Firstly, an apology.
It’s been a long time since I posted anything here.
It’s mostly because I’ve been busy teaching here in China and I’ve been posting things on my Tumblr. I’ve been posting things there because at the moment, Tumblr has not been blocked by the Great Firewall of China, unlike many other forms of social media from the West.
However, I do want to get back into regular writing, and I have a number of different posts rolling around in my head, including cup competitions for various professional sporting codes as well as going back to look at things I said I would write about a while ago.
But today, I am going to write about something that peaked my interest today.
This article on news.com.au talks about the Swiss model of direct democracy and whether or not it would work in Australia.
Now, I believe that the model has SOME merit and with some manipulation, it COULD work in Australia. If you want to read more on it, this Wikipedia entry will give you a start on it. I’m not suggesting that the entire model be picked up and dropped on the Australian electorate – it needs some work to work properly.
Firstly, I’m not convinced that voting every 3 months would be an ideal situation for Australian voters (even though it would be a fantastic fundraiser for schools, churches, community centers, etc). It would have to be a maximum of twice a year – sorry #democracysausage and #snagvotes.
The fact is that with compulsory voting, there is a general reluctance for people to vote more than once a year. I would not recommend specific dates for the referendums, to allow for referendums to take place at the same time as any state, territory, local or federal government elections where possible.
In addition, the number of signatures would need to be managed as well. Clearly, one hundred thousand signatures is going to be pretty easy to get for a federal law change, but harder for something that happens in, say, the ACT. I would suggest that the Australian Electoral Commission (and their state representatives) would be held responsible for determining an appropriate number of signatures for an issue to make the ballot for each level of government.
Speaking of the Electoral Commission(s), they need to be strong and would need increased government funding to ensure that the signatures were legitimate and truly from where they claimed to be where they said they were from. While they do have enormous resources at their fingertips already, the potential to be rushed with a significant number of petitions at once gives rise to some big risks.
My final thought on this is a question – should any limits be placed on the issues put to the vote? If this is to be a truly direct democracy, how much power are placed in the hands of the people?
I’m intrigued to see what comments I get.
I hope you enjoy this read.