Australia is lucky
We are blessed that we live in one of the oldest and most successful democracies in the world.
Our good fortune has come not through chance. Our democracy works because over a century a lot of people, paid and unpaid, have worked to make it so through blood, sweat and tears.
Our democracy works because countless Australians have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms inherent in democracy.
As society has changed, so should our electoral system be fine-tuned. Now is the time for immediate action by Parliament on certain changes and for a longer conversation about other reforms.
Time for Action
To maximise voter choice compulsory preferential voting should be replaced by optional preferential voting. To increase fairness and to reduce the luck of the ballot draw while minimising the so-called donkey vote, the Robson Rotation of candidates on the ballot paper should be introduced for the House of Representatives in tandem.
Elections should not only be fair, open and transparent they should be seen to be so. And an important element is the sanctity of the electoral roll and the importance of each citizen equally exercising equally one vote. Voter ID should be introduced for all voters with savings measures similar to provisional votes.
Likewise, all electoral enrolments, whether new or changes should require proof of ID.
The pre poll voting period should be reduced from three weeks to a maximum of two weeks. Voters who choose to vote early should be required to explain why they are unable to attend on the day rather than it being a matter of convenience.
The Electoral Act should be completely rewritten to make it fit for purpose. A new offence of political violence, both physical and verbal should be introduced.
The rules governing the use of Party names should be tightened to restrict the use of existing party names by new political entrants.
Time for a Conversation
Parliament should also commence a conversation about whether the Parliament should be increased in size as the last increase was in 1984. Part of the dialogue should consider whether the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives should be reformed.
In addition, consideration should be given to changing the term of the House of Representatives from three years to four years.
By-elections could be abolished with the Party or group elected at the general election choosing the replacement. In a similar vein, an MP who voluntarily resigns from the Party under which they were elected at the general election will be deemed to have vacated their seat.
We sleep safely in our beds protected from the claws of the banality of evil because we decide who governs. These reforms are about empowering further the voter. Governments in democracies should always be wary of the voter. Long may it be so.
Senator the Hon James McGrath