Politics, Poetry and Reviews

Federal Election 2019: Meet Climate Action! Immigration Action! Accountable Politicians!


Website: https://www.onlinedirectdemocracy.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oddemocracy/
Previous names: Online Direct Democracy
Senator Online
Empowering the People
Themes: No policies.  This party will allow every Australian to vote on every Bill that comes before parliament, and their MP will then vote whatever the majority comes up with.
Preferences: These are not people with policies and therefore these are not people with preferences.
Previous reviews

Policies & Commentary

Well, I’ll say one thing for this party.  They certainly do know how to come up with a party name that gets my attention.  Not my positive attention, mind, but I did laugh hysterically when I first read it, so that’s something.

I was rather hoping that this would be a brand new, slightly crazy, political party, but apparently it is a re-branding of Online Direct Democracy.  They haven’t even changed their website, which is a great disappointment to me.  But it does mean that I feel entitled to use their old abbreviation, ODD, instead of their new, less euphonious one, CAIAAP.

ODD’s webpage starts with a press release explaining that they decided to change their party name late last year ‘to create a party name that would best reflect the issues relevant to Australians in the current political climate, and that would appeal to voters and encourage their selection of our party at the ballot box’.

It’s an interesting strategy, because my first thought (after I stopped laughing at the name of the party) was that I had no idea what this party stood for.  I mean, Climate Action! certainly suggests that they want to do something about climate change, but Immigration Action!  could be anything from Stop the Boats to Bring them Here.  And there is no way of telling which.

This is not something that would entice me to vote for them without further research.. but it does turn out to be a pretty accurate reflection of what this party stands for, which is everything and nothing and whatever you like.

Some parties give control to multinational businesses.
Some parties give control to lobby groups.
Some parties give control to organisations.
Some new parties even intend to let you save, trade, buy and sell votes online.

We give control to the voter.
One vote per person, per issue.
No saving, swapping, buying or selling votes.
No party politics, no favours to donors, no MP influence.
No exceptions.

If You Support it – We Support it!

ODD wants to use the internet to let everyone vote on every issue that comes before parliament.  Their Senators will not act or use their own judgment, they will simply be a conduit through which the will of the people may be expressed.  Everyone on the electoral roll will thus have a direct voice in Parliament.

Having spent the last few weeks reading the words of people who have opinions about how to govern this country, I find this notion somewhat hair-raising, but we will return to this in a little while.

The ODD has no policies.  Instead they have an IT plan and an FAQ. Their IT plan is that they will create a Website and App for direct voting on bills within 9 months of being elected.  Around the 15 month mark, they want to work on allowing the public to collaboratively develop and vote on Bills to submit to parliament.

They promise to provide accurate and balanced information on Bills, and guidance on queries we might have, as well as the MPs’s and Senators’ opinions on these Bills.

… that actually sounds not dissimilar to what I do with this website before each election (well, I don’t claim to be balanced, but I do try to be accurate).  Do they have any idea how much work this will entail, I wonder?

They will also gather and provide expert opinions on each Bill.  And curate which Bills you get information on based on a poll when you register, which can presumably be automated, but it’s more work.

Yeah, OK, I was going to write about how this was a bad idea in general, but right now I’m stuck on the absolute mountain of work involved in doing this.  Learning to read legislation is a specialised skill – I’m pretty sure that’s what people go to law school to do.  And they want to educate the entire public on this, one Bill at a time?  I admire the goal, but it strikes me as unfeasible, and dreadfully inefficient.  In fact, reading this page is giving me a real appreciation for representative democracy, which is probably not what they were aiming for.

They will also allow people to suggest issues to be included as important, and issues with 10,000 endorsements will be included.  But only if they are considered to be balanced.

I have no idea what that means.  We are including an issue as important, and we are going to do what with it, exactly?

Over in the FAQ, ODD explains that:

ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY’s objectives are to offer Australians the opportunity to develop their own informed opinion on Bills being presented to Parliament and issues shaping our nation, and for those opinions to be clearly heard in government.

They want to maximise engagement, give us access to accurate information, and allow us to vote on things we care about.

Giving the majority voice a chance to be clearly heard in Parliament — not influenced by a vocal minority, party politics or backroom deals

But also:

Making our Australian political process more progressive

Would it, though?  I mean, I’ve been on the internet, and let me tell you, it has its moments.  Not all of them are progressive.

ODD feels that their system will increase representation in politics.  They note that more than 80% of Australians have access to the internet, and therefore the views they gather through their process will be representative of the nation’s views.

I would dispute this.  There are so many Bills that come to Parliament, and people have jobs and families and hobbies and lives.  They are only going to research and vote on the ones they really care about.  This is going to tend to mean that only people with the very strongest opinions will vote.  I have long maintained that a strength of our political system is that it requires the disengaged people at the middle of the spectrum to vote, thus providing a safeguard against extremism.  The ODD would not have this safeguard.

The ODD is positive that people will make the right decision:

We have common goals. For example, we all want to live in a comfortable and safe environment. We do have innate common sense. With the right information, the majority of us will make decisions that move us towards our shared goals.

… have these people ever been on Twitter?

ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY requires a minimum number of people to vote on a Bill and a majority agreement before ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY MPs and Senators cast their vote according to this vote by the people. This representative sample will reflect a much wider public opinion. When there is no clear majority ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY parliamentarians will abstain.

OK, that does count as a safeguard of sorts.

Later on, we learn that they need to have 100,000 votes cast, and they need a 70% majority view to vote on anything.  I wonder how often they would get to vote at all?

They assure us that their voting system is secure and people would only be able to vote once, and that website security is paramount.

They also seem very confident that their polls couldn’t be stacked by a lobby group.

The ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY Executive will be vigilant in monitoring the effect that significant, biased and inaccurate campaigns run by organised groups might have on ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY’s online polling. The ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY IT system will continually monitor and undertake computer analysis of the voting during the voting period; for example it will monitor the unique addresses of computers and devices for irregularities. If any unusual activity or voting patterns surrounding a vote are reported ONLINE DIRECT DEMOCRACY will investigate it.

Yeah, I’m not sure that would work.  I mean, if I share a petition on Facebook, and my friends all sign it, we will all have different IP addresses.  And if that turns into the sort of issue we would vote on, then I suspect those of us with less time on our hands would present similar arguments.

And that’s about it.  Look, I’m not sure if what ODD wants to do is feasible at all.  And if it is, I’m even less sure that it’s desirable.  They are quick to point out the amazing technology available to us with the internet, and how fast they can update people on changes to Bills, etc… but it still takes time for people to read those changes and act on them.

Also, the majority isn’t always right, especially when it comes to matters affecting only a minority.  This has been shown again and again over the years.

The ODD are idealists, and they are idealists of my specific stripe.  We share the desire to educate the public about how politics work, to get people politically engaged, to involve people in the political process.  But I don’t think this is the way to go about it.

Also, I really can’t vote for a political party where the policies are entirely dependent on who shows up to vote for a Bill in any given week.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

Oh, this one is just too easy.

Are you ready for a little chat in a song about the Internet?
It’s the story about a social door you’ve never seen before
If you wanna be seen by everyone
Wanna be in the dream and have some fun
If you wanna be on the hook, simply take a look
… at this Bill which has just been introduced before the Australian Parliament, and then vote for it with just one click!


  1. Loki

    I feel like, at very least, if they’re going to seek election, they should have their voting mechanism ready to go. What they’re doing feels like a dodgy Kickstarter.

    • Catherine

      Now that’s an image. I was also interested that for any legislation that comes up before they have their mechanism ready, they plan to try to ascertain if there is a public majority and vote accordingly. How they will ascertain this is unclear…

      • Loki

        And it’s not like this is the first election they’ve contested. Are we supposed to believe that three years isn’t long enough to have created and written the necessary technologies? Especially given that they’re not re-inventing the wheel here – they’re customising off-the-shelf solutions at best.

        And will they be releasing their code, so that it can be independently verified that it contains no errors or backdoors?

  2. seancrosby

    Hi Catherine,

    It looks like the Facebook link for Climate Action is pointing at the CEC. I think it should point at https://www.facebook.com/oddemocracy instead.

    Otherwise, thanks for this info! It helped me a lot to work out who they are.

    • Catherine

      Oh dear! Thank you for pointing that out, I’ll fix it right now. And I’m glad to have helped.

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