Imperial Footprints in Africa: The Dismal Role of…

No power in history has exercised such global reach. With brutal immediacy,…

Fascism is unlikely: idiocy is the real threat

The fight against domestic fascism is as American as apple pie. Even…

Murdoch: King Lear or Citizen Kane?

By guest columnist Tess Lawrence It may be premature to write Emeritus Chairman…

"This Is All A Giant Push By (INSERT…

"Beer?" "Thanks" "So what you been up to this week?" "I went on a march…

Dutton reminds us of Abbott, but not in…

Reading Nikki Savva’s The Road to Ruin is a depressing read, because it validates…

No means no

As the now former Royal Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales discovered…

Mission to Free Assange: Australian Parliamentarians in Washington

It was a short stint, involving a six-member delegation of Australian parliamentarians…

The Angertainer Steps Down: Rupert Murdoch’s Non-Retirement

One particularly bad habit the news is afflicted by is a tendency…


There is no such a thing as ‘too much democracy’ in our Constitution

The big three political parties seem to have overlooked the fact that our Constitution does stipulate some parameters by which senators must be elected.

The hubris of the big political parties in Australia is remarkable. The recent debate regarding proposed alterations to our senate voting system has been engaged as if our democracy is the simple plaything of the political parties. Unfortunately for many of the propositions being advanced, ‘political parties’ are absent from our Constitution.

Yet our media seems to have simply lapped up and regurgitated the public relations output of the major parties without even considering the first principles that are at stake. Nor have they paused to consider the constitutional viability of these propositions.

The suite of propositions being advanced will alter the law to restrict the entry of new politicians to the Senate on the basis of what political party they might belong to. In other words, the new voting rules that are being proposed will thereby generate two classes of voters and votes. There will be those cast for one of the major political parties and those cast for one of the others.

However, political parties are an overlay on our political process that have been developed so as to allow blocks of like interests to coalesce together and serve the interests of particular politicians and their friends. They have no constitutional force. Rather, the rules by which our votes are cast and counted, as well as those which regulate the definition of who we are voting for, are all stipulated in our common founding legislative act. So what does the Constitution have to say?

Most significantly it dictates who shall be eligible to stand for election in our country (for both Houses we refer to Section 34) and it adds a few stipulations regarding the election of our senators (such as in Section 9). This section reads (in part): The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the States.

Note that the founders stipulated that the process has to be identical across all the states. It has to have a ‘uniform’ effect. It does not mention ‘political parties’. Yet as soon as any of these possible ideas for new senate voting rules is introduced then there will suddenly be two classes of votes and voters in every federal senate election (1- those that are cast for a senator and then passed on as a preference vote, and, 2- those that are not). Yet while our Constitution does seem to allow for our political class to alter the voting rules so as to enable two classes of voters and votes to exist; one of the very few firm stipulations is that any alteration must be uniform for all the States. Oops!

All the current proposals will result in a differential breakup in the votes cast in the Senate across our states. In NSW the system may provide for one set of six political parties being included and all the rest being excluded, whilst in Tasmania and Western Australia the list will be entirely different, etc.

When our Constitution was being framed the Senate was envisioned to be composed of individual members chosen with regards to regional (State based) criteria. However, under all the propositions that have been advanced then a candidate standing for the Senate in any state of Australia will be advantaged or disadvantaged relative to what political party they might belong to. In one state it may give you a leg up, in another you may not be on ‘the list’. This means that a ‘uniform method’ will not be used to differentiate votes in each state.

I will take a moment to reiterate the legal sense of the argument being presented once again. Many point to the inequity of having sitting members of parliament voting to impose restrictions on entry that didn’t apply when they were voted in as being inequitable. And so it is. But the Constitution does allow the Parliament to compose the voting rules as long as they abide by the few simple stipulations that are made. The Parliament is also allowed to split the voting ticket into two classes of votes and voters, but only if this arbitrary distinction operates in a uniform manner across all the states.

Further, this whole argument is both ill-informed and insulting. Instead of screaming about the size of an electoral ballot paper we should be celebrating it. The miracle that is the Australian ‘fair-go’ is based on the idea that we are a democracy born entirely in peace and so mainly devoted to BBQ’s and arguments in parks. However, this implies much more democracy rather than much less! Aussies carry a sausage sandwich and a big mouth. We have an opinion about everyone and everything but, apparently, we cannot possibly spend five to fifteen minutes once every three years filling out a big ballot paper. What unadulterated tosh!

But it seems that our current crop of incumbents have lost control of the democratic process so we must change the rules that applied to them to keep the ‘undesirables’ out of the House. Give me a break.

Yet in our big-media saturated fast food society we are buying it. What happened to doing your bit? What happened to pitching in and building an egalitarian paradise? Our current leaders and press seem to have decided, on behalf of me and you, that it is all too difficult for them to engage in negotiation and compromise or for us to have to read a long list and then number either one box or every one.

Who do these overpaid and entitled b*stards think they are? First and foremost this is all a whinge about their job being too difficult. My response: ‘If your party cannot get its way then you will have to negotiate with a number of other members of the Upper House. This is the way our democracy was designed to work.’

Just because the Australian population has started to vote for other people does not give our current crop of incumbent politicians the right to entrench their power and influence (and that of our political friends) at the expense of the democratic process. And thank heavens the people who framed our Constitution were pragmatic enough to foresee the tendency of our political masters to ever grab for greater power. So our Senate is different from the Lower House. Any alteration in voting rights must have exactly the same effect across the whole of the Commonwealth, so unless the legislation stipulates which six (or eight, or fifteen) parties will be allowed to run and which will not, then the effects will be differential, and thereby will be specifically precluded by action of Section 9 of our founding legislative act.

Expect any of the proposed alterations to face immediate challenge in the Federal Courts. Do not be surprised if one of the small parties makes application for an injunction precluding the implementation of these new Australian Electoral Commission guidelines on the basis that they are blatantly unconstitutional. If our politicians want to put political parties into the Constitution then they should have a referendum, otherwise they should do their job or make way for someone who is able to do it.


Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button


Login here Register here
  1. Felicitas

    they won’t ask for a referendum James – we don’t pass many anyway, and this one would be too comical to even get past the starting post.

  2. Pilot

    Lazy bastards trying to keep their noses firmly entrenched in the trough of public money……

    I keep saying, we need to breed stupidity out of our population.

  3. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good on you, James Moylan. Well explained and I like what your party represents too.

  4. Jaquix

    There is always room for reform. But when the parties with the power to change the goalposts, change them for their own benefit (despite what they say) then we have a dangerous precedent. I think the whole electoral system needs review and the best way for that to happen is for a Royal Commission to be called (though I know Malcolm wont) to cover everything starting with pre-selection processes, right through the spectrum. At the very least, this issue is one that should be taken to an election for the people to decide (unlike the one they are intending for equal marriage rights). I have to say also that Im not impressed by the Greens “ganging up” with the LNP on this. They might agree with the proposition, but I dont believe they should be siding with them to ride rough shod over the electorate. Where is the intelligent debate Malcolm promised?

  5. Slapsy

    I do not trust any politician,to change any rule,that is obviously designed to ensure that their position is retained.My understanding of the Constitution is that it makes no mention of political parties,so why do political parties get listed,with the names,on a ballot paper.Whether it is the HoR or the Senate,and whether there are two names or one hundred,those names should all be randomely listed,with no indication of which political party they are aligned to.

    The Senate,particularly,is meant to be representative of the Australian community.At the moment,the professional politicians seem to be claiming it as their own plaything.

  6. Jan

    These politicians cannot be allowed to keep “changing the goal posts” to their benefit. It is happening all too often.

  7. king1394

    Greens are shooting themselves in the foot. The long term result of the proposed changes is a permanent LNP majority in the Senate

  8. Kay Schieren

    Hi Folks – not that anyone reads this anyway, but ….. Our constitution is an irrelevant, outdated piece of drivel. It was primarily a free trade agreement between colonies under the British crown. Too many governments with conflicting functions. We should have management, not political manoeuvring by our elected reps. I advocate a new constitution which is based on a citizenship affirmation that applies to all, including foreign visitors and any business, etc., in this country, as set out on my web, . There is also a schematic of the hierarchical structure of a two-tier government which, after initial general local shire / city council elections everywhere, has only by-elections. Sitting members can be “voted out” any time by their own constituents’ simple majority, or by a national simple majority. The can also resign or die. Local reps will go to a national constitutional council which is the supreme legislative body and administers the constitution, embodied in the citizenship affirmation, which is all of one page of large print. Clean and simple. Check it out. There is too much value – free nonsense cooked up by privilege – seeking legal and political “minds”. Politics is not a science, it’s a mental illness, if our current political arena is any indicator. Who would willingly plan for the pointless destruction of our life support system, except a terminally crazy, alienated, corrupted fool? Politics and economics are value and ideology based, they are not scientific, although they abuse rationality and / or good values in their impractical and demented, evil processes.

  9. Bronte ALLAN

    I really do not like having to place a number in every box “below the line”, when Senate voting! Could this process be “simplified” by allowing just 1, 2, 3, as a vote for “below the line”? This would almost eliminate wrongly filled ballot papers, papers not being filled in at all (because the voter thinks it is all too hard), & allows the voter to only have to vote for the persons/groups they want to, without so much of all this “preferences” (sic) seeming to ensure that we actually may have voted for a party/person we do not wish to. My “argument” will probably get canned by the Libs & Labor etc, & probably by all these Constitutional experts & people who (maybe) understand about voting etc. Just my thoughts anyway!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page
%d bloggers like this: