Talk:Lower House of States

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I think the easiest way to discuss the idea is to break it down into component parts for individual discussion, so I'ma set up a few subheadings here for things that are concerning me with the idea. Feel free to make sub-points to these and throw in your own as well, just remember to tag your comments so we know whose are whose. -Unreason


Electoral Process

  • The abdication of democratic input into the lower house. Representatives appointed by representatives can often be less politically motivated in their actions, but also often find more freedom to abuse the position. This may also be the defining feature which opponents to the idea will use against it in the popular mind. Sub-categories below: -Unreason
    1. Checks/balances
      •  ??
    2. Popular confidence
      •  ??
I'd like to see some formal accountability introduced to the system. There are legal penalties and ramifications for corporate executives if they lie to their boards, shareholders, etc. But is there the same for politicians? They seem to get away with a lot more! --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
This may seem an odd idea - but perhaps a policy register? Political parties and federal lower house members could register their policy stances on a variety of issues (based off standardised questions) for public access, and file ammendments and updates as they feel necessary. This way people could keep track of what they have said and what they are saying, and also have an insight into a candidate/party's thought processes. -Unreason
I can see the benefit of this, though would it be paid any more attention than current media coverage of policy stances, etc?
Probably not, but it gives more tools for the public to identify liars and call people on their inconsistencies. -Unreason

  • Issues of state failure to elect representatives to the federal lower house. We're expecting divergent political parties to be able to elect 20 representatives from amongst themselves which is possibly an optimistic idea in itself. Deadlock solution ideas? -Unreason
I do kind of see this purely as a state issue. Basically let it be as simple as "each state may send up to 20 representatives to form Federal Parliament". While it's possible that a state might then send less than 20 (so as to send maximum from their own party, whilst not enabling any extra to go to the "opposition" (assuming such party structure were to continue), I expect that the public outcry would be a limiting factor there. Alternatively, just word it as "20 or nothing". If a state can't agree to send 20, then they get no chance at representation. (however, in this case I'd suggest that the state could have a chance to send again at the next beginning of sitting of parliament - maybe every 6 months or so?) --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

  • The Queensland Exception. Should there be a constitutional clause in our theoretical constitution to allow for state governments that do not have a senate? We cannot guarantee that all states are always going to be bicameral. -Unreason
Hmm, the 20-or-nothing clause partially plays a role. Arguably the constitution could insist on reps coming from the state senates - thus "peer pressuring" them into bicameral systems. That denotes a lot of confidence that bicameral is ideal. --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Formation of cabinet. Should this be a post-selection election for the public to decide? Should the lower house form cabinet on its own initiative? Should they be elected individually and independently of the state representative selection process entirely? -Unreason
My thoughts merged into those of structure, below --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

Issues of Structure

  • Our current government forms new deparments every election cycle. Theoretically this system would standardise department portfolios, but in a long-term perspective this seems unadaptive. Taking into account feasibility, and the issues above of election process, what is a sensible method of balancing standardisation and flexibility? -Unreason
An idea here - the cabinets are defined as needed by the upper house - ie, the "will of the people". But the ministers that head those cabinets and subsequently lead them - are an internal lower house initiative. The lower house may request to the upper house for the formation of a new cabinet, etc, but I think this would lead to departments maintaining more longevity and hopefully thus greater efficiency (rather than being changed on a whim of the government), whilst still allowing for an amount of flexibility to change. (in which case, should there be a limit to how often departments can change and be redefined? Once per sitting session? As often as the lower house can convince the upper house to pass a bill about it? Indeed, perhaps it should just be as simple as "Departments are created/changed/abolished by an act of parliament". The bill can come from either house, and must be passed by the senate. Thoughts? --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

  • If the NT has state-standing, do we have any other territories than the ACT? Or did you have something else in mind there Nemo? Certainly, it allows for good representation if Australia should become expansionist. :P -Unreason
I'm thinking 20 per state (including NT), and 10 for all other territories - which is currently the ACT and also a few outliers (Norfolk Is?). How to ensure that an expansionist Australia defines new territories as 'states' rather than 'territories' however? --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

Head of State

This system isn't inherently monarchist or republican, but I tend towards an appointed head of state. Many republics successfully have a "voted in by two thirds of joint parliament sitting" or similar I believe, and am happy to consider such a system as being straight forwardly adaptable to here. (perhaps with the limitation that the candidates are chosen by the Senate before ratified by both. The idea there being that the Senate is the house of oversight/review, and the head of state is the ultimate embodiment of that idea. (and otherwise ceremonial, as per our current GG) --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

It leans more towards the republican than the monarchist by process of implementation. A constitutional change of this magnitude is only able to come about from a referendum, and such a referendum is most likely to be a recurrence of the republicanism issue. That said - is a Governor-General-style head of state worth the expenditure of public money? The system doesn't gain much by having one, and historically the only time they've had any real influence they've caused a constitutional crisis. Do the powers of head of state cause any issues if held by a Prime-Minister-equivalent? -Unreason
Indeed, I agree there would be a republican bias to implementation. The constitutional crisis though was largely due to the GG and the PM being able to (theoretically) mutually dissolve the other. A head of state as we have now doesn't do much, but is that due to their own existance, or in spite of it? Also, this system doesn't suffer from that crisis of mutual destruction. Maybe the question is - are we rebuilding all the components of a westminster system (which is largely how I've seen it so far, though it may well be so far divergent that it no longer qualifies for that nomenclature), or rebuilding _everything_ from the ground up (a much more ambitious and vague project, in which case we'd not need to limit ourselves to two houses... etc... --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:50, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
There are a few different concerns when attempting a practical and achievable parliamentary redesign:
  1. Public familiarity. The American and Australian governments are based off the British model to varying degrees, because of the British origin of both our foundings. Something entirely new involves significantly more investment into retraining public thought to understand the new system (and the potential benefits thereof) than something that is conceptually similar to a system they are used to.
  2. Practicality. Do we gain anything from wildly diverging in overall structure? A unicameral government clearly would not work, given the way we operate politically at the moment; cooperative politics is basically non-existent. Likewise, would being tricameral add any significant benefit over a bicameral system?
  3. Simplicity. The main reason both of us are really taken by this idea is that it is not amazingly complicated but seems to maintain larger benefits than the current model. In many ways it's actually simpler to describe than our current system of governance. If something needs to be added, does the additional complexity outweigh the benefits of having it?
So for all the above reasons, I'm gonna have to suggest that we stay near the current model. -Unreason
Oh, I thought I'd replied to this. Yes, I agree that we stay near the current model - which in it's original form has a head of state separate from both houses. It's the current implementation of 'reliant on advice from one person' which is at fault, imho. --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 00:29, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
The head of state still has almost no function under the current system though. Changing the role/position of head of state doesn't affect the structure in any way that would be particularly noticeable. -Unreason
See, I disagree. The head of state in the current system has a very vital function - basically as ultimate veto. But it's exercised so very rarely (once in 111 years so far?), that it's certainly easy to see the role as lacking. I say that the fact that the function is so underused is testament to the fact that it works (yes, I realise this is not exactly a testable proposition). I'm not suggesting the role or position be changed, only the method of nomination and dismissal. At the moment, the GG is selectable (and dismissable) by the PM (not literally, but it would be doubly extraordinary if the Queen didn't accept the PM advice, and would be a double layer constitutional crisis I think). I'm suggesting that the Head of State (GG or whatever name) be selected (and dismissable) by an agreement of 2/3 joint sitting.
The fact that it's exercised so very rarely gives more weight to the position being unnecessary than it does to it "working" - it suggests everything else is working basically okay. The parliament already has the ability to make a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, and you can't really have a double dissolution under our system anyway (or at least, the effects would be significantly limited in comparison to the system we have currently). -Unreason

Nemo's theory of representation/proportional government

This is adhoc rambling...

The problem with representing people is how you organise the structure by which you choose people who will do it. There are strong and valid arguments towards two methods, as far as I can think of...

  • Representation - where each member is chosen to represents a distinct area of country (as defined by population size (as we do now), area, or possibly other arbitrary method.)
  • Proportional - where members are chosen proportionally relative to the total votes, ensuring that parties that gain substantial vote, but never enough to win a representative seat, still gain a "fair say".

The problem with any system is, in a nutshell, anyone who has strong feelings towards one method or the other, will argue that the other method is simply not democratic. (representative? pfft, minor parties don't get a look in. Proportional? pfft, nobody represents my LOCAL CONCERNS!).

What we have in Australia now is a mix of these two - govt from representatives, and senate from state based proportional. (while noting that the 'states' themselves are simply a different representative area)

The House of States idea introduced true proportionality, and also true state representation in government, but at the expense of local representation. Will this be a problem? Should local council areas be doing the job of local representation (arguably, they should), and communicating those representative concerns to state governments better?--•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 06:50, 16 August 2011 (UTC)


Another thought: anonymous voting in parliament

Pro: the whole argument of the anonymous vote, for the general public, is to ensure you can vote by conscience, and not be bullied. What are political parties, if not bullies that often deny their members the right to a conscience vote. (this is Labor party policy even!)

Con: public votes mean where a politician stands on an issue is a matter of public knowledge - which is a good thing too.

Idea: non-binding anonymous voting on issues, allowing the government to basically 'poll itself' in a 'vote by conscience' manner. All legislation is public voting however. Would this have any effect in real world usage though? Is it even relevant in this proportional system, where there is no direct "local" member whose constituents need representing?

Not sure it does really factor in anymore. The lower house is made up of people who are responsible to the entire upper house of their state governments, which frees them up from party lines significantly. In the upper house as far as I can tell, people have more leeway anyway. Admittedly, anonymous polling might be useful for the public to get a general idea of where the government stands on things though. -Unreason
Indeed. My initial thoughts on anonymous polling was in the context of our current setup, where I think it could be more useful. --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 05:23, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Might work as an introductory formality for the lower house? Gives the public a sense of how their current lower house stands on issues? -Unreason
Indeed. And if a culture of 'vote according to best awareness of local constituents wishes' can arise, then it gives parliament an idea of where the (vocal part of the) community stands on issues too. That might be a fragile culture at best though, and giving the public a sense is a more likely useful result. --•••/Nemo (talkContributions) 09:24, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
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