How Passive Is Your Democracy?

One thing everyone can agree on: people, media and politicians: is that elections are important. Democracy is the moral under-pinning of our political system. I remember watching the HBO documentary on Diebold and when it was shown that the electronic voting machines could be subverted the people who did the tests were distressed. One woman was openly crying. I understand her anguish – the whole basis for what she considered a just, moral, ethical and legitimate society was questioned. I am not surprised she was emotional.

Since Robert Askin, election campaigns have been increasingly Presidential. Last election cycle John Howard and Mark Latham had a presidential debate. This is despite Australia having a parliamentary system where voters do not get to vote for the Prime Minister or Premier directly. Voters only have an implied control over the Executive. NSW is also under the grips of an election cycle and its two main protagonists, Morris Iemma and Peter Debnam recently had a gubernatorial debate. But Premiers are not Governors and elections are a poor determinant in NSW as to who will be Premier – same as they are in the federal system – and for that matter any parliamentary system.

    Same deal as before, orange sectors are Premiers who have been removed by elections since 1932.


So what does this mean? Firstly, parliamentary systems give greater control over who the Executive is to parties rather than voters. That is an inherent function of parliamentary systems as a choice of representative democracy. This is a political technology choice in comparison to a Gubernatorial or Presidential system that has a separate executive, and one which for most of the Australian government systems was made long before the current generation of voters were born. Victoria and NSW are two of the oldest parliamentary system in Australia and date back to the 1850s.

One of the reasons for term limits on the executive is to limit corruption: and corruption has been an endemic problem in NSW governance. The pie graph shows that there is sufficient turn over of who leads the executive that term limits are probably not necessary on the Premier – if they can be applied to a parliamentary system at all without breaking it. Yet corruption is not necessarily a function of who is leading the Executive, but a component that leaks in over time through which party controls the executive. In my opinion, eight years is a good rules of thumb, by which corruption can only be flushed through a change in government – both legislative and executive.

This is where a democratic voting strategy of “kick the bastards out” after eight years and voting against the incumbent comes into play. However parties have increased their control in the second half of the twentieth century such that they do not have the same electoral liabilities as they used to. NSW is a good example of that. We can effectively separate governance into two periods 1900-1932 and 1932-2007. Since the UAP gained power in 1932, politics has been dominated by the lethargic polarity between Labor and Liberal governments who hang around for long periods.

The next NSW Premier who gains government by election has every reason to believe they will resign before they get voted out. That is not a good threat to hold over the Executive who is the most prone of any branch of government to corruption. Fortunately for NSW there is ICAC which has unwittingly been a form of term limits on Nick Greiner and Bob Carr – chasing them both to resign/retire through corruption investigations.

There still remains the tension between our democratic practices and our choice of political technologies. Our politicians run Presidential-Gubernatorial campaigns; our media reports on politics in a Presidential-Gubernatorial manner; and the electorate votes as if it is a Presidential-Gubernatorial system; yet the parliamentary system is none of those. Australia is mature enough to start introducing political systems that have a separate executive – it is not as if they are a new or untested form of political technology.

The upcoming NSW election is a good example where a separate executive would have massive democratic value. I think it is fair to say that the electorate prefers Morris Iemma as Premier (executive) to Peter Debnam – yet the electorate desperately wants to stick the legislative boot into Labor for their recent performance and governance. In a Gubernatorial NSW system a Labor Executive and a Liberal Legislative would be a good electoral outcome given the current political players in the NSW election.

But that can’t happen in a parliamentary system. As one of the bigger states, NSW is a prime candidate for a directly elected Gubernatorial system. That would get my vote.

Update

I have written a gubernatorial constitution for NSW. It has an elected Governor and a unicameral legislative which is composed of multi-member districts.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Yobbo
Yobbo
14 years ago

Why even bother posting to this joke of a site Cam? If you get proved wrong Chris Sheil will just delete the offending comments.

Hey if you guys need to gain some credibility, I can point you to a site where you can steal copyrighted photographs of Japanese models…

whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

Thanks Yobbo. Talk about a dummy spit!! The censorship of contrary opinions on this site is just horrendous. It actually used to be one of the top blogs before Sheil and Gruen came along and ruined it.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
14 years ago

Don’t presidential systems turn into dictatorships and eventually collapse? All except the US. I am thinking of the Philipines, South Korea and of almost countless instances in Latin America. Dictatorship is a terrible calamity for the citizens.

You talk of corruption but the corruption in the US puts ours in the shade (even in Qld) and the main reason would be our strong parties.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
14 years ago

I infer that you’ve been moderated boys. If contrary opinions were censored WIIS you would have been blacklisted years ago. If you lads can comment without being abusive I am sure the Club Faggot Censors will let it through. Alternatively, you could do us and your blood pressure a favour and stop visiting this “joke of a site”.

Yobbo
Yobbo
14 years ago

Actually I haven’t been moderated. I am talking bout Chris Sheil closing threads in a tantrum when he loses an argument. And since he is going to run the party line on everything he writes he is going to lose a lot of arguments.

Why do you allow your blog to be used by a Labor spin doctor who belittles any of your readers who don’t agree with him?

The last time he blogged here he destroyed this blog. Nothing is going to different this time it seems.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
14 years ago

No-one has been moderated or censored to the best of my knowledge. Chris closed off the thread after 70 comments because the argument just wasn’t going anywhere. People merely regurgitating their preset opinions repetitively (irrespective of whether you or I agree with them) just isn’t very entertaining.

Sam, if you don’t like Chris Sheil’s writing then don’t read his posts. Try going over to Tim Blair’s blog and see how far you get complaining that he is a Liberal party spin doctor (as he manifestly is). Your comment would be censored into the bin by Andrea Harris before it even hit the deck. No-one is lassooing your eyeballs AFAIK. I think it’s good to have a diversity of approaches, opinions and styles. Chris obviously has a different style from me or Nicholas etc, but I’m really pleased that he’s back and blogging occasionally. Clearly lots of people agree, because his posts are generating lots of comments. The comment threads may well contain much more heat than light, but it seems that lots of people just want the opportunity for a bit of tub thumping.

A lot of it has to do with the subject matter of a post too. If you blog about the hot political issue of the day (in this case Rudd/Burke) as cs tends to do, then the comment thread is inevitably going to be fairly polarised, heated and not always especially noteworthy for thoughtful, considered discussion. That’s even more true on LP or Catallaxy or Blair, because they tend to attract (to a great extent deliberately) people who are very much of the same mind. That still isn’t true of Troppo, and hopefully never will be. As Chris Lloyd observed, whyisitso, Joe Cambria, Yobbo, Currency Lad, Kevin Schnaper and many other right-leaning commenters contribute here regularly without any censorhip or moderation whatever. I draw the line at whathisface Bird, because he seems incapable of avoiding continual unpleasant personal abuse, but I can’t recall a single occasion in the more than 4 years this blog has been operating (in one guise or another) when any person has been censored or moderated because of the content of their opinion (as opposed to because the comment was excessively abusive, defamatory, grossly repetitive, or grossly off-topic).

Robert
Robert
14 years ago

Cam, thanks for this; and interesting you see NSW as uniquely representative of ideas for change to the system itself.

Would you consider taking the bull by the horns and posing the pros and cons of a gubernatorial system as you see it?

Perhaps in time ahead that could be melded into a discussion regarding federalism, overall.

Still, the NSW election is really quite interesting juxtaposed with our upcoming federal election. ..So many years in power, struck through with failings of incumbency, strong desire that much of it not remain the same, similar urgency to not rock the boat at the same time that such rocking would be worse, uninspired players relegated to participants – that is, no real as required leadership – and a system which promulgates all of that. And a heap more besides.

It’s fascinating in your charts to see which leaders stayed on and which got the boothing boot. I wonder if what we also need is a line graph – but one to be written. Would it be of value to also bring up the notion that the ‘system’ has evolved in workings otherwise: ie, media ownership, news grabs, internet, marketing in its considerably different forms, such that the graph of boothing history in leadership wins and losses itself is about to change. That is, the the graph is about to take a plunge or a hike, throwing all things into a whole new perspective?

Are we in general on the cusp of some very new substantial developments or is it that history is to repeat itself, with but a new way of doing so? New developments and new channels changing the nature and power of the voice, or same old.. and ever changing delivery as it always was?

Dunno. I’m often torn by how history repeats itself, and how it shoves forth to write itself anew.

Great stuff, apposite, to throw up NSW in the way you have.

Robert
Robert
14 years ago

May I also add a thanks at this moment to Troppo for the occasion, and in particular Chris and C.L., for their courage and mind to share their thoughts, ideas and considered conviction as at times the ‘dailies’ of politics are discussed. Of course it is easy to claim knowledge (enlightenment) once all events, thoughts and ideas have been tabled.

But to share this before the end-play fact – that is, as developments occur – serves to throw considerable light on further issues as they develop. That perspective is immensely valuable. It indeed serves to enlighten. Many thanks to all involved, in this important year.

whyisitso
whyisitso
14 years ago

“No-one has been moderated or censored”

Simply not true. I was censored explicitly on that infamous thread just before cs spat the dummy.

al loomis
14 years ago

you lose me when you refer to australia as a ‘democracy’.

it’s not. and it can’t be- the people aren’t up to it.

i don’t think it’s genetic, there are flashes of democratic character,

but growing up in a society that has always been ruled from above, has never

managed itself, shapes the mind and character, so that most can not conceive

of the possibility of self-rule, or even the advantages that might accrue.

constructing a new constitution? did you get howard’s permission? mate,

substantive changes in fundamental law happen when the current alpha male

wants them, or through revolution. not done here, either one.