​Blockchain startup makes Australian Senate play with democracy-as-a-service

The Flux Startup is making its Australian political debut, armed with 13 Senate candidates and a blockchain-based smartphone voting app that promises to transform democracy.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

With just over two weeks until the Australian federal election, The Flux Party is campaigning nationwide in a bid to see its 13 Senate candidates elected into the Upper House with its blockchain-based democratisation platform in tow.

The Flux Party was launched six months ago by the Flux Startup, and co-founder and lead architect Max Kaye said the party's intention is to transform democracy as Australia knows it.

"Our only policy is parliamentary reform essentially," Kaye told ZDNet. "We think that the system is no longer suitable for a society of our complexity and advanced state, so we essentially promote the Flux system as a superior alternative.

"We're the first company that tries to provide democracy-as-a-service."

If a Flux Party candidate or two is elected, they will bring with them the Flux Voting Platform, a blockchain-based smartphone app that would allow the Senator to share information with the electorate. Once the details of a Bill, for example, are shared with members or followers and they have had their opportunity to voice their opinion, the Flux Party representative will cast their vote based on citizen response.

The Senator essentially becomes a pure proxy in the process.

"The Flux Voting Platform is basically a way to let everyday Australians participate in politics to the best of their ability. One of the things we recognise as a flaw of the old way of doing democracy was that it sort of presumes that everyone is equally suited to have a say on every issue," Kaye said.

"Being in a society full of knowledge and specialisation, we thought that it was a bit of an outdated idea now and it would be more useful for people to have a say in areas where they know a lot as opposed to having an equal say on every issue."

The six-month-old party hopes to have its concept introduced at local, state, federal, and even international levels, with Kaye stating the startup's long-term aim is to transform democracy and restore political power back to the people.

"In our view, if you were to establish a colony on Mars, Flux would be the ideal system to deliver a democratic system of government to these early settlers," Kaye said.

"Our mandate is to win power and then give it away."

Kaye said his party does not have the trust that others do, and therefore cannot expect people to trust that the Flux Party will do the right thing. He said using blockchain technology gives the public a method that removes the need for Senator trust.

"We're removing as much trust as possible," he said. "Having a blockchain means that we keep ourselves accountable as well. [The party has] tried to put ourselves in the position of least authority. We don't want to be in a position where we could flip votes.

"One of the main problems with traditional web architecture is that it is all based on a central server and you've got to trust whatever you get back from that. By making public commitments to the blockchain, people can then use that to verify that the voting record is true and complete and hasn't been tampered with in any way by us."

With the election on July 2, Kaye said the focus of the Flux Party will be in building out the platform properly.

"We developed a minimum viable product last year and found that to be reasonably straightforward in the scheme of things. I built that over a month on nights and weekends and it wasn't overly complex -- the voting system is actually quite straightforward from a technical point of view," he said.

The Flux Startup recently privately raised AU$270,000 in seed funding. The company said further investment will be provided via a trust which will be seeded using electoral funding provided by the Australian Electoral Commission.

"If we receive any funding from the electoral commission -- because it ultimately comes back to taxpayer dollars -- we'll treat this as though it was the people of Australia who gave us that money and so the idea behind that is to try and create a trust in the name of the Australian people and use that as a way to both fund the platform but also enfranchise regular voters," Kaye said.

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