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I can’t let this pass without mention, even if I am on holidays. Barry O’Farrell had promised pre-election to have an independent committee assess whether it was appropriate to introduce recall elections in NSW. The Committee has now recommended that they do allow it.

I’m not against the idea in general, but it must be very carefully designed. If you need x% of the population to sign a petition to remove a government, then if x% is too low then a minority lobby group can prevent any government attacking its pet project.

Democracy is about more than mere voting. Its also about not allowing entrenched minorities unduly influencing the democratic process. To allow them to threaten a sitting government with an election would stop governments being able to make tough decisions that are unpopular in the short term but are beneficial to the state in the long term.

If x% is too high, then it becomes a meaningless exercise. The last I checked, countries only ever fell into the two extremes. They never quite hit the sweet spot. I personally would rather x% be higher than lower.

There is also the theoretical risk that if x% is, for example, 25%, either of the major parties could drum up that many signature quite easily. Although party members may not constitute 25% of the population, roughly 25% of the population will be strong supporters of the Labor/Liberal Party. I say theoretical because this has yet to prove to be a problem, even in highly partisan California.

And, of course, there’s the more technical constitutional issues in drafting any such bill which will be difficult to navigate, but which can be surpassed by sufficiently good draftsmen.


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