With the exception of the ACT and Tasmania, or lower Houses of Parliament across Australia contain members only of the two major parties (with a very few exceptions that you could probably count on one hand). If you don't vote for either of the two major parties, you would be forgiven that your vote is generally wasted. Even so, we do at least have a say - and in secret. That is more than a lot of our friends overseas get.
Election day is only one small part of a functioning democracy. Communicating with local Members of Parliament and lobbying in different ways also count. As does taking part in consultations run by governments and local councils.
Often consultations ask for feedback about a specific project. The decision has been made but feedback is sought about how it will be implemented. For example, a decision might be made by a local council to introduce traffic calming. Depending on who bothers to provide feedback and how they do it, the final version may consist of a couple of speedbumps or perhaps (by some miracle) quiet streets completely closed off to motorised through traffic and built to discourage speed.
Occasionally though, a consultation is done where people are just asked for their views. A recent one is Adelaide City Council's 5000 Plus project. According to the website:
5000+ is a design-led project for the redesign, renewal and reactivation of inner Adelaide. Since June 2011, we have been collecting and enabling ideas and propositions from design professionals, businesses, not for profit organisations, government agencies and academia. We are now investigating how these ideas might work, developing guiding principles and a place shaping framework.
The best bit though is under the heading 'Your Ideas'. There are so far 36 pages of different ideas about how Adelaide could be improved. Some of them are just brilliant. For example, an themed adventure playground, Science Festival, an outside saltwater pool and the world's longest flying fox.
Some are obvious, such as a clear pedestrian route from the markets to the station, bike lanes that do not end, a tram loop around the CBD and finally getting rid of the dreaded "door zone".
Here's another person's crazy idea - Parkour in the city:
There are some great ideas. Register and have your say. You can agree and disagree with ideas just by clicking the thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
It's your city.
PS: I should say, I have absolutely nothing to do with Adelaide City Council. I just think this is great - a very rare opportunity to have a real say in the future of our city.