A changed Senate will allow Australia to move forward with agility


Our Senate is too often obstructive to efficient and effective government in Australia.  

The Senate was designed to be a check and balance in our Federation but now often obstructs governments from implementing their clear electoral mandate.  

New Zealand operates effectively without an upper house.

The UK Upper House by convention allows the elected government to implement the platform presented to the electorate, can only block a bill three times before the lower house can pass this into law, and cannot block supply.  

Australians deserve a better system – let’s band together and push for change!

What do you think?

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Sparty @ 2021.03.12 11:37 AM

Vehemently disagree.  Vehemently.

Australia is a federation.  New Zealand is not.  

For the same reason the government feels it has a mandate to pass laws, those not in government feel they have a mandate to not necessarily pass laws they campaigned against.

The senate was not designed to be a check and balance.  It was and remains the states' house to preserve state interests.  Just because it does not work that way does not mean history should be re-written.

The parliament is the legislative.  The executive council (PM and cabinet) is the executive and the government.  We don't need more and more laws to have "efficient and effective government".  We need a better class of politician for that.

If there is a need for laws to pass the parliament, the government should make its case.  But that requires nuance and negotiation and influence skill.  Much easier to take a big salary and lotsa perquisites and to build a media career on Sky News, the Drum and Facebook.

Glenn Barnes @ 2021.03.14 11:28 AM

Dear Sparty,

Good to hear from you again and have your contribution to the issue.

I would enjoy hearing about what changes you would make to our parliamentary system to make it more efficient and effective and attract political leaders who can build community involvement and trust. Just calling for a "better class of politician" will not fix things. The "call" has been made for decades and has not induced any improvement - there needs to be systemic change if we are to attract and retain the sort of individuals capable of building community trust and consensus.

Sparty @ 2021.03.14 3:53 PM

Hello Glenn,

Always a pleasure.

I am of the Milton Friedman school - "I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office."

Here is a list of suggestions that will never be implements as it will dilute the power of the incumbents.

- Triple the size of the house of representatives and halve the size of the senate.

- Senators to be appointed by state parliaments.

- Senators banned from being in the executive (ie Ministers)

- Minimum age of 40 to be in senate

- Remove Senators from NT and ACT.

- Half the HOR "elected" through sortition, the other half by normal first past the post election.

- Eliminate public funding of elections.

- Eliminate preferential voting.

- Real time disclosure of political donations and ministerial/shadow/parliamentarian external meetings.

- End political donation/contribution tax deductability.

- Return of income tax powers to the states.

- Recall elections.

- Citizen initiated referenda.

I can do this all day ....

Glenn Barnes @ 2021.03.15 6:22 AM

Dear Sparty,

Some interesting suggestions to ponder.

To further de-politicise the Senate, I think sortition would also be a better option for the selection of Senators - the State-based quotas still being maintained.

I agree with returning taxing power to the states. We should have tax and spending responsibilities as close to the citizen as is possible. The Swiss do this well!

Thank you for your input. 

(You could be a helpful contributor to The New Democracy Foundation and Citizens for Democratic Renewal.)

With thanks and regards


Paula @ 2021.03.23 7:21 AM

Glenn and Sparty

I enjoyed your discussion and now if I may join - I'd like to proceed in a stepped manner, seeking gradual change as the reason we're here is unintended consequences (though admittedly over many decades). so I'd like to start with changing how we fund/support politics with just 2 moves

- public funded elections only, no private funds.

- no ex-politican can have a politically appointed post for at least 5 years after they've left and the same period for advocacy though with those laws tightened. This is to save on the gravy train issue but also to enable professionals to be appointed to more posts (hopefully). 

Your thoughts? 

Sparty @ 2021.03.23 7:41 AM

Hello Paula.

Speaking obviously for myself.  In reply ....

public funded elections only, no private funds

No way no how.  Firstly.  All public funds are private funds confiscated at the point of a gun.  Secondly.  Tom fully fund elections is to turn politicians into public servants.  A class of parasite we already have too many of.

There is already too much public funding of elections - in a structure that favours the major incumbents to the detriment of independents and small parties.  This is a huge barrier to entry the majors have constructed for themselves.  Public funding also creates the incentive for people to run for office, without any hope of winning so as to access public money.  It is business venture.  I could name some but defamation laws preclude.

On the contrary, there should be nil public money in politics.  No tax deductability of donations.  No public funding of elections.  Nuffin.

no ex-politican can have a politically appointed post for at least 5 years after they've left and the same period for advocacy though with those laws tightened

Not all ex-politicians are nongs and some have some thing to add.  Few, but some.  But why limit it to politicians.  Why not staffers?  Why not public servants?  Again, I could list the billions saved were certain politicians, staffers, public servants were banned from certain post government roles, but defamation laws ....

A better option would be to term limit politicians and reduce the number of staffers.  And of course materially reduce the size of the public sector.

Glenn Barnes @ 2021.03.23 8:56 AM

Hi Paula (and Sparty),

I do think that we should change the allowable funding for all elected politicians. My preferences, in order, would be: 

Senators selected by sortition + The idea of a minimum period of 5 years from being affiliated in any way with a political party before being eligible for selection.

Equal public only funding of all elected candidates who meet some minimum qualification hurdle;

Spending caps with limits on donation support and immediate transparency of donors (and no tax benefit for donors);

Limits on donation support and immediate transparency of donors (and no tax benefit for donors).

Glenn Barnes @ 2021.03.23 11:30 AM

Yes Sparty, the system is failing to attract the quality of individual required for civic leadership. That is why I am involved in seeking Democratic Renewal. Some thoughts:

1.     Australians need to pause, think and redefine what we aspire to be as a nation:

·       We need to have a community-wide conversation over what sort of country we aspire to be and what is the best path to take us there;

·       The conversation needs to be inclusive of all groups, transparent and respectful. The conversation will take time as there are many deep-seated and complex issues that need to be surfaced - and compromises made in the interest of the common good. A well-structured, well-informed and well-reported Citizens Jury (or similar mechanism) could play a major role in helping our community move through such a conversation in a timely and effective fashion.

2.     In the near term we need to re-engage the electorate and re-establish public trust in our political system by setting up:

·      A code of professional conduct for all politicians, similar to the standards the Hayne enquiry set for the banking industry;

·      A Federal ICAC, a publicly credible and transparent political donation and campaign funding policy, and election spending caps;

·      A framework for all policy decisions to be developed transparently, on a base of evidence and fact, and with appropriate levels of consultation to establish the case for each policy being both the most appropriate for the common good - and as un-intrusive on the individual as is possible;

·      A series of citizens juries - or similarly trustworthy public processes - to address the big policy challenges where holistic reform has been put in the too-hard basket e.g. Tax and the social safety net reform; Recognition of our First People and the many groups who make up our nation today; Energy policy; Sustainable future (including managing climate change); Affordable housing; Refugee and migration policy;

·      Re-establishing the Role, Quality and Independence of the Public Service.

3.     For the longer term we should be aiming at process changes that Refresh and Reboot our liberal democracy, making it fit for purpose in the 21st century by:

·       Establishing a permanent non-political Constitutional Council of eminent citizens and experts to consider and recommend to the community appropriate changes to the Constitution to keep it contemporary with our society – and to frame any questions to be put to a referendum;

·       Re-defining the Senate as a non-political, “peoples house of review” with powers and conventions similar to the UK House of Lords and membership selected by sortition (one third replaced each year);

·      Establishing four-year fixed terms for the lower house;

·      Re-thinking the role of each layer of government and how it is funded – pushing as much decision making and funding to the local levels as is practical.





Sparty @ 2021.03.23 1:19 PM

Stopped reading at this:

Australians need to pause, think and redefine what we aspire to be as a nation:

I don't know what that means.  But what I do know is that the output of such an exercise will no doubt be a plan; a central plan.

Besides.  We already have forums for such discussions.  They are called Parliaments.

Yes.  The parliaments are filled with dross but we need to address the selection issue first and the venue issue last.

Sparty @ 2021.03.23 1:22 PM

And when I see things like:

non-political Constitutional Council of eminent citizens and experts

I want to puke.

there is no such thing as "non-political" and thanks very much but I have no interest in listening to so called "eminent citizens" and experts in paleontology and zoology and art history lecture me about civics.

Lynn Wood @ 2021.03.23 4:49 PM
Hello Glenn, Sparty and Paula- anything you can agree on? IdeaSpies likes to encourage positive action. 

Sparty @ 2021.03.23 10:52 PM

Rhetorical consensus does not necessarily lead to action, positive or otherwise.

Action, positive or otherwise does not necessarily require rhetorical consensus.

Glenn Barnes @ 2021.03.24 2:42 AM


With your contributions moving to non-constructive comment I see little point in continuing the dialogue with you.

Sparty @ 2021.03.24 2:53 AM

"non-constructive comment"

Yes.  Just listen to those experts and eminent citizens.  No self interest and group think there.  Afterall, their advice to date has been spot on.

Sparty @ 2021.03.24 3:01 AM
All the best.  Hitting unsubscribe/account delete.

Paula @ 2021.03.24 10:24 AM

Hi Glenn and Lynn

I believe we now have a smaller group, perhaps that will aid discussion.

Firstly its probably best if I'd gone back to what drives my thinking - I want us to move closer to being a 'democracy' hence everyone gets 'as equal as we can' access to information, to vote and all votes count equally. That in my view should be mirrored by everyone getting 'as equal as we can' ability to become involved in the political process, including as a politican. 

Secondly, we all pay, one way or another, for the political class we get. Whether it's public funding elections or not. Hence to make it 'more equal' I'm in favour of publicly funded elections so as to seek to make the influencing power of who gets to stand more equal. eg we all know why property developers can't contribute. In saying public funding for clarity I'm also suggesting no donations allowed. FYI In saying this I do acknowledge that we'd need controls around public funding eg hours limits on advertising, how a 'new' entrant could get support (signed petitions?), forcing all votes to be recorded real time in a database so all of us can check voting records not just rhetoric.  That also drives my thinking on their not being allowed to take up politically involved/influencing roles for 5 years.

There are many other things I would like. A public ICAC being one of them, across Fed and state/Territory govts. But I'll settle for starting the discussion and seeking to proceed slowly. My fear is a wish list makes for a bigger target. Lets seek to move it forward one step at a time.  

all best


Glenn Barnes @ 2021.03.24 12:05 PM

Hi Paula,

I think we are on a similar path and the challenge is to draw more citizens into thinking about the issues.



Paula @ 2021.03.25 9:48 AM

Many thanks Glenn

So how do we find the hook the pulls people into this? What’s the catch points that they feel are compelling and achievable? I think the country needs a nudge towards structural change and now seems to be the perfect timing. 

 And thank you Lynn for highlighting that I need to log in! 

All best 


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