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Thread: The Filibuster

  1. #1
    Member Member Productivity's Avatar
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    Default The Filibuster

    This is a semi-essay which I have been tossing around in my mind for a couple of days now, I thought I would throw it to the dogs of the backroom to rip to shreds. Iím not trying to tell anyone how to run their country or political system; itís just a theoretical problem Iíve been playing round with.

    The filibuster at its heart it is a useful concept that needs refinements. It provides a balance, and stops a government ramming through extreme legislation that it otherwise could. It in a sense protects citizens from themselves. For instance in Australia currently the Liberal (centre rightist) government controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Our prime minister, John Howard has held industrial relations reform as one of his most cherished policy pieces for years, but has never been able to implement it due to not having control of the Senate (in Australia it is very rare for MPs to vote against party lines).

    Now having control of both houses, JH is likely to push his reforms through, which in my view are in the right direction but go to far in curbing employee rights. Certainly the public feels that way (at the moment, although public will is fickle and swayed by advertising dollars), with support being low for the reforms. In this sense a filibuster process (which Australia does not have) would allow the opposition to block the reforms, and tell the government to moderate the reforms to something reasonable.

    However the system is open to abuse as it currently stands. It seems ridiculous that a party that is in the minority can endlessly frustrate legislation of a majority. A circuit breaker needs to be introduced, a way to break a protracted deadlock. The Australian double dissolution process can be that circuit breaker, where when legislation has been frustrated by the senate, the parliament can be dissolved and a general election be called, and after this a joint sitting of both houses is called to vote on the contested legislation.

    In this way it is a far riskier move for an opposition to filibuster popular legislation as it is likely to be devastated in the following election. The onus is upon the opposition to act as an advocate for the public, and only use the filibuster for unpopular legislation. At the same time, it is in the governments favour to shape the legislation to something that the public would approve, so if an election is called it is likely to win it.

    Both extremes become risky propositions, the majority takes a risk by going for extreme legislation because there is a good chance that it will never be passed (and they could possibly lose their position of majority), and the opposition risks being devastated in an election and having the legislation passed if it opposes it at all costs. While there would be further details to iron out (how would the president fit into such an election for one), such a system would provide a better situation than the wrangling over the filibuster that goes on now.

    The precise details of the double dissolution can be found here in section 57.



    Other thoughts of the filibuster? Useful check or plain undemocratic?

  2. #2
    Lord of the House Flies Member Al Khalifah's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Filibuster

    In Britain we have the parliament act which enables the House of Commons to force through a piece of legislation that has been rejected by the the House of Lords three times.

    I agree that having the filibuster is useful in preventing radical Government legislation. While the House of Lords isn't exactly my idea of a fair system for this, I firmly believe it is better than nothing or another House of Commons. I would rather have a system of 100 'senators' serving 5 year terms with 20 being replaced each year so that the house would provide a moving average of public opinion rather than the radical swing that a general election with every seat up for grabs gives in the Commons.
    Cowardice is to run from the fear;
    Bravery is not to never feel the fear.
    Bravery is to be terrified as hell;
    But to hold the line anyway.

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