Forgive the volume of my posting, non-existent reader, I have years of repressed blogging impulse to get off my chest.
Regarding my last post, I am in favour of democracy, specifically modern Western representative style democracy, despite my occasional gripes and frustrations with the realities of living in a society where its hard to make sensible policy decisions that happen to be unpopular.
I spend a bit of time thinking about democracy, its merits, its flaws, ways we do it well and ways we do it better. Some practical changes I think ours could merit:
1. Private political donations should be outlawed. People or corporations wishing to donate to a party or candidate should instead give their money to an independent body (possibly a sub-branch of the AEC), along with instructions on how they wish that money to be directed. That body would pool all money for the candidate / party and then doll the funds out in increments that conceal to the greatest extent possible the timing and size of the incoming donations, so as to create a reasonable mask of anonymity in the donation process. This would in my mind strike a fair balance between our democratic right to put resources into political causes we believe in, and our collective need to stop anyone using money to corrupt our political system in their favour.
Possible issues: It would require trust in the independent body to act in good faith, but this is already nessecary with respect to the AEC (not to mention the ombudsman, ACCC, the courts, etc.) Its going to be a difficult idea to sell to the likes of the NSW Labor Party, who are highly skilled at the money-making game and are unlikely to want to give up the doubtlessly large proportion of the revenue flow that will cease once donators no longer think they can buy influence. One final issue is, if you really believe in the scheme, can you also outlaw private entities spending money on political causes in other ways, e.g. by directly taking out ads in a newspaper promoting a candidate? What about the billionaire who buys newspapers or TV stations outright to promote a political agenda? Lacking the kind of protection Americans enjoy via the First Amendment, we must be mindful to balance the need for integrity in the political process against any limitation on our right to free speech.
An extension to this idea I have read online, that could perhaps make up for the reduced levels of donations this system would incur, is that all voters should receive a fixed government-funded voucher (for say $10) to be used as a donation to the political party of their choice.
2. We should switch to a voting system like Punchscan. For a start, the use of computer technology make election results (even in Upper houses) near instantaneous, and enable the use of better preference distribution algorithms like Meek's Method that are too complex to implement under hand counting. Much more importantlt, Punchscan, unlike the hopelessly flawed kinds of electronic voting systems often used in places like America, actually greatly increases the security and integrity of the electoral process.
Possible issues: Usability - although its not that much harder than numbering boxes, you should always endeavour for voting to be as easy as possible. Also, in its current form, Punchscan is only suitable for single-choice (first past the post) elections. I can envisage ways to extend it to preferential systems like ours, but only at the expense of further complicating the voting process. Nonetheless, I think its got to be a worthwhile tradeoff. Hundreds of hours of vote counting and scutineerling labour saved, much higher accuracy, instantaneous results, the freedom to use different proportional systems, and practically unriggable elections. My only regret would be the loss of Antony Green's election night analysis.
I had more suggestions to add, but they elude me for now. Perhaps another blog post later.
Any State or Federal MPs reading, by any chance?