Oct 6, 2011

A hundred years later, it’s time for another vital voting reform

Out of the clash of interests in federal parliament in 1911 came an enduring electoral reform, writes Brian Costar. An update is long overdue.

One hundred years ago today, George Pearce of Western Australia rose in the Senate to deliver the second reading speech on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1911. Outside parliament, which sat in Melbourne in those days, it was a typical spring day with light rain forecast; inside, the senators were about to deal with legislation that would change forever how Australians participate in the electoral system.

The most dramatic measure in the bill was the introduction of compulsory enrolment for all adults who were eligible to vote. Like so many changes to our electoral laws, it was motivated by party self interest and was bitterly contested, not finally becoming law until the following year.

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5 thoughts on “A hundred years later, it’s time for another vital voting reform

  1. sparky

    That sounds like a very sensible idea, therefore its not going to happen.

  2. mattsui

    1911. Perhaps the author is dumbing his article down for mass consumption but any self respecting Crikey reader would be well aware that the Liberal party wasn’t founded until the 1940’s.
    *Brian Costar is professor of political science at the Swinburne Institute.
    Remind me not to enrol.

  3. Gerry Hatrick, OAP

    Exactly, it’s far too sensible. And all those young people would vote for the left anyway, which is why the right and the left won’t support it.
    (yes, I know)


    Let’s take a step back, and examine the premise that getting every available adult who can make a mark on a piece of paper, is really what democracy should be about.

    For example, should the people who send emails (in upper case) to climate scientists with messages inviting them to die, or submit to murder in various fashions, be entitled to vote? Just askin,’ as they say on Twitter. Or the sad convoy who rocked up to Canberra to get themselves whooped up by Alan Jones and Angry Anderson, are they really qualified to vote?

    While we have a ‘free press’, mostly owned and run by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, should the audience for such crud actually be entitled to vote?

    You need a license to drive a car. You need qualifications to give medical advice. You need a trade certificate to install a gas stove…but any idiot can vote.

    And most idiots get their opinions from where, exactly? Yep, the trash media, which oddly enough, seems to run a line of deeply reactionary/conservative twaddle.

    Maybe it’s time to ask the question: what qualifies you to have an opinion about government policies? Economics? Science?

    Just maybe it’s time to ask citizens to show some basic competencies before they get the right to vote.

    If we allow the media to be owned and controlled by such blatantly partisan players, why should we also allow their audience to have so much say over our future?

    Just askin’?

  5. Peter Fuller

    Matt Sui,
    While the contemporary Liberal Party was formed in the 1940s, its non-Labor predecessors went through several variation; at the time to which Professor Costar refers, it was indeed the Liberal Party, subsequently changed to the Nationalists, and then to the United Australia Party to accommodate Labor defectors from the 1917 and 1931 splits.

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