So, Australia’s process of democracy has now begun once again, and those citizens who are lucky enough to live in a marginal seat will get to determine what government we’re left with, while the rest of us have to make ourselves content with deciding how much obstruction to give them in the Senate. Furthermore, those of us who vote for minor parties are even further disenfranchised in the House of Representatives.
Of course, I realise that there are considerably worse electoral systems around, but still, why should we be content with a system that is only barely passable? New Zealand had the presence of mind to introduce a proportional representation system in 1993 – despite both parties being opposed to it. This was brought about after a number of elections where the National party won government even though the Labour party gained a majority of the vote – as happened in Australia in 1998; Labor gained 51%25 of the two-party preferred vote, but the Coalition still won the majority of the seats, and hence the election.
Proportional representation systems have worked effectively in many European countries, including Germany and The Netherlands (although it is worth noting that Belgium has benn functioning quite well for several months without a government at all). It tends to produce coalition governments and legislation through compromise, reducing the likelihood of extreme laws like Workchoices.
This is the next reform we should be making to our electoral system. Not four -year fixed terms – a brazen attempt by politicians to reduce their accountability. Three-year fixed terms, however, would not be a bad idea at all.