Recently the Greens have launched a campaign to "reform" the Senate voting procedures. Here are 9 reasons our Senate elections give us one of the best houses in the world.
1. It's already democratic
Democracy is about including people, not excluding. Our unique senate system includes more people (11%) outside major parties than other countries, like the UK (8%), the US (2%), New Zealand (3.3%), and Canada (8%).
2. Group Voting Tickets are easy
Usually it's the people who don't care about politics doing most of the voting. By letting the most motivated and politically involved people do the preferencing we can use economies of scale to maximise the chance of your favourite party getting elected. Instead of preferencing somewhat-randomly and decreasing the chance of your first preference winning, if we let each party organise preferences they will choose the order that gives them the best chance of winning a seat -- which is what you, the voter, wants as easily as possible.
Group voting tickets (GVTs) are smart, quick, efficient, and help coordination and cooperation. All good things, especially on election day.
3. All preference deals are public and transparent
Two weeks before the election all parties have to submit their GVTs. Unlike how-to-votes or backroom deals in parliament, everything is out for the world to see before the day. If you want to know where your preference is going it's easy to find out. In contrast to the rest of government, this part is transparent.
4. It gives the underdog a go
Democracy isn't about the same people all the time. Elections are meant to help us choose the best person, and sometimes they're the underdog. If we keep minor parties down we'll miss out entirely on the best ideas, instead of at least having a chance to hear them, like we do now.
5. Marginal utility of minor party politicians is highest
The most value you get from a new party will be from their first elected member. Every member after that adds political power, but little in the way of new ideas, new policy, or new criticism. If we want the best democracy then we need more first-members of parties elected into power, that's how we get the best ideas, and best people.
6. It strengthens the Senate as a house of review
What does a house of review do? It criticises. It finds the weak points in policy. It evaluates performance and helps improve this country. How can we best do that? We need lots of ideas, lots of eyes on it. If we cut out minor parties we cut out the number of eyes on new policy, increasing the chance of back room deals and exploitative policy being passed. To have the highest standard we need lots of different people commenting, and our Senate does that beautifully.
7. It's simple for the voter
The best part is all this happens even if the voter doesn't care. They won't throw away their vote, and they can be sure they're actually helping their party as much as possible, as quickly as possible. It's more automatic, and allows even the least educated voter to know their vote will count.
8. Keeps the major parties in check
Ever wonder why the Greens and the Coalition want to team up to kill off GVTs and minor parties? It's because it makes their life harder because they're being held to a higher standard. They're complaining because their policy isn't good enough, and they don't want to put in the hard yards. Minor parties are great for making sure the big parties aren't taking the country for a ride.
9. Permissionless upgrades (if they're good)
Imagine if all the minor parties could preference a 'safe coalition' as such. Say a senate seat that forms a little proportional-representation system within the Senate. Minor parties would get votes based on how many preferences they contributed. This would keep the seat out of the major parties' hands and make sure minor parties still got a say. Better yet, it means we can experiment with how to split up votes, and if a good system is found it could grow to consume the whole Senate. No other country has a way to do this, to upgrade democracy by having a micro-democracy inside a micro-party.
This is exactly what FLUX (formerly Neutral Voting Bloc) is designed to do. To create the most efficient, productive environment for minor parties to thrive in, and enable them. If that sounds like something you'd like to see more of, please join the party and help us register this year.
Photo attribution: "Australian Senate - Parliament of Australia" by JJ Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australian_Senate_-_Parliament_of_Australia.jpg#/media/File:Australian_Senate_-_Parliament_of_Australia.jpg