Democracy is a very precious feature of our society, guaranteeing our freedom and our security.
So too the central role of the Parliament in making important decisions about our collective future.
Somehow these basic ideas have been turned into a blood sport between political parties during elections.
Most public and expert commentary on the upcoming state election bemoans the lack of vision from either Liberal or Labor and the sense the major challenges all seem to be relegated to long lists of promises.
At the same time there is ongoing criticism of the apparent lack of depth of talent in the House of Assembly but a reluctance to restore numbers back to 35 Members.
So, if our problem is partly a lack of vision and differentiation as well as a lack of talent and depth to fulfil complex roles of modern parliaments, what options do we have?
Firstly, much of what happens in regard to processes of parliament and government in Tasmania is based on convention and can be changed by convention.
For example (as with many other political systems such as the USA) there could be appointments to Cabinet from outside of the Parliament either as a minister or as a junior minister or whatever.
The appointed person could face question time in the Parliament as with any other minister and for example at Estimates. Such appointments could be subject to the scrutiny of both Houses of the Parliament.
The pool of ministerial talent to draw upon would exponentially increase.
In Tasmania there have been examples of ministers being from the Legislative Council, so there is already a precedent of ministers not coming from the House of Assembly.
In recent times there have also been renewed call for quotas in parliament including for women and members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community/ies.
The historical paradox of parliaments is that they were originally designed to reflect the diversity of people that made up the communities they represented, but they never have been truly representative of the diversity of the population despite our Hare-Clark system which promotes diversity.
A recent bi-partisan report on restoring the Lower House to 35 included a very useful discussion on Tasmanian Aboriginal representation and notwithstanding a range of challenges (how many representatives? Who would be eligible to vote? Which house, what if they held the balance of power? etc). The report concluded that there were viable options.
Of course the report was shelved but it opens up the option of the additional 10 (or whatever number) potentially being representatives of specific population groups.
Alongside the option of additional representatives of particular population groups is the option of representation from particular places other than electorates.
So, for example, by including some mayors - maybe 10 - elected from the 29 to the House of Assembly we could further add to the current 25. Local councils are after all a creation of the State Parliament and the level of government closest to the people.
Again many technicalities to sort out but an alternative to just building major party numbers.
It's worth noting that these suggestions all maintain Parliamentary oversight and involvement in policy making.
But recent governments in Tasmania have been moving away from the centrality of the Parliament towards other sources of advice, especially task forces and other 'advisory' bodies such as the recent Premier's Economic and Social Recovery Council.
We can interpret this as either a sign of a vibrant and diverse democracy or failure of governments to get the job done.
Governments also love consultants and there are clear political benefits of using them. If you don't like their report you can reject it and hire another consultant to do better. You can 'guide' the consultant towards the outcomes you want and at the same time claim that consultants are completely arm's length from political influence.
Most importantly you can get a job with your favourite consultant firm after politics.
The point is that reform needs to look closely at how such extra parliamentary processes can be held accountable to the Parliament, and why more resources are not available to the Parliament to undertake such functions and be back at the centre of policy making.
In all likelihood this election will - irrespective of which party can assemble a majority on the floor of the Lower House - not lead to significant change but rather another raft of new promises and projects to add to the ever-growing lists.
Regardless, we have a chance to be more creative about Tasmania's future.
Some of these suggestions might seem silly and undemocratic but less than 100 years ago it was seen as silly and undemocratic to give women, Tasmanian Aboriginals and those under 21 the vote, and for people other than rich male landowners to vote for the Upper House, although in 1954 the wives of landowners also became entitled to vote for the Legislative Council.
Again the point is that convention created such arrangements and convention can change them. Maybe an incoming government will have the steel to act.
- Professor David Adams, University of Tasmania