Democracy a challenge for modern elections

Changing face of democracy in modern elections

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Robust democracy: Grain and cattle farmer Peter Mailler ponders the need for electoral reform.

Robust democracy: Grain and cattle farmer Peter Mailler ponders the need for electoral reform.

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Voters often run the gauntlet while dodging propaganda agents acting like seagulls on a chip.

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In the wake of the Queensland election, it is increasingly obvious that Australian electoral systems have fostered a political culture that is unsubtly undermining genuine democracy.

A functional and robust democracy can only exist if the electorate is well informed.

We must be able to trust the government for democracy to truly work and to trust the government, it must be trustworthy.

Many politicians, parties and lobbyists are deliberately dishonest about what they have done, what they will do and what their opponents have done to influence voters.

In such a corrupted environment, there is little hope that the electorate is well enough informed for democracy to function properly. The dishonesty undermines trust in the government and breeds discontent in the electorate.

Governments develop and enforce laws that ensure business people and companies can't engage in false or misleading behaviour for commercial gain. So why is that standard different for people, parties or interest groups engaging in false or misleading behaviour for political gain?

It is past time for truth in advertising laws that hold political actors - politicians and/or influencers - to the same advertising standard as the business world.

It should be an unambiguous, punishable and punished offence to deliberately mislead the electorate for political gain.

Beyond the lying, democracy is in crisis as election outcomes are increasingly influenced by the resources available to the contestants, as opposed to any genuine contest of ideas and issues within an electorate.

Vested interests are channeling significant resources into major parties that are likely to form government, or hold the balance of power to effectively 'buy' influence.

This picking of winners by vested interests reinforces the structural bias of the electoral system to larger and better-resourced parties.

It is anti-competitive in its nature.

Given the propensity for political parties to develop 'work-arounds' for their own laws in relation to electoral funding, it seems to make more sense to simply limit the amount of money that can be deployed by any candidate or party for the purpose of elections.

Overlaying the problems with false or misleading advertising and the lack of transparency around political funding, there are significant issues with polling day culture.

The presence of party or candidate representatives attempting to influence voters at polling booths is increasingly uncomfortable and confrontational.

Voters are often forced to run an intimidating gauntlet at polling sites with political agents swooping on them - like seagulls on a chip - trying to force political propaganda into their hand.

If required, candidates' voting advice should be distributed without bias from a single station on a voter's request by a non-partisan electoral commission officer at each polling station.

It is essential that voters are able to make a genuine and well-informed choice on election day and that the election process safeguards the integrity of the democracy to which our constitution aspires.

That aspiration seems to be slipping away.

While the solutions to the problems are relatively simple, the real challenge to electoral reform lies in motivating policy makers who enjoy the freedom to manipulate the electorate under the current system.

The process of change starts with conversations and I hope this article starts a few.

- Boggabilla farmer, Peter Mailler

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