June 26, 2013 | Graham

PM to be unAustralian?

I don’t often use the term “unAustralian” because it is essentially undefinable, but reports this morning that Julia Gillard would demand that caucus decide any leadership vote by an open-show of hands rather than a secret ballot, licences me to use it.

For the secret ballot is an Australian invention, and for that reason is often called the “Australian ballot”.

The suggestion that Gillard would try to restrict Labor MPs from this right gives an insight into the bullying and aggression that has been the hallmark of this government.

The reason the secret ballot was first adopted in the 1850s was to prevent voters being stood over and coerced, which is obviously the reason why Gillard wants to abandon it in this instance.

Political parties don’t use a secret ballot for votes on things like motions at branch or conference level, but generally the question of leadership at all levels is decided by a secret ballot.

The ALP has regularly subverted the intent of the secret ballot by using devices such as requiring that factional colleagues show their “secret” ballot to the person next to them, but such practices have never obtained in the Liberal Party.

It is a regular occurrence for successful and unsuccessful candidates to sit around after a ballot and try to work out who had dudded them. Sometimes quizzlings survive as your “best mate” for years because of this secrecy.

And of course the “Australian ballot” is the way we determine who represents us in parliament.

There is an irony in a government running campaigns against bullying at the same time that it is obvious that at its highest levels this is the only way that anything ever gets done.

Posted by Graham at 8:13 am | Comments (5) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I’ve always believed in a secret ballot, and if I had my druthers, would apply to every vote, piece of legislation or division.
    This would be more democratic than issues decided by the leadership or a small controlling cabal.
    As for the Gillard/Rudd issue?
    It should be decided and put to bed today, in order for the decision, whatever it is, to be tested on the floor of the house!
    I mean, if Rudd were to get up and then fail to get the confidence of the house? Tony Abbott could conceivably go to the next election as the caretaker PM!
    Which would be the best outcome for the country, and the essential development, we now need!
    Alan B Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — June 26, 2013 @ 10:45 am

  2. I think there ought to be a show of hands on most issues that come before parliament – we need transparency. But leadership ballots, at whatever level, have always been regarded differently, especially when the person voting is voting for themselves, rather than for some other entity.

    Comment by Graham — June 26, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

  3. I Like the Russian system, where every member has a key that unlocks a set of buttons under a cowl.
    A green one for yes, a red one for no.
    The cowl prevents other members from knowing which way any other member votes. And the key prevents other members from voting for other members, or stealing their vote.
    I believe members can follow proceedings from their respective offices, which may have a duplicate cowl and buttons, which is accessible with the same key.
    Regardless where the vote is cast, in the chamber or private offices, the vote is counted electronically and accurately in just seconds after the last member votes.
    Meaning, time wasting divisions are never needed?
    This makes every vote a virtual conscience vote, and allows members from all sides to effectively cross the floor with impunity!
    It also means that parties need to thoroughly vet prospective members, to ensure a like-minded membership and shared values.
    It also means members can’t be bullied to vote in a certain direction.
    The major difference is a president with a veto and a virtual tyrants power?
    The coalition has always allowed its members to cross the floor, whereas, the Labour party does not, and votes as a block.
    The latter is hardly transparency, as the real decisions, in their case, are decided in secret, in the party/cabinet room or caucus!
    So the so-called show of hands is little more than mere window dressing, or an absolute sham.
    If however, the vote was recorded electronically as per the Russian method, that power and absolute control would no longer be available, to those who believe they have some sort of right to decide all the issues, which then makes the parliament, little more than a virtual rubber stamp!
    That’s not transparency nor even democracy!
    Electronic voting as envisaged, would place real power in the hands of the most eloquent and persuasive speakers.
    It would also mean, far better manners on display, for fear of disenchanting/alienating some members; and or, losing their critical support?
    And wouldn’t a parliament free of all the very visible/audible name calling and heckling across the chamber, be a vastly welcome and overdue change!?
    Alan B Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — June 26, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

  4. Labor party preaches one thing and practices another. Strong arm tactics, bullying, standing over dissenters are common practices both in the union movements and the Labor party. ‘Comrade’ is just a word thrown around by unionist and Labourites but suspicion, hatred, stabbing and corruption amongst union officials are the norms.
    Secret ballot is the only choice for the expression of true democracy in an environment as that of the ALP & Unions.

    Comment by Jolly — July 1, 2013 @ 11:36 am

  5. • Ruminating on Labor’s malaise is very much in vogue this season, as demonstrated by the post-election review process being undertaken by party elders Steve Bracks, Bob Carr and John Faulkner, and the publication this week of Power Crisis: The Self-Destruction of a State Labor Party, by former NSW state MP Rodney Cavalier. Writing in The Australian , Cavalier calls for a secret ballots in preselection votes and a prohibition on candidates who in the past five years have been members of the “political class” (“those on the staff of ministers, ALP office and union officials who do not come from the industries the unions represent”). Lenore Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald reports NSW Labor is planning to choose candidates in selected electorates by conducting open primaries, either through a straight vote or “a hybrid of an open-to-all-comers vote and the usual branch member system”. This follows the lead of the Nationals in the independent-held seat of Tamworth and Victorian Labor in Liberal-held Kilsyth . Disappointingly for Cavalier, the latter process turned up Vicki Setches, electorate officer to upper house MP Shaun Leane.

    Comment by silver price — July 9, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

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