The Two-Party Duopoly Isn’t Delivering The Results Our Nation Needs

It’s the final days before the Federal election and based on the pre-poll numbers a lot of Australians have clearly made up their minds. They voted early to avoid the rush and to switch off from the incessant political chatter.

My theory is that people are so fed up with politics that by voting early they have ‘done their duty’ and can justify ignoring the rest of the election campaign.

The major parties don’t like this much and you can expect them to team up post-election (no matter who wins) to try and change the system. They are frustrated that the tens of millions of dollars spent planning and implementing a set campaign are increasingly falling on deaf ears.

I want to see electoral change too but it won’t surprise regular readers that I have a different perspective from the Red and Blue political tribes.

The system is currently engineered to support the two-party system. Compulsory preferential voting in the House of Representatives means your vote generally vests with one of the majors. There are circumstances where a third player will emerge up the middle but this is generally because one of the majors is ‘running dead’.

The preferential system means you have to actually allocate an order of preference to groups you may find detestable. In some cases you are forced to choose between multiple candidates with awful views. This means that if your preferred choices don’t get up you could actually end up supporting something you are implacably opposed to.

To compound the problem it is clear many voters don’t understand even the basics surrounding the preferential system. They want to be told how to vote rather than have to think about how their vote preferences matter. It’s part of the detachment that many citizens have from national politics.

It is a problem that will not be resolved through voter education. Successive governments have spent tens of millions of dollars explaining the electoral system and many, even those who have voted for decades, still don’t understand it.

Far better to reform the system to allow optional preferential voting which means voters only have to put a number beside the candidates they are happy to support – be it one, two or however many. Such a system also means your vote may exhaust if your preferred candidates aren’t successful but that is the choice every voter should be entitled to make.

The major parties made such a reform in the Senate when they realised there was a continuing threat from minor parties but didn’t extend it to the House of Representatives. Another example of Government and Opposition teaming up for mutual self-interest.

For clarity, in the Senate every voter is encouraged to number a minimum of six parties above the line or twelve candidates below the line. They can number more or less but as long as they number at least one, their vote will be valid. It is just a pity that so many people don’t seem to understand that elemental part of our democracy.

Which brings me to another electoral reform. If so many people don’t understand or don’t care to understand our electoral system, why are they forced to vote?

Pedants will claim that no-one is forced to vote but they are required to have their name marked off the roll every election. Ignoring this sophistry, forcing people to participate is something that I am opposed to. If you don’t want to participate in an election, if you don’t want to vote for any candidates or if you simply can’t be bothered then that is your right. You shouldn’t be forced to.

Once again, this would impact the major parties who would have to actually inspire people to get out to vote. It would mean a more responsive electoral cycle with grassroots campaigns coming to the fore.

In countries with voluntary voting, it is often less than half of those eligible who choose to vote and critics claim this is unrepresentative. The reality is, if the political parties want to change that figure they need to do a better job of connecting with the people they serve.

No system is perfect but a system that virtually entrenches the two-party duopoly isn’t delivering the results our nation needs.

Things that make you go Hmm…

When an Indian giver reveals his true intentions and migration of a different kind costs millions, Labor will bankrupt the welfare state. When Chinese "morality schools" are anything but moral, it's clear it's not just the birds who need liberating or feeding.

It's all in the fe-line of duty, when two's company, three's a fine but you'd better Czech first. No collusion? Comey's not having a Barr of it, as Apple gives China the digit and a Perth motorist finds himself in another fine mess.