I’ve always thought compulsory voting was okay, because the government is going to raise money somehow and the fine for not voting is one of few revenue raising activities I know I can avoid.

An example of a system that is more modern than our voting system…

I was surprised by the criticism of the Queensland Government’s discussion paper opening up the possibility of, amongst ten other possible reforms, voluntary voting.  I had no idea how dearly so much of the Australian population treasured being forced to trundle down to the local school 3 times every 3-4 years to stuff a ballot box.

Granted, I had no hard statistical data to back my theory up. My hypothesis of the public’s opinion was merely a concoction of anecdotal evidence.

While volunteering at an election four years ago I was trying to assist voters by informing them the polling booth had moved to a different building. People were surprisingly agitated on reception of the news they had to walk an extra couple of buildings to cast their ballot.

One gentleman became visibly angry, turning to his wife and yelling “see, this is why I don’t vote!”.

Frustration with the voting process seems to be routinely taken out on the booth workers, with everything from voters throwing HTV’s (hack translation - “How to Vote” cards) back in volunteers faces and flat out abusing them with language that would make KRudd blush.

Queues are often long. The most common question I get from a waiting member of the public, allegedly craving to carry out their civic duty, would have to be “do you know how much the fine is for not voting?” Closely followed by “which election is this again?”

Actually, the only time I’ve seen enthusiasm at a polling booth is after people have voted and are heading for the sausage sizzle.

It’s not just my observations from the polling booth on election day that shaped my theory.

No one at the work lunch room or water cooler has ever struck up a conversation about how they’re looking forward to exercising their democratic right on the weekend.

You may suggest this is because they were abiding by the old adage that you don’t talk about religion or politics at work. If this were the case they probably wouldn’t have asked me if “I can just do something about those idiots in Canberra?” for the past three years.

One of my team mates at the footy club did proclaim his excitement at having voted last year, but he also said he voted for John Howard so I think he might have been having a lend.

In fact, the only people I’ve previously heard arguing against voluntary voting were political hacks. Normally, party members who viewed standing on a polling booth for 10 hours as a riveting social outing.

“This is a winner!” I thought to myself. The only people who oppose it are political hacks. All of the non-political (read normal) people are for it. Everyone has the right to vote, but your government won’t force you to. Freedom of choice - it seems almost democratic.

To get people out to vote, politicians would have to talk about policy issues which genuinely engage the public rather than just regurgitating talking points and repeating catch phrases, something we’re all tired of. Voluntary voting will be sensible and popular policy.

The Queensland government is taking submissions on the costs and benefits of voluntary voting.

Given my observations of voter complacency, it can be quite difficult to believe people have fought for the right to participate in the governance of their country. I mean, it would be difficult to believe if I didn’t also observe the alternative on the other side of the globe as other nations struggle with oppressive regimes.

The right to vote is integral to our democratic society and should never be undervalued. However the right to vote is very different from compelling individuals to exercise that right, or indeed other elements of the election process itself.

So if you’re thinking about putting in a submission to the Attorney General of Queensland forcing everyone to vote (and let’s face it – who isn’t? All the cool kids are doing it), how about considering some of the other 10 areas of electoral reform the Queensland government are looking at?

Proof of Identity, How to Vote Cards and Electronic Voting are examples of three of the other discussion points listed in the paper.

Why is it that the staff at the electoral booth have to thumb through A3 phone books looking for my name, and then wrestle an oversize ruler and squint at microscopic print to try and verify my personal details? Meanwhile the staff at Blockbuster can scan a key ring and tell me that I rented this same movie ten years ago.

Why is it that I have to push past those annoying people who stuff paper in my face and cover the school in plastic, which by the way only ends up blowing down the road into my garden by late afternoon?*

Actually, why do I have to line up at the local school to vote at all?! I’ve got an app on my phone to do the banking, the shopping, and get the cricket scores. I can claim on Medicare and lodge my tax return with the ATO online.

Somehow the best wisdom of the Electoral commission still deems the most efficient and reputable system is to scribble on 2.7 million pieces of scrap paper with keno pencils and dump ballots in cardboard boxes.

I guess what I’m saying is, if we do end up persisting with compulsory voting, can we at least make it less of a hassle? I’ve got to get down to the local school for a sausage sizzle. Now there’s something I don’t mind lining up for.

* The author may have been one of these “annoying people” in the past, however hopes that with reform those days will end.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.

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74 comments

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    • acotrel says:

      05:20am | 07/01/13

      If I had to queue up for an hour, I would still vote .  !00,000 Australian soldiers gave their lives so we would have the freedom to express our wishes in this way.  Anyone who does not vote is throwing their sacrifice back in their faces.  We always hear people complaining about our politicians.  It really peeves me to think that someone could avoid voting, yet still complain.  They would have to be a real bloody fool. I can understand kids expressing the protests by not voting, but it simply shows how dim they really are. Voting must always be compulsory in Australia - if it is not the radicals such as the Tea Party and the Commies will always vote, and we will get governments which are not sanctioned by the majority.  The biggest obsecenty is the situation in America where the divide between rich and poor is maintained by disenfrachisement through ignorance.  Where the poor can be exploited mercilessly by silver tails.  No health insurance and thrown out onto the street when they cannot pay their hospital bills - IN THE RICHEST NATION ON EARTH !
      Campbell Newman was probably one of those army officers who would feed his soldiers into the grist mill without even flinching.  His cynicism is appalling. He should think about why our soldiers actually fight wars .

    • Super D says:

      07:00am | 07/01/13

      Actually Aco America is not the richest nation on earth. It is the brokest nation on earth. Never before has a nation owed so much compared to their capacity to pay. The actual federal government debt is over 100 trillion once unfunded healthcare and pensions are added in. There is no chance of everyone getting their entitlements.

    • DrBob says:

      07:08am | 07/01/13

      Perhaps on reflection you may realise that !00,000 (sic) soldiers died for the RIGHT to vote. That’s far more important than being forced to vote when you don’t have a clue! I’m sure that a man as intelligent as Campbell Newman is well aware of that.

    • acotrel says:

      07:23am | 07/01/13

      There is a simple ever present conundrum.  You cannot implement democracy by authoritarian means, you can only make conditions right for it to happen.  If everybody is required to indicate their preference, why is that so bad, even if some are dickheads ? Campbell Newman would probably prefer that we all simply obey his orders.

    • stephen says:

      07:44am | 07/01/13

      We, and our soldiers fight wars so that we are not told to vote, that we are free to chose whether or not we want to vote.
      If neither candidate is to our liking then we should have the option of withdrawing our vote.

    • marley says:

      07:57am | 07/01/13

      @acotrel - if, as you say, “you cannot implement democracy by authoritarian means”  then why are you advocating precisely that.  Forcing people to vote is authoritarian, period.

      Non-compulsory voting is the norm, not the exception, in modern democracies - and I haven’t noticed that Canada or the UK or Sweden or France or the Netherlands are any less democratic than Australia. 

      As for the argument that 100,000 soldiers gave their lives for compulsory voting - I think not.  Compulsory voting was only introduced at the federal level in Australia in 1924, so rather a lot of those soldiers died for the right to have a choice.

    • acotrel says:

      08:56am | 07/01/13

      @SuperD
      You are talking about debt and NOT assets.  The question is ‘where does wea lth come from? ’ Simple intuition tells me that global economics is not a zero sum game.  America got of of the last depression by having a war which dramatically increased demand, and production and indirectly restored confidence. What we have now is two sides of politics fighting over bones and going nowhere because the war option is not open to us.  All it takes to get out of this quandry is confidence and a positive mindset to ‘spend a dollar to make a dollar’.  Paranoia about who is getting w hat serves little purpose.  Perhaps it is time to revise our social contract ?
      @marley, compulsory voting is undemocratic, but that is what it takes to have an equitable democracy. It is a conundrum.

    • Jaqui says:

      09:18am | 07/01/13

      @acotroll: Freedom is the only way, yeah!  - Team America

    • dave says:

      09:19am | 07/01/13

      Acotrel you’re a bloody idiot. If you think “Anyone who does not vote is throwing their sacrifice back in their faces”, how could you expect anyone to take you seriously? This is tantamount to screaming “UNAUSTRALIAN!!!!” whenever anyone, makes criticisms (constructive or otherwise) about national sporting teams, the military, RSL clubs, etc, etc.

      Did you analyse the memoirs of those 100000 soldiers? Do you have concrete evidence that the majority of them were strong supporters of compulsory voting? Perhaps if they were alive today, many of them would donkey vote, or vote for a minor party, in sheer protest (as I intend to do) of the ineptitude and pettiness of both the major political parties.

    • Colin says:

      09:31am | 07/01/13

      “!00,000 Australian soldiers gave their lives so we would have the freedom to express our wishes in this way…”

      Oh, the humanity! What a senseless, pointless, and utterly profligate waste of human life if THAT is all that they died for..!

    • acotrel says:

      09:49am | 07/01/13

      @Colin
      ‘Oh, the humanity! What a senseless, pointless, and utterly profligate waste of human life if THAT is all that they died for..! ‘

      Tell me how you rationalise those disasters ? Recruitment was always based on defending our country from dictators, and even if it was bullshit, it was believed.
      Our guys even went to Russia in 1919 to help the whites defeat the authoritarian reds. Kaiser Bill, Trotsky and Hitler were all worth fighting ?  Why was this so ?

    • Colin says:

      10:18am | 07/01/13

      @acotrel

      You write as if what you say meant that the waste of all those young lives was worthwhile…War is wrong; it is government-sanctioned murder and no justification WHATSOEVER can be made for it., let alone the lame, “We want the right to vote…” nonsense.

    • marley says:

      10:32am | 07/01/13

      @acotrel -”-compulsory voting is undemocratic, but that is what it takes to have an equitable democracy.” ICB on that.

      Please provide evidence, any evidence at all, that Australia is a more equitable democracy than Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands etc etc.

      As for the soldiers who died, the 65,000 who died in the First World War fought for King and Empire, and probably for democracy, but not for compulsory voting, which didn’t exist at the federal level at the time.

    • acotrel says:

      10:46am | 07/01/13

      @Colin
      So why were we in Iraq and are now in Afghanistan ? Don’y you believe the Taliban are about power and control ? Of course war is wrong, but if some group wants to exercise unelected authority over yur countr y, what do we do about that ? WW1 was obscene because it came down to to international anarchy - rulers of Europe fighting each other because of p tty jealosies about trade - a failure of the then free market, not the touted wish of the Kaiser to rule the world.  But our guys believed the biullshit, as we alweays do, and the reason they fought was for democracy. Voting is how we participate.

    • Colin says:

      11:29am | 07/01/13

      @ acotrel

      “acotrel says:10:46am | 07/01/13

      “So why were we in Iraq and are now in Afghanistan ?”

      Damned if I know.

      Frankly, we should stay out of any such battles. And if you are going to tell me that we should actively kill people in their own country to supposedly stop them from killing people in our country, then you are as deluded as any other warmonger…

    • Troy Flynn says:

      03:46pm | 07/01/13

      @Acotrel: Kaiser Bill, Trotsky and Hitler were all worth fighting ?  Why was this so ?
      America didn’t think Hitler was worth fighting until Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.

    • Troy Flynn says:

      03:49pm | 07/01/13

      @Acotrel: So why were we in Iraq and are now in Afghanistan ?

      One word: HALLIBURTON

    • TimB says:

      05:26am | 07/01/13

      ‘This is a winner!” I thought to myself. The only people who oppose it are political hacks. All of the non-political (read normal) people are for it. Everyone has the right to vote, but your government won’t force you to. Freedom of choice - it seems almost democratic.’

      See, I agree with you to me that logic makes sense. But strangely, there’s a subset of people who think this is just Campbell Newman spearheading the beginning of a grand nation-wide Coalition conspiracy to ensure a stranglehold on government forever more.

      The theory goes amongst these people that if voluntary voting was brought in, then a significant portion of Labor’s base wouldn’t bother to show to vote and thus hand every election to the Coalition. And of course this is undemocratic and evil and must be stopped. Of course this utterly ignores the fact that if these voters actually gave a crap about the ALP they’d show up to vote [/i ]. What does it say about your party when your objection towards voluntary voting is that your supposed base is too apathetic to care about actually voting for you?

      No, that requires one to ask some hard questions. Much easier to whine about the Coalition.

    • TimB says:

      07:12am | 07/01/13

      Goddammit.

      Sorry.

    • marley says:

      08:06am | 07/01/13

      @TimB - I wonder if you’ve been reading Bob Ellis’ column.  He and his merry band of sycophants do in fact think this is a “Tory” conspiracy to take away the working man’s right to vote.  First, they say, you stop forcing him to vote, then you make it inconvenient for him to vote, then you corrupt the voter registration system, and voila, you have a bunch of fascist premiers ensuring perpetual right wing governance.  All because voting is non- compulsory.

      Of course, all of this rather ignores the plethora of non-compulsory voting democracies which seem to be as democratic as Australia, and which elect left-wing governments at least as often.  More to the point,  the attitude that the working man must be forced to go to the polls because he doesn’t know what’s good for him and won’t otherwise exercise his right to vote reeks of the kind of patronising contempt the “progressives” in this country seem to have for the average working class joe (or jill).

    • TimB says:

      08:32am | 07/01/13

      That’s exactly what I’ve been reading Marley wink .

      I cannot tear myself away. It’s like watching a car crash. The man is a loon, and I just have to see what nutty thing he’ll say next.

      I’ve been having a good chuckle for months about his Newspoll conspiracy theories.

    • gary says:

      09:01am | 07/01/13

      Thin edge of the wedge.
      Look how the conservatives in the US are squirming after the massive voter registration fraud entanglement of their party?
      Concerted efforts by conservatives to exclude voters and promote “dead” voters and guess what? The conservative media are silent.
      When 90% of the media in Australia is the PR unit of the Conservative parties of Australia, you have a lot to be worried about.

    • acotrel says:

      09:21am | 07/01/13

      Uneducated kids with bogan parents probably won’t vote if they have the choice, but should they be encouraged to participate anyway?  Perhaps only the nice people should be heard in a real democracy ? A bit of eugenics could be a good thing too ?

    • PJ says:

      09:37am | 07/01/13

      Local elections are a joke.

      No one knows or cares for whom they are forced to vote.

      Its a waste of money for sure.

      In the local Franston elections, many that were forced to vote deliberately spoilt their cards. What a waste of time.

      That the Gillard Government agrees with Cambell Newman is evidenced by the call from old Labor cronies to abolish the States.

    • marley says:

      10:04am | 07/01/13

      @Gary - the US, or at least Florida, has problems. You don’t get the same problems in places like Sweden or Germany or Canada and I see no reason to assume that you would here, either.. The issue isn’t non-compulsory voting, it’s the probity of the electoral commissions.  I’d take Canada’s non compulsory voting system over Ecuador’s compulsory system any day of the week.

    • Colin says:

      12:21pm | 07/01/13

      @ PJ

      “...In the local Franston (sic) (Frankston?) elections, many that were forced to vote deliberately spoilt (sic) their cards. What a waste of time…”

      If you mean ‘Frankston’ then those that ‘spoilt’ their cards did so more likely because they were illiterate, mindless bogans rather than for any other reason…

    • ZSRenn says:

      06:00am | 07/01/13

      Be careful what you wish for Roderick!

      ZSRenn, Zhongshan, China!

    • Geronimo says:

      06:00am | 07/01/13

      Given the disgruntled Costello is running Queensland Defacto, one advises hesitancy before charging Newman and his Bunch of Punks-n-Drunks with an Originality Offence.

    • Eric #2 says:

      07:50am | 07/01/13

      Costello is NOT running Qld - defacto or otherwise.  Why do you lefties tell such blatant lies?

    • Geronimo says:

      08:38am | 07/01/13

      The most comprehensible thing about you A to Z, is that your Sam Catchem Nom de Plume is totally incomprehensible too.

    • David says:

      06:38am | 07/01/13

      Completely agree that there must be a better way to run, pity only the last few paragraphs explored the idea

      ‘To get people out to vote, politicians would have to talk about policy issues which genuinely engage the public rather than just regurgitating talking points and repeating catch phrases, something we’re all tired of. Voluntary voting will be sensible and popular policy.’

      Yes we can, not focus on catch phrases or repeated talking points, just like the US. Both parties aim to convert the ‘every man’ over there not just pander to the relatively small (when compared with the amount that don’t vote) groups of people with mobile support bases. Like the NRA or the Tea Party for Republicans, or the whatever happened to the Occupy Movement for the Democrats. Each party is getting increasingly ‘radical’ to get their core out because the ‘every man’ is lazy. But that isn’t the same here in Australia, so we will be fine.

    • Markus says:

      10:20am | 07/01/13

      I know people think Barnaby Joyce is a moron, but he did raise a good point in that voluntary voting could see the rise of more extreme candidates and voting blocs.

      Those on the far left and far right of the spectrum would require much less motivation to vote for or against something/someone than those in the centre. And as we have seen for years now, coming up with a stupid fear/smear campaign is a lot easier for a political party than coming up with sensible policy.

      If people think that a group like the ACL have too much influence now, imagine when half the other voters in their key electorates stop turning up to vote.

    • DrBob says:

      06:48am | 07/01/13

      I’m interested in history, science, economics, politics etc. I follow the news and current opinions more than most and I always turn up to pass my considered vote. However, I’m appalled by compulsory voting, which does little more than add a huge donkey vote by disinterested and ill-informed people, which dilutes the value of informed voters.
      I’m not surprised by our antiquated method of voting, which simply reflects the technical incompetence of successive Australian governments. It’s just another example of the general incompetence of our Federal and State governments. Clearly, we are failing to elect representatives whose qualifications match their job descriptions.

    • NSS says:

      03:27pm | 07/01/13

      Rubbish. Give me the proof please, DrBob that all compulsory voting is add a “huge donkey vote.” The actual donkey vote (,ie numbering from 1 downwards on the ballot without thought) is statistically rather small, from what I can gather from political party research.

      In general, Aussies understand that they are required to think politically and make a choice once every 3 yrs or so. Not an arduous task for most, but a treasured right - and we can always write “No Dams!” Also, we tend to make the correct communal decision for the circumstances on our governance,(not that the diffeence between Aussie parties is all that great.) Funny about that, if donkey voting is all we do.Those ballot paper position decisions made by the Electoral Commission must be hellishly important then! Why vote at all, if that’s the case? We should just leave it up to them.

    • SimpleSimon says:

      08:01am | 07/01/13

      I don’t really want to get in to the pros and cons of voluntary voting right now, but I agree that there has to be a better way to manage the polling process, and online seems the obvious solution.

      One of the challenges, far from insurmountable, would be finding/deciding on a way to identity-check voters. TFN perhaps? Issues being TFNs are managed by ATO and would therefore require cross-departmental cooperation, people may not have a TFN, and TFNs are available to employers making it a relatively easy system to scam. I’d suggest a simple registration process isn’t secure enough either.. Thoughts?

    • Troy Flynn says:

      04:05pm | 07/01/13

      If we can’t implement cross depatmental co-operation with the ATO, then have the Electoral commission produce numbers for people to identify themselves with.
      If we can have a perfectly functioning licence system for drivers, surely we can co-ordinate the same thing with online voting.
      Hell, if we can make internet banking as secure as it is (I’ve never lost money mysteriously from my account) then surely we can implement an online system for voting. It’s just up to the department to set it up.

    • Colin says:

      08:28am | 07/01/13

      Compulsory voting. “You wanted the damned right to vote, so now we’re going to MAKE you vote..!”

      What a crock.

    • St. Michael says:

      12:35pm | 07/01/13

      Your remark is a crock, Colin, because nobody is forcing you to vote.  You are forced to turn up and have your name ticked off the electoral roll at a polling booth.  Nothing else.  You are not required to fill out the ballot paper or otherwise exercise your right to vote.

    • Colin says:

      01:29pm | 07/01/13

      @ St.Michael

      “...You are forced to turn up and have your name ticked off the electoral roll at a polling booth…”

      Pure semantics, Saint Mick; pure semantics. Actually being COMPELLED to turn up at a polling booth and have your name ‘Ticked off’ IS a COMPULSORY act…Whether you actually vote after that occurrence is purely moot; you have been FORCED into something.

      Having said that, however, I am still loathe to be forced to ‘vote’ (Read: ‘Turn up’, Saint Mick) - particularly when I as a constituent do not want my government to force me to do anything. Especially when they never seem to listen to the voters in the first place…After all, how many things do the government enact that so often go against what the majority want? Voting a party in is NOT a mandate to do as you please..!

      Bring in Michael Rimmer, I say…  wink

    • Colin says:

      01:30pm | 07/01/13

      @ St.Michael

      “...You are forced to turn up and have your name ticked off the electoral roll at a polling booth…”

      Pure semantics, Saint Mick; pure semantics. Actually being COMPELLED to turn up at a polling booth and have your name ‘Ticked off’ IS a COMPULSORY act…Whether you actually vote after that occurrence is purely moot; you have been FORCED into something.

      Having said that, however, I am still loathe to be forced to ‘vote’ (Read: ‘Turn up’, Saint Mick) - particularly when I as a constituent do not want my government to force me to do anything. Especially when they never seem to listen to the voters in the first place…After all, how many things do the government enact that so often go against what the majority want? Voting a party in is NOT a mandate to do as you please..!

      Bring in Michael Rimmer, I say…  wink

    • St. Michael says:

      01:47pm | 07/01/13

      “Whether you actually vote after that occurrence is purely moot; you have been FORCED into something.”

      Not forced to vote, Colin.  That’s what you said (in capital letters, no less) in your first post.  Not my problem if you can’t phrase your objections properly.  Although if it bothers you that, much, just pay the fine and think of it as another targeted tax, just as very successful miners in this country are being targeted with a tax.  Maybe now you know how they feel.

    • AdamC says:

      01:50pm | 07/01/13

      Oh no, Colin is making sense! (At least in a constrained way.)

      Did someone make a new years resolution to dial down the trollishness?

    • Colin says:

      02:17pm | 07/01/13

      @ St. Michael

      “...Although if it bothers you that, much, just pay the fine and think of it as another targeted tax, just as very successful miners in this country are being targeted with a tax.  Maybe now you know how they feel…”

      Wow. I mean WOW; what an amazing segue! I think I’ll call you ‘Saint Michael de Non Sequitur’ from now on…

      @ AdamC

      Or is it that it’s NOT trolling when my point of view coincides with yours..?  wink

    • Laura says:

      09:08am | 07/01/13

      I read an interesting article during the US elections that discussed election reforms in america. Worth a read, especially for all you against compulsory voting.
      http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/us-looks-down-under-to-stop-poll-rot-20121105-28tz1.html

      At the moment you have the rusted on people who will vote left or right no matter what. The swing voters, if given the choice, probably won’t vote. That leaves us with the extreme Left or extreme Right that won’t vote as they think the parties are too soft or centrist. Politicians soon realise that it is this group of people that may give them a better chance and that extreme ideas are put forward to try and entice them to vote.

      I would prefer to keep compulsory voting and keep it boring and based on economic management and important issues to keep it more balanced than it would be if you could bank on only the rusted ons and extremists voting.

    • expat says:

      09:31am | 07/01/13

      I disagree.

      If those swing voters could not care less about voting in the first place, what makes them suitable for making the net political decisions?

    • Laura says:

      09:46am | 07/01/13

      Because then the policies are geared up to attract them when they do their vote rather than trying to attract the extreme spectrum. Centrist is better than extreme.

    • expat says:

      11:36am | 07/01/13

      “Centrist is better than extreme.”

      Not necessarily, centrist is too neutral for significant change to occur and the political cycle starts going around in circles with no progress, difficult decisions and policies do not get made.

      A bit of extreme left or right would not be a bad thing, people need to be shaken up every now and then or they become complacent (Western Culture for example).

    • Laura says:

      12:48pm | 07/01/13

      That I do agree with. I was referring to extreme extreme like sharia law or some of the weird stuff that come out of the US.

    • MK says:

      03:08pm | 07/01/13

      Economic Management and Important issues?
      If that was the case then i would be all for compulsary

      there are no issues and the econcomic managment of your averge punter doedsnt extend beyond suprlus good, deficit bad

      both sides spew the same old crap
      meaningless tit for tat

      i think a switch to voluntary and forcing politicians to connect with people
      would add some spice and variability in
      Eventually 30 years down the track it might degrade to the US situation
      but we are already at the other end

      you can’t escape the tribal nature of the 2 party system
      but at least we could shake things up a little
      inject a little life into a dead democracy

    • Gordon says:

      09:28am | 07/01/13

      The idea that voluntary voting obliges politicians to serve up better policies and better communication to attract voters is wishful thinking. They would serve up exactly whatever spin-doctored pap appeals to whichever demographic continued to vote. It might be different pap but it would still be pap.
      The solution to a crud politics and a disengaged population is not to make disengagement even easier. The “solution” (or fantasy wish-list if you prefer) is for those of us who claim to be politcally engaged to engage with the policies instead of the personalitics and quit the red v blue tribalism. No, I don’t think it will happen either.

    • acotrel says:

      10:04am | 07/01/13

      When the hung parliament was elected, it reflected the wishes of the whole voting population -from the rabidly political to the mildly interested to the jerks who just don’t care.  They are all subject to the laws that are generated by the majority choice. And they all had a compulsory opportunity to influence the way we are governed.  I voted, the government speaks for me.  And people who undermine the process are undermining my participation. If Tony Hairybot got elected by fools, I would have to cop it sweet and wait for the LNP to implode. If voting is compulsory, nobody has a legitimate gripe if the elected government are dills.

    • marley says:

      12:01pm | 07/01/13

      @acotrel - you have odd notions of Westminster democracy.  The ALP won the last election by a hairsbreadth - are you suggesting that that half of the population which did not vote for them should have no influence or say in their governance of the country?  Let me remind you, the tyranny of the majority is still a tyranny.  And it is absolutely the role of the Opposition in Westminster democracies to represent its constituents and their interests, to challenge the ruling party’s hold on power, and not simply roll over and hibernate until the next election. 

      As for those who want to end compulsory voting, how on earth does that undermine your participation in the democratic process?  You still get to vote.  And I for one absolutely will complain if the elected government turn out to be dills:  that’s the beauty of democracy - I can gripe about the government, the opposition, my fellow voters or any damn thing I want to gripe about and it’s all part of the process.

    • AdamC says:

      10:35am | 07/01/13

      According to Wikipedia (I am sure you don’t need a link to that) there are 10 countries that enforce compulsory voting. Australia is the only one of these to have a serious democratic pedigree. Most of the others are South American countries with very chequered political histories, not to mention presents. Any correlation between compulsory voting and the overall sophistication of a nation’s polity would seem to be negative.

      Most Australians do not know that compulsory voting is a rarity internationally. When they discover that it is, they decide it is a positive manifestation of Australian exceptionalism. They almsot never engage with the policy aspects of compulsory voting.

      I hope Queensland does implement voluntary voting. That would be the beginning of the end of compulsion in this country.

    • steiner says:

      11:11am | 07/01/13

      We do not have compulsory voting in Australia.  The only thing you are obliged to do is show up and have your name ticked off the electoral roll.  You can put a completely bank ballot in the box if you choose.  So, let’s put this ridiculous notion that there is any sort of ‘compulsion’ in the dustbin.  If people really had an issue with compulsory voting, informal voting rates would be through the roof.  At present, informal voting is at extremely low levels.  The only conclusion is people are happy with the way things are and there is no community desire for change.
      The only reason the conservatives are pushing this issue is they obviously believe it will be in their electoral interest.  Does anyone really believe that the Premier of Queensland is attempting to have an altruistic conversation with the electorate?
      Of course not.  Political opportunism at its’ worst.

    • Markus says:

      11:45am | 07/01/13

      @steiner, the 2010 rate of informal votes was the highest since 1984.

      “The only reason the conservatives are pushing this issue is they obviously believe it will be in their electoral interest.”
      And the only reason the Labor party are so against it is because they know that compulsory voting is in their electoral interest.
      Neither actually cares about the integrity of the voting system.

    • AdamC says:

      12:15pm | 07/01/13

      Steiner, yes, yes, the old informal vote routine. If someone is going to make an informal vote anyway, why force them to go through the motions, attend a polling place and the like? It is such a stupid argument. Your comment about informal voting is also a furply. Many people will make a valid vote if compelled to go the the local polling station and get a ballot. That does not mean compulsion is a good thing.

      Markus, I do not believe that voluntary voting would significantly influence the vote either way. I understand that, when compulsory voting was first implemented (I think QLD actually pioneered it) the conservative parties hoped it would depress the Labor vote. It didn’t. I do not think it will do so this time either.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:57pm | 07/01/13

      Because it makes people make a decision. You can elect to vote informal or you can decide to put in a proper vote. You have the choice. A governmetn FOR the people BY the people…not by the 60% who can turn up on the day.

      Moving to a voluntary system allows for greater manipulation of the results by interest groups and factions.

      Look at what the US has become.  A system that is doing its best to disenfranchise as many voters as it can. Voluntary voting, mid week work day elections, completely different voting methods from place to place, state to state and you wind up with just 2 states actually determing the outcome of elections….

      No, lets just stick with what we know works.

    • AdamC says:

      02:19pm | 07/01/13

      RealDave says:

      “Because it makes people make a decision. You can elect to vote informal or you can decide to put in a proper vote.”

      People can decide not to vote from their couch at home. Making them trudge down to their local primary school is just irrational and idiotic. (That is why so few countries do it.)

      “Moving to a voluntary system allows for greater manipulation of the results by interest groups and factions.”

      As I said, only 10 nations enforce compuslory voting. Describing many of them as democracies is a stretch. Most of them, like Argentina, are quite dysfunctional polities, in far worse shape than even the United States. Your assertion is not backed up by any facts.

      I know why you oppose voluntary voting, RealDave. However, I think your fears, and the PM’s, that it would reduce Labor’s vote are unfounded.

    • TheRealDave says:

      02:57pm | 07/01/13

      I oppose voluntary voting because I might miss out on a snag on bread!

      Our system works, right now, why do you want to get rid of a lot of peoples votes?

      We have a pretty bloody good country, one thats the envy of most of the world. Once every few years you have to spend 5 minutes ticking a few boxes - why is this so hideous and ‘repressive’ to you and others??

      You aren’t required by the government to do much else - hell, if you really don’t want to you can sit on your arse, not work and still get housing, money for food and other necessities. We don’t have conscription, indentured labour, workhouses, secret police, secret trials, long term imprisonemnt without trial, everyone gets legal representation if needed, access to free education…...things that other countries would love to have….and for all this you need to spend 5 minutes of your precious time every few years??

      No, I’m for compulsory voting because its a token obligation we ALL have. And I am against manipulating the system to encourage people not to vote - regardless of who I choose to vote for.

      A Democracy is for ALL of the people….not just the ones you want voting

    • Troy Flynn says:

      04:18pm | 07/01/13

      @TheRealDave: and you wind up with just 2 states actually determing the outcome of elections….

      That’s because they have this stupid thing called the “Electoral College”. I don’t believe our system is anything like that or we’d have all sorts of gerrymandering going on.

    • steiner says:

      06:31pm | 07/01/13

      Senor AdamC: Is there some point we are supposed to be taking from your references to Argentina?  You are creating a rod for your own back.  Are you trying to argue that after decades of successful democracy, Australia is on the road to a tinpot dictatorship because we are moderately encouraged to attend a polling place?
      I repeat - the evidence can be found in the numbers of people who cast informal ballots.  Tiny numbers.  This issue has been tested through the fire of elections for decades and the people continue to speak - we like our electoral system.  It’s an irrelevancy to suggest that citizenship comes without obligation.  We are told what to do constantly and we comply gladly as members of the Australian community.  Long live Australian exceptionalism!
      This is simply not a priority issue for Australia.  The Premier of Queensland is watching as his landslide majority crumbles just months after the election.  Of course he is hoping that Katter party hicks don’t show up to vote.  That’s all this is about.
      Adam, if you were really concerned about democracy, your time would be better spent ensuring that overseas Australian were not disenfranchised.

    • Jay says:

      12:56pm | 07/01/13

      Let’s save a lot of time and money.
      1) Get rid of compulsory voting.
      2) Get rid of the Upper House.
      3) Get rid of proportional representation and make it first past the post.
      4) Fixed terms of 4 years for the Federal Govt.
      6) No politiican is permitted to serve more than three terms in Parliament.
      (encourage fresh ideas irrespective of age) All MP’s receive the same pension, and nothing else.No cars, offices or other perks.
      5) Become a Republic.
      6) Get rid of the Governor General and replace her with a President elected by the People every four years.(No President to serve more than 2 terms)
      7) Remove the Union Jack from our flag and get the Aboriginal colors into the new flag.
      8) Get rid of Advance Australia Fair as the National anthem. (If New Zeland can have such an inspiring National Anthem surely we could do much better)
      9) Bring back Technical Schools
      10 Abolish HECS!
      11) Anyone caught possessing any type of firearm or weapons without cause:
      a) First offence $5000 fine and suspended jail term for 12 months
      b) Second offence $12,000 fine & 12 months jail plus any breaches.
      c) Third offence 3 years jail no reduction.Stay in jail
      d) Fourth offence 5 years jail.
      e) Fifth offence: 15 years jail.
      12) Legalize gay marriage.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:58pm | 07/01/13

      ahh 1st year of uni I take it??

      wink

    • Rowdy says:

      02:44pm | 07/01/13

      LOL….I read down that list too quickly and saw legalise gay marriage as step f) after d) Fifth Offence: 15 years gaol.

      Surely marriage of any description should only be available to the sentencing judge when someone has reoffended after 25-30 years in gaol??

    • Troy Flynn says:

      04:27pm | 07/01/13

      I Like everything on your list.
      And TheRealDave, I’m 43 so I’m definitely not a uni student. (Actually, I only completed year 10)

      I’d also add 13) De-criminalize marijuana for personal use (as two states in the U.S. did, and the only reason we outlawed it was because the yanks and the U.N. told us to. We followed them then, why not now?)

    • TheRealDave says:

      02:01pm | 07/01/13

      Oh dear, you find it onerus to drive 2 minutes down the road to the nearest school to line up for less than 5 minutes to tick a few boxes and buy a snag on a bit of bread on the way out?

      Quelle Horreur!!

      First World Problems indeed…..

    • marley says:

      02:14pm | 07/01/13

      @The Real Dave - actually, I think you’ll find compulsory voting is largely a third world issue.

    • Colin says:

      02:33pm | 07/01/13

      @TheRealDave

      Oh, OK; so what if the government enacts a law that makes you drive down to the main street and wave a flag every time that the PM drives past? I mean to say, it’s “Only 2 minutes down the road…” and you may get a “Free snag” for your trouble…What’s that? You think that IS “onerus” (sic), as you call it..? What’s the difference - you’re being FORCED to do it, aren’t you?

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:05pm | 07/01/13

      Colin - with a large percentage of the world who don’t have all the awesome benefits we have by virtue of being born in Oz I know I would far rather ‘suffer’ the bully boy antics of making me tick a piece of paper every few years than say…compulsory conscription or be hounded by secret police, not have a ‘free press’ or not be able to speak freely in a public forum, freedom or worship or the choice not to etc.

      I stil keep coming back to - why do you want to get rid of the votes of a large number of people? Apathy is not an excuse not to vote. Nor is ignorance of politics.

      Plus - Voluntary Voting leads to Beastiality.

    • Paul M says:

      02:24pm | 07/01/13

      The vote needs to be capable of being scrutineered. There are ways that this can actually be done with an electronic vote (involving cryptography and message digests)

      The US system is rigged - an outright fraud. See blackboxvoting.org for info.

    • Leigh says:

      02:56pm | 07/01/13

      Apart from making politicians lazy, compulsory voting is hardly democratic; if people don’t wish to vote, they shoudn’t be made to. And, by the way, you don’t, as the tired old mantra goes, just have to get your name marked off the roll. You are supposed to mark the ballot paper. You can, of course get away with not marking it because nobody knows what you once you are are in the booth.

      But, the idea from the start has been “You vill vote, even if you don’t vant to. Seig Heil!”

      Why should anyone be forced to go to a polling both to write abusive remarks, or just put a slash through a piece of paper? No reason at all! It’s just another way of bossing us around.

      Having said that, I still believe that anyone who does not vote is an idiot; there are many, many Australians who are idiot enough not to want to vote, and I can’t see why anyone else would care about that any more than I do. It makes the votes of those of us who do vote more valuable, and the lazy politicians have to get off their bums to convince us to vote.

      We should have the right to vote; not a compulsion. It is sheer lunacy to claim that compulsory voting is democratic. It is a totalitarian ruse that suits only our political bludgers.

    • Diogenes says:

      04:44pm | 07/01/13

      For those who think this is a Coalition plot , may I refer to the latest post Anthony Green’s most excellent blog entitled “Rudd Government Called for Submissions on Compulsory Voting in 2009.”

      Also there is the response to a comment “The 1996 Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters chose to oppose compulsory voting on the matter of principle Its findings were ignored by the Howard government and have generally been ignored since.”

      WRT to enrollment etc , there is another nuanced post dated Dec 11 entitled “More on Direct Enrolment and Update” along with his Nov 15 post “124,000 Missing Voters in New South Wales” (the 124,000 are on the State rolls as a result of automatic enrollments (Board of Studies uploads for students turning 18 & every time you update anything with the RTA but not Federal rolls)

      Also many posters are wrong - we are obliged by law to place a valid, unspoiled ballot paper into the box - not just show up and get our names marked off. When I worked in a booth we were instructed to write down the names of those who got their names marked off, and walked away without taking their papers, along with the time,  for the Returning Officer to chase up & for these we had to swear stat decs at the end of the night stating what happened (about 6 all up). SWMBO’s aunt who worked for the AEC said they were sent penalty notices - I don;t know what happened from there .
      This is off course a silly law as there is no way of enforcing it… unless you are stupid enough to write your name on the paper - and the Returning Officer is in a really foul mood, or swear a stat dec that you have lodged a spoiled paper, or not completed a valid vote,

    • NikRaf of Victoria says:

      04:52pm | 07/01/13

      one person one vote and i’ll say yes to compulsory voting

    • 43 degrees fahrenheit says:

      06:15pm | 07/01/13

      The Liberal Voters can have optional voters.
      The Labor voters can have compulsory voters.

      USA has tried all the alternatives of voting .
      They have tried computers, mobile phones, punch cards, etc with no much success! Australia’s old system is better

 

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