Monday, 25 July 2011

If an election was called

tomorrow than Labor (as they spell it here) would lose in South Australia. It would also lose a federal election.
For that reason alone we will not be going to the polls any time soon. Labor still believes it can turn the polls around and win the 2014 election in South Australia and the 2013 federal election. Politics, especially Australian politics, is such an uncertain business that this may happen.
But there is another reason why South Australia will not be going to the polls any time soon. We have a "fixed term". Parliament is elected for a term of four years.
On the surface this sounds like an excellent idea. It is said it gives "certainty". We know who is going to govern us for the next four years. Plans can be made and projects carried out accordingly. In short it is supposed to make the business of government easier.
It does not. Our state government won the election with a majority of the seats but a minority of the votes. The Electoral Commission is supposed to review and change the boundaries in order to even things out after each election. In reality all they can do is try and ensure that there are a fairly even number of voters in each electoral district. It is the way the system works and any other system would have other problems. In the interests of "democracy" the electoral system is unlikely to change. Both major parties believe the system can benefit them.
Put that with a fixed term however and you do have a problem. New South Wales had a problem prior to the last election. It also has a fixed term system and the government remained despite the fact that it was no longer capable of governing. They were dismissed in a landslide. Had they gone to the polls sooner they would almost certainly not have won but there would be a respectable opposition.
One of our politicians now wants to introduce a bill into parliament allowing for "recall elections". He is proposing that an election be able to be called if 150,000 voters (about 10% of the state's voters) call for one.
It sounds reasonable and democratic but it almost certainly will not get passed. Politicians will not, on the whole, see this as of benefit to them. Why should they? They do not want the expense of an election. They do not want to do the work involved. They do not want the uncertainty surrounding an election and the fear of losing their seats. An unpopular government will continue to believe it can turn the polls around and their opposition will continue to believe the government will slide still further and thus give them more chance.
It is all about staying in power or obtaining power. It is not about governing people.

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