Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason. —José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
Under our current system, politicians do not really change that frequently. The same ones hang around for decades. Hence, our political parties and their policies have stagnated, and they’re starting to smell pretty bad. It’s harder to find a party that is a good match for your values. Want small government but also gay marriage and a visionary communications system? Tough. Want workers’ rights AND a compassionate (not to mention cost-effective) approach to asylum seekers? Sorry, you’re out of luck. Even if there is internal dissent, in general party members must stick to party lines.
The burgeoning number of small, single-issue parties could be seen as a direct result of this dissatisfaction. But what good is a party with only one concern? They might get fishing rights or bullet trains back on the agenda (if elected), but what about all that other important governance biz? Also, our ballot papers surely can’t get much longer. No offence to the ancient Greeks and so forth, but there must be a better way of doing things.
What if we got rid of this stale, tired system and replaced it with something new and exciting? A system composed entirely of wild cards who have not been groomed and shaped by university politics, old boys’ networks and private schools? What if this system could also double as the opiate for the masses and replace all those stale, tired reality TV shows?
So here’s an idea.
- Overthrow the government (details TBA).
- Install a bunch of new cameras and microphones in Parliament House.
- Select a citizen at random from every electorate to be the MP for that region for the next three years. Pay their home expenses (school fees, pet insurance etc) so they and their family are not unduly inconvenienced for the duration. Sort of like jury duty, but longer.
- Chuck them all into Parliament House together. While there will be many public servants already in place to help see to things, each candidate may select a certain number of advisors of their own choosing (previous MPs are not eligible).
- Each day they are told what they have to debate and work towards, via the public announcement system and also email and text alerts. There may be presentations from experts (again, like jury duty). Votes are cast—and cast again, if necessary, until a majority consensus in reached. MPs may retreat at break time to the various gardens of Parliament House (miked up, of course), to bitch about other MPs, form unstable alliances, smoke cigars, or sob quietly into their handkerchiefs. Some may choose to go to the diary room to address the public at large.
- Lucky/unlucky dip draws, physical challenges, logic puzzles, timed croquembouche-bakings and perhaps even the occasional karaoke-based voter poll would be employed to choose Australia’s representatives at various international sporting events, the G20, or when someone needs to call Obama.
- MPs will receive regular poll reports from their electorate, on various issues, to help guide their decisions if needs be. Lobbyists (businesses, interest groups or individuals) may apply for afternoon tea with an MP and are selected by random ballot.
- The public can send messages of support or condemnation, bags of jellybeans, and small tokens the MP may have wistfully desired on camera (e.g. the latest season of Game of Thrones, or a bottle of nail polish, a jar of Seville orange marmalade, a visit from their dog etc).
- The media can go nuts with profiles and exposes and predictions and maybe even some journalism once in a while. It will be ACE.
All the old power and influence channels would be broken. The energy currently spent on proving the other side unfit to rule, undinkum, criminal etc would be more constructively (and entertainingly) directed. All our MPs would have to work together to get anything done. I can’t think of anything that could possibly go wrong.
ALICE CANNON, MELBOURNE