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The time has come to get rid of the Unrepresentative Swill

By Everald Compton - posted Friday, 26 August 2011

Paul Keating is not the most loveable of characters, but he does have a wonderful turn of phrase and, on one of the few occasions that I agreed with him, he accurately described the Senate as “an unrepresentative swill.”

I reckon that few people will disagree with him.

It is a quite unfortunate institution that is an utter waste of money, and does not in any way represent the basic principles of democracy.


My concerns are not specifically related to the current control of the Senate by the Greens, as they are no worse than the Democrats and other minority groups who used it to stop progress in past years.

The issue I have is that decisions of significance are made by people who represent a tiny fraction of the population, no matter which Party they belong to.

It is gerrymandering at its absolute worst.

Take the sale of Telstra as a prime example.

It went through the Senate on the casting vote of the legendary Brian Harradine who, at several elections, got no more than five per cent of the vote in his under-populated state of Tasmania, and won on preferences each time.

Yet, he had the power to determine the fate of a major national asset.


It was fundamentally wrong for him to have that power.

Legislation establishing the GST and Mabo, two issues that profoundly changed our nation, got through the Senate only because the Democrats backed both — and that Party never ever got more than 10 per cent of the primary votes in any State.

Likewise, Tony Abbott’s bill for a plebiscite on the Carbon Tax was beaten on the vote of former Senator Steve per cent of Victorian voters.

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About the Author

Everald Compton is Chairman of The Longevity Forum, a not for profit entity which is implementing The Blueprint for an Ageing Australia. He was a Founding Director of National Seniors Australia and served as its Chairman for 25 years. Subsequently , he was Chairman for three years of the Federal Government's Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing.

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