Bar elections almost over

September 20, 2007 |

In a little less than an hour the polling for the election of Victorian Barristers representatives on the Victorian Bar Council closes.  If past history is any judge it will be composed of a generally conservative middle aged men and women who occasionally recce into the fashionable issues of the day.  Affirmative action and giving female barristers is flavour of the month thanks to the creeping activism of the Women’s Barristers Association. 

But back to the election.  The electoral rules and the voting system make little sense and belong to a byegone age.  A couple of for instances:

  • No campaigning is permitted.  No brochures are allowed.  There isn’t even a policy statement included.  So it all comes down to recognition of a name on a ballot.  What is a potential member going to do for the rest?  Who knows.  Why?  Supposedly because the Bar is worried about a stack.  People still mutter darkly about a certain election way back into the 80s when a group organised and were spectacularly successful.  Gosh, taking the politics out of politics.
  • First past the post voting system.  It is the least democratic of systems.  In a country where preferential or modified proportional is the norm the Bar hankers after a system where it is as likely as not that representatives have less than 50% (or even 20%) of the voters support. Of course that is pure speculation because the Bar doesn’t publish the results.  And that is the second inanity..
  • The polls are not declared beyond announcing the winners.  How can a profession whose members spend a reasonable portion of their professional life working issues of  fairness and transparency into their arguments justify not publishing the results of a poll.  Somehow the good burghers do it.  Why?  When I asked I was told that it would discourage members from running again if they only posted a few votes.  Let’s get it right. The rough and tough advocates who take and give verbal punishment in negotiations, in writing and advocacy will wilt in the face of an electoral loss. Gimme a break!  It is a disgrace and one that should never have or continue to be tolerated.  And yet it is accepted.  Why… because of the membership.
  • The weighting of the representatives to the senior end guarantee the “Father knows best” approach to issues.  Chronic conservatism rules OK 

So the polls will be declared and the system will grind on.  How ridiculous.  If any barrister had a brief to challenge the system he or she would have a field day.  The phrase “The Cobbler’s children go shoeless” springs to mind.

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