Australia's Representatives is not just a new political party, but rather a new kind of political party. We do not want to replicate the old structures: the architecture of our party is new and unique. It was designed from scratch to make full use of the available technology and create an organisation that is transparent, accountable and representative of the will of the people.
Let's begin by examining the root of the problem. As it is now clear beyond doubt, traditional parties do not respond to their constituents anymore. They do not engage with the public nor respond to their concerns. They treat the Australian Parliament and the people with contempt, imagining that they have a right to rule. Their approach today is radically different than what it used to be.
How could they depart so swiftly from the basic democratic principles that we all used to take for granted? The answer is that traditional parties are top-down, command-and-control structures, and therein lies the problem: there are no checks and balances within each organisation. Those who take control of the apical positions can take control of the whole structure and easily bend it to interests other than their constituencies'.
Virtually every political party today operates within that top-down, centralised logic. Decisions that affect us all are routinely made only on the basis of biased and partial information provided by the senior advisers within the upper echelons of each party, ignoring any evidence that is publicly available but runs contrary to the desired narrative.
Given that their operatives respond only to the level immediately above them in the party hierarchy, the information flows only from top to bottom and the natural mechanism of feedback coming from the lower ranks is silenced: orders are meant to be executed, not discussed. Dissent, for those working inside such organisations, is not an option.
Since there is no feedback, and no true communication between inferiors and superiors either, these top-down organisations lack an inbuilt error correction mechanism. There is instead a perverse incentive for the inferior ranks to tell their superiors pleasant lies (and therefore insulate them even more from the real world) rather than to speak up for what is true and just.
The point is that innovation, creative teamwork and quality work in general utterly depend on true communication. Is it surprising to anyone that the politicians sitting at the top of such hierarchies end up being totally out of touch with reality and convinced to be infallible geniuses despite a pretty lacklustre track record? Is it surprising that poor communication processes inevitably produce bad policies, and that in the end authoritarian organisations produce authoritarian policies?
For the most part of the human history, a top-down hierarchy - with all its side effects - was the only strategy available if one wanted to scale an organisation beyond a few tens of people.
Over the course of the last 30 years, though, the emergence of the Internet allowed a different, and vastly better, organisational paradigm. The new model started its life in the software engineering world as a method for producing better quality software and has allowed the creation of outstanding projects such as Bitcoin and the Linux operating system, just to name two (to put this in context, Linux powers every Android tablet and phone on the planet and an innumerable array of other devices, from Internet routers to more than half of the servers in the world, so it is arguably the most successful software project ever).
This new (and better) model is called Open-Source Development and it entails a unique set of assumptions in stark contrast with the old centralised model:
- Innovation requires true communication; true communication can happen only among peers. Hierarchies, with their attached power plays, stifle innovation, hinder communication and are a breeding ground for authoritarian and narcissistic types who are more interested in gaining power for themselves than in getting real results.
- Dissent is not a threat, but rather a natural and necessary component of each process. How can you tell if an idea is robust? You put it to test and you refine it until it stands (or you abandon it).
- Knowledge is naturally distributed. As the great Friedrich Hayek wrote, "the [...] unviability of central planning [rests] on the very nature of [this] knowledge. Such knowledge cannot be concentrated in a single brain, not necessarily because it is knowledge of 'complicated' things but because it is diffused throughout society." The collective knowledge of a networked group trumps the personal knowledge of the insider experts at the top of any centralised organisation by orders of magnitude.
- An organisation consists of a network of people freely communicating with each other, rather than reporting to a superior: like in a self-balancing computer network, there are no predefined paths along which the information must flow (or else!). Secrets, sabotage and power plays do not last long.
- The entire organisation is decentralised. While there are people responsible for some specific aspects, power and decision making are distributed among the participants. The amount of damage (malicious or unintended) that a single person can inflict is always mitigated.
- Leadership in the Open-Source model is not based on power relationships. As in computer networks, "a node is important only to the extent that other nodes want to communicate with it". People become leaders because people in the organisation want to work with them, not because they were selected and appointed by fiat decree.
- Everything is public by default. This is truly a revolutionary principle in this day and age and it is not just a stunt: it is a way to get better results as more people are able to check any particular policy, position or document and give feedback. Another positive consequence of this approach is that there can be no "private" vs. "public" positions on issues.
- A networked organisation is much harder to take over than a traditional hierarchical structure. In a top-down structure, total control can be obtained by controlling the apical positions, and that explains why we see political parties today behave in a way that contradicts their history, values and principles - often to much chagrin of those working in their lower ranks. In a networked organisation, on the other hand, power is distributed and people are interacting freely. This means that the only way to subvert it is to control more than half of the people in it (i.e. half of the nodes in the network: this concept will sound familiar to Bitcoin users).
A common misconception is that only software companies can adopt this model. "We are not a software company" is the usual way of phrasing it. In truth, any kind of knowledge work can be done better and more efficiently in a networked way.
Another common misconception is that the ideas above are just ideas and do not work in practice. Again, the truth is that there are thousands of projects, companies and foundations that have adopted the Open Source model with great success over the years.
If we borrow ideas, methods and best practices from the Open Source world and apply them to a political party, the outcome that we get is a new kind of political party. One in which the decision making process is public and transparent and the interest of the people is always considered because the organisation is decentralised and designed from the ground up to incorporate feedback from the outside world. Grassroots democracy meets 21st century technology.
Australia's Representatives is in fact a party designed from scratch in 2021 to withstand the mutated conditions of our society. To quote Mark E. Jeftovic:
"We’re headed toward a decentralized world governed by consensus as expressed through open source protocols and smart contracts. The battle is not about left vs right, conservative vs liberal where either side would have you believe that content cleanly bisects into Truth and Misinformation. The defining tension of the next 20 years will between decentralization vs bureaucracy, platforms vs protocols and nation states vs networks."
Our central tenet is that elected members of Australia’s Representatives will represent the people, not the party. We will return Australia to what it was always intended to be - a Representative Democracy where the voice of the people is heard in the parliaments of Australia.
To this end, Australia's Representatives will require its candidates to sign a public Community Pact, in which they commit to consult and engage with their electorates on an ongoing basis, to ensure their votes as elected members to the Parliament reflect the wishes and expectations of their constituents, subject to the values and principles that the Party stands for.
In true decentralised fashion, Australia's Representatives allows conscience voting by default. This is enshrined in our Constitution, which specifies that elected members can vote against the Party's preferred policy position, provided that:
- they cite their constituents' wishes;
- they publicly disclose their reasons and the supporting evidence, and that those reasons comply with the Party's values and policy framework.
If elected members do not comply with either of the two points above, they can be removed from the Party and they will mandatorily forfeit their seat in Parliament.
An example of how this will work in practice: if an elected member wanted to vote for lockdowns, arguing that his or her constituency is in favour of them (point 1 above), there would be no possibility that such a position could be backed either by existing laws or by evidence (point 2 above). Publicly available data demonstrate in fact that lockdowns do not prevent infections and are highly counterproductive. In such a case, it will become obligatory on the elected member's part to talk to their constituents about the law and the science and persuade them to change their mind.
The development of every policy proposal will be a public, collaborative process that will happen on the party's platform. People will be able to view the text for each proposal while it is being developed. Everyone will have the chance to comment on the content (either by adding comments or by upvoting / downvoting existing ones) and submit contributions or modifications.
In true open source fashion, every edit will be publicly tracked (think a blockchain for text documents).
Since the party's platform is based on open protocols such as Git, other organisations will be able to reuse, modify and integrate the policy texts. For example, a medical association could collaborate in an official capacity in the drafting of a policy related to medical freedom. Other political parties as well could use our platform to co-develop policy initiatives. Other partners could set up a continuous backup of the resulting data onto an external, independent, blockchain, and so on.
In addition to the above, our registered members will also have the power to propose new policy topics through petitions.
With your help, Australia's Representatives will bring back transparency and accountability in the political sphere, to the benefit of all Australians.
Eric S. Raymond. 2000. The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Thyrsus Enterprises [Full-text PDF]