For a country that prides itself on being a strong democracy, which is a fallacy in itself, some of Australia's laws and methods pertaining to voting have elements that seem more familiar in third-world dictatorships. The much heralded freedom to vote is a myth and the system is rigged to ensure that only one of the two major parties can become the government.
According to the law, voting in Australia is compulsory and electors are penalised if they do not vote. However because the ballot is secret and there is no way of identifying voters from their ballot papers, no evidence can be obtained by authorities to prove that a person did not either complete the voting paper correctly or even vote at all.
Therefore, the only compulsory aspect of voting in Australia that can be enforced is that people on the electoral rolls must attend polling booths to get their names marked off the rolls. As to whether they actually cast their votes, only the electors know what they did in the polling booth. So unless they confess to deliberately casting informal votes, scribbling nasty messages on their ballot papers or merely ripping them up, they cannot be prosecuted. In other words, the law is an ass.
The Australian system of preferential voting is a colossal fraud. Before a federal election, the major parties arrange preference swapping deals with the minor parties. As the minor party candidates or independents are eliminated from contention, their preferences flow on to their next choices and if those next choices do not receive sufficient votes, the preferences keep flowing until they help elect the candidates from one of the two major parties, the Liberal and National Party coalition or the Australian Labor Party.
What actually occurs is that electors who may have an abject dislike for one or both of the major parties and vote for one of the minor parties or independent candidates, are actually helping to elect a party that they do not wish to see in power. The only way such electors can prevent their votes going to parties they dislike is for them to cast informal votes, which negates their influence upon elections totally.
The best example of the utter stupidity and dishonesty of the preferential voting system is that of Tasmanian politician Andrew Wilkie. He ran as an independent in the 2010 federal election for the seat of Denison and garnered a minuscule 13,788 votes. The Labor candidate, Jonathan Jackson, received 23,215 votes and the Liberal candidate, Cameron Simpkins, received 14,688 votes.
So Wilkie actually won the seat of Denison on the basis of preferences. Despite getting less than 60% of the votes of Jonathan Jackson, Wilkie beat both him and the Liberal candidate who also received more votes than Wilkie, because the preferences of some of the minor candidates negated the will of the people to elect Jackson. This is an utter disgrace and makes a mockery of the principle of democracy.
Another example of this ludicrously stupid voting system emerged in the case of Ricky Muir, who received the lowest vote ever recorded for a senate election. Muir received just 17,000 primary votes out of nearly half a million electors of the entire nation, but won the senate seat because of some clever preference games played by various micro-parties. This clown, who made a complete fool of himself and displayed his abject ignorance about everything in an interview with veteran journalist Mike Willesee, will most probably hold the balance of power in cahoots with the Palmer United Party senators in the 2014 senate sessions. So much for democracy.
Even more dangerous is the system that elected Clive Palmer's Palmer United Party on a vote of just 5.68% of the national vote. What this means is that Palmer and his gang held the balance of power in the senate in 2014, despite receiving such a tiny vote. So Palmer was able to twist the government's arm about any issue he chose, simply because a tiny minority of voters chose him. This is complete insanity.
A blatant fraud perpetrated on the Australian voter is the practice of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) of writing to all officers in charge of polling booths around Australia to direct them to award preferences between the top two candidates as predicted by the AEC. This is a complete and utter violation of the entire principle of voting, as the AEC will direct the votes of electors to parties and candidates for whom these people would never vote in a million years. Of course this practice is subject to bias and manipulation by AEC officials.
On top of that, the AEC does not monitor death notices to ensure that deceased people are removed from electoral rolls. Many elections have been won and lost because people have fraudulently voted under the names of deceased people, yet the AEC seems unwilling to ensure that only living eligible voters are allowed to vote.
In 1996, Victorian activist Albert Langer was jailed for telling people how to vote. Langer was a member of the Neither! campaign, which argued quite rightly that voters should not have to direct their preferences to parties with which they did not agree. Langer stated that voters could legally vote 1 for a party of their choice, and then put a 2 in each of the other boxes, thereby stopping their preferences from flowing on to the major parties when they didn't want them to. This was particularly aimed at supporters of minor parties, who might not want to see their votes ultimately go to Labor or the Liberals, as it usually does for all votes in the House of Representatives.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) was not very happy with this campaign. While it argued that Langer had the right to vote this way, he should not have encouraged others to do so. The Victorian Supreme Court ultimately agreed and then ordered that Langer be jailed for contempt of court when he continued his campaign, after being ordered to stop. When Langer was sent to prison, Amnesty International declared him Australia's first prisoner of conscience for more than twenty years and called for his release. In the end, Albert Langer only served three weeks of a ten week term because the Federal Court ruled the Victorian Supreme Court's sentence had been too severe.
The idiotic thing about the AEC position was that it acknowledged that people had a legal right to vote in this way, but that Langer had no right to tell anybody about this. Before every election, the citizenry is plagued with exhortations from every party on how to vote. What these parties are doing with their leaflets, media advertising and even telephone electioneering is telling people how to vote. Albert Langer did exactly the same, informing electors that there was a legal way to vote without their preferences flowing onto parties for which they would not vote anyway. The problem was that the two major parties would have been drastically affected by a large percentage of minor party voters who ensured that their votes could not be acquired by either of those major parties. The Liberal and Labor Parties would most likely see their candidates in marginal electorates not stand a chance of being elected, so obviously this could not be tolerated.
In jailing Langer, the Supreme Court played its part in trying to enshrine the dominance of the two major parties, simply because it denied Langer his civil rights in being free to inform the public about a legal way of voting. The Federal Court, which reduced Langer's original jail term, should have actually ruled that the sentence imposed on Langer was completely wrong and unjust, not just too severe. This was yet another case of the law being an ass.
The Albert Langer debacle highlights what a colossal scam the Australian electoral system really is. Neither the Liberals nor Laborites want to see the system changed, simply because they know that with the flow of preferences, the cards are always stacked in their favour and they do not have to worry much about any of the minor parties. Albert Langer exposed this disgusting system to the point where he terrified the establishment to the point that they had to do something to silence him, so they had him thrown in jail. Not all that long after this, Pauline Hanson was jailed on bogus electoral charges because both major parties were petrified at her stunning performance in the polls, where she was a very pertinent threat to the hegemony exercised by the Liberals and Laborites.
Urgent changes need to be made. The compulsory voting law must be repealed, as it is ridiculous and cannot be enforced. Electors should not be compelled to attend polling booths where they are perfectly free to vote informally or not vote at all, if they so choose. The people of Australia should have the freedom to choose whether they wish to exercise their democratic rights or not. For Australians to risk prosecution or even jail terms for simply not attending polling booths is anathema to the concept of a free society.
The preferential voting regime must be eradicated. It is a total abrogation of the rights of electors to have a system that sends their votes to parties or candidates they dislike. True democracy is not served by a system that ensures that in virtually every election, only one or the other of the major parties can win power.
The fairest and most democratic system is one where voting is totally voluntary and each party and candidates must convince potential voters that they are worth the effort of being voted for, rather than force people to attend polling booths by virtue of a loaded legal gun to their heads. The method of choosing candidates should be the "first past the post" system where electors can only vote only for the candidates of their choice and nobody else. Simply put, the candidate with the most votes would be elected and the corrupt system of preference deals with other parties and candidates would be totally abolished.
Of course the two major parties do not want a change in the present system, as they know that an election that was run under voluntary "first past the post" voting would result in parliament being loaded with many representatives from minor parties and independent candidates. Such a parliament would have a far more democratic approach to legislation, because one party would not be able to force through laws simply by virtue of having a majority of seats, as is the case now.
Just as an aside, the parliamentary practice of voting by show of hands or crossing the floor is nothing more than a form of bullying and intimidation. Most members of parliament are coerced into voting the party line because their votes are visible to their colleagues. For instance, any Labor Party parliamentarian who votes the opposite way to which he is ordered by the party Whip is usually expelled from his party. Therefore, Labor politicians very rarely risk going against the party line in parliament, even though their votes might be totally at odds with what their constituents demand of them.
A prime example of how elected politicians vote against the wishes of their constituents was demonstrated by the then Federal Labor politician Gerry Hand. His electorate demanded that the proposed third runway at Sydney Airport be scrapped because of detrimental effect to the locality. Hand actually appeared on television and stated that although his constituents demanded that he vote in parliament against the third runway, he would be doing the opposite and voting for it.
At that point, Hand should have been removed from office, simply because he was not obeying the wishes of his constituency, as he was required to do, but was complying with the party line, completely abrogating his responsibility to his electorate. This sort of thing happens frequently, with politicians disregarding the wishes of their electorates. The only politicians who genuinely follow the path that their electorates demand are independents. If parliamentarians could vote secretly and with their consciences, then many stupid laws would have never been enacted. If secret ballots are good enough for the voting public, they should be good enough for every parliament in Australia, federal and state.
Another major benefit of secret ballots in parliament would be the elimination of time-wasting divisions. In this 21st century age of electronics and technology, a keypad with a shroud to hide keystrokes from others could be placed at every seat in both houses. To vote, a parliamentarian would simply key in a PIN, verifying him to a computer balloting system without actually identifying him personally, then press a YES or NO button to cast his vote within a certain time frame. The balloting computer would not allow multiple votes from any of the keypads and would simply add the votes and project them on displays to the Speaker and to the entire parliament.
In this way, parliamentarians would not be subject to the intimidation they now suffer by voting by show of hands in view of the party whips and their colleagues. Every vote would be a conscience vote, really the only moral way any legislation should be passed or rejected. Of course it is highly unlikely that such a logical and fair system would be introduced into Australian federal or state parliaments, simply because none of the major parties could cope with honest voting from any of their members.
The present electoral system in Australia is unfair, repressive and dishonest and cannot be described as democratic by any means. It entrenches the two major parties and eliminates most independent voices from parliament. It allows unfair laws to be passed merely on the strength of one party having a majority that was in many cases elected by the compulsorily acquired preferences of electors that may not have had any intention of voting for those candidates. It is time that Australia practices what it preaches about its democratic system and changes the electoral laws to reflect this.
In any case, Australia does not have a democracy. In a true democracy, every person is equal, has equal political franchise and can aspire to any political position. However, in Australia, nobody here can aspire to the position of Head of State, simply because that position is inherited by an unelected person who lives in Britain and who acquired that position by sheer accident of birth and for no other reason than her ancestors seized the British throne centuries ago. Our Head of State is not qualified to hold that position, has never been chosen democratically to hold that position and because she automatically inherits that position, she denies every citizen of Australia the right to aspire to become Head of State. Therefore, Australia is not a democracy and will never be one until the Head of State is an Australian citizen who is elected by the people of Australia.
This is what needs to happen to make Australia into a true democratic nation, instead of the undemocratic monarchy that it is today.
The crazy thing about any democratic system is that it doesn't actually work. One of the best and most succinct statements ever made about democracy is this:
The average Australia voter does not have a clue about why he is voting for a particular party or politician. Try this for yourselves - ask every person you know whether they have read the manifesto of the party for whom they will vote. Apart from a very small number of die-hard politically savvy people, almost nobody has gone to the trouble of ascertaining the actual platforms of the parties and candidates in an election.
Most people fall for the lies, disinformation, propaganda and blatant rubbish fed to them by political spin doctors, politicians making false promises and trying to bribe the electorate and all the rest of the nonsense and hoopla that surrounds any election. The best example of this is the travesty of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who deliberately lied unequivocally in her 2010 election propaganda that "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead" and promptly introduced a carbon tax as soon as she was elected.
Gillard's treasurer Wayne Swan did exactly the same, lying through his teeth prior to that election that "No it's not possible that we're bringing in the carbon tax, that is a hysterically inaccurate claim being made by the Coalition." where in fact it was not a hysterically inaccurate claim made by the coalition, but a spot-on accurate statement and Wayne Swan knew it.
Of course the voters fell for the lies and propaganda and voted for Labor, even though the previous three years prior to the 2010 election saw Labor decimate the nation with a litany of disasters, including taking a very healthy economy in surplus and squandering it into a massive deficit, also placing the nation into enormous debt by borrowing around $100 million per day to finance further disasters and to buy votes. Yet in 2011, there is still a fairly sizeable number of voters who would continue to vote for the catastrophe of the Gillard Labor Party in the next election, despite the abysmal record of this regime.
So the problem with democracy is that the informed vote of an educated and intelligent voter, who has studied the manifestos of the various candidates and casts an informed vote is completely negated by the vote cast by an idiot who has no political savvy, has no idea what the actual platform of his selected candidate might be and who will vote on the basis of believing the lies and false propaganda dished out by politicians and their spin doctors.
So who should run the nation? A clever and intelligent person who has a top-class track record of sound economic management and who has run huge enterprises with great success? Or should it be a person who has never run anything successfully, but who has managed to convince a few million morons with a pack of lies, propaganda and spin to vote for him and put him into power? Who is better suited for the job? The guy with the amazing track record of economic management, or the crook and liar who conned the electorate with false promises and advertising campaigns full of smears, innuendoes and blatant mistruths?
In reality, the best way to run a nation is to run it like a business - make pragmatic decisions and institute policies that will benefit the nation and its people, just like the CEO of a large conglomerate would do. In other words, a benign dictatorship is really the only logical and sensible form of government, but of course this sort of thinking has not permeated the thick skulls of those who still think that an unqualified person elected via a popularity contest by a few million idiots is better than a genius who is running a large successful enterprise.
So as long as people think this, Australia will be stuck with the governments that it deserves and the incompetence that we will suffer as a result.