I have been hearing a bit lately about “Senator On-Line“, Australia’s first internet based political party. The way it works is this: is a SOL candidate gets elected to the Senate, they will put up a website for every Bill being presented to the Senate, covering the arguments for and against the Bill, and then we all get to vote on it. They commit to voting in the Senate in line with how the majority vote on their site.

Can is work? Are we ready for this kind of participatory democracy? How much time would you be willing to spend each week learning about Bills in front of the Senate? I think it’s a huge step for democracy and something that should be completely supported. This could be the beginning of the end of “voting along party lines” and politicians promising one thing during the campaign and then reversing their position once they are elected. The public are truly in control of how SOL votes, Bill by Bill.

I’ll be fascinated to see how this works and how many people are really willing to participate in how their country is run. I wonder if SOL have a candidate running in my electorate?

They have a Facebook group as well.

The founder of SOL is Berge Der Sarkissian. A quick search on BDS brings up his less-than-perfect track record.

From ASIC’s site October 16 2002

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Mr Berge Anthony Der Sarkissian, a former proper authority holder.

Mr Der Sarkissian offered the enforceable undertaking following an ASIC investigation into suspected breaches of the Corporations Act relating to the Telstra 2 Public Share Offer.

As a result of ASIC’s investigation, ASIC formed a view that between August 1999 and October 1999, Mr Der Sarkissian was involved in making 420 applications for Telstra 2 Instalment Receipts (T2IR) using names that may have been contrived.

Further, ASIC was concerned that Mr Der Sarkissian caused 26 transfers of T2IR’s from names that may have been contrived to another person who was associated with DB Management Pty Ltd, in order for these T2IR’s to be sold in the future for the benefit of the company.

ASIC was concerned that Mr Der Sarkissian had engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive, in respect of his dealings in the T2IR’s. ASIC was concerned that Mr Der Sarkissian may not in the future, perform his duties as a representative of a dealer or an investment adviser, efficiently, honestly and fairly.

To his credit (and very Web 2.0 of him), BDS seems to be up-front about the incident, for on his personal website he says:

I was wrong to have made multiple applications in order to get a better allocation in T2 than I otherwise might have got. This poor decision had significant costs and embarrassment. More than the personal humiliation was the shame I felt for causing embarrassment to my wife and children.
I regret the decision I made, I remain embarrassed about it and I am sorry for it.

Throwing out a mea culpa once you’ve been caught and punished isn’t really a great act of contrition though. And while I don’t expect politicians to be saints, you have to question whether we need another political party run by someone who has deliberately tried to mislead and deceive in the past.

The other concern I have is one of whether or not SOL truly “get” the net or not. Check out their website. Wouldn’t you think an outfit positioning themselves as “Australia’s first internet based political party” would have email addresses, IM details, Skype addresses, blog details… ANYTHING… so you could talk with their candidates? Their site has the mandatory “Contact Us” form, but nothing that makes them truly available. I think that’s a sign of how much they really get the idea of openness and transparency.