Monday, 23 August 2010

Is it possible to scrap the Wasteminster System?

I've mentioned this topic before but never in any great detail and since the population has politics on their minds I felt it might be a poignant time to propose some ideas on changing our system of government. The Westminster system (sorry about the Wasteminster joke...slightly tongue in cheek there) is an old system of government which should be replaced or reformed. If the Westminster system can’t be changed then can we indeed scrap it altogether and come up with something that increases the level of power to the common voter?

When there's so much infighting in the inner sanctum the only real loser is the Australian population. I think what the people really want is actual debate on the content of policy as opposed to childish rhetoric like "That's a stupid policy"..."why?"..."I...I...I dunno, just stupid head!". By the way, I no longer support either party. I was probably more aligned with the Liberal party before and saw good in both or more need for both but the more I have looked at our system the more I suspect we’re fighting a losing battle. I mention my non-affiliation with a major party so that people don’t think this is just another episode of pointless fighting over which party is better, like it were some football team. In fact the concept of political parties being more akin to a football team is one of the points I intend to raise below.

I guess the best way to start would be to list the things I feel our system does, consciously or subconsciously that hurts us as a people and propose ways these may be alleviated. I’ll also point out that you may find some points raised are already what happen in our current system. I do this to better show how some of the differences will work with the better elements of what we already do.

On a side note, while I attempt to propose a thesis of new government, it is only a blog post and more to put my ideas out there crudely to start with and for people to read those ideas, think about them and to come up with answers as well. Therefore this won’t be a thesis of new government but more a draft of the thesis.

For me, party politics or toeing the line so to speak is the biggest threat to national democracy. I only very recently read a blog post by Rob Oakeshott entitled What’s so wrong with being ‘hung’? and it addressed a lot of things that I had been thinking about for at least five years. If someone is elected as an MP they should be voting on issues based on the concerns of the people who put them in that position of power; certainly not what their party claims to be correct. This leads me to another thought and that is of respect for our leaders; admittedly they don’t often give us reason to respect them but it is a terribly difficult job and as long as they are doing right by their electorate then we should support them as they support us. I understand that such respect for authority is more of an American trait which is fine but it couldn’t hurt to show a little bit of support for the leader even if they were in a different party than whom you vote for if they propose a policy you agree with instead of pushing back and rejecting something that may well be good for the country. To be given the chance to help an electorate is an honour and should be treated as such; it is national service and should be treated as such. In our current political system “crossing the floor” should not be considered taboo, if anything it should be commended and encouraged. This is obviously unlikely to occur in our current state of affairs; this is why I propose the end of our current two party system. It seems to me that the majority of voters vote for the leader of the party or even just the party irrelevant of who is their local member. This mentality also ruins our system in that when forced to vote we end up voting on a popularity contest and some of the heated arguments tend to sound more like an argument over which football team is best. It is not beneficial for our democracy.

Over government is another flaw with our system, unless state government feel they can improve in the near to distant future. One other thing I propose is the elimination of state government but give more powers back to the local governments. In this case you might now begin to notice a more corporate feel. The federal government would contain ministers who were voted into their respective roles, they are experts who are highly knowledgeable or qualified to lead in their respective roles even if not specific experts in that field. The role of PM or in this case, the CEO (so to speak) is also elected and the ministers would be like the board of directors; the people, the shareholders have an open and transparent government and based on effort and achievement by each minister they are voted in or removed. Those who have been ministers or board members in this example have the ability to run for the top job in the next election. The local governments then become branch offices of the federal government who bid for funding and deal directly with their constituents. They DO NOT work in Canberra but maybe the few higher positioned members meet each quarter in Canberra to give briefs of their region. There would be a lot of these branch offices so this would be staggered over the year. Budgeting would be done and business plans used by each local government to bid for funds for local projects.

In this example we don’t lose someone who is doing a great job in a particular role just because their respective party is removed from power. There is also no issue of crossing the floor as there is no longer a party line. Yes there will be groupings of people who believe common things. I think people being people will always find ways to corrupt, what I am trying to do is minimise the ability for the corruption.

One last point before I leave this topic to the floor for discussion is that by having the federal government run things is we then get standardisation in things like rail, transport, real estate, education and many more areas that would greatly benefit from standardisation.

Now I leave this up to you to read and ponder. You may think I am completely wrong, you may agree somewhat or you might completely agree and want to know where to sign up.

Lastly, there is significantly more in my head on this matter but to write a blog post on a topic of this nature and get it out before ones lunch break finishes is no mean feat. That and it’s long enough as it is, not many people will want to read a blog post this long. If you did read, thanks for doing so and like I said, I would love some comments on this.

You win! I ROCK!
Good night Seattle.


  1. It doesn't need wholesale replacement and I can't see that happening in Australia any time soon. But here's a couple of thoughts about how it could be made fairer and more efficient gradually.

    A hung parliament is a good thing for democracy because it gives a voice to independents and minor parties. Peter Singer once used the analogy that if Parliament were a cake, 51% of the people would get 100% of the cake. Now, giving a voice to 3 independents and one Green only ensures that those electorates get a voice this time around. To really make it fair, we need proportional representation. It sounds a bit scary but most councils already have it with wards. Instead of 150 electorates, we just need 30 electorates of 5 members each.

    Crossing the floor will remain stigmatised for a couple of generations yet. That's why the leaders need to call more conscience votes. More importantly, conscience votes could be a good way to keep together minority governments, ie not blaming the PM for forcing a smaller party to follow, the PM not blaming the smaller party for voting against her occasionally. If Labor forms the minority government, the Greens are going to call for a conscience vote on same-sex marriage without actually asking Gillard to reverse the policy. That way she won't have to lose face if a few Labor MPs from the Catholic right oppose it, and they might even get a few Libs (Turnbull, Pyne).

  2. I like your thinking there. Yeah, our system as it stands could use some tweaking and we may well be looking at greater democracy. I remember talking about proportional representation back at uni and I completely agree.

    Well I think crossing the floor under the Westminster system will continue to be stigmatised for ever. The only reason being party politics. Though your call for more conscience votes makes sense, well it slowly removes a strict party line in a way as well.

    Thanks for your comments mate, they're always insightful.

    Hope you're doing well.