Federal election 2013: Let’s go Dutch

As we wait for the date of the double dissolution that we don’t have to have because the minor parties are the new cavalry, we can observe the impact of the billionaires on the ballots.

Rupert clearly has had less impact than anticipated and Clive has shown that he can match it with the best US plutocrats by winning seats in both houses.

We all have an interest in the frustrations of the final allocation of fractions of preferences (sometimes even fractions of fractions with parties dividing their allocations into thirds) to see the impact of such other factors as confusion about which party was which, the donkey vote effect and the number of people voting informal.

Now that we have had the change in leaders, can we consider the need for a change in the undemocratic, incomprehensible and calculatedly complicated Senate system? And also consider following the Dutch* towards a more rational attempt to have government by the people.

Anti-major party voters now make up one fifth of all Australian electors and have clearly established that they can no longer be taken for granted. These neglected minor parties will now reshape our taxes, encourage small business challenge to oligarchies and remove the Labor-Green balance of power in the Senate.

By focusing upon the presidential-style campaign (reporting the day by day movements of the major party candidates, avoiding a US-style forum of all of the major candidates, excluding the free-to-air media from selecting the audiences and other media manipulations, the existence of the NOTs (neither of them) was excluded from the coverage of the campaign.

All of the media coverage has focused on the gladiatorial bear pit of the major party leaders’ peripatetics rather than the nature of the minority interests that will hold the balance of power in the next financial year. The Australian Sports Party could well win a WA Senate seat with 0.22% of that state’s vote and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party could take a Victorian Senate seats with 0.52% of the vote. So much for the will of the majority of the people.

On the other end of the scale, billionaire Rupert’s media’s coverage failed to take into account the fact that billionaire Clive was involved as the successful campaign director for the NATs during the 1980s. If we were to rely on Murdoch’s Sky barrackers we would be surprised that PUP dramatically surged in contention for seats in both houses as a victory for the NOTs. So much for the power of the poor and downtrodden.

Beyond the bleeding obvious that “disunity is death”, there are a number of critical lessons to be learned from the last six years of turbulent, inward looking, desperation derby politics.

1. If there was less reliance upon unreliable selection of attendees at focus groups based upon group-think processes had been substituted by Morgan Reactor studies, it would have been obvious that the money spent on media was reinforcing the trend away from the leadership and negative advertising was counterproductive. We then could have education and information rather than win-lose malarkey.

2. If the unintended consequences of focusing upon the revolving door of internal ambitions rather than the benefits of major policy changes in health, education and disability, we might have been in a position to consider support for payroll tax abolition, effective job creation and the need for a significant venture capital fund to stimulate new enterprise formation.

3. If the parties were forced to reflect the differences in issues between electorates rather than between the major parties there would have been more consideration of the wishes of the alienated DBMs who will now be vastly over-represented on the Senate crossbenches and those outside the capital city media markets. Twenty per cent of the electorate should not be neglected.

4. If the “faceless ones” had appreciated the dubious nature of the media reports of a “two-party” loss for Labor, there would have been no change in the leadership and subsequent disruption of the government. We could have had a period of stable government and consensus rather than confected conflicts about platforms with very little real differences.

The Senate results reveal the illegitimacy and effective disinformation that flows from media consolidation in the hands of a trio of media moguls and self-promoting party pollsters. It must be in the interest of secure, stable and sensitive government to demand that the AEC at least consider the *Netherlanders’ experience against the chaos of this year’s tablecloth catastrophe.

*The Dutch also have 150 seats in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands contested using party-list proportional representation. This means that you get the number of parliamentarians directly proportionate to the level of support.

Dr Colin Benjamin OAM is the chairman of Cultural Infusion Ltd and director general of the Life: ‘Be in it’ Australia charity.


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