How the political cartel could lock out minor parties

David LeyonhjelmAt the centre of the Liberal Party’s beliefs is a commitment to inalienable rights such as freedom of speech and association. The idea that a party supposedly committed to liberalism would try ban a political party from identifying as ‘liberal’ is as ironic as it is disturbing.

Yet that is exactly what is being proposed by the federal Coalition government.

In a move analogous to the workings of a cartel, the ALP and the Coalition have found common ground in attempting to lock minor parties out of Australia’s political system. Under mooted changes, minor parties would be banned from using words like ‘liberal’ and ‘labour’ in their party titles. The major parties argue that it will prevent smaller parties from ‘capitalising on voter confusion’. In essence, Labor and the Coalition can’t imagine that voters would choose to vote for a minor party, and assume such votes must surely be mistakes.

Not only is that insulting to Australian voters, it is also undemocratic. The Liberal Party does not hold a monopoly over the word ‘liberal’ nor can it claim to be the only party which stands for ‘liberal values’. Similarly, the Labor party is not the only party dedicated to the labour movement.

Whilst some of the calls for electoral reform do warrant public debate, regulating the names of the political parties is merely another attempt to rig the system to favour the major parties. As put by Liberal Democrat Senator-elect, David Leyonhhjelm:

Attacking our party because of its name, amending the rules so we cannot keep our name, or changing the system of voting so that minor parties cannot win seats, does not strike me as a formula for goodwill… We would prefer the Liberal Party to accept that it does not own the word “liberal” that minor parties are good for democracy, and that parties that promote less taxation and regulation should be preferred over the other kind.

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