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Apr 27, 2012

A case for recall elections.

Cartoon: By Pickering.

The intervention by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten to sack the leadership of the HSU East branch and have an administrator appointed appears most likely to be a desperate attempt to ward off the possibility of the branch falling into the hands of those hostile to allegedly corrupt President Michael Williamson, and disgraced MP, Craig Thompson.

Meanwhile Gillard is facing a backbench revolt over her support for her pet Speaker of the house Peter Slipper, who is accused of rorting expenses and sexual harassment of a male staffer. Gillard is increasingly being seen as a hopeless decision maker.

The situation we have where the government is relying on its ability to protect its position by refusing to act against two disgraced MPs could be resolved if the electorate had the option of recall elections like Americans are able to petition for. Should an MP turn out to be corrupt, dishonest, or dishonor a commitment to his or her constituents it is only right that voters have the opportunity to recall that MP and choose a replacement.

Recalling an MP should be a serious matter. Only where an MP’s performance is deemed by voters as unacceptable should it be undertaken. The recall provision should not be so easy as to make it susceptible to abuse by those with a personal vendetta or partisan agenda, such as that being attempted in Wisconsin against Governor Scott Walker. For this reason a high bar of something like 20-25% of the registered voters in an electorate should be required to trigger it.

An MP Should only face a recall petition not more once each term. This will ensure that only MP’s who have really lost the confidence of their constituents will face recall, and eliminate opportunistic recall attempts.

In addition to this electoral reform in Australia should consist of:

  • Voluntary voting;
  • Optional preferencing. Voters should have the option to only vote for one candidate but if they chose to allocate preferences, such preferences must be counted if no candidate achieves a clear majority of votes cast;
  • A none of the above box. Voters who do not like any of the choices available should have the right to reject all of the candidates. Should ‘none of the above’ win, then a bi-election should be held with previous candidates disqualified from standing.

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