Coleman / Sortition, that’ll sort them!

“In ancient Athens, lotteries were used to select magistrates. These days if you’ve ever been chosen for jury duty then you’ve been a winner in the sortition stakes, writes columnist CHRIS COLEMAN

WITH scarcely a week going by recently without at least one Federal politician coming under some sort of eligibility criteria cloud, maybe it’s time to choose our representatives in a different way, but how?

Chris Coleman

Chris Coleman.

Plenty of people have suggested Australia implement a national sporting lottery, much like the one introduced in the UK that has seen sports funding and Olympic medal hauls skyrocket in the past decade. It works.

Many Australians love a bet, so how about we look to that model? Not to fund the parliament, but to find the parliamentarians!

It’s called “sortition”, essentially a lottery, where political power is given to candidates on the basis of random sampling.

It’s not a new idea. The ancient Greeks actually believed it was more democratic than using elections and, in Athens, lotteries were used to select magistrates. These days if you’ve ever been chosen for jury duty then you’ve been a winner in the sortition stakes.

There are some negatives, for instance there are plenty of people who shouldn’t be eligible to be in government. However, the past few weeks have shown us that doesn’t seem to have been much of a hurdle for the current lot.

But there are positives. It would probably be the end of extensive (and expensive) election campaigns. No corflutes polluting our streetscapes and distracting drivers because there’d be no more elections. Political parties would be largely irrelevant. The public service would be able to do its job without fear of upsetting either side of politics.

Every 12 months, one third of the House of Representatives would automatically be refreshed by a new crop of randomly-chosen, government-lottery entrants from one-third of the electorates. It might be a little more difficult in the Senate, perhaps make it changing two senators a year for the states with three-year terms for those from the territories.

I appreciate there’d be no votes to hold members to account in their constituencies, but it would also be very difficult to roll out the pork barrel. Even more so if a limit of one term per person was applied, and only willing participants allowed to put their name down to be drawn from the pot.

Imagine, if you can, a country devoid of career politicians…

Now we all know this will never come to pass, because there’s as much chance of politicians and political parties willingly putting themselves out of existence as there is of the sun turning off, but once the current mess is sorted out, we do need to fix the system. There has to be a better way.

One Response to “Coleman / Sortition, that’ll sort them!”

  1. Yoram Gat
    August 23, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

    > Now we all know this will never come to pass, because there’s as much chance of politicians and political parties willingly putting themselves out of existence as there is of the sun turning off

    Power is not relinquished because of the good will of those in power. For sortition to be implemented the attention of energy will have to be behind this idea and force it onto the elected. Sure, it is not going to be easy, but it is certainly possible.

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