Posted 17/8/11


CanDoBetter Calls On Get Up To Campaign For Direct Democracy


Read what CanDoBetter says...


There is a proposal at GetUp to launch a campaign to have the Australian Constitution altered to give the Australian people provisions for Direct Democracy as it is now practised in Switzerland. 
In this way we hope to create a democratic system where citizens' voices on peak oil, animal welfare, affordable land, housing and water and stable population would become far more effective.

Read more about it here: (and also at and included below). If you agree with it, please vote for it and ask your friends and contacts to do the same.  Also, please please consider following the other suggestions in the "What you can do section" at

The author first learned of Switzerland's wonderful provisions for Direct Democracy when he listened to an episode of ABC Radio National's Rear Vision in September last year. Transcript available at and podcast at .

The author believes that if Australia's constitution contained the same provisions for Direct Democracy as in Switzerland, then our Governments would not be able to continue to inflict the will of commercial vested interest on ordinary citizens.

We hope that your support will help to get enough votes to make GetUp launch the proposed campaign.  After that, active publicity and support from individuals and groups should help GetUp to attract  many signatures. With the high public profile for the Concept of Direct Democracy that would follow, politicians would experience enormous pressure to act to introduce and vote for Direct Democracy legislation to change our constitution.

This seems to be the only obvious way to begin to end much of the harm that is now being inflicted upon our natural, social and economic environments by greedy developers and other wealthy vested interests. Instead of spending our nights and weekends in meetings, staffing information tables, door-knocking, writing submissions, letter-boxing, reading legal and scientific literature, etc, with direct democracy we might hope instead to spend  more of our evenings and week-ends with friends and family doing things we really want to do.  No longer would ordinary citizens have to risk going out of pocket to the order of tens of thousands of dollars (as a friend from coastal Queensland has had to) to be able to legally challenge the destruction of their community and environment by developers.

Thank you for your attention.

James Sinnamon



(Posted to GetUp at on 15 August 2011.)

GetUp should run a campaign to make provision in the Australian constitution to include Direct Democracy as it is currently practised in Switzerland.  The recent experience of Swiss direct democracy and its broader history was described in the excellent 17 November 2010 episode of the ABC Radio National Rear Vision program (see for transcript, podcast is at

A proposal for a new law, an amendment to an existing law or repeal of an existing law could be launched by a group of concerned citizens in a way similar to campaigns now run through GetUp.

However, if Australia had Direct Democracy in its constitution, the campaign would most likely end with the proposal becoming law, provided that a "double majority", that is a national majority of voters and majorities of voters in a majority of states, (or 'cantons' in Switzerland) votes for it at a referendum.

The number of signatures required to have a national referendum put is 100,000 of Switzerland's population of 7,860,000. ( The equivalent proportion of Australia's current population of 22,677,40 is 288,278, so a more appropriate rounded number of required signatures for a national referendum to be held in Australia could be 250,000. (Given that many of Australia's people live further apart from each other than do people in Switzerland a still lower threshold could be justified.)

Under the laws of direct democracy, if the required number of signatures are obtained, then the proposal must be put to the Swiss people at the periodic multiple national referenda that are held in Switzerland. If the proposal is voted for by a double majority, then it becomes law.

Direct Democracy differs from the way representative democracy is practised in most countries formally labeled 'democratic'. I believe that few of those countries, notably Australia, can be described as truly democratic in the sense of "government of the people by the people and for the people".  If those countries adopted Direct Democracy, then they could become truly democratic.

On many occasions, in at least the last four decades Australia, has experienced Parliaments which have inexcusably ignored the clear wishes of the Australian people.

A probable reason why Australians have quietly accepted this is subtle indoctrination through the mass media.   The mass media markets the questionable idea that politicians as a whole, having the best interests of their constituents at heart, are better able to judge than their [implied] mostly less educated and less knowledgeable constituents what is truly in the best longer term  interests of those constituents.

In fact, the record shows that on nearly every occasion on which politicians have over-ruled the wishes of their constituencies, their judgment has not been better, or that they had been putting the welfare of powerful vested interests above the welfare of their constituents.

Often decisions which have harmed both our national prosperity and the interests of the least wealthy Australians have been reached against the known views of the majority of Australians. Sometimes there has been no electoral mandate and, on some occasions, decisions have actually run counter to specific promises made in elections.

On many other occasions, whilst decisions may not have been opposed at the time by the majority of Australians, neither would a majority of Australians have been in favour. There certainly was no informed consent.

Examples where the known wishes of the Australian public have been disregarded include: the privatisations of Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank, the State banks and State insurance offices, the abolition of protection for Australia's manufacturing which commenced during the years of the Whitlam Labor Government, John Howard's Goods and Services Tax (GST) and "Work Choices", the 1990 and 2003 wars against Iraq.

Few other privatisations -- railways, other public transport, power generation, roads, water -- have not been imposed contrary to the known wishes of the Australian public. Certainly almost none have been done with the informed consent of the public.

Examples of actions, which were certainly taken without the informed consent of the Australian public, include: the floating of the Australian dollar and the financial deregulation of the early years of the Hawke and Keating Governments,   Malcolm Fraser's emasculation of Medicare, Malcolm Fraser changing investment laws to allow overseas investors to buy up Australia's mineral wealth, the Whitlam Government's failure to legislate to index taxation scales in line with inflation, Australia's participation in the invasion of Afghanistan, the attempted use of mercenaries to break the Maritime Union of Australia by John Howard in 1998, the privatisation of retirement income, otherwise known as "Superannuation", by the Hawke government.

If Direct Democracy had been law in Australia for the last four decades, little of the harm described above would have occurred. Where Governments may have succeeded in having  legislation detrimental to the public interest initially passed, more than likely, the damage would have been quickly undone through the provisions of Direct Democracy.