So far, electorate action groups have tended to be formed in seats where there is much dissatisfaction with the current MP’s performance. Are groups needed in other seats, where MPs may seem to be doing a better job of representing constituents? We believe they are, for the following reasons:
- The massive loss of faith in government is not confined to voters in seats with underperforming MPs; it’s experienced by voters in all seats. Most voters don’t even know the name of their MP, so they’re unlikely to know if they are doing a good job or not. If voters have lost faith, they need to get involved and help build a democracy that they can have faith in.
- Good MPs can be important allies in achieving necessary changes, through their work within parliament and their own parties, but constituents need to actively engage MPs as allies in this process.
- MPs represent on average about 110,000 voters and 170,000 people – a huge and difficult job! Voters can help their MPs to do a better job by making them aware of the needs and views of constituents, and by helping to reconcile conflicting views through community deliberations.
- No party in Australia systematically considers the policy views of voters in each electorate in their policy-making process, and no party seeks input from voters in their candidate pre-selection processes. Electorate groups can seek to persuade party leaders to change these democratic shortcomings, though groups will almost certainly need to join forces to do so, and the more groups there are, the more likely they are to be successful.
- Most voters have little time to learn about highly complex policy areas, about the needs of people in their electorate, or about the candidates for election and what they stand for. Electorate action groups can make it easier and quicker for constituents to be better informed about these matters.