Senate Voting Reform

In the the   New Turnbull Cabinet post comments Jumpy asked  the following question about proposals to change the Senate voting system:

“What do you make of the proposed voting changes, fairer and more representative or the established parties trying to cull competition ?”

It is a good question and worth discussing as a separate post.


The quick answer is that the current system has a number of problems:

  1. If you vote above the line somebody else decides how your preferences are allocated.  In theory you can check how each party allocates preferences.  In practice this takes a lot of effort.
  2. Worse still this preference allocation is the result of wheeling and dealing, not a careful consideration of what each party really stands for.
  3. It also allows the system to be gamed.  For example, someone will set up a number of parties that exchange preferences with each other.  (The names and lead policies are chosen to appeal to different parts of the community so that the group of parties can maximise their primary vote.)
  4. You do have the right to allocate your preferences.  However, in this case preference voting is compulsory which means that to do so you have to fill in all the boxes and your vote will be declared informal if you make a mistake.

To my mind  the key reforms must:

  1. Return control of preference allocation to the voter.
  2. Use optional preference voting.
  3. Count all votes to the extent where it is clear what the voter intended.


There is some talk about making it harder for small voters and independents to get on the ballot paper.  Don’t agree with things that are aimed at culling the competition.

One thought on “Senate Voting Reform”

Comments are closed.