Americans look to Australia to combat Trump extremism

November 8, 2017

Donald Trump

Model politics: US reformers look to Australian-style political ideas to cut Trump extremism

American political reformers are calling for Australian-style innovations to promote moderate policies under President Trump, according to a leading Murdoch University political scientist.

Professor Benjamin Reilly, Dean of the university’s flagship Sir Walter Murdoch graduate school, said Australian developments such as compulsory voting, preferential voting and elections run by an independent body have produced greater agreement between major political parties than in other comparable democracies.

“When Australia became a nation, we borrowed ideas from other countries such as the United States,” Prof Reilly said during a recent public lecture.

“Today, the roles are reversing and political reformers in the US and other countries are looking to Australia for insights on how to combat extremism and polarised politics.”

Prof Reilly said that looking beyond the theatre of question time and contrived media stunts, Australia’s preferential voting system in the Lower House has tended to encourage the major parties to offer centrist policies on big-ticket areas like health, defence and foreign affairs.

“Diametrically opposed policy views have become a hallmark of US party politics in recent decades, with the result that US political reformers are seeking to introduce our system of preferential voting so that elections become a fight for the political centre.

“Ranked voting offers incentives for candidates to campaign positively and appeal to supporters of other candidates in the hopes of being those voters’ second or third choices.

“There is widespread agreement that this system encourages coalition arrangements and works to the advantage of centre candidates and parties and the search for the middle ground.”

San Francisco, Berkeley and Minneapolis are amongst a dozen US cities to have adopted preferential voting. Studies have found voters perceived more moderation and accommodation among candidates and lower levels of negative campaigning after the system was introduced.

Prof Reilly also said that Australia’s system of elections run by a central body, and independently-drawn boundaries, offered a solution to gerrymanders which have promoted polarization in the US.

In the US, congressional districts are drawn up by the party in power and are easily manipulated to favour one party.

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