Sunday, 10 May 2015

Trying to explain the Australian electoral system

is probably impossible. Several people in Upover have left me messages asking, "How does it work?"
They were not happy with the "first past the post" system which saw the Conservatives re-elected. Their understandable question was, is the Downunder system any better?
The answer is "no". It is different but it is no better. It has other problems.
One of the biggest problems with politics Downunder is that there is a system of compulsory attendance at the ballot box. I know there are many people who believe that this is "democratic".  There is no requirement to actually vote. That would be impossible to enforce  but  you are supposed to "mark" the paper and put it in the proper box. I once saw a man take his papers - one for each house - and simply put them in the boxes. He did not vote. He was taken to one side and I often wonder what was said or done. 
Compelling people to attend the ballot box does not however make them "thinking" voters. I suspect the opposite is true. It makes them see voting as a chore. Part of this could be changed with more public education about the importance of voting - about "having a say".  I am however opposed to the idea of "compulsion". Attempting to compel people to do anything is bad psychology. People resent being told they "must" do anything. 
Add this to another problem with elections in Downunder, the iniquitous compulsory preference system and you have a potentially serious problem.  By "compulsory preference" I mean the system which requires you to mark each box with a number from "1" - your first choice - through 2,3, "x", that being the number of candidates. The compulsory preference system is wide open to abuse and it also compels the voter to vote - however distantly - for candidates whose policies they disagree with. 
If your first choice is a party to ban widgets and you strongly support this but all other parties want to retain widgets then why should you have to assist them if your candidate does not get in? Choosing to continue your preferences but having your vote declared invalid because you failed to do so  is another story. 
So, my opinion - for what it is worth (not much I know) is that whether to vote or not should be a matter for the individual to decide. It is not something people should be required to do but something they should be given every encouragement to do. And people should be required to vote only for candidates they feel are able to represent them and their views - and not further.
Downunder's system for the Senate in the federal parliament needs a major overhaul. It does not work the way the founding fathers intended - but that is another story. I know people grumble about the House of Lords in the UK but it may well be no less democratic than having someone enter on a vote of a little over 1% when others on votes of more than 11% fail to get a "quota". That has to change.
I thought of all this yesterday. The craft fair I was attending asked people to vote for various stalls, workshops, demonstrations etc. There were stall holders actively touting for support. Others did not bother. They clearly felt their product was good enough.
The friend I was working for is so well known and her products are of such a high standard, as are her classes, that we simply ignored the entire process.
After all, the constant question was "when are you coming back?"
(Not until next year.)

1 comment:

jeanfromcornwall said...

To me the business of ranking the candidates is the most distasteful bit of your system, when it is allied with the compulsion to attend. I recall when my Father was involved with the local council, standing for a place. Several councillors were elected each year - a sort of rolling replacement of a proportion of the whole. Voters could choose up to the number of seats being chosen and vote for that many. They could also vote for fewer - I remember various people telling Dad that they had "given him a plumper" meaning they had voted just for him.
What made it easier was that there were no boundaries within the local council area and there was very little in the way of party politics - people just stood as themselves.
This worked very well in a small town, but I struggle to think how it could be translated to a ounty or a country.