Takin’ care of business

Jackson Harding writes: Re. “Business is making it easy for Hanson and co to exploit voters

Bernard Keane’s piece on the rise of Hanson and the role of big business in it makes some snide comments about Nick Xenophon and his populist agenda.  Not one commentator outside South Australia (and not many within it from what I have seen) seems to have correctly ascertained where the good Senator is coming from. Xenophon has quite adroitly swept up the centre right small-l liberal tradition that has long existed in South Australia.  First represented by Steele Hall and Robin Millhouse they shook up the former Liberal and Country League of South Australia and that tradition has never gone away. Hall eventually rejoined the Liberals, while Millhouse took his supporters into the Australian Democrats. Not surprisingly South Australia was a stronghold for the Democrats and it was they who nearly knocked off Alexander Downer in Mayo, now NXT has done exactly that and bumped off Downer’s successor. To deride him as a populist is foolish and narrow minded.  He is pitching to a solid and very South Australian constituency, and I don’t think he will go away any time soon.

On electronic voting

Nick Young writes: Re. “It’s time to vote online” (yesterday). While I agree with Adam that we should be trying to computerise voting much more, it’s important not to dismiss the serious raised by his third problem ‘it’s hard to hold a secret ballot online’.

It’s essential to the working of the secret ballot system that:

  • each voter votes once and only once (with mechanisms for discounting multiple vote attempts)
  • a particular vote is impossible to trace back to a single voter.

It’s astronomically difficult to build a computer system to achieve those two goals, as you must be able to prove that a vote was cast by a voter, that no votes were added, while simultaneously not being able to check voters against ballots.

Doing this stuff in the real world short circuits a lot of these things, which is why we still do it that way. I think that a system with computerised ballot papers at a polling place would be a good intermediate step.


Peter Fray

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