Ramblings on Australian democracy – theory vs. reality

In 2011, the UK mulled the Alternative Vote (AV), known as preferential voting in Australia. The measure failed to pass, but pundits for the AV held up Australia as a worthy example.

Indeed most Aussies are rather proud of their preferential voting system because in theory it allows fringe parties to compete with a reasonable chance of success since it eliminates vote-splitting/”spoiler” fears (a fear seemingly justified by Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush because of Ralph Nader).

So yes, in theory, preferential voting is awesome.

Next, there’s compulsory voting, which gains Australia over 80% voter turnout. This is also something Aussies are proud of because high voter turnout means election outcomes are representative of the population.

So yes, in theory, compulsory voting is awesome.

If Aussies are proud of compulsory voting, and proud of preferential voting – which are key features of their political system – then how come these days they don’t seem to be all that proud of their politics?

Tony Abbot’s approval ratings currently sit at 31%, but it’s not just a Tony Abbot problem – the Kevin Rudd/Julia Gillard era was hardly anything to be proud of either.

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