A referendum in Switzerland has seen legislation to introduce basic income rejected.
Last Saturday, the people of Switzerland took part in the world’s first referendum to introduce a nationwide basic income – unconditionally granted to all individuals, without means test or work requirement. The proposal, which would have seen every adult guaranteed a yearly wage of around A$30,000, with an additional A$7800 for every child in their care, was rejected.
The final tally saw 77 per cent reject the proposal. In this first attempt, basic income may have been rejected but the idea of basic income is not yet done with. Pre-polling in Switzerland suggested that the proposal was never going to gain the required support because of the sudden and untested nature of basic income. However, the polling does suggest that 77 per cent of the Swiss population would support a test of basic income.
The referendum on basic income was introduced under Switzerland's 'popular initiative system', which allows citizens to suggest changes to the federal constitution. For an initiative to be considered, campaigners need to collect 100,000 signatures over 18 months so an idea can go to a public vote.
The referendum in Switzerland over the weekend opened my eyes to what is one of the most forward-thinking and responsible systems of checks and balances – Switzerland’s ‘popular initiative system’.
This revolutionary system hands the power back to the people and enables them to propose important policies to the parliament. Any new proposal requires the signature of about 1.5 per cent of the population and referenda are held to consider, at one time, several ideas suggested by the popular initiative system.
Under our current system, the Australian Government does not have to consider any new ideas, no matter how popular they are, whether it be an increase in the Age Pension or changes to the law that would see the legalisation of euthanasia.
Imagine just how different our country could be with a little bit of power handed back to the people? Would you like to see a similar initiative introduced in Australia? What would be the first legislative changes you would support?