MOTION: That the Rudd Government immediately initiate a referendum seeking to change the Federal Constitution and/or the Australian Electoral Act as required during the current term of government, to provide mechanisms for conduction Online referenda whereby voting would be optional rather than compulsory in circumstances other than for mooted wars.


The age old chestnut of compulsory voting versus optional voting to effect actual democracy needs another work-out in today’s technological environment. The pendulum may well have swung in favour of voting more often than once every 3 years or so, considering that most people have access to an online computer at home today and the gaps are being filled rapidly. Alternatively, for the technology challenged, access to a neighbour’s computer or a public computerised voting booth at the local Post Office or Club for example, could satisfy voter’s needs easily.

One view is that all registered voters should be obliged to vote if a fair representation of the populace’s sentiment is to be garnered. In the case of an issue as profound as committing the nation to a war, all voters should be consulted because everyone would be affected, especially so if sending expeditionary forces to a far-off land backfires to the extent that the war could be brought to our own shores, as may well be the case with Howard’s version of the “War on Terrorism” being conducted in Iraq.

Another view is that if online referenda were compulsory to ensure that “One Vote, One Value” prevailed in all instances, then many voters would soon tire of the process. Sport is often more attractive than politics to a large segment of the electoral population. Many would default on voting on issues less profound than a war and a political backlash might arise. Then truism that equal values at an election are at odds with unequal interests in politics, unequal abilities to think, which in turn define unequal abilities to digest and analyse major party advertising and ongoing brainwashing would be apparent. Therefore an optional vote would attract only those interested enough to study the issue at hand and to vote according to their conscience.

However, if public debate relating to specific legislation were to be (a) conducted to be inclusive of all interested parties and all stake-holders and (b) were reported accurately by OZ Media, then the prospects of all voters being willing and able to make a considered choice would be much enhanced. Voting online at home, would be a much more attractive proposition than having to traipse off to an election booth. The rationale for that view is analogous to the ease with which personal banking and bill paying can be conducted online today.

Another consideration is that optional voting would tend to result in hot button issues attracting only voters with an axe to grind. Maybe so, but optional voting occurs in US Presidential Elections for example and the USA is often described as being “The Greatest Democracy on Earth”!

The Sydney Morning Herald article cited provides a perspective to the debate along the lines that the spending of hundreds of millions of Dollars to win a Presidential Election in the USA vitiates having optional voting at an election in Australia.

Federal and State Government elections are a separate issue, because currently, and election consists of “One Vote, One Value” invidious choice between two party platforms, the implementation of which often cannot be predicted.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma’s declaration that Sydney’s desalination plant dissenters “had a vote at the last election on the issue” is disingenuous in the extreme. The desalination plant was one of dozens of hot button issues, some popular, some unpopular, upon which the NSW electorate was expected to make a decision. As to how “One Vote, One Value” at the last election actually provided the Iemma Government with a clear cut, definite mandate to build the desalination plant without a specific imprimatur from the electorate is nothing more than hubris driven power mongering.

Australia needs specific votes of the people on specific issues to overcome the absurdity of Territory, State and Federal Governments being able to ride rough-shod and undemocratically, over the wishes of the community, as though our arrogant Pollies always “Know best what’s in the Community’s best interests”, when clearly, they don’t.


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