AÂ few ideas on strengthening Australian democracy, from Imagining Australia.
We believe that Australia needs to rekindle its spirit of democratic innovation and experimentation. We present proposals to reform our democratic institutions and processes to encourage greater public participation, improve the quality of decision-making, and reinvigorate our democracy.
First, we suggest three major policy reforms for modernising the Constitution.
– We propose a republic, in which the Australian people directly elect a president from a list of six bipartisan candidates, a model that elsewhere has produced individuals able to transcend party politics and to speak to the spiritual concerns of the nation.
– We support a bill of rights to protect certain fundamental freedoms against government abrogation, and to give the High Court a greater role in the deliberations of the nation.
– We believe Australia should institute regular constitutional conventions to heighten constitutional awareness, and to ensure that the Constitution accords with the values of all of us who live under it.
We also advocate a series of measures to reform Australia’s democratic institutions, to improve the quality of public policymaking.
– We suggest transforming the Senate into a house of national policy formation. To achieve this reform, we advocate reducing the number of senators-in order to increase the effectiveness and prestige of the Senate-and we propose that no senator be eligible to serve in the Cabinet-an idea aimed at heightening the independence of the Senate.
– We propose reforming Cabinet government by enabling the prime minister to appoint ministers from outside the parliament, to expand and diversify the pool of candidates for those positions.
– We also advocate reinvigorating the public service by fostering greater public-private job mobility, to make the public service a font of new and exciting ideas.
At the electoral level, we seek to invigorate the democratic process, to encourage greater public participation, and to stimulate a deeper awareness and understanding of policy.
– We propose fixed four-year election terms, with the elections for the House of Representatives and for the Senate staggered two years apart. This will help to insulate the Senate elections from the influence of prime ministerial electoral races.
– We also hope to institutionalise a national â€˜Deliberation Day’ in which citizens come together-in small groups with their political representatives-one week before major national elections to deliberate and discuss pressing issues in the campaign.
– We suggest that the system of preselecting political party candidates should be opened to all party supporters, not merely to the 1 per cent who belong to a political party. Open primaries will boost citizen involvement and the quality of our politicians.
– Finally, we propose campaign finance reform to encourage the donation of more money to political parties, but through â€˜blind trusts’ so as to avoid the potential for corruption.