September 10, 2013

Horse 1542 - The Senate: The Great Tub Of Ice-Cream

Manipulated, Farscical, Undemocratic, Slapstick - these are some some of the words which have been used to describe the process which we use to elect Senators and the results they produce. I'd like to just add - LONG MAY IT CONTINUE.

Suppose for instance that parliament is like the ice-cream cabinet of your local supermarket. In the lower house we only really ever seem to get two flavours: Banana-Choc and Choc-Banana. Most of the time as these two flavours compete for space in politics, they move closer and closer to the centre and the net result is that a lot of the time despite the different branding we get, we always end up with something beige.

A French sociologist called Maurice Duverger theorised that over time in a single member district system, such as we have in the House of Representatives, tends to produce a two-party system. We can see over the long run of many elections, that two parties tend to occupy the vast majority of seats; including the hung parliament from 2010 to 2013 when the two major parties held 96% of all seats in the lower house. From 2013 onwards, that moves to slightly more than 96%.
In contrast, in the Senate where there is a system of proportional representation, this should produce a greater tendency to multipartism; lo and behold, this appears to be what we're going to end up with. The Senate has been accused in the past as being "unrepresentative swill" but arguably, it is the Senate which more greatly reflects the makeup of modern Australia.

Unlike the Banana-Choc and Choc-Banana House of Representatives, we've seen the election of swirls and nuts into the ice-cream tub that is the Senate. This is in addition to an already wider spectrum of flavours such as Green mint and red Strawberry.
How do we know for instance that the appointment of David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats and Ricky Muir from the Australian Motor Enthusiast Party aren't a deliberate protest against Banana-Choc and Choc-Banana? Suddenly we've got boysenberry and walnut in our tub of ice-cream.

What the Banana-Choc and Choc-Banana parties really fear is that the electorate might not like the bland taste that they've had in their mouths for a long time. What they fear is that the electorate might be yearning for a different set of flavours.
Certainly if I take the train and bus across Sydney, I see far far far more than merely the Banana-Choc and Choc-Banana people who make up the vast majority of the parliament. I see guava and pineapple, star fruit and nutmeg, kiwifruit and duku, durian and pitaya people. Does the tub of ice-cream with only two closely related flavours in the lower house better reflect society or do we prefer the multi-coloured kaliedoscope that we get with the tub of ice-cream that is the Senate?

We want to taste something new in politics. We want to experience new flavours, new ideas and new ways of thinking. We want to see the parliament properly represent all Australians rather than the duopoly of Banana-Choc and Choc-Banana; even if that does mean that the nuts get in.

We're sick of beige ice-cream.

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