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Thread: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

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    Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    Anyone who thinks electoral reform is great way to improve Canada should take a moment to digest the results of Australia’s latest government train wreck.

    A national election was held Saturday but the results remain unknown, and aren’t expected before Tuesday. Counting ended with a virtual deadlock and the possibility of a hung Parliament. As Reuters reported Sunday: “Australia’s political parties began horsetrading on Sunday to break an anticipated parliamentary deadlock after a dramatic election failed to produce a clear winner, raising the prospect of prolonged political and economic instability.”

    Horse-trading is what you get from systems like Australia’s, which contains many of the elements of the “preferential ballot” system favoured by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals. It wouldn’t be fair to suggest Canada is heading towards a system exactly like Australia’s, because there are so many variations on the model that seldom are any two exactly alike, but it contains many elements common to the type. For the record, Australia uses “a majority-preferential instant-runoff voting in single-member seats” for their equivalent of the House of Commons, and a “single-transferable proportional voting” for the Senate. Yes, they have an elected Senate. Seizing it from the hands of a small group of recalcitrant zealots was a key reason the election was called.

    Before we get to comparisons with Canada, let’s recap Australia’s recent leadership history. Kevin Rudd, leader of the Labor party, became Prime Minister in 2007. He was ousted by his deputy, Julia Gillard, in 2010, who was in turn ousted by Rudd three years later. Fed up with Labor’s shenanigans, Australians dumped Rudd three months after his return and replaced him with a Liberal coalition under Tony Abbott. One peculiarity of Australian politics is that “Liberal” means “Conservative.” When Abbott proved too Conservative — and outright goofy at times —his party dumped him for Malcolm Turnbull, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Australia, who was seen as a safe pair of hands.

    Turnbull called Saturday’s vote because he felt his agenda was being blocked by the Senate. Usually, Australians vote separately for the Senate and the lower house, but Turnbull gambled on taking both to the polls at the same time. He evidently lost the bet: his solid majority disappeared and, as of Monday, the two major parties were in a virtual tie. If Labor emerges on top, Australians could have their sixth prime minister in six years.

    So much for the stability of ranked voting systems. Australians are required to vote by law, a feature Trudeau’s Liberals are considering. Its employs a ranked ballot, which Trudeau is also said to favour. Australians mark their preferences in order: voters mark a “1” beside their top pick, a “2” beside their second favourite, and so on through the list of candidates. If no candidate gets a majority on the first go-round, the bottom candidate is dropped and the votes re-allocated until someone tops 50%. So the candidate in second place (or even third) could win if he/she has more support from the bottom of the list. Confusing as it sounds, Canada’s Liberals like the idea because they figure they’ll usually be picked #2 by NDP supporters, making it easy to regularly beat both the NDP and Conservatives.

    Supporters claim this gives a more fair allocation of seats than Canada’s existing first-past-the-post system. They don’t like to get into the long list of liabilities, like, for instance, six prime ministers in six years. Australian parties oust a lot of leaders because they feel threatened every time popular opinion takes a turn. They also have to contend with numerous small, special-interest parties that carry outsized clout because they can swing the balance of power in the coalition governments that are common under the Liberal-favoured system.

    Any candidate with a strong local power base can form a vanity party and hope to win enough seats to hold the government to ransom. In Australia there’s the Nick Xenophon Team, the Jacqui Lambie Network, the Palmer United Party of mining magnate Nick Palmer, the father-son Katter’s Australian Party of Bob and Rob Katter and — elected Saturday after a 20-year-absence — the radical anti-immigrant organization around Pauline Hanson, who has demanded a Royal Commission on Islam as her price for co-operation.

    Sometimes the tiny parties team up to form a block of mini-interests. For three years, Xenophon, the Greens and the Family First Party were able to claim the balance of power in the Senate. A new arrival Saturday was 72-year-old Derryn Hinch, a former broadcaster and reformed hellraiser known as “The Human headline”, who says he’s never voted before but won a Senate seat for his Derryn Hinch Justice Party on the first try. Hinch, who believes he’s the only Australian senator to have a liver transplant, champions a registry to collect and publicize information on sex offenders.

    While either Turnbull or Labor boss Bill Shorten may emerge as prime minister, they will need to trade favours and make deals to cement their position, enabling small special interests to overwhelm the intentions of the vast majority of voters and obtain preferred treatment for their cause.

    If that sounds like a better way to run a country than the relative certainty that comes with Canada’s first-past-the-post system, by all means lend your support to the Liberal reform campaign. Turnbull had hoped for a mandate to confront a struggling economy that has suffered from a commodity collapse in mining much as Canada has felt the effects of the oil-price plunge. It’s unlikely the new government will have time for that now. Whoever wins will be too busy taking demands from the likes of The Human Headline. If that’s not a recipe for good government, what is?

    This article was featured in the National Post.

    Alastair

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    I personally do not like the preferential voting system. It's my belief that it was introduced by the conservative party because they know they will never get into power as Australia is basically a labour country. They cannot get into power without being in a coalition with the nationalists, they simply don't get enough seats for a majority.

    The Prime Minister has just been on TV giving a news conference and lambasting the labor party for saying that medicare will be privatised under his government. He claims it was a lie but when you know that this government has already frozen the GP rebate which means that eventually the GP's will be forced to charge a co-payment, it's no lie, it's already happening. The rebates for a number of procedures have been either reduced or dropped entirely.

    Waiting lists for common hospital procedures are getting longer and longer. I have private hospital insurance but found out only this year that I am only covered for a private doctor in a public hospital for cataracts procedures which is the most common procedure performed in Australia. I was furious when I found that out. And it's the same for hip or knee replacements, probably the 2nd most performed procedures. I have to go for biometry prior to my operation which will cost $155 for a pensioner and I only get $88.15 back from medicare. Also a pre-op OCT which costs $55 for a pensioner and get nothing back for that. Then after my operation I have to have 1 x post-op OCT (each eye) which cost $55 each and no rebate. Also, on top of this, because I'm only covered for private doctor in a public hospital I have to go on the waiting list which is around 1 year in our area at the moment.

    Voting is compulsory here but really that only means that you have to turn up and have your name crossed off (without producing ID I must mention). A lot of people think they are protesting when they just deface the ballot papers to make them informal. I think it's a wast of a vote.

    Apparently more people have voted in this election than in any other prior election.

    Elda

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    I should have said that a co-payment already exists but most doctors take just the medicare rebate for children, pensioners and those on disability. The freeze on the rebate is likely to affect the most disadvantaged as doctors will be forced to introduce a co-payment for those I previously mentioned.

    Elda

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    Thanks for that information Elda. Just goes to show that all countries have issues of their own.

    I am hoping this Brexit vote will help to make the UK and Australia better trade partners for the future.

    Not sure how Canada fits into this but as part of the Commonwealth there should be better trade prospects.

    I do know that in Canada the healthcare system does free cataract removal but often there are additional procedures that are often required and they are not covered. It cost me CAD$ 6,000 as I opted to get lens implants done at the same time so I wouldn't need to wear glasses.

    Alastair

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    I had both eyes done ten years ago, cataract removal and added lens. No charges, Doctor was Barry Imara and he did them one at a time with a separation of some months; had to return two years later because a film had developed over one eye.
    Also read most of the first post and wondered if the National Post quoted was the same paper which had been started by Conrad Black. I have read some articles by that paper a number of years ago, not really my cup of tea.
    One thing I really liked about the Australian voting rules was that each voter was required to attend his/her polling station.....I do hope that hasn't changed and would love to see that adopted by Canada but that is not likely, a higher voter turnout might be good for the lefties amongst us.

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    Swiftest.

    If you fail to appear at a voting station and have your name checked off you will be fined [$20.00] , you are given the chance to appeal prior to paying your fine [but the reason has to be very good.......................That's what is called Democracy...............thousands fought [and died] for the right to live in a free country and be able to vote.

    Gordon.

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    I read somewhere that the measure of democracy was the way we treat our minorities.....I also think that in order to enjoy all of the freedoms we have there is responsibility and part of that lies with voting......far too many are ignoring the vote and you can say that is their RIGHT, the right to be silent, to turn a blind eye....I would embrace the Australian view that with democracy a little action is needed.
    Mind you I am in a minority in that I would ban lawyers from all elected offices concerned with government.....then again there were probably lawyers who were drafted to fight wars, perhaps some died so that others lawyers would have the right to govern.

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    The fine is more than $20 Gordon although I can't remember exactly how much now but 11 years ago when my son came home from USA he went to change his address on his drivers license and found it had been suspended because he'd failed to vote in the State elections and failed to pay the fine, obviously because he wasn't in the country. He could have had it dropped but it was easier just to pay it because he needed his drivers license. Bloody pain in the neck it was.

    Elda

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    Are you forced to vote for a party or is their a choice to record a NO vote or can you just have a spoiled paper?

    Actually I usually vote conservative but I don't rate the local conservative MP so I either vote for him despite the fact that I think he's useless or I have to vote for another party. I don't think that is right.

    Alastair

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    Re: Chaotic Australian election is a stark warning for fans of electoral reform in Canada

    Quote Originally Posted by Alastair View Post
    Are you forced to vote for a party or is their a choice to record a NO vote or can you just have a spoiled paper?

    Actually I usually vote conservative but I don't rate the local conservative MP so I either vote for him despite the fact that I think he's useless or I have to vote for another party. I don't think that is right.

    Alastair


    Alastair,

    You may vote for the candidate[s] of your choice, if there are a number of people standing for the one seat you may vote what they call "Above the Line" for a particular party,or, vote below the line and number your selection in the order you desire, this may always not work depending on how the various people standing decide to allocate their preferences [on party or personal lines] to comprehend it all can be quite confusing................the vote does not have to be valid if that is your choice. The main criteria to avoid a fine is attend the polling venue and have your name crossed OFF.


    Gordon.

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