Meet the Small Parties: VoteFlux – Upgrade Democracy

Squeezing in a quick political post before work for a party whose distinguishing feature – and selling point – is that it has no policies!  The ideological, next-generation offspring of Senator Online, VoteFlux tells us that

Flux is an exciting and new political system for the information age. Vote for policies, not false promises, and make your voice heard. 

Ah, but what policies?  Well, that’s really up to you.

Flux is here to redistribute political power, empower the Australian people through real political participation, and enable specialists to help repair bad policy. Flux will give Australia the framework it needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century head on.

Essentially, Flux wants to put policy back in the hands of the people – creating direct democracy via a smartphone app.

Their plan is to create an app you can access from your phone and computer, and contact you every time a bill is put before the Parliament.  You get one vote per bill, and, can use the vote immediately, give it to someone else to cast on your behalf, or save it for another issue.  So if you don’t have many opinions about the environment, but care passionately about funding to public schools, you can hoard all your votes from environmental legislation to use on education legislation, effectively making your voice in that area louder.

Flux is very clear that they do not have policies.  They are about increasing political engagement:

Flux as a party is a vehicle for driving this systemic political change, with no policy platform beyond parliamentary reform. Flux as a system, is a tool for changing how policy is shaped. It will allow more voices to join the conversation, empower specialists to become politically involved in their fields, and grant Australians direct access to producing better policy for a better Australia.

While they do not have policies, Flux does have values:

We value people, not some people, but all people, and recognise our differences as strengths, not weaknesses.

We believe in a free and open society, characterised by freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the free flow of political ideas.

I’m trying to unpack this in a way that does not come across as patronising, because I think the two founders of Flux are intelligent, idealistic people, and these are great qualities in politicians.  But they also come across as being a little unaware of how people work outside their bubble (which, I suspect, is populated with bright, idealistic people like themselves).  The emphasis on freedom of speech and the free flow of political ideas are both lovely, but also a little disquieting to anyone who has spent time being female and political on the internet – or, I suspect, aboriginal anywhere, to pick just two examples.  Freedom of speech and free flow of political ideas can be about giving everyone a chance to speak – but it also can make it harder to fight against people who want to use that platform for abuse, and it’s easy to underestimate the effect of some ‘free speech’ on the people it is directed at.  I do think the intent here is absolutely benign, and in keeping with VoteFlux’s philosophy of increasing engagement in the political process, but I’m not sure about the outcomes.  Maybe I’m just too old and cynical…

Overall, I think Voteflux is a really interesting idea, and I’m all for more participation in democracy, but I am a little dubious about how it will work in practice.  It does seem open to being manipulated by special interest groups – membership of Flux is free, and Flux senators have committed to voting the will of the people as determined by their app. And I think this is likely to put any Flux senators in a very uncomfortable place sooner or later.  Traditionally, conservative churches are really good at getting people out to write letters, campaign or vote on issues of their choice (much better, in fact, than most people on the left) – but the founders of Flux are evidently quite progressive.  I like their principles, but they aren’t going to get to vote their principles.
I’ll be honest here – if VoteFlux gets into the Senate in Victoria – and currently, I’m not sure if they even plan to run in Victoria – I’ll sign up like a shot, because (as I’m sure you’ve noticed), I feel strongly about politics and am absolutely positive that my influence here could only be a good one (!).
But I’m not, after all, sure that I could bring myself to vote for them in the Senate.  Voting for Flux means voting for the policies and ideologies of whoever in Australia manages to best organise themselves to vote, and I’m not at all sure I’d like what we’d get as a result.