Hottest 100 Democracy


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So I am siting at home today with my girlfriend and some mates, waiting for the Triple j Hottest 100 to start. The world’s largest music democracy is an interesting thing; it alienates and confuses some, while others (including myself) can’t get enough.

So why is it so controversial?

People who listen to Triple j, and many who don’t, have a say on their favourite songs of the previous year (the release date must fall within the last calendar year). People get confused when their favourite song from commercial radio doesn’t make the list. There are many reasons for this, including several rules about not being allowed to have commercial arrangements to drum up votes (even when they aren’t organised by the artist or anyone affiliated with them – sorry Tay Tay!).

Still people crack the sads and can be disappointed by the results.

There is one thing that can explain this. I believe is the most important factor. It’s democracy.

Democracy means everyone

That’s right, the vote; everyone – even non Triple j listeners – can vote, and this defines what is different between the commercial charts and the Hottest 100. Everyone gets to vote.

This means that even those without enough coin in their pockets can have a say about what is popular. It gives us a real picture about what the nation (let’s be serious; more like the ‘Triple j nation’) loved listening to in the last year.

It’s a true democracy, like our government elections; every citizen gets a vote, no matter their financial means or social status. The commercial charts don’t have this kind of street cred.

Why is society less democratic than this?

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Is compulsory income management such as took place with the NT Intervention democratic? Is it fair? Click image for source.

But why isn’t the rest of society this fair? In the past (and somewhat more so in recent times), those with little means have been blamed for their own misfortune. We live in what we like to see as a meritocracy; we say ‘we are where we are because of our hard work’, or ‘because we studied hard we made the right choices’. We deserve to be where we are –

– or do we?

This idea that folks are where they deserve to be because of hard work and ability forgets that we are constantly under the influence of circumstances beyond our control. I was subject to this just two weeks ago, when I was made redundant from my job. Not sacked, but my position was removed as part of a rationalisation process – a company restructure.

Now, in order to remove the immediate threat of financial woes, I need to start a job hunt and apply for social security. It’s a demoralising process. Many of us have been through it before, either while a student or due to a fall from grace; there is no real problem with this. But if we believe people are where they are because of their own efforts, this brings that world into question. We use words like ‘dole bludger’ to explain the attitudes of a very few people, but what we do to combat ‘bludgers’ affects those who are temporarily having to go through the system due to factors beyond their control.

The realities of this make the system overly complicated and exceedingly slow. I got a pay out, and so have a bridge; many don’t. Some folks get let go from casual jobs without notice or explanation – business reasons are cited as enough.

But then the punishment begins. The job market fluctuates over time and it’s not always as simple as ‘just getting a job’. It can take time to find one, let alone the right one or one that supports the lifestyle you once had.

We’re all a little vulnerable


Yet in the last few years our politicians have sought to reduce the amount of support available or even introduce wait times before you are eligible. As much as those of us in a job can say ‘that’s not too bad, my savings can last me that long’, what if you were low on savings having just came back from holiday and your boss gives you 2 weeks’ notice on your return? Your boss doesn’t know your financial situation, neither does the government. So why do they assume such changes are OK?

Life has its ups and downs. Even if the politicians think they can’t pay for so many of us stumbling occasionally, it’s still going to happen. We obtain food, a roof over our heads and a little dignity with money. What happens when this runs out is the reason why some people are on the streets; they don’t necessarily want or deserve to be there because they were a ‘bludger’ or too stupid to help themselves. A society is judged by how they treat their most vulnerable. We are all a little vulnerable from time to time.

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The statistics are a reality check, especially when one considers that many of the homeless are aged or children. Click image for source.

Is the solution UBI?

If we want a fair and supportive society we need to help folks to get back up when they stumble. Allow them to have another go. Like the Hottest 100, everyone should have the ability to have their say, a say means a roof over their heads, a warm meal and the security to know they can get on with life and even a job search with dignity.

I advocate for a Universal Basic Income as a way to achieve this. An income that is there not a month after you fall, but when you fall. Paid to all citizens, all the time. It’s offset by your taxes, and replaces the tax free threshold so that when you work you pay it all back, plus a little more as your bit to help others when they end up in the same scenario.

Some will say, ‘What about those who will try to exploit the system?’

What about them? Even if you try control their spending, their behaviour, their lives – what gives you that right? It makes little impact, and costs more to police than it saves; this is not about principle, it’s about a practical system. People can always sell their restricted purchases for cash, or use someone else’s receipt to return them for cash. Why waste our resources impinging on the liberty of others, where the same treatment for yourself would rouse anger?

A future where we help each other have full access to our great democracy is a good aim. No matter how well you are doing right now, we all benefit.

And now – back to the tunes.


Comments (8)

  1. Craig Flemming

    When in comes to unemployment the system requires that you sacrifice all your wealth before it will offer any help. So a UBI principle sounds pretty good.
    The people that bounce from job to job because they have difficulty in keeping it or motivation to keep it need much more assistance than punishment.
    Where did we get the idea that in order to help people we need to make them feel bad first – re welfare, prisons, drug use, refugees etc.

  2. Patrick

    Hi mate, hows the job hunting so far? I am still trying you know.

    My 2 cents. I guess another way to put it is to introduce a mandatory mutual account to receive partial of your regular pay (say 10%) when you have a regular income; and be able to withdraw that saving when becoming unemployed. It’s some kind of safety net for yourself when the situation go south.

    1. Jason

      So you’re saying on top of super people take a 10% pay cut? Regressive hugely to those struggling on their meager pay. Our sovereign government can always afford expenses in its own currency particularly to look after its people. The key is real resources and people available to purchase like educated people, infrastructure, health and a sustainable environment.

      1. Jason

        When I say people I mean their labour not them physically :-)

        1. Josh GilmoreJosh Gilmore (Post author)

          Hi Patrick, yeah I am still looking.

          I’m not sure about having 10% taken out of the pockets of everyone in case they become unemployed, what if it never happens, what happens to the money then? I guess it is a matter of what will people accept as fair.

          Generally we are willing to pay more for better service so long as we see it as valuable to ourselves. Essentially with the design of the UBI you would be paying a bit more in taxes than before, but because of the nature of unemployment and it’s natural rate of occurrence it would undoubtedly be less than 10% of your income. Besides if people want that level of protection for their income there are salary continuance providers that will do so already in the private sector.

          Unwillingly taking 10% out of the pockets of business owners on the other hand is asking for trouble, a recession and a more hostile job market.

  3. Damian O'Brien

    I not sure I follow the link between democracy and a UBI but never the less I agree with your article. I think that the nature of employment today and into the future is challenging. I think current safety net arrangements are inadequate and too complex.
    I think the the difference between working for low wages and receive ing welfare doesn’t incentivise workers. So I think a UBI of 25k per annum be paid to every citizen from birth,an income tax free threshold off 60k to incentivise people to take on low paid or casual work. Only then would I consider a gst of 15% on everything all other government funded pensions abolished. Just a thought on how it might shape up.

    1. Josh GilmoreJosh Gilmore (Post author)

      I was trying to draw a line between democracy and representation of interests as opposed to the influence of money (or the supposed lack of it) over politics. Commercial charts allow only those with money to be of influence while the Hottest 100 gives everyone a say.

      A Universal Basic Income gives everyone a say in both the market and the polling booth rather than removing the unfortunate from the market.

      People who have been treated badly tend to disengage with politics as they assume that because the system treats them badly that perhaps they should no be part of that system. I would like to see folks see otherwise, I would like them to see that their vote has value just as they have value, no matter their employment status.

      You are right about the complexity of the current system, it is unneeded, discriminatory and derogatory to those who need the support. Our plan at the moment includes a ~$20k* p.a. ($400 per week) payments to adults which are tax free and replace the tax free threshold on other income; this makes an effective tax free threshold of $64,500*. The taxation review is still a work in progress but the plan is to create a system where anyone earning under and up to the current median wage is better off than they are now even if only just a bit. There are modified payments for the elderly, disabled and children up to 16 years old to reflect the realities of some of these individual situations.

      *The figures we are working with are based off 2013 data but we will update them in due course. $20kp.a. is based on ACOSS recommendations.

    2. Josh GilmoreJosh Gilmore (Post author)

      On the subject of the GST we are currently opposed to it’s increase because of the regressive effects of doing so. It immediately increases the cost of living and would likely trigger a recession.

      In my personal opinion an increase in the GST appears to be a thinly veiled effort to lead into individual income tax cuts, as is much of the talk about austerity being required to balance the budget.

      Cuts of this nature will likely benefit only mid to high income earners while the increased GST would increase the cost of living for low income earners. Income inequality is a serious issue of our time and this action would only serve to increase inequality.


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