My issue with Local Government

Brent Fleeton

Until Saturday, for the past five or so weeks, I spent most late afternoons and early evenings after work walking my local streets letterboxing a small summary of my basic policies along with instructions on how to vote in the 2013 local government election. 

I ran for a Council seat in West Ward in the City of Bayswater. I ran on three simple issues – lower rates, tangible policies to address the crime wave impacting on my local area (I am a recent victim of a home burglary) and streamlining local council planning approvals processes.  

Polling Day was Saturday and there is no denying this fact – I got flogged. I polled a whopping 380 votes out of 5,455 valid votes. 

However, I take three positive outcomes from this campaign: It gave me a better understanding of my local area; it taught me a lot more about the people who helped me and also about those involved in grassroots politics; and more people voted for me than they did for Darren Brown.  

Today, after hearing and reading about how it’s very distressing to some journalists in WA that the voter turnout was historically low and that the answer must be to force people to vote, I got to thinking about this issue of local council voter disengagement.

It didn’t take long for me to conclude that this really isn’t an issue at all, and to force people to vote is a stupid idea.

The more important issue we ought to be discussing at great length (and at much higher levels of government), and even though this never seems to be on the agenda, is how to address the drastic overreach by local governments. 

Don’t get me wrong, this average punter firmly believes state and federal governments in Australia have all drastically overstepped their boundaries. Let’s just focus on Local Government for now.

Did any journalist who contributed to the various columns conveying the collective dismay at the 20-30% turnout stop to consider that the reason that a vast majority of eligible people don’t vote in these elections may be because most common-sense people probably expect that the only matters their local council should be in charge of are lawns, roads and rubbish? 

Most people in my neighbourhood wouldn’t know that the 2013/2014 City of Bayswater Budget totalled spending of around $70million, and consisted of a taxation of local ratepayers of some $34million. This was through a rate increase of almost double that of inflation. During the Budget process, the City issued a press release stating this increase as ‘prudent’. It certainly was interesting rhetoric.

What’s my point? A good question!

When did local governments get the power to turn a small operation charged with the responsibility of fixing our roads, taking care of our local parks and gardens and collecting our garbage into a multi-million dollar ‘tax and spend’ machine, splurging ratepayers funds on hiring sustainability consultants and ‘buzz-word’ doctors, creating make-work programmes in the form of diversity and cultural projects and awarding often ridiculously generous grants for ‘art’ projects? Oh, and please don’t forget the annual contributions local governments pay to groups like WALGA and ALGA. These two lobby groups spent millions of dollars of ratepayers’ funds on a political advertising campaign for something which never occurred, but still won’t give the funds back to ratepayers. Hashtag integrity.

If we must spend money on hiring ‘sustainability’ consultants, I’d like to hire a sustainability consultant in the form of an accountant to first examine the ‘sustainability’ of the alarming rate at which local governments are taxing and spending ratepayer money. 

Unfortunately for those libertarians among us, our governing structure agreed upon at Federation created a monster. There is a solution, one which could possibly appease almost all who are concerned. However, it will be unappealing to those with less-than-solid intestinal fortitude. Local Government (in theory) answers to the State Government and only it can do something about this growing problem. I would like to see a genuine push by the WA Liberal-National Government, by the end of this term, to legislatively cap any future Local Government rate increases to that of CPI. If we can stop the ability for over-taxation, we can slowly stop the ever-expanding purview of local governments. 

This is what I call a ‘sustainable’ approach to local government.

In summary, I know fixing roads, mowing lawns and disposing of garbage costs my local council money, but its purview should end there. Local governments must be made to recognise, by way of state legislation if necessary, the unsustainable practice of ridiculous rate rises and over-the-top spending. If we were to force people to vote in local government elections, just to be able to say people are now ‘engaged’ with grassroots politics, we would fail to address these alarming issues with local government entirely. Compulsory voting on local government elections would give councils a mandate which could only lead to further over-government and over-taxation in our country. This would be a disastrous outcome for what little freedom is left in Australia.

Brent Fleeton

Committee Chair of Perth Young Professionals Inc.

Member of the WA Liberal Party Policy Committee

Lead by Donkeys

Vote 1. Donkey cutout

Is it any wonder why politicians elected
under an undemocratic system would defend that system? Well, that’s exactly
what they are doing. 

While we can’t stop people making
uninformed choices at the polling booth, donkey voting is very much a symptom
of compulsory voting.

Some people select candidates at random, take
a stab in the dark, confuse party names, or treat the election as if it were a Melbourne
Cup horse race and pick the party, or should I say donkey, with the best
sounding name, irrespective of form.

Of course it’s easy to blame the
individuals who do this, but it does happen. And the system itself tells people
that they should vote. It’s illegal not to. So technically donkey voters are
obeying the law, even if the system has made donkeys out of them.

And then there is the complex preferencing
system. Where preferences rely on secretive backroom deals, unknown to voters,
or when people select preferences because they have no choice, whether they like the alternatives or not.

So what’s the result? Politicians elected
undemocratically, not based on the will of the people, but due to a sampling
error or a selection bias. And the trouble is, the problem is swept under the rug.

Why would politicians who have prospered
under an undemocratic system complain? Why would they claim that their newly bestowed
power is illegitimate? After all, many of them have worked hard to play the
system.

At best politicians keep their mouths shut
or smugly placate the electorate with glib suggestions of change, while others
promote the undemocratic nature of the system as a virtue, in order to maintain
the system that favours their style of politics.

Clearly we should all have the same free
and equal right to vote, free from government coercion. Our decision to vote
should be democratic, and our choice should be final.

But who will champion electoral reform? The Queen?
Because the politicians almost certainly won’t.

I think Australian politicians are afraid of
democracy. Scared of losing support if the people’s decision to vote
were democratic.

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote

Australia’s Orwellian Democracy

War-is-peace4Around 1.4 million Australian eligible
voters are not registered to vote. This is why the government recently made
voter enrolment automatic. The Australian Electoral Commission is now
contacting unregistered voters to pressurize them into joining the electoral roll.

The AEC is ‘getting out the vote’ in
traditional Labor and Green demographics, at universities, unionized
workplaces, minorities, and indigenous communities. And before the election
they will campaign widely to make sure everybody knows the penalties for
non-compliance.

Rudd began his election campaign stating he
would seek to motivate young people to vote. Well, the Australian Electoral
Commission is doing his job for him. Who needs democracy when you have force?

In Australia’s Orwellian Democracy, where freedom equals to conformity, parties
can win elections in two ways: They can either offer good policies, effective
implementation, and quality leadership, or they can just say they offer good policies, effective implementation, and quality
leadership. They can just lie, or use Newspeak. Ruddspeak.

Ordinarily, in a democracy, lies aren’t so
effective because the people most vulnerable to lies – the ones who aren’t
interested in politics – don’t vote. In Australia, this isn’t the case.

In countries like England, Germany, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and almost every other OECD nation, people are free to
choose. Their decision to vote is democratic and not subject to government
coercion. They aren’t forced to attend the polling booth and they aren’t threatened
with fines for not voting. The choice is democratic.

And the irony is that these countries often
have higher voter turnouts than we do. This is because in a democracy, leaders need
to inspire people to vote. Here, our leaders only need to be slightly less
repulsive than the other guys and compulsory voting does the rest. At 81% our VAP (voting age population) voter turnout is lower than Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and many others.

Ed Killesteyn, Electoral Commissioner at
the AEC says, “more than three million
Australians did not exercise their franchise at the 2010 election in the
formation of our government, or roughly one in five entitled to do so.”
AEC
Website

So while the Australian Electoral
Commission is out campaigning for votes, and the government spends record
amounts advertising free cash giveaways, please
don’t blame the Australian people if Rudd’s lies win him the election. Blame
our Orwellian Democracy.

We
should all have the same free and equal right to vote, free from government
coercion. 

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty

Unfortunately for the Liberals, the first line of defense against compulsory voting is to not comply. People can secretly (or openly) break the law and take the view that when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. And many do.

Compulsory voting is more popular with the
left wing. The Liberals have opposed automatic voter enrollment while the ALP
pushed it through, and the LNP in Queensland have suggested voluntary voting
while Gillard and Swan bitterly opposed it. 

Liberals around the country have come out
in favour of voluntary voting. Unlike Gillard and Swan, many Liberals feel that
their decision to vote should be their own. Gillard and Swan know that
compulsory voting favours their side of politics.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, the first
line of defense against compulsory voting is to not comply. People can secretly
(or openly) break the law and take the view that when injustice becomes law,
resistance becomes duty. And many do.

This is why compulsory voting favours the
ALP. This is also why the ALP will campaign heavily on compulsory voting to
encourage the new 1.5 million voters who have been forced, or think they’ve
been forced onto the electoral roll, to vote. This could make a big difference, especially if they bring back Rudd.

This doesn't mean to say that everyone has
an opinion on compulsory voting. They don’t need to because compulsory voting
changes the flavor of the entire electoral process, from one of freedom to one
of conformity. Unfortunately many Australians still don’t see the difference.
But they can feel it.

In a system that is not free, some people
will always cut their losses and conform. In some ways it’s easier. It’s easier
to put your head down, conform and support the party – the ALP at least, but
not the Liberals. They tell people NOT to conform. They tell people NOT to
vote. They say it’s wrong to be forced against your will to attend the polling
booth. They suggest scrapping compulsory voting.

But why cut off your nose (by not voting)
to spite your face? Isn’t there a better way to protest in favour of democracy?

Some people would say that this is a reason
to comply with compulsory voting. Others say it’s a reason to abolish
compulsory voting. But surely our decision to vote should be democratic;
otherwise we will see our electoral sample continue to be tainted.

A selection bias is created when the
government forces us to attend the polls and this bias favours the very people
who happen to favour the bias. Go figure.

One way to remove this selection bias might
be for the government to select a random sample of voters, like in an opinion poll,
but with a larger sample. The trouble with this method is that it would not be
democratic because the decision to vote would have to be stolen away from the
people. It would mean that the government would choose who votes and who doesn’t.
Clearly the people should be free to make this choice for themselves. That’s
democracy.

In a democracy the people hold the supreme
power, not the government. We should all have the same free and equal
right to vote, free from government coercion. And it would be far better if our
leaders inspired us to vote rather than forcing us to attend the polling booth.

Only when the people are free to decide if they vote, will we have an accurate
electoral sample – a sample that is chosen by the people. After all, if we are capable of deciding
which party we will vote for, we are certainly capable of deciding if we vote.

The only reason people argue for compulsory
voting is to increase voter turnouts. Unfortunately the Australian people have
been lied to for many years about voter turnouts. The government boosts the
figures from 80% to 94% by counting invalid votes as votes and excluding the
10% of eligible voters who aren’t even on the electoral roll.

Our voter age population (VAP) turnouts are
lower than many countries where voting is voluntary, but Australians still think
we have the best voter turnouts in the world thanks to compulsory voting. We've been brainwahed into thinking our lack of freedom makes us more free.

And as our parties converge to attract the swinging voters, with no need to motivate their base, our system is centralised between communism and fascism at the totalitarian end of the political end of the spetrum. See more about Australia's slide towards totalitarianism.

Only nine other nations in the world
enforce compulsory voting and none are great bastions of democratic freedom, far
from it. We are headed in the same direction with threats to free speech,
freedom of association and other basic human rights, on which issues the Liberal's are mute. They can't afford to scare off the swining voters.

There is absolutely no reason to maintain
compulsory voting and every reason to give Australians back their freedom to vote.

Our decision to vote should be democratic.

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote

Why Australian leaders don’t lead

People seem to be scratching their
heads and wondering why the standard of our political debate has reached an
embarrassing low and our politicians are unpopular and uninspiring. 

Liberal blames Labor and Labor blames
Liberal but our political discourse is only as good as the average of its
parts. It takes two to tango.

Maybe the politicians blame their audience.
Maybe they think the Australian people are too stupid to understand complex
political debate or ideological principals. Well, they’re partly right because
compulsory voting means it’s only the disinterested swinging voters who decide
our election outcomes. But that’s not the worst of it.

Under compulsory voting our politicians
don’t need to inspire people to vote. They don’t need to motivate support from
the people. They don’t need to lead, or at least not in the democratic way. Our
leaders rely on force to compel people to attend the polling booth whether they
support the candidates or not.

This oppressive system leaves us with a
large part of the electorate who file into the polling booth like donkeys to
avoid a fine.

In democracies around the world, voting is democratic.
This means the leaders need to motivate support from the people using peaceful
means. Democratic means.

In true democracies, the people hold the supreme
power—which means that to earn support leaders must sell themselves and even
sell the very notion of democracy, because if they don’t they won’t be elected.
A more inspiring candidate could take their place.

It would be better if our leaders needed to
inspire & empower people to vote rather than relying on threats and fines.

We’d get better leaders if our decision to
vote were democratic.

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote

Both Liberal & Labor fear democratic voting

Who needs good leadership when the people don’t have a choice, when our political parties don’t need to motivate support from the people? All they need to do is be slightly less repulsive than the other guys and compulsory voting does the rest.

Recently I wrote an article about Australia’s slide towards
totalitarianism
and how compulsory voting centralizes the major political parties
at the totalitarian end of the political spectrum. The recent debate over
electoral reform is an example of this.

On the right, the Liberals oppose automatic voter registration. They prefer
to maintain a bureaucratic impediment to voting. They want it to be more
difficult for people to vote.

On the left, the Labor party opposes voluntary voting. They prefer to
force people against their will to the polling booth with fines enforceable
with force.

In most democracies voting is democratic, which means people are free
to choose whether they vote or not – their decision to vote is free from
government coercion. In many nations voter registration is also automatic
so 100% of the people have maximum freedom to cast a vote at the drop of a hat.
This is how it should be – maximum freedom and maximum control in the hands of
the people, with minimal interference from government.

This is where Australia is so far out of step. Here, both parties
oppose electoral freedom. Both parties oppose the basic democratic right common
throughout the developed world. One side wants to make it harder for people to
vote and the other side wants to force people to vote. Neither side wants to
empower the people.

Only nine other nations in the world enforce compulsory voting and while
several countries have abolished it in recent decades, Australia is now making
our system even less free.

Our political duopoly’s power struggle drives people away from the
political process and creates political apathy. This is one of the reasons why
many nations with voluntary voting have higher voter turnouts than we do. Under
compulsory voting, political parties don’t need to motivate their base, or
anyone, to vote. We’ve replaced good leadership with threats and fines.

Who needs good leadership when the people don’t have a choice, when our
political parties don’t need to motivate support from the people? All they need
to do is be slightly less repulsive than the other guys and compulsory voting does
the rest.

And while our system becomes less free, the global trend is away from
compulsory voting. Almost as many nations have abolished it in recent decades,
as there are where it remains, and half of the ten regimes where it does
remain are only decades out of military dictatorship.

In Chile, voter turnouts were in decline because young people were avoiding
registering to vote in order to avoid fines for not voting. So Chile’s solution
was to make voter registration automatic and voting voluntary. We should do the
same.

We should fall into line with places like Canada, Sweden, Denmark,
France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the multitude of other countries where
voting is democratic. In these nations people often vote in great numbers
because they are engaged and informed. This type of voluntary voter
participation is hard to imagine in Australia where so many people file into
the polling booth like donkeys to avoid a fine, without a clue who to vote for
or why. We’ve abolished a key driver to voter participation.

The reason other countries have high voter participation, again, is
because under voluntary voting leaders must inspire people to vote. They must
educate, inform, motivate and empower the electorate using peaceful means. This flow of ideas, or
this act of leadership, is absolutely crucial to democracy.

As our political discourse reaches new lows, consider what an improvement it
would be if our leaders had to motivate their base. At least then we'd know
what they really stand for.

You have to wonder why our leaders are scared of democracy.

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote

Where will the 1.5 million new voters turn? Jail?

At the next federal election 1.5 million
new voters will be forced to attend the polls. This could make a big difference
to the election outcome. 

Not only will we have another 1.5 million
disinterested or disengaged voters throwing their hat into the ring but far worse
than this, not all of the 1.5 million new voters will actually vote.

There are people out there who know in
their hearts that their decision to vote should be their own. They know that
their decision to vote should be free from any government coercion, in spite of
what our government tells us.

So how do these people who believe in
freedom react to being forced against their will to attend the polls? Some of
them will ignore the laws and cop fines, while others grudgingly show up and
make a donkey vote – a protest for freedom, but the trouble is it’s a
protest that is all-but mute. These people’s voices will go unheard and make no difference to the election outcome.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political divide, there is another group of people
who will vote. They will cast a formal ballot. They won't object to being
forced to the polls. They won’t react against the government’s nanny state
rules. They won’t oppose the government’s heavy-handed coercion. They will
trust their government knows best and vote accordingly. Can you guess whom these people are more likely to vote for?

Here's a hint: The Labor party are
making voter enrollment automatic and the Liberals oppose it. The LNP are suggesting
voluntary voting in Queensland and the ALP opposes it.

Let’s hope the 1.5 million would-be
non-voters don’t lie down at the next election. Let’s hope they do defend their
democratic freedom. But if they do, unfortunately, the nanny state will win. Only
those who happily conform to big government nanny state regulations will be
heard, and that's the way the socilaists like it.

Here are two good arguments for democratic voting:

  1. Many
    countries with voluntary voting have higher voter turnouts than we do because under voluntary voting leaders need to motivate, inspire and empower people to vote.
  2. All Australians should have the
    same free and equal right to vote, free from any government coercion.

Let's hold our politicians to a higher standard. Let's bring back democracy.

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote

Labor can win

Six months is a long time in Australian politics, especially when the people who decide our elections are non-interested swinging voters who have little or no idea of what is really going on.

Six months is a long time in Australian politics, especially when the
people who decide our elections are non-interested swinging voters who have
little or no idea of what is really going on. 

For all of the logic and reasoning that says Labor can’t win, due to their blatant lies, corruption, incompetence, and
waste, none of it matters because the people who determine our election
outcomes don’t have a clue. All they see is what’s on the surface, and Labor
knows it.

Labor knows that provided they keep attacking the Liberals and Tony
Abbott, and defending themselves as if they’re the victims, they can maintain
an election-winning image. They can literally fake it until they make it
because the people who decide who governs Australia aren’t really paying
attention.

Disengaged voters don’t know Abbott’s not sexist – they haven’t watched
him closely enough for long enough. As far as they know, his whole attack could
be based on sexism and greed. After all, they think he looks
sexist and people know he fancies big business.

It’s hard to imagine Labor winning in the face of the type of ads the
Liberals will run, but if Labor retaliates hard and it turns into a brawl – a campaign
of fear and smear based on lies and sensationalism about workers rights,
misogyny and boat people, the melee that ensues will be lost on the swinging
voters. They’ll switch off and say ‘they’re
all as bad as each other’
, and this is a battle Labor knows how to win.

Remember that under our system of compulsory voting, almost anything is
possible. Policy doesn’t matter, substance doesn’t matter and truth certainly doesn’t
matter because the people deciding our election outcomes aren’t really paying
attention.

The reason they aren’t paying attention is because our leaders rely on
force to motivate people to vote. They don’t need to inspire or motivate anyone
with good ideas, all they need to do is be a little less repulsive than the other
guys and compulsory voting does the rest.

If the ALP gets close before the next election and then gets another
bump in the polls from a leadership switch, the new 1.5 million voters thanks
to automatic voter enrollment could be enough to get them over the line.

The ALP knows this, which is why they’ve introduced automatic
enrollment. The Liberals know it too, which is why they oppose it.

Unfortunately, opposing automatic enrollment is not the answer. The
Liberals must oppose compulsory voting. But they’re too stupid to realize it.

They’re too stupid to realize that they would hold the moral high
ground if the oppose compulsory voting, but look like fascists when they oppose automatic voter registration.

Jason Kent

Free Our Right To Vote