On Twitter this afternoon I made a crack about how the two-party system we have in Australia is, I believe, fundamentally broken. Someone asked me how I would improve it. This is what I came up with on the fly. This isn’t something I’ve given any thought to previously, so it’s probably full of holes as big as Barnesy’s mouth, but you know me, I’m a shoot-first, think-later kinda guy. I’m certain it isn’t even slightly original. It’s probably discussed in Politics 101 at university but as I didn’t go to university, I missed out.

Let’s scrap all of the political parties.

In fact, let’s scrap elections completely.

Why couldn’t it work like the jury system.

We set up an online Bill submission system. Citizens, businesses, lobby groups, etc, could all enter in their submissions for new laws they want enacted.

Public servants would then arrange for 50 or 100 citizens to be selected at random from the community, jury style, to hear the arguments for and against each submission. After they have heard the evidence and debated it in private, the jury will vote to see which submission deserve further investigation. Two small committees will then be established from the public service to examine the merits of each submission – one for and one against.

Once the committees have their presentations ready, another “jury” will be called to hear the respective arguments. They will hear the “for” argument and the “against” argument, just like hearing the prosecution and the defense in a legal case. Again, this “jury” will deliberate in private and then vote either for or agains the bill.

And so on and so forth.

And we treat being a member of one of these juries with the same seriousness and legal ramifications as we do being a member of a jury today. Tampering with a jury carries maximum penalties.

The benefits? Here are some off the top of my head.

  • even if we fly everyone to Canberra for the deliberations, it’s going to save the country millions of dollars a year. The 2004 Federal Election cost $120 million. I have no idea what it costs us every year to run the MPs, but it can’t be pretty. In my system, it would be legislated that the jurors would get leave from their employers at full pay while they were on jury duty. Small businesses (under $10 million in annual revenue) would be compensated for this expense.
  • we would get rid of professional politicians for good and all of the problems that this system entails. Lobby groups wouldn’t be able to buy off anyone, because juries would rotate constantly. Nobody gets to retire from politics and become a director of a mining company as a reward for Bills passed or get paid $US500,000 per speaking engagement.
  • we’d get rid of party politics. Hooray.
  • it won’t just be the wealthy members of society making the decisions. Federal backbenchers now get paid $127,000 pa plus benefits whereas half the households in Australia have a pre-tax income of less than $80,826. And that’s leaving out the politicians who are already insanely wealthy such as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.

So – as always feel free to tell me where I’m wrong. You know I love a good debate.

(photo by tassie303)