Direct Democracy in Australia

I will simply note Jeremy Hargreaves‘ and Paul Walters‘ recent articles on Ming’s opposition to holding a referendum for now as I don’t have time to fillet them at the mo.

Meanwhile however, via Direct Democracy, I note that the Lib Dems’ sister party in Australia – the Democrats – are calling for citizen-initiated referendums at the moment. Senator Andrew Murray writes:

While recognising that Australia is a representative democracy and supporting what that entails, I support direct democracy in defined circumstances because it promotes popular engagement with the political process on questions of public importance, particularly in matters that affect people immediately and specifically.

Increasingly we need to recognise that local people are best served when they are able to determine what happens in their own backyard, whether it is the placement of a pulp mill, the location of a nuclear power plant, or the amalgamation of their local council with another.

Embarrassingly for us, he goes on to quote David Cameron approvingly, as if he is the leading the vanguard of democratic reform in the UK. In truth, even the relatively radical Direct Democracy group are fairly cautious when it comes to citizen initiated referendums, and Cameron doesn’t even go that far. The fact that he finds common cause with Cameron is partly to embarrass Cameron’s fellow (small-c) conservative John Howard, but its is nonetheless embarrassing (for me, at least) that the Lib Dems are unable to say to them “us too!”

1 comment

  1. As an Australian living Edinburgh I feel I should comment on this.

    The Australia voting system is designed to ensure the two party system. It’s up there with the American model for keeping new ideas and new parties out of power. To make matters worse there is no system for the voters to have any say between elections. Petitions are not binding and there is no way to force a referendum. To be elected to the lower house (the Australian version of the House of Commons) you need to win 50%+1 of the vote, and in a system that forces everyone to vote, the middle of the road party always wins.

    As for the Democrats? Well they used to be a party that people voted for. Then they had a very messy leadership challenge (against the wishes of the members), sided with a right wing government on a few crucial issues (again, against the wishes of the members), and lost about 99% of the support base. By the end of 2007 there will not be a single democrat in government anywhere in Australia. In some states the party no longer has enough members to be a registered political party.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.