In an Auspol exclusive, TBS spoke with the new Australia Political Party, Flux, who want to return voting power to people through user-friendly technology.
I have a confession to make. Often, I feel like a hypocrite. While I love sharing my opinions on those that grace our Parliament, I only share them as far as my couch. I made a decision long ago not to enter politics in any capacity, as I saw a system so irrevocably broken that any aspirations to make a real and lasting difference would be left unfulfilled.
My cynicism is thankfully not shared by everyone. In fact, two Aussies I met believe they have the answer and are willing to rise from the armchair to do something about it.
Max Kaye and Nathan Spataro are the founders of a new Australian political party called Flux. Coming not from your typical Australian political background, which is an absolute plus, Max and Nathan represent the information age and the information generation. Ease of access through superior technology is their credo – the tagline for Flux is, “Democracy Reimagined.”
The concept is simple: rather than the power lying within the political parties, or our individual representatives, Flux aims to return power to the people.
Every member of the Flux party votes on every bill put before Parliament.
Those votes may be swapped between you and other members to allow you to contribute more votes towards an issue you care about, and less for those you don’t.
When the votes are tallied, Flux MPs and Senators vote in Parliament based on the highest votes received from members of the party. Elected Flux representatives will have no more power than you or I – one vote on every issue and a requirement to vote in Parliament based on the majority, regardless of personal preference. It allows everyone to have a direct influence; or put more simply, it allows for Democracy in the truest sense of the word: “rule of the people.”
Technology is the key to this system. Members will have access to an app which will be accessible from a computer or smartphone. From the app, members will be able to directly cast a vote on every bill put before Federal Parliament, or provide it to a third party to cast on their behalf or, finally, to save it for another issue that is more important to them.
When I first read about the concept, I was intrigued. I’ve long lamented the lack of democracy in our supposed democratic system. I’ve grown angry with a system that forces us to choose the lesser of two evils every four years, rather than utilising our collective intelligence to reach our potential.
The idea sounds great…too great. My utopian dreams have been trampled by reality too many times to allow my hopes to be prematurely pumped up. So rather than assume, I went straight to the source.
TBS: With such an open voting system and the ability to trade votes to increase influence on specific issues, do you worry about the potential for corruption? What would stop interest groups from effectively buying votes from Flux members in order to push their cause?
F: Flux was designed with special interest groups in mind. These are organisations built around specific policy areas or ideas for change, and many have skills and expertise associated with the same. These organisations can embrace the Flux system via the support of people, rather than the traditional way of “behind the scenes” political wheeling and dealing
We don’t believe Flux is more susceptible to corruption than our existing system. When political power is spread out, it’s far harder to centralise in a malicious way. By ensuring Flux participation is diverse and widespread, we make it difficult to re-organise against the public interest.
Additionally, as administrators, we can simply ban people who try to buy votes. We’re going to explicitly disallow selling votes for cash, which opens the door to both internal measures and legal action. This is possible because software carries terms and conditions of use, which are legally binding.
Is there a danger that many areas of the public aren’t educated enough to contribute to some of the complicated issues facing the senate? Particularly when, for a lot of the public, the primary source of education on important issues comes from the mainstream media (who may have their own editorial agenda) or from existing politicians who obviously have their own bias?
Despite our current system of “representative democracy,” we live in a time where many people feel apathetic towards politics and politicians, largely because they don’t feel represented. By empowering people to engage and take an interest, we are encouraging them to either vote on the issues that they feel passionately about, or to delegate their vote to a specialist or someone they know who can make that vote on their behalf.
A useful way to think of Flux is as a system to extract the best ideas from society for any one issue. If there is no reason to challenge our change, it will be successful, and good policy has been created. If it is challenged, then parties will need to reconcile the differences, or explain why a proposed change to policy is a good thing for Australians.
This culture of criticism and debate among Australians is what will protect our legislation from being burdened by bad policy.
Will you both be running as candidates? Do you anticipate recruiting other candidates?
Yes. We are currently looking for a minimum of 10 candidates to come forward, knowing that only four of those will potentially be elected.
A system like Flux in a way lends itself to a populist form of politics. Is there a danger of it resulting in hard, unpopular but necessary decisions not being made for the greater good?
In many ways, the nature of democracy itself lends itself to populism. If you look at representative democracy (our current system), where Governments seeking re-election must satisfy the majority in order to do so, their jobs literally depend on it. On the other hand, direct democracy, by giving everyone a single vote on every issue, forces people to vote on things they might know nothing about or have little interest in, and so decisions are made with little consideration for the outcomes and again become quite populist.
Flux is different to these models.
Firstly, proponents of legislative changes are not elected officials, and people’s decisions to support these people on a certain bill ultimately falls to them. It’s easy to demand lower taxes when the responsibility for this decision rests on someone else. It requires far more thought and inspection when it falls upon one’s own shoulders, as do all issues of this nature in a civil society. The important thing to note here is that policy decisions will be largely championed, debated upon and voted on by experts with public support. These people will act as a filter for poor or radical decisions and ultimately prevent dangerous, populist policy from getting off the ground, while providing the responsible support for better, but perhaps harder, decisions to be made.
In the same vein, some argue that the modern Australian politician is too risk averse because of the speed the political winds shift. How do you see Flux in relation to this?
Flux will remedy this by empowering Australians to take policy in new and innovative directions without the permission of a ruling body attempting to mitigate risk. By removing the link between political donations, party politics and policy outcomes, Flux will enable Aussies to start fixing their problems in their own world, in a way they see fit.
It’s important to remember that Flux uses people’s incentive to change or create new policy, unlike today’s politicians whose main incentive is to get reelected. Flux in this way will lead us toward a creative and innovative future, free of the political status quo.
The current political climate seemingly has a lack of some of the revolutionary innovators of the past – Whitlam, Dunstan, Keating and the like. Do you think Flux could bridge that gap by allowing more innovative approaches to be introduced from the wider community?
Absolutely, and this is at the core of Flux.
Flux is grounded in the philosophical principle of Fallibilism, which is latin for “liable to err.” The philosophy states that beliefs, view and values, held at a point in time, may be shown to be wrong or improvable. Despite our current system of representative democracy, we live in a time where many people feel apathetic towards politics and politicians, largely because they don’t feel truly represented.
There is a good case for improving the system. There are two broad ways we can do a far better job of facilitating this than our current system of representative democracy:
- Letting teams focus on improving specific areas instead of demanding they are both generalists and innovators. The benefits of innovation come from specialisation, insight, and focused attention over some time. This is the exact opposite of what we look for in our current politicians.
- Removing the major impediment of permission via majority-rule (again through opportunity cost and the trade mechanism). Demanding innovators convince a majority of voters (or worse: an entrenched two-party system) before they can proceed is a good way to make nil progress.
As Flux has no official platform on the issues currently facing the Senate (apart from the platform of parliamentary reform), how do you anticipate attracting votes from the public? Are the concept and, presumably, the personalities of your candidates enough to win a spot at the table?
Flux’s policy creation is up to the Australian people. Our number one policy is that we want all Australians to feel empowered to become involved in the political system and vote for what they believe is important. On issues where they don’t feel so inclined, we want them to feel comfortable giving their vote to someone who does.
By the middle of the last century, the Liberal party had 100,000 members, and this has dwindled to just 50,000 in 2016. At the last federal election, 32 percent of Australians voted for non-major party candidates in the Senate.
The numbers speak volumes. The general population is dissatisfied with our current framework and those who are meant to represent them. People are ready for something new.
How do you feel about the Turnbull Government’s proposed changes to the Senate voting system?
The proposed Senate reforms, if passed, will have implications for all minor parties as the percentage of primary votes required to win a senate seat will significantly increase. We don’t see this as a deterrent for Flux. Flux was created – in part – to solve the same problem as the proposed “reforms,” and we could have done it with just one percent of the popular vote. If we had to sum up our position in one line it would be “innovation not legislation.” Flux is a real alternative to our current political framework, and we believe that hundreds of thousands of Aussies will get behind it.
Regardless of the outcome of this federal election, we intend to continue the Flux movement via the states. Flux isn’t going away.
It’s fair to say that Flux will have it’s fair share of barriers to overcome. Dramatic changes to systems that have existed for generations can be a hard sell, regardless of how overdue or necessary they are.
That being said, the Political environment is currently incredibly unpredictable. Flux, at the very least, offers the opportunity to turn apathy into action. It offers the disenfranchised the opportunity to try a new way of doing things where their vote literally counts for more than it does currently. It offers a chance for the many armchair critics like myself to put our money where our mouth is and prove that we can actually do a better job.
And for those that still live in fear of change, consider the words of one of Flux’s personal heroes, Elon Musk:
Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.