WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF . . . . ?
Australia is in a mess. Currently we have a lousy economic situation, a serious environmental situation and our international reputation is in tatters.
As a nation, we are victims of “4P Syndrome”. You may be more familiar with its expanded expression, “Piss Poor Political Performance”.
For decades, we have been afflicted with crops of pathetic pollies, who have neither the wisdom nor the wherewithal to manage their roles as members of a government, or opposition. They have, historically, focussed so heavily upon bashing their “opponents” in each of the Houses, and in the media, that they’ve had no time or energy left to manage the nation.
In part, this can be attributed to the hideously flawed Westminster system of government, which we have inherited from our imperial masters, the Great British. It’s an adversarial system, in the same vein as our (In)justice System, which requires participants to prove others wrong, rather than to prove themselves to be right. As a result, focal issues become obscured beneath layers of bullshit.
What would happen if we did away with political parties and decided to have our elected, independent representatives, work together to solve the nation’s problems and promote our future?
The scheme could perhaps work something like this. Please understand that this outline is simplistic at best, but may be sufficient to suggest “in principle” proposals:
- Our electorates and the two-house system would remain the same. Candidates would nominate for positions in the House of Representatives or the Senate.
- Political lobbying, or at least the corrupt “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” version, would be outlawed, with significant penalties, including incarceration, applied to all of those who engage in corrupt lobbying of any sort.
- Within each electorate (or state, for Senate candidates), anybody who was prepared to fork out an amount of money, say $200.00, as a fee, in order to contest the election, would be funded by the Australian Electoral Commission to allow the candidate to conduct a campaign. The amount provided would be sufficient to enable candidates to pay for limited media exposure, public meetings, house to house canvassing and so on, through which they would appeal to the electors. All spending would occur within a candidate’s electorate, or state, for Senate candidates.
- Funds would be allocated equally to each candidate, with small variations to allow for the geographical isolation of some electorates, and similar concerns.
- No funds other than those provided by the AEC, would be allowed to be spent on any aspect of a campaign. The playing field would have some chance of being level.
- An intensive and on-going audit of the spending by candidates, would be carried out by the AEC. All campaigning requiring expenditure of these funds would cease, in sufficient time before the election, to allow the AEC to ensure the probity of each candidate’s spending.
- Any candidate proven to be misusing, or adding to the funds provided by the AEC, would be disqualified from the election.
- On election day we would vote for our chosen House of Reps candidate, the person most likely to do the best for our specific electorate, and for the appropriate number of Senate candidates for our state, people likely to perform best as “watch dogs” for the political process. Mass voting for a “personality” would be eliminated, with voters having no Prime Ministerial figure to influence their selection.
- Voting would be “first-past-the-post”, not preferential, with the successful candidate scoring the highest number of votes.
- Successful candidates for each of the two Houses would meet in Canberra to elect leaders (perhaps known as Prime Minister and Senate Leader respectively) and deputies, as organisers and spokespeople for those Houses, and to form committees for Health, Education, Infrastructure and so on. Senate committees would match those formed in the House of Reps.
- A committee comprising elected members from each House would be formed as the Political Integrity Unit, charged with the sole responsibility for monitoring candidates’ political behaviours. Questionable behaviour by any member of either House, would be examined by means of an inquiry conducted by the Integrity Unit. Any suspected criminal behaviour would be referred to the Federal Police.
- Any member found to have been acting corruptly, in a political sense, would be dismissed from office and a by-election conducted to find a replacement. A member referred to police for investigation would, in addition, be subject to a criminal law outcome, if sufficient evidence existed to prove unlawful activity.
- Taking the Health “portfolio” as an example, the responsible committee would elect a leader (perhaps known as “The Minister”) and deputy, whose job it would be to organise and speak publicly, and in the House of Reps, on behalf of committee members.
- Members of the committee would introduce, debate and, if supported by a two-thirds majority of committee members, have the portfolio’s leader present proposals to the House. Here, following exhaustive debate, a two-thirds majority vote in favour, would see the proposal placed before the Senate for consideration.
- The Senate’s Health Committee would assess the proposals presented by the House of Reps’ committee and provide recommendations for consideration by the entire Senate body.
- Following debate, a proposal could be passed by the Senate and become law, amended by the Senate and returned to the Lower House for further consideration, or rejected entirely.
- If enacted as law, the proposal would then become the responsibility of the members of the “Health Portfolio”, through the Public Service, for implementation, supervision and ongoing review.
- The performance of each member of each House would be assessed annually, by their constituents, through a survey conducted by the AEC. Members whose performance at the annual review was considered inadequate by a two-thirds majority of electors, would be required to stand down. They might then re-contest the by-election conducted to fill the vacancy.
- Full elections, following the same process, would be held every four years for both Houses.
At first reading, the above may well appear to be the nonsense ramblings of a naïve and politically uninformed individual.
At second reading, you may be confirmed in this view.
I am no authority on politics or on the political processes, but I know enough to believe that what we have now is badly broken, probably beyond repair, and requires urgent fixing, if we are to avoid more of the same crap as we presently experience, for the next century.
I’d be delighted to be informed by a political scholar, or two, whether this proposal could, in fact, work, or whether it’s more likely to be a recipe for a different sort of disaster.