Democracy is certainly not perfect, and the ACT is no exception.
In 2016 the ACT Legislative Assembly will increase its members from 17 to 25; there is some merit to this proposition. For its population, the ACT currently has the lowest level of democratic representation in Australia (both at the federal and territory levels). An increase to 25 Members of the Legislative Assembly would give the ACT a ratio of 8.3 representatives per 100,000 citizens.
This ratio is still far more disproportionate than any other jurisdiction in Australia. Victoria would be the next least represented jurisdiction with 14.4 members per 100,000 citizens. The highest rate of representation in Australia is currently Tasmania who has to endure 66 representatives per 100,000 citizens.
With this change comes a gutless miscarriage of democracy in the form of a handshake between the two major parties. There will be an increase from 3 to 5 electorates. This means that to be elected, a candidate must reach a quota of 16.7%. This represents one of the highest quotas in Australia in order to be elected at the state level. The higher quota means that the two parties increase their stranglehold on the control of the Legislative Assembly which will reduce the capacity for the assembly to represent the citizens of the ACT with diversity, independent thought, and imagination.
The Assembly decided against a seven member electorate, one of which we currently have, which attracts a quota of 12.5%, or a 9 member electorate which would attract a quota of 10%. In doing so the major parties have betrayed the very ideals of democracy by which they profess to champion.
So often do we hear politicians soapboxing for a greater diversity in Australian politics in regards to gender, ethnicity, education, etc. But if our politicians really believed in the great diversity of Australian culture being represented by the institutions of democracy it would open the doors of democracy, not close them.
We live in a time where two political parties endorse conformists who stand behind banners, regardless of what those banners say, and expect us to call it democracy. We live in a time where billionaires not only stymie but determine national policy. We must remember that Gillard’s deal with the miners, and the Australian Christian Lobby, was just as much a kick in the face to Australian citizenry as Abbott’s determination to consign students to a lifetime of debt.
Why are we losing our academics, our scientists, our aboriginal languages, and our capacity to cultivate humanistic and imaginative citizens through a free liberal arts education? Why are our Governments selling our assets to multinational corporations instead of maintaining revenue for the public? Why are our gas prices going to increase threefold over the next few years just because of a multinational corporate handshake?
And what gives the Labor/Liberal alliance the inhumane arrogance to deny Australian citizens the right to marry or medicinal marijuana or the right to end their lives voluntarily, peacefully, and painlessly?
But, of course, the major parties, in their grubby pact, run a risk. They run the risk that the balance of power will be determined by a formidable, libertarian and progressive political force, steeled by the conviction to break the power of their alliance. In 2016 that risk will be a reality. I respect and admire many politicians from both sides of politics, but they belong to a machine to which I could not attach myself as one of its cogs. I am waiting for at least some of them to leave the safety of their confines, think for themselves, question authority, and act for the people.