Australian Elections and the Insufficiency of Voting

Electoral politics can be a dirty business, especially in Australia.

The major parties, Labor (ALP) and the Liberal-National Party Coalition (LNP) play an intense, 5-week game of ‘catch-all’ policy making, and try to discredit each other.

This happens between candidates for the House of Representatives, the Senate (at this point Greens & Independents are contenders too), and at a national level between candidates for the Prime Ministership. It all plays out very publicly, streamed around the clock via television networks, media outlets and increasingly through social media and online communities.

Two overly crafted personalities are created and forced down our throats until we are so sick of them, we can’t WAIT to see that voting booth, if only to know all the excessive marketing will be over soon. Then it is over.

We have a new government and either you did or didn’t get what you ‘voted for’. Right?

For me, more often than not I DON’T get what I voted for, though the hung parliament of 2010 is the closest we have come so far. Never so far in Canning, the lower-house electorate I live in.

The truth is the majority of voters never get what they ‘voted for’. Elections in the 21st century are decided per-electorate via preferential voting (non-primary majority) and in Parliament through ‘coalitions’ like those between the Liberal and National Party, or ‘agreements’ such as that between the Labor Party and the Greens and Independents (2010-2013).

Relief can sometimes be found in the Senate, where representation is a little more proportional to the total percentage of votes received by a party in any given state, though sometimes throwing in wild results, but Government is not formed in the Senate.

Even if you do get the candidate you voted for at a local level and the Prime Minister you had hoped for in Parliament, the likelihood is they will not represent you the way you expected. You probably didn’t agree with everything they promised anyway. Many people feel they are ‘voting for the worst of a bad lot’ and frequently express dissatisfaction at government decisions, regardless of who is in power.

It makes this talk of “mandates” seem like a fantasy. The only mandate a candidate ever receives is one to represent the people of his/her electorate. Nothing more nothing less. Unfortunately, I have NEVER had a Federal House of Representatives MP in my electorate who is actually representative of me or my views.

Voting once every few years therefore is always likely to be insufficient for me. I am one of the most politically active people I know. If I am not represented in the lower house of Parliament, then what hope do those less active have to be represented?

It would be better is if representatives and candidates empowered their constituents in the decision and policy making processes. Why NOT put policy out to the constituency for a month long voting process, it’s probably cheaper and less annoying than all that advertising anyway.

If a Member of Parliament actually came through with such a process, it would likely become a precedent setting event.

Surely that is how this is democracy thing was meant to run anyway, right?

Representatives surely weren’t meant to just assume what they think is right is always what we think is right, because it might not be. What we think is right or wrong may change with circumstances.

Let’s bring MORE influence over the decision making process back into the hands of citizens and get back to the true meanings of ‘demos’ and ‘cratos’. Power to the people!

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