Friday, 24 February 2012

The soap opera which is Australian

politics continued yesterday and looks like continuing for some time to come. I understand that Kevin Rudd has just given a press conference in Brisbane, still without announcing his intention to contest the leadership on Monday. Will he? Won't he? Does he have the numbers? (General opinion among those in the know is that he does not have the numbers.)
All this comes about because we do not vote for a Prime Minister. We vote for a local member of parliament. With rare exceptions the local member will belong to one of three parties, Labor (yes I am spelling that the way they spell it), Liberal or National.
The Liberals and the Nationals form "the Coalition", a long-standing Coalition that is understood and accepted. There are differences between them but they are, in the general scheme of things, small.
Those things are not a problem. The problems lie elsewhere, with things like the compulsory preferential voting - which means you can end up voting in someone you do not like and did not want to vote for - and the fact that we do not vote for the Prime Minister.  It is the same in the United Kingdom.
I actually believe it is a good thing we cannot vote for our Prime Minister. The people we elect have to be able to work under the leadership of someone they choose. The situation would be extremely difficult if the voters put in place someone who was popular but incapable of leading, someone who did not enjoy the trust or confidence of their fellow MPs. We do not want or need American presidential style campaigning in our electoral system.
That said, people believe they do elect the Prime Minister. This is very obvious at the moment. The voting public is apparently 83% behind the likely loser in Monday's leadership ballot - if the media is to be believed. I am always wary of the results of opinion polls but a margin like that does suggest a majority would like to see Rudd rather than Gillard.
Apparently a similar majority would also like to see something else rather more important than that. They would like another election. This is, naturally, opposed by die-hard Labor voters. They say the government should "run the full term" and "be allowed to get on with the job". That it is a minority government held in place by a few cross-benchers is, they say, beside the point. They have the right to be there.
In any other country I think there would be protests on the streets by now. People would be demanding another election. There would be rallies and petitions and vociferous debate in places other than the media. Here there seems to be a sort of apathy. There is a belief that nothing can be done. There is a belief that if the government will not listen then we just have to put up with it. Compulsory attendance at the ballot box helps to bring on this sort of inertia.
Our members of parliament are however there to represent us. Are they doing that or should we have the right to ask them to go?


Holly said...

I honestly would like to see some kind of compromise system. I am used to (well, duh) the American version of checks and balances with separation of Executive and Legislative Branches.

But what I would really like to see is an absolute limit on Campaigning to a maximum of 8 weeks prior to an election. (Yes I know it would totally trash the US primary system and the US Party nomination system but don't view that as my problem).

The savings in money and aggravation would be enormous.

At least in Australia - the average bloke can't write in "Joey the Kangroo" in a Prime Minister ballot.

Anonymous said...

No, but they can write "none of the above" on a ballot paper - I may resort to that! Ros

catdownunder said...

We adhere to a "separation of powers" doctrine too - but the Governor-General would be unlikely to refuse to pass legislation.
I would like to see a limit on campaigning here too - four weeks would be enough and with strict limits on what could be spent during a campaign.
I would also like to see the abolition of compulsory attendance at the ballot box and compulsory preferential voting - oh and please do not let them hand out "how to vote" cards at polling stations!

catdownunder said...

UPDATE - since I wrote this Rudd has given a press conference announcing his intention to challenge.