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Liberal democracy

Senate reform would lock out micro-parties


My Drum column this week criticises the calls from the major parties to reform the Australian electoral system to keep out minor party preference deals as undemocratic:

Think of a vote for a micro-party as a vote against the mainstream, rather than intellectual support of the full platform of, say, the HEMP Party or the Secular Party of Australia.

… All those micro-party votes pool together through the preference system and throw up a micro-party representative.

In past elections micro-party votes would just dissipate, because the micro-parties weren’t working together and there weren’t as many Australians voting against the big players.

Yes, Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party got a tiny number of direct votes. But it’s not about him. A Senate seat isn’t a personal reward. Muir represents all those in Victoria who voted “other”.

If we rewrote our electoral system to prevent micro-parties from preference aggregation we would, in a very real way, be disenfranchising those who rejected the majors.

Free speech and the public service

APSClogoIf you criticise your employer in public you put your job at risk. This is a reasonable condition of employment, at least in a world where corporate reputation has economic value.

Public servants are different. Their employer is the state. A free flow of discussion is a necessary constituent part of a healthy democracy. Public servants have not been disenfranchised – and nor would we want them to be – so their participation in that free debate is their right as citizens.

Public service neutrality is not premised upon public servants having no political views, rather that those views are held in a private capacity. Continue Reading →

AFP raids Channel Seven over Schapelle Corby profits


Just extraordinary. Today the Australian Federal Police raided a private television broadcaster – Channel Seven – to hunt around for evidence that Seven was paying Schapelle Corby for an interview that hasn’t happened yet.

There were “heated scenes” at Channel Seven’s Sydney headquarters today as its offices were raided by the AFP.

It is understood Federal police were looking for evidence of the lucrative media deal the Corby family reportedly signed on behalf of Schapelle for her first post-prison interview with Seven’s current affairs flagship program, Sunday Night.

The AFP confirmed it conducted a number of search warrants in Sydney under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

As I argued in this recent FreedomWatch post, Australia’s literary proceeds of crime laws are a restriction on freedom of speech. An AFP raid on a media organisation is an incredibly serious thing.

High Court ruling on NSW campaign law a win for free speech


Free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has welcomed today’s decision by the High Court to throw out the New South Wales government’s restrictions on campaign and election spending.

“The High Court’s decision today is a win for free speech,” said Chris Berg.

Mr Berg is Policy Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, and author of the 2012 book In Defence of Freedom of Speech: from Ancient Greece to Andrew Bolt.

“The Institute of Public Affairs may disagree with Continue Reading →

South Australian politicians change the electoral rules in their favour

adelaideparliamentSometime later this week the South Australian parliament will rig its electoral system in favour of established parties.

The idea is to “prevent virtual unknown” candidates from taking a seat by stopping candidates from benefiting from preference distribution unless they have 2.5 per cent of the primary vote. InDaily has the details here. Of course the changes are being Continue Reading →

Queenslands new “out-of-control parties” bill

out-of-control-partyMy ABC Drum column this week is on a strikingly bad new bill being considered in Queensland:

…the title of the Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill doesn’t have the same sort of grunting aggression as the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill, which was passed earlier this year to target bikies.

But for all the absurdities of the anti-bikies legislation, the bill currently being considered by the Queensland parliament is probably worse.

The bogey-man in this bill is “out-of-control” parties. No doubt you can conjure up such a threat to public order in your mind. Hundreds of drunk teenagers spilling out on the street and damaging nearby property.

But according to the draft bill, a party is a gathering of twelve or more people.

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