Victoria Graduate School of Business Presents: Political Forum – Voting for Minor Parties and Independents – Suicidal or Sensible?
When one walks into the Victorian Parliament, on the floor of the vestibule, there’s an inscription: “Where no council is the people fall, but in the multitude of councilors there is safety”, and it’s from Proverbs 11-14.
This reference is based on the principle of Westminster democracy, that the views of the elected members, the 88 elected members of the Legislative Assembly, combined with the 40 members of the Legislative Council, bring a range of views and a diversity of opinions and backgrounds.
The problem is that over the 150 years of our state parliaments, and 100 years of our Commonwealth parliament, this basic principle of a representative democracy, has been seriously corrupted by a stifled and restrictive two party system. This has evolved through increased control and management of the two political parties in the media, to remove real debate and dissent within the two major political parties.
This evolution has made our parliaments vacuous and at times meaningless chambers where real politics and decisions that affect people’s lives is no longer existent. The real decisions that affect people’s lives is in the back rooms of the major political parties.
In a comment aimed at a group of independents in 1910, the Sydney Morning Herald said that: “Nothing is more dangerous than that the balance of power shall remain in irresponsible hands.”
As we’ve already heard, there is a possibility that Victoria in this election that we could end up with a hung parliament, with probably a Greens majority, Greens minority, if that was the case.
From a business perspective, a minority government would be detrimental to Victoria in our view at this juncture in our history.And I’ll emphasise: at this juncture in our history.
Such an outcome would not lead to Victoria’s economic collapse, but Victoria could lose its edge. Real new and emerging challenges are already upon us, in the form of intensifying international competition, ageing infrastructure, population growth, persistent skill shortages, labour shortages, climate change, economic and financial volatility, and demographic change, most notably, our ageing workforce.
For us to meet these challenges, Victoria needs leadership from it’s next Government, with a vision, a clear majority and a mandate to build Victoria’s competitiveness.
A minority government will engender uncertainty and bring us back to the pack, along with Queensland and New South Wales.
Professor John Zeleznikow
History shows that governments with large majorities are inevitably poor governments.
As in private enterprise, competition is good, whereas monopolies are detrimental to thepublic interest. So why do we not want competition particularly in parliament? A finely divide parliament is one where legislation can be closely examined and bad policies can be discarded.
But if the only representation from the Lower House comes from the major parties, then scrutiny is lacking.As the Kennett government found when it limited the role of the Auditor General, a lack of accountability leads to poor government.
Plus voting for minor parties and independents can be shown to enhance stability and accountability, precisely because it allows for a diverse range of viewpoints.
The major parties do in fact fulfill a very important role in the political system, because whether any of us likes it or not, a very substantial proportion of voters don’t pay much attention to politics.
And what major parties that have got a track record, a history and an identity do is provide information through their brand, through their name, that enables voters who don’t pay much attention, who don’t really know much about politics, to form a conscious choice.
Given that the Labor Party has been this uneasy coalition of progressives and the union movement, and that the Greens seem to have got the message through a little bit more effectively, at least in recent times, as far as the progressive side, and with the decline in unionism in the last ten to fifteen years, do you see that the party will have to majorly reform itself and it’s sales pitch over the next couple of years, or risk losing relevance entirely with the electorate?
I certainly think that there is need for further reform of the Labor Party’s internal structures, but not of the disenfranchising unions kind.
In fact, now I’m a former union secretary and to me the critical thing about the union connection with the Labor Party is that it gives the party a connection to the wider world of working people, including large numbers of working people who don’t either have the opportunity, the time or circumstances to do things like join a political party and be active, politically.
It keeps the Labor Party grounded in the great mass of ordinary people, rather than being too dominated by highly motivated and very frankly unusual and often unrepresentative small groups of activists. So I believe that the union connection for the Labor Party is very strong.
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