must lead to a clarification of the role and functions of each level. It must be clearly defined with duplication and overlap eliminated.
No need for Oppositions or Senates, no money spent on political advertising, an enormous amount of money saved by reducing the number of MPs and parliamentary staff, appropriate people for the job, more representative local vote, so much time saved because there is no them vs us arguing going on, eliminate the power of lobby groups, get rid of the need for spin, image and message control – I am struggling to find the down side.
There are no doubt things wrong with this idea and I will be interested to hear your views. Let’s at least start contemplating the idea that we could have a different way.