Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Politicians are elected to

represent their constituents - or so the theory goes. It does not always work out that way.
At the last federal election in Australia several electorates ended up with "independents" - representatives in Canberra who were not members of major parties. There was then a tense wait to see on which side they were going to align themselves.
In two particular cases they chose to go with the party that had won a minority of the votes. In doing so they also went against the wishes of their own electorates. Had people in those electorates wanted to vote in that party they would, presumably, have chosen the candidate that represented that party. They did not.
Ever since then these two elected representatives have tried, unsuccessfully, to justify their decisions. There has been much discussion of their position. Arguments have broken out. The situation has been analysed. Their choice has been hailed as courageous by some. Their choice has been condemned by others. The situation has been analysed again. Their support has dropped. It is now said that they are unlikely to be re-elected at the next election.
They recently supported the government in passing a bill which does not have the support of the Australian people. The bill will get through the Senate because the very small party which actually runs the government has the balance of power there.
Those who support this state of affairs say, "this is the way the system works" and "we have to put up with it - we can vote them out next time around". In the meantime they can continue to "represent" their electorates - which of course they are not doing. They are however getting paid to do what they are not doing.
What puzzles me about all this is not that it is happening. That does not surprise me. Power is an addictive drug. What does puzzle me is the way that Australians accept this state of affairs. The usual suspects (including myself) write "letters to the editor" in the press. Other usual suspects respond. Columnists discuss the situation. The media asks questions but does not demand answers. There are no mass protests. Nobody challenges the right of a minority, sometimes a very small minority, to make decisions for the rest of us. There is never ever any mention of the fact that Senators are, under the Consitution, supposed to represent their states. I do not know when Senators last voted on state lines - if they ever did.
If we continue to be this complacent about our "democracy" we might lose it altogether.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have found myself in the middle of political discussions at quilt events in the last two years, so maybe we are not as complacent as we were. The next election could be interesting.

Judy B