[This item was pointed out by other Kleroterians as well.]
The first three minutes of this video commentary in “Business Day” of The Sydney Morning Herald is a ‘modest proposal’ to choose the Senate as juries are chosen — but excluding members of political parties, or their families, from the lot.
The original concept of the Senate to be the states’ house of review has long since been betrayed. While the major parties in less divisive times might have done some horse trading, the reviewing will now be left to those much-maligned odds and sods with the balance of power.
So to bring balance to the odds and sods, it would make sense to have many more of them and no political parties. Yes folks, it’s time to introduce Senate duty – conscription to the upper house.
And that’s not nearly as outrageous an idea as it might at first seem. After all, we trust a somewhat randomly selected jury of our peers to decide matters of much greater individual importance – whether someone goes to jail for life – so why not extend that system to the Senate?
The usual basic checks that apply to jury duty would be required, plus the condition that members of political parties and their employees would be excluded. Specifically setting out to be a Senator would preclude that possibility. The Senate’s role would become one of genuine review by a broadly representative selection of Australians, rather than a scene of party and special interest shenanigans.
As a review mechanism, Britain’s House of Lords functioned reasonably well for a century or so working on a much smaller gene pool selected on a far less democratic basis.
For a couple of hundred grand a year, plus all the weddings they could handle, most citizens wouldn’t mind being called up for a single three-year term. We’d be spared the cost of voting for them and obtain a result that couldn’t be much worse.
As for the mechanism, we love a lottery, from a chook raffle through to Power Ball. Your Medicare number would do as an entry. It would require some modification, but in a dusty Canberra corner, someone must have stored the barrel from which were plucked the birthdays of hapless Vietnam-era conscripts. This time, those selected would be winners instead of losers.
The commentator ends with “Oh well, just a thought. Too bad it will never happen – the political parties wouldn’t allow it.”
It is said that the trajectory of Big Ideas goes from ‘unthinkable’ to ‘impossible’ to ‘inevitable’. I find it not that difficult to move people from the first step to the second. It’s that next one that requires … magic?
Filed under: Elections, House of Lords, Juries, Press, Proposals, Sortition | Tagged: allotment, legislature, media_commentary, random_selection, selection by lot, Senate, sortition, upper_chamber, voteless_democracy |