These are funny times, thought Adelaide.
It was funny that Mike Rann was calling for the Legislative Council to be abolished. And it got even funnier when Adelaide heard Chris Schacht talking about it on her ABC just yesterday. Nick Xenophon should run for a House of Assembly seat, Chris Schacht said. I strongly believe the Legislative Council should be abolished, he said (or something remarkably along those lines, she couldn’t be sure of his exact words without checking the transcript, a budget item she simply couldn’t justify). And that was funny too, because Adelaide was sure Chris Schacht used to be a Senator. And wasn’t the Senate an Upper House too? Weren’t the Senate and the Legislative Council modelled on the same thing?
Adelaide took a sip of her coffee, put the cup back down. She had to agree that the Legislative Council was a touch broken. It was possibly harbouring people who weren’t pulling their weight. But can’t we fix it? Adelaide wondered. Instead of just chucking the whole thing out, can’t we fix it and make it into something that promotes representative democracy?
Adelaide scratched at her elbow as she thought. She took a bite of her lemon slice.
When Adelaide went – briefly, tentatively – to explore the world, she had lived in New Zealand where they had kindly given her the vote although she wasn’t a citizen and never intended to become one. And it was a good time to be voting too, because they were having a referendum on a new voting system.
Under this new system, as Adelaide’s rusty brain remembered it, you kind of got a couple of votes. You voted for your seat, then you voted from a list of people, and the ones on the list who got the most votes went and sat in parliament alongside the members who held a particular seat.
It led, some people suggested, to a more diverse and representative parliament.
It seemed to Adelaide, that in these politically homogeneous times such a system might just work here. It would let a disenchanted electorate pick and choose from people a bit more. It meant you didn’t have to vote quite so much along whole-of-party lines. It meant voters didn’t have to give implicit endorsement to policies they didn’t necessarily support. It meant small parties and independents (like Nick Xenophon) might have more chance of getting up.
Adelaide looked around before she took another piece of lemon slice. Such a system would probably appeal to a man like Mike Rann, who had the vision to appoint his cabinet from a range of political sources. Perhaps he would use the safety of his likely majority to explore such a thing.
Adelaide was ruminating on all this when it occurred to her that there was already such a system in place.
It was the Upper House.
Perhaps, thought Adelaide, if Messrs Rann and Schacht wanted to continue their discussion of the abolition of the Legislative Council they could look to Mike Rann’s former homeland. Maybe they could reform the South Australian parliamentary system. Maybe South Australia could lead the world in democractic processes, unleashing a whole new wave of widespread political engagement.
Adelaide scratched at her elbow some more then she shook her head (Adelaide shook her head a lot). Goodness knows, thought Adelaide, someone, somewhere needs to do it. She brushed the crumbs from the table, picked up her coffee cup, took it to the sink, then looked at her watch.
I’d better get cracking, she thought. Eleven o’clock already and there was still the ironing to do.