With the recent Queensland LNP proposal to reform voting including ditching the "compulsory voting" requirement, debate has been raging - spurred on by Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowing to fight any move to voluntary voting. Oddly, Kevin Rudd when PM proposed similar changes, and issued a Green Paper on the subject that sank, along with him, with nary a trace.
The HBW is voicing support of voluntary voting. Like most, we've been on both sides of this issue over the years and we respect that many will object to our view. However we believe the evidence is clear - forcing uninformed and politically uneducated citizens into the polling place results in the worst form of governance. Ignorant forced voters are a danger to representative democracy.
Today's Cairns Post has results of their annual survey, which shows that despite the local and state elections having just been held, a third can't name their federal or state members of Parliament, and over 40% have no idea who their council member might be. Clearly huge numbers of blockheads, forced into the poll, have done nothing to educate themselves about the issues. They haven't even educated themselves into their candidate's NAME!
It's no wonder large numbers of the public can't figure out why the Schier council-approved Entertainment Precinct and CBD overhaul haven't been done. They had no idea they were voting for neanderthals.
Compulsory voting has historically been used to "train" a new democracy electorate into the right to vote, with the compulsion removed in time. The start of compulsory voting in Australia was seen as a boon to the existing parties - they no longer needed to spend money to "get out the vote", and could just concentrate on "educating the public" about their policies.
And yet we have a less-educated electorate then ever before. With federal and state elections being run as "beauty contests" like a Presidential system, the local member is but a ticket to the "President" the public wants. It was a contest between Joh Bjelke Newman and Anna Beattie Bligh - with the result that ciphers like Gavin King and Michael Trout were given seats in Parliament. And now we're paying the price.
And the act of NOT VOTING is itself and expression of political will that is being denied to the electorate.
We do however believe that the issue of compulsory voting cannot be considered in a vacuum. Other electoral issues need discussion.
Some of these include:
• Tough limits on party expenditures and full disclosure of campaign finance sources - including banning company contributions completely
• True representative government, where MP's vote their conscience and constituents instead of being forced to vote as their party masters dictate
• Banning the use of "How to Vote" cards at polling stations during the poll.
• Requirement for the broadcast media (radio & television) to host debates between the candidates (the airwaves are owned by the public, and this reasonable requirement is common in most western democracies)
• Video taping and public access to local Council meetings (a local government requirement scrapped by Bob "Sleepy" Manning as one of his first acts as Mayor)
As always your comments are encouraged.
QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT DISCUSSION PAPER
COMPULSORY VOTING, PARTY STABILITY, AND ELECTORAL ADVANTAGE IN AUSTRALIA
COMPULSORY VOTING - DOES IT FAVOUR THE ALP?