On political representation

Democracy - the ballot box

[Forum] Recent recommendations from the Federal Government’s Electoral Matters Committee include optional preferential voting, the introduction of the Robson Rotation for House of Representatives ballot papers and an entirely new Electoral Act.

Of course, this is not an adequate reform at all. It is a reform that suits primarily the politicians. The claim that Australia is a successful democracy is plainly nonsense.

This proposal by the parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee is a further exercise in piecemeal tinkering by a committee comprising politicians of both major parties only.

This committee does not include representation of the 30 per cent of people who now prefer to vote for a minor party or Independents. I am not represented by Lucy Wicks, the MP for Robertson, not here and not in the Parliament either.

The 48 per cent (of people) who did not vote for her in Robertson are in fact all unrepresented in the government of this country. They are only indirectly represented by the Opposition.

This is the result of the Single Member District electoral system that is used in Australia, a relic of the Westminster heritage. They may be somewhat represented in the minor House, the Senate, as a result of the Proportional Representation system (HareClark) used in that House.

A real reform would be to introduce Proportional Representation – Party List, used in 89 countries including New Zealand since 1996. It is based on Multi-Member electorates.

This is what I have been proposing for years for Australia but, of course, it doesn’t suit the major parties. They would have to share power with other parties. I would hope that the generally compliant Australian Electoral Commission would point this out to the population.

This Commission has the power to make far-reaching recommendations of its own and could recommend real, meaningful reforms like Proportional Representation – Party List.

Not only would it really maximise choice amongst voters, but it would end the adversarial, combative, clearly negative system, a major cause of the lack of trust in politicians in Australia.

It would be replaced by the need for co-operation, to form coalitions, after general elections, which would create a much more co-operative political culture.

Australians have no experience with this, but it does in fact exist in very many countries.

Email, Dec 18 Klaas Woldring, Pearl Beach.