Chris in a recent post over at Points of Information has a nice perspective on compulsory voting: “forcing indifferent people to turn out means that you drastically increase the amount of noise in your electoral system, reducing the quality of the results you get”.
This may seem like a paradox. Once in the distant past there were two completely separate parties:
- the Liberal party, who represented business, small government and growth
- and the Labor party, who represented the working class in association with the labour unions
However, during the 1980’s both parties turned into one party. The Labor party embraced business, competition and globalisation. While the Liberal party adopted popularist policies to placate the masses and agrarian socialist policies to placate their National party coalition partners. Both parties met in the middle & have not moved apart since.
Since that time there has not been much difference between the two parties. I reckon you could save all that money on an election and just toss a coin to decide. In essence the Australian political system is an oligarchy. The members of elite who rule Australia went to similar schools and universities (a frightening number of them are lawyers). They are all cut from the same cookie dough with the same cookie cutter.
In both parties there is an extreme rump. For the Liberals the rump is on the right wing of politics, and for Labor the rump is on the left wing. Neither rump seems to have much luck with either policy or portfolios.
So, Chris’ comments regarding the usefulness of compulsory voting are true. The noise in elections is increased, the results don’t really matter and everyone feels like something important happened.