The government is currently doing a consultation into how to reform the Australian electoral process. There are three things I think we should borrow from the US (and other places).
1. Scrap mandatory voting.
Mandatory voting is weird, and it is stupid. It distorts the results of elections, because people who are uninformed about, and uninterested in, politics are making political decisions. In big numbers. Mandatory voting also means the base is always mobilized. Parties don’t need to encourage them to get out and vote. Consequently, efforts go into convincing a small number of swing voters in a small number of swinging districts to vote. If we wanted a broader range of opinions represented, and if we wanted policies that cater to a broad range of people, we should scrap mandatory voting.
2. Tighter campaign contribution donations
Contributions should be reported instantly, and they should be limited. It’s shocking that you can donate almost $90,000 to a party ($9,999 to each of the state and territory parties, then another $9,999 to the federal party) without it ever being reported. And the donations larger than 10k are only reported 6 months later. In the age of digital communications, this is absurd. There should be no more than a one-week lag, and we should certainly know who is donating money during a campaign before election day.
3. Open Primaries
Pre-selection battles typically involve a very small number of voters. Consequently, you have to very much toe the party line to be chosen to run in an election. Open up the process, and you may well find a broader range of candidates. Plus, it would go a long way toward discouraging some of the nepotism in Australian politics, and might convince political candidates to engage with a broader range of people.