The Need For Senate Reform

The political landscape is changing rapidly as a deep disillusionment with major political parties settles over the populace. It is a global phenomenon with the most recent incarnation being the rise of the Spanish Podemos political party.

Their name translates as ‘we can’ and according to Spanish opinion polls it is now the most popular party in Spain with 28 per cent of the vote. This is a remarkable turn of events for a political party that was only registered in March of this year.

I have no sense of whether Podemos is oriented to the left or right of Spanish politics but I do know they are regarded as a protest party that is tapping in to the well of discontent with politics as usual.

This discontent is a global phenomenon which is manifesting itself through the rise of political parties but also civil unrest in many regions around the world. We’ve seen a bit of it here in Australia, too.

At the last election, almost one third of all Senate votes went to minor parties. From a standing start and with a big marketing bankroll, the Palmer United Party grabbed three Senate seats. Although the fabric of unity has unravelled from PUP, their political descent doesn’t mask the public’s desire for change.

Right now, that desire is morphing into support for the parliamentary ‘independents’ who comprise the bulk of the Senate cross bench. Rightly or wrongly, they are seen to be free of what some may describe as ‘institutional bias’ attributed to the major parties.

I suspect this is set to continue and ultimately will see the rise of a new political movement that seeks to rebuild the faith of the people in politics.

Earlier this year, I spoke of the need for reform in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra. I put forward some ideas that would assist in restoring faith in our parliamentary processes. In summary I suggested:

  1. restoring the Senate to its role as a defender of Federalism,
  2. reform of the political donations and disclosure regimes,
  3. a national spending database that documents all levels of government expenditure over a threshold limit,
  4. increased transparency of politicians’ expenses and the removal of all post-parliamentary entitlements for politicians, and
  5. the establishment of a system whereby citizen-initiated petitions could be submitted and debated in the parliament.

Frankly, I now see the need for reform as more important than ever. Across the globe, politicians of all stripes have resisted the need for change and in many instances are now learning if they won’t change, the people will change them.

That’s what Podemos and their ilk are all about. For those who insist ‘it can’t happen here’, they need to be reminded that the process appears to have already begun. The makeup of the Senate is all the evidence you need.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Confidential Daily.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.