MARTIN Gilmour says: voting in a democracy is a contentious topic.
In Australia we have had compulsory voting in federal elections since 1924 and more than 90 per cent of Australians normally exercise that right.
Many other democracies similar to Australia do not have compulsory voting - the US, New Zealand, Britain and Canada.
This week the Queensland government released a discussion paper: "Should compulsory voting remain for Queensland state elections?"
It is difficult to believe the hysteria that this discussion paper aroused, especially when the Queensland government hasn't taken a position on the idea.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan went viral with Ms Gillard claiming that the move was designed to make democracy, "the plaything of cashed up interest groups."
Interestingly, Tasmanian Attorney General Brian Wightman sang from the same Labor hymn sheet, saying it would allow, "cashed up interest groups to trample all over elections."
By far the most cashed up interest groups in Australia are the Greens and the trade unions and they have already flexed their electoral muscles.
There is no doubt that the remoteness of Australia would lead to many people opting not to vote if it became optional.
However, there are many people who say that forcing someone to vote is totally undemocratic.
Others argue that compulsory voting actually forces people to take an interest in politics and government.
But the over-riding disappointment in this debate is - the lack of debate.
Surely in a mature democracy we can discuss these issues.
It was similar to Wayne Swan fatly refusing to entertain a request from the states to discuss broadening the GST.
We need discussion and ideas to keep laws, taxes and our democracy relevant in a rapidly changing world.
- MARTIN GILMOUR, editor