Senate voting reform in Federal Parliament is about to reduce our voting choices and the diversity of parliament. Significantly and probably forever.
It will be our great loss, and unlike the Sydney Trams, I doubt that many will miss or regret their demise.
There seems to be a broadly-held opinion that somehow the “preference whisperers” rigged the system and gained an unfair advantage.
This is often supported with derisive comments about personal origins or attributes of micro-party representatives like Ricky from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party. It’s as if Ricky didn’t have some right to be in parliament and should be grateful to be there.
And yet these propositions are manifestly false and our representative system will be the poorer once the reforms are in place.
(Note: I actually think that the reforms themselves are not unreasonable, but it is the consequences to which I object, intended or otherwise)
Firstly, the proposition that the “preference whispering” gave the minority parties an unfair advantage. The reality is that every party has the right to organise their preferences as they see fit, and everyone does it. Not only that, but in the Senate, with a fixed number of seats that must be filled at every election, someone must be elected to one or more seats with fractional quotas, no matter how small it is: major party or minor, someone is going to get into the Senate. My question is: why should that tiny fractional quota be a major party and not a minor one. I saw a report yesterday that claimed that Susan Ley had been elected to the Senate on a fractional quota, with a tiny primary vote. Why is this ok for the major parties and not for minor ones?
Secondly, the derision that is aimed at minor party Senators like the motoring enthusiast, or those with what some might consider severely unconventional views. Its worth thinking about representative diversity: who we have in Parliament compared to the populus that they represent. I’d suggest that someone like Ricky might be far more representative than the endless lawyers, party apparatchiks and union hacks that occupy those red seats.
Thirdly, the arguments that are made that the government is having problems because of an obstructive cross-bench. The government is having problems because it is unable to make a case for legislation to people who are not beholden to the party apparatus that put them in parliament. This post is not particularly meant to favour one major party or the other, but the current government has run roughshod over the concept of open and measured government and has introduced some policies that are manifestly unfair and poorly conceived.
I think perhaps we should be grateful that the government of the day has to argue its case and convince a very small number of people that they are good ideas, and not just roll out some of these horror stories with a rubber-stamp senate approval.
I don’t understand why the people who are arguing against the micro parties are so scared of independent opinion, or of having a Senate that is not a rubber stamp, or of having people, ordinary Australians, who more accurately represent the broader Australian population?
I should point out, prompted by some excellent comments from my friend Claude Brown, that this post is written in context with my other articles on the ‘Butterfly Effect Voting Strategy’
The point of the ‘butterfly effect voting strategy’ was that it was irrational and unpredictable: it is chaos theory in action. I actually don’t care who gets elected as a result, and therefore I don’t care about transparency in the preference deals. At the micro-level we’re talking about, it’s just as likely that a person’s vote would be decided by what they had for breakfast, or whether they have just had an argument with a child or spouse, as to political conviction.
The purpose of the Butterfly effect is to see diversity injected into the panel of representatives in Parlyment. I see this in the same light as a genetic mutation: a random event that changes the genetic code somehow that is expressed as a new allele in our representative mix.
Why? Because it produces the opposite of homogenisation and sluggish thinking. It’s a source of different perspectives and ideas. And, it makes it more likely that the government has to work to get its programs across the line. If government had a history of making great decisions after careful and fact-based thought; of having truly consulted high and wide in the preparation of these policies and was transparent in sharing that rationale with its electors, then i wouldn’t have even thought of the butterfly effect in the first place. But the reality is that this kind of government behaviour is very rare, and exceedingly scarce in the past few years.
So I want those that would make our laws and spend our money to be forced to make an argument and to persuade people of their benefits. I want them to have to exert some energy inside the house to work with people who don’t automatically say yes to everything. I know neither John Howard or Maxine McKew never knocked on my door to chat about policy. So let them make this practice unavoidable, even if they attempt to smother discussion and obfuscate truth outside the walls of parlyment.
Whether these new mutations have any selective benefit for these pollies, I don’t know. It depends on what they are. But I know it will get sorted out in the fullness of time, as the ballot box rolls out again in but a few short years. But, the happy little cartel of 2.5 parties needs to know that they are going to get some sort of disruption to keep it honest.
Why should we favour the centre of the bell curve over the outliers? How does that help us with diversity in Parliament? How does it provide us with better checks and balances?
Let the Butterfly live to spread its diverse effect!
Let the butterfly fly!