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Howard's End: Representatives That Represent

Will she, won't she? The heck with all this irritating election grandstanding stuff! I've got a proposal to end elections altogether and I think the idea deserves examination. Maree Howard writes.

Think about it! - No more elections and their costs, no more campaign finance or donations rows, no more pandering to special interest groups, no more brute force from party political machines, no more smarmy politicians seeking our vote.

Oh, the joy of it!

It was Thomas Jefferson who said that a healthy government needs a good revolution every now and then to keep it fresh and vital.

With everything that's been going on in Wellington of late, perhaps it's time to truly return the power to the people.

How? - Do away with the elected representatives and institute a ballot.

One day there is a knock on your door.

There stands two officials and one of them hands you a letter. "Congratulations!" the letter says. "You have been chosen by the Selective Service Administration ballot to serve your region as its Representative to the House of Representatives for a period not exceeding two years."

You've got four weeks to pack your bags, say your goodbyes to the family and then bundle yourself off to do your duty on behalf of your country.

The ballot would be run every year, replacing a third of the House each time so that there would always be a group of representatives present who were familiar and experienced with the way things worked. The public service support in the House would be for all representatives because there would be no political parties.

We could limit eligibility as a representative to those aged, say, 18 who have not been convicted of a serious crime in the past 10 years. Extreme mental incapacity might also be another restriction - although those with whom I've discussed this don't see that as any real impediment - there will be ways to work with those people, they say, and they are part of, and make their own contributions to, our society. Fair enough!

We could make it difficult to weasel out of serving. But no one would be allowed to serve two consecutive terms although you might be balloted twice - (unlikely given the numbers in the ballot) - but never twice in a row.

A final restriction is almost always suggested by anyone with whom I've discussed this: no lawyers or academics in the House.

We would need to examine compensation issues, job retention while serving as a representative, and the fulfilment of contracts and other obligations that might have been entered into before the representative was balloted. While this might seem daunting we are only dealing with, say, 30 people each year.

Why do I like this idea? The House of Representatives is supposed to be exactly that - representatives.

It was supposed to be the voice of ordinary people in our government. It was originally intended that representatives would be ordinary folk who served a term or two and then returned to their every-day lives.

As anyone can plainly see, this is no longer the case - and has not been for some years. A balloted House of Representatives rectifies this situation in a simple fashion.

Spare me the smarmy, insincere politician who only wants us once every three years while seeking our vote. I want my representative vital, alert and representing all of us - not tied to some backroom party political machine serving special interests or pandering to a particular sector-vote as is so often the case today.

Under this new system, the House of Representatives would then be about as non-partisan as one could imagine since the selection ballot would be free of any consideration of party affiliation.

The people (that's us) would be spared the election-year displays of lying, grand-standing and angst - and we would be saving millions of dollars at the same time.

Hell, with the money we save we might even be able to afford some genuine health and education services and even give our young people a free university education once again. We might even be able to afford to get some of our people out from living under bridges and in the streets and give them decent shelter.

With a House of Representatives in the hands of the people, unbeholden to any outside forces or special interests, there would be no incentive for our representatives but to act in the interests of the country and solve the critical issues once and for all. Now wouldn't that be something?

Remember, it is from a political-party government that all spending and budget bills originate. Who better to assess the costs and predict the benefits of programs than those who struggle day after day to make ends meet and who often find themselves at the mercy of laws passed by a legislature that felt it just had to "do something."

It frightens the hell out of me to think that our House of Representatives feels it has to make new laws to placate its money-laden masters. Our representatives should feel liberated to vote their conscience based on their understanding of the law and what the country and its people truly needs - and it ain't pork-barrel programs for special interest groups. I bet we would see fewer laws being passed under this new system.

A House peopled with representatives from every sector of society and working for all of society - absolutely devoid of the corrupting influences of special interest money and election-year grandstanding.

I could really enjoy living in that New Zealand!

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