Shane B McCarthy, May 2014

Judith Brett could have done more with her argument against the concept of mandates in Australian politics (April).

The concept of the mandate that the electorate gives to the party that wins government is a false concept – a myth, a chimera. It assumes that that party is empowered or authorised by the electorate to implement the promises it makes before the election. It assumes that every election is a referendum on everything that a party makes a promise to implement if it wins government.

Of course, elections are not referenda at all; every voter just votes for the candidates in his or her local electorate in the House of Representatives, and similarly in the Senate. If electoral promises were enforceable then the concept of mandates might be right, but of course they are not. In reality, the party that wins government is empowered to implement any action within its constitutional powers, including actions that were never mentioned before the election, and to take back the “promises” it made.

It is time that the concept of the mandate should be abandoned. As Judith Brett says, it leads to winner-takes-all triumphalism, as we see at the present.

Shane B McCarthy
Richmond, VIC