For Democracy to flourish, The Senate must go.
Originally proposed as a sop to the smaller states to protect their interests against the bigger states, The Senate has morphed into an “Unrepresentative swill”, as per Paul Keating.
The Senate may have begun life as “The State’s House”, but it no longer performs that function. How can a Senator represent the interests of his home state when he is a Minister of the Crown? Simple, they can’t. When a Ministerial decision goes against the interests of their home state, the Senator is required to act in the interests of his ministry.
The Senate as established gets to review, amend, or reject as it sees fit legislation sent to it from The House of Representatives. By that stage the legislation has already been written, read, discussed, and debated multiple times. Having The Senate rehash the debate is a waste of time.
But by having that power, The Senate has the ability to thwart the wishes of The House of Representatives by denying passage of legislation. The most egregious case of this was the Senate’s refusal to pass Supply Bills in 1975 leading to the only time in Australian history when the Crown invoked its powers to terminate the duly elected government.
Since then, The Senate has been increased by adding 2 Senators each from The ACT and NT, and increasing from 10 to 12 the number of State Senators for a total membership of 76. Contrast that with the USA’s 100 Senators for around 13 times the population and you can see our “Unrepresentative swill” are also a great economic cost.
Because of the increased numbers, coupled with the voting system, it has been easier for minor parties to gain Senate representation where they find it almost impossible to gain seats in the House of Representatives. Some say that it is a good thing that minor points of view are represented, and I agree, but in a future article I will discuss changing the electoral system to break the 2 party duopoly in the House of Representatives.