A July election to clear out the unrepresentative swill?

It’s been simmering below the surface for weeks, but has now burst forth. A plan to rid the Senate of the pesky cross bench and make government safe for the major parties.

Lenore Taylor was onto it last Friday. The LNP government have plotted with the Greens and Nick Xenophon to change the senate voting system, presumably to their advantage. I suspect the real winner may be Xenophon, having turned himself into a party and able to pull from left and right. He may end up controlling the balance of power in the senate no matter who wins the Reps. Certainly the micro parties are up for the chop.

The system

As Antony Green explains the legislation is based on the principle that voters rather than parties determine the flow of preferences. You can vote 1 to 6 above the line, and your vote is still valid if you stop before 6.

But curiously, if you vote below the line you need to fill in the whole ballot sheet. I’m one of the 3% of dedicated below the line voters. I don’t always follow the order preferred by a party for it’s candidates, and I don’t like having to put a number next to names I’ve never heard of. I’m particular about who I put last.

There has been commentary that a micro party with 4% of primary votes could still get up. I’m cool with that, and cool with the notion that if they can’t get that far it may as well be a lottery.

Green points out that there will be no counting of senate votes on the election night, presumably as a consequence of what happened in WA last election.

Labor is divided on the whole issue, but they are strictly irrelevant on this one.

The politics

Of the cross bench of eight only John Madigan, who has turned himself into a party, is up for re-election in the normal course of events. As Taylor points out, unless Turnbull goes for a double dissolution he is going to have a cantankerous cross bench to deal with next term.

But apparently the DD option involves calling an election the day after the budget in May and having a 53 day campaign. A longer campaign normally favours the opposition. Turnbull would be crazy to do it, but I think he would be attracted to centering the campaign on union corruption and the resurrection of the Australian Building and ­Construction Commission.

The micro parties have threatened to join forces to run candidates in LNP marginal seats directing preferences to Labor. David Leyonhjelm sounds quite serious about it. It could happen and it may make a difference. In 1998 the whole election swung on about 3000 votes.

The polls

On Saturday John Quiggin predicted that Bill Shorten would be the prime minister after the next election. On Sunday the news came through that Newspoll now has the LNP and Labor 50-50, whereas three weeks ago the LNP maintained its consistent 53-47 lead.

In the personal ratings Shorten has come up a bit and Turnbull down a bit, but Turnbull is still well ahead. However, we may vote for policy rather than personality.

The question now is whether a trend negative to the LNP has been established and whether it will affect the timing of the electiom.

Impossible to say.

Fairfax-Ipsos last week had the LNP up 52-48 and narrowing. This week Essential is 52-48 and widening. It’s all margin of error stuff.

I don’t have a link but there was a Galaxy poll of federal voting intentions in Queensland about a week ago. The LNP were ahead 57-43. I think the ALP currently holds six of 30 seats. Unless the Queensland economy improves I think Bill Shorten can’t win.

51 thoughts on “A July election to clear out the unrepresentative swill?”

  1. I think what is being proposed is reasonable even though I would prefer to be able to allocate preferences to more than 6 parties above the line and not have all my vote ruled invalid if I make more than 5 mistakes below the line.
    The important thing is that it will get rid of the current undemocratic and scandalous scheme where the preferences of above the line voters are allocated by backroom negotiations.
    It would also be good if some of the changes Anthony Green talks about were included in the final system. Among other things I really don’t like the idea of sealed boxes cavorting around the countryside full of uncounted votes.

  2. Steve Conroy is arguing that under the proposed changes Xenophon would never have made it. Apparently he only got about 2% primary vote the first time around. Conroy’s arguing for a 1% threshold for candidates to stay in the race and receive preferences.

    He points out that 25% of the electorate want to elect someone other than the three major parties and Xenophon. Their preferences will either be harvested by the entrenched parties or exhaust.

    It’s a pretty fair argument for the possibility of diversity and the emergence of new parties.

  3. Mungo MacCallum on Waiting for Malcolm:

    As the Coalition troops file back into their party meetings for yet another indecisive week in Canberra, they could be forgiven for chanting: “One, two, three, four; what are we campaigning for?”

    To which their glorious leader and his reluctant treasurer might be forgiven for responding, in unlikely unison: “Five, six, seven, eight; we need more time to cogitate.”

    Or perhaps the more apposite rhyme might be meditate, or procrastinate, or even vegetate. Not quite as snappy as a traditional Abbott three-worder, but then we live, we are told, in more eloquent times.

  4. Brian: I am a bit fuzzy about what is proposed and what Labor wants changed. for example:
    Can I allocate preferences for more groups than 6 and have these counted where applicable?
    Do groups that get less than 4% of the primary vote get excluded automatically and have their preferences distributed?
    My personal wish list is:
    Able to vote for as many parties above the line as I wish.
    Able to make a brief excursion below the line to rearrange a party list. (Cori Bernardi to last for example.)
    Able to put parties/people I really don’t like at the end of my preferences without having to allocate the preferences of those in the middle.
    No automatic exclusion of a low primary vote group from any part of the count.

  5. John, I’m not sure about what Labor wants, except that they are really angry with the Greens.

    Personally, I’d like to do what you would like to do, use my preferences above and/or below the line and not have to put a number against anyone I don’t know or really dislike.

    As to the law, I’m not sure either, I’ve just brought Mark in from the airport and he’s not entirely clear either.

    The AEC will be promoting six preferences above the line. But there is a ‘saving’ clause, which means that if you put fewer than six your vote will still be counted. The purpose was to prevent a lot of informal votes, since a lot of people will just vote 1 out of habit. Not sure if more than six is OK, but I imagine it would be. But in effect we have OPV above the line, and Labor may promote that to piss off the Greens (and shoot themselves in the foot!)

    Seems to me there will be a lot of new parties, so in the bigger states the ballot paper is likely to be a mile long.

    The really interesting bit is that Mark says there can be a high court challenge to the whole thing, and there probably will be to thwart Malcolm’s DD option.

  6. The Conversation says that Penny Wong is arguing that:

    the government-Greens deal, which gives the Coalition the numbers to pass the legislation, was designed to purge the parliament forever of all small parties.

    She said the changes would advantage the major parties and the Greens but about 3.3 million people had voted for someone else.

    “I think a system which essentially says to that many Australians, we are going to exhaust your votes or coral them for one of those three parties, is not particularly democratic,” she told the ABC.

    “What the Greens are doing is essentially pulling up the drawbridge behind them. It would have been unlikely, frankly, that the Greens could have got to … where they currently are, if this system had been in place. What they are saying is: we want to pull up the drawbridge behind us and make sure no one else can get in.”

    Labor also thought there was a risk the Greens had done a deal which would enable the Coalition to more easily gain a Senate majority.

    It is worth reminding Penny that family first was able to block Rudd initiatives. Funny thing, Family first only got in because Labor did a deal that involved putting family first ahead of the Greens.
    A textbook case of how the current system can be very undemocratic. How many Labor voters would have put Family First ahead of the Greens if they had had control of their preferences?

  7. John, I’m sure Penny Wong has a good memory. She would remember that the Greens preferenced PUP ahead of Labor in every state and territory last election.

    There are two issues here, one of substance and one of process, and the two are mixed up.

    Labor was involved in a parliamentary committee in 2014 through Gary Gray, who is in favour of the proposed changes. But when the current bill appeared Gray was rolled by Conroy, Wong and Dastayari in shadow cabinet. But I don’t think they have enunciated what changes they would like, just that they oppose the present proposals, because they disenfranchise the 25% who vote for indies and small parties. Seems they haven’t made up their mind yet about what they really want.

    Which brings us to the issue of process. A deal was done by LNP, The Greens and X, springing it on everyone else. Labor doesn’t like being irrelevant, but they have a case when the bill was only released on Monday this week, submissions are due next Monday, the committee sits for 4 and a half hours on Tuesday, then a report issued Wednesday. It suits Turnbull’s desire to at least threaten a DD.

    For a matter as important as this, such a rushed process is seen as outrageous. The Greens voted with Xenophon and the LNP yesterday to defeat a motion to extend the committee process to May 12. They could have headed Turnbull off at the pass.

    Labor is pissed off because their support at election time has been taken for granted. In their view Natale has done a cosy deal and thinks the ALP has no option but to support him with preferences at election time.

    The mail is that Labor will not be preferencing the Greens in the senate, and in SA, NSW and Queensland that may matter. It means that no-one will except perhaps Xenophon.

    I think the ALP has a case on the matter of process. Relations between the two progressive parties only improved for a time under Gillard.

  8. …they disenfranchise the 25% who vote for indies and small parties.

    Brian, I don’t think that is strictly accurate. Under the proposed changes the 25% still have a vote.
    Their situation is much the same as the one I find myself in when I vote for the House of Reps. I’m disenchanted with the ALP and my electorate is safely Liberal, so when I vote for my preferred minor party or independent candidate I’m under no illusions that they will win the seat. However I don’t consider myself disenfranchised.

  9. Strictly, you are right, zoot. I could have said “effectively disenfranchised”.

    That being said, the ones who are in all got decent primary votes under a party umbrella except Madigan and Ricky Muir, I believe. With the recognition they’ve achieved, they might be a show. A new person starting up, however, would be poorly placed.

  10. Brian: One of the good things about the Australian preference system is that allows people to vote for single issue parties without losing their ability to influence the major contest. In essence a single issue. It could be argued that the 25% voting fore single issue parties will still have more influence than a voter than gives their primary vote to multiple issue parties like the ALP and LNP
    In addition, the 25% could still get senators up if their preferences flowed though to one or two of the micro parties.
    In terms of bad memories, under the current system the decision of Labor to put Family First first reflected the needs of back room negotiators rather than a Party decision on the relative merits of Greens vs Family First. This is what is wrong with the current system.

  11. John, I’m simply trying to explain what appears to be going on. Labor does not like being taken for granted. They are also saying that they find it easier to deal with the cross bench than with the Greens in recent times.

    For one reason or another they are going to give a high priority to whacking the Greens in the face. We’ll have to wait and see how that all works out: what they put on their ‘how to vote’ cards, whether voters take any notice and what the political and electoral outcomes will be. I’m not saying it’s a good idea.

    I have no idea why they preferenced Family First in the past. I thought it was crazy at the time, but there must have been reasons. I’ve never heard a justification for it. Certainly now the voters will be in control of the preference flow in a way they weren’t in the past

  12. I cant find the Essential poll, but the SMH reports:

    An online Essential Media survey of 2700 respondents taken early this week, found Greens’ voters opposed their party’s cooperation with the federal government on Senate changes at the rate of two to one, 54 per cent to 27.2 per cent. Another 14.7 per cent had no firm view.

  13. The story seems to have got around that the micro parties are being treated unfairly by making the senate vote democratic.
    The union movement has never been famous for wanting to give power to the members. I can imagine that they don’t like the idea of voters determining where their preferences flow instead of head office.

  14. John, if you follow the link above unions have written to Di Natale asking him to reconsider, reminding him what happened when the LNP controlled the senate with Workchoices. Their worry is that the LNP now has a better chance of gaining control. I understand in fact the LNP would require 46% of the primary vote to do this, which is thought to be impossible. I’m not sure that it is impossible in Qld and WA if the economy continues to be bad in those states.

    The Greens are being seen as in Turnbull’s pocket, and I think there is some justification for that in their complying with Turnbull’s desire to rush through the committee stages in a week.

    The main flaw in the proposed changes is the lack of preferential voting for independents below the line. Stephen Mayne had an article in Crikey about his run for the senate as an indie in 2010. He says that you have to organise 200 separate letters supporting your candidature and put up a deposit od $4000.

    By contrast, Lambie and Lazarus, having entered under a party umbrella, can now launch their own parties without any demonstrated support whatsoever.

    This aspect has not come to light in the MSM. The bill could have been improved with a longer committee stage, but Natale and Xenephon have been entirely accommodating to Turnbull’s wish to rush it through. That may not hurt Xenephon, but as I said, Natale has upset Labor enough to have them seek to do significant electoral damage to the Greens. If the Green senators in Qld, SA and NSW go down, plus Adam Bandt, he will be left to reflect whether it was a good idea to be so helpful to Turnbull.

  15. If it’s a good Bill and more Democratic then support it.
    All this Party manoeuvring and back door crap is why reform is called for.

    Personally, I’d have Vote 1 above the line for voters that trust their first choice to preference for them. And 1 to 8 below the line or as many as you like but the vote is valid if 8 are ok.

    I think Victoria may have this.

    Let’s also remember some Countries do ok without a Senate at all. Think the Scandinavian model.

  16. Thereis a problem with optional preferential voting in that it tends to default to first past the post, which most sensible people think is undemocratic. That effectively is what the bill allows.

    An alternative is to have compulsory preferential voting above the line.

    Below the line you could make it optional, to save numbering one to 147 or whatever.

    The voter remains in charge.

    The criticism of the above is that some dopey people would just vote one above the line, so their vote would be informal. I’d say, put the instructions on the ballot paper and if they ignore them then they don’t deserve a vote.

  17. Loosing a box of votes is undemocratic.
    We wouldn’t be having this chat if Muir wasn’t there.
    It was fine in 07 and 13 for the greens but now it’s not ?
    10 % of the voters having balance of power doesn’t strike me as democratic or 2% or 0.012% but there we are.

  18. David Leyonhjelm is actually quite logical. He thinks Xenophon will end up with the balance of power as it works out in practice. I mentioned that possibility in the post, and he’s probably riight.

    For those who didn’t follow the link, he says that the first five will go to the majors and a minor will have to get 9 or 10 per cent first preference votes to take the sixth. This makes it virtually impossible for a new party to break in.

    Jumpy, on further consideration, I like your suggestion of making people number 1 to 8 below the line, but I think it has to be compulsory full preferential voting above the line.

  19. Jumpy:

    10 % of the voters having balance of power doesn’t strike me as democratic or 2% or 0.012% but there we are.

    With the parties as they stand at the moment the Labor party has the balance of power in the sense that government legislation will get through if it has the support of Labor. Various combinations of the minor parties can also have the balance in the sense that legislation will get through with their support even if it doesn’t have the support of Labor.
    In most elections the government gets less than 50% of the primary vote so there is nothing undemocratic about a combination of opposition parties being able to block legislation in the center even if some of these opposition parties get less than 10% of the primary vote.

  20. It would be interesting to know how much legislation passes the senate with bipartisan support from both major parties. I have a hazy memory that the score is above 80%.

    When I listen to the senate on radio the business og the house is usually carried “on the voices”. Often when a division is required it’s the Greens wanting to record officially that they don’t agree.

  21. Three articles on the senate changes:

    Beware of pollies selling senate reform by Richard Dennis

    Senate Reform – Why Bother Forcing Below-the-line Votes to be Full Preferential? by Antony Green

    Greens have voted for Senate reforms that could wipe them out in South Australia.

    The Parliamentary Library has modelled what would have happened in South Australia in 2013. Family First Senator Bob Day and Senator Hanson-Young would be ousted by a Labor candidate and a Nick Xenophon Team candidate. Elsewhere the Greens would have been OK.

    Richard Dennis’s article is comprehensive and pretty much a must read.

  22. Brian: After the 2010 I wrote a Post on Reducing the Informal Vote This post discussed the effect of things like English skills, number of candidates etc on the “unintentional” informal vote. What I found strengthened my support for optional preference voting as a way of reducing the disenfranchisement of some people at the bottom of the pile. A key quote:

    The aim of a fair voting system is to take account of a voter’s intentions, not test how well a voter understood the intricacies of the voting system.

    The post also mentioned the backroom allocation of Senate preferences.

  23. Brian: If like me you are concerned about reducing the barriers to small parties wanting to enter the Senate you should advocate for all senate elections being full senate elections instead of the half senate elections like we normally have now.
    In addition, part of what is wrong with the senate system is that senators are elected for two terms. As a result, only half the senators reflect how voters felt at the last federal election.
    This can cause problems. For example, Rudd struggled with the senate because half of the senators had been elected when Latham had been the opposition leader.
    In addition, senators should take their seats when they are elected instead of sometimes having to wait months for the old senators to finish their term.

  24. Thanks, for that John.

    Clearly democracy would be best served by reforms that go beyond what is presently being considered.

    Given the constraints of the present exercise, I’m thinking we should do away with above the line voting, which was there to make the backroom deals easier to implement. Just get voters to vote 1 to 6 in a half senate election, or 1 to 12 for a full senate. Over a few elections the informals should decrease.

  25. Just get voters to vote 1 to 6 in a half senate election, or 1 to 12 for a full senate.

    I tend to agree, but isn’t that a de facto first past the post scheme which would “disenfranchise” the micro parties and independents?
    Perhaps if voters were required to vote for a minimum of 6 in a half senate election and 12 in a full one?

  26. Yes zoot, I’d go for at least 6 or 12. People who want to go further can do so.

    There’s been a few developments and I’m tempted to do another post. For now I’ll give five more links.

    First, as posted by Michelle Grattan former official of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Michael Maley, has attacked the government’s planned reform of Senate voting as internally inconsistent. He told Fran Kelly on Breakfast that it was incoherent, inconsistent and discriminatory. But the surprise to me was that the joint parliamentary committee had recommended optional voting below the line:

    Maley, who favours the reform provided it also applies below the line, notes that the joint standing committee recommended in 2014 partial optional preferential voting for below the line, with six candidates to be voted for in a half-Senate election and 12 in a double dissolution. This would have been consistent with the proposed above the line voting.

    Turnbull, the Greens and X are putting a different scheme up in the bill. The fact that it took a week for this to come to light demonstrates the inadequacy of the one week deliberation phase.

    There are several unions that support the Greens financially rather than the Labor Party. Phil Coorey reports that they are threatening to withdraw their support.

    Also, under a DD Xenophon might get three in SA and the Greens only one.

    The party is also at risk in Western Australia and Victoria, and to a lesser extend in Tasmania.

    Thirdly, Prof Dryzek at The Conversation says we need more like Ricky Muir, not less.

    Democracy requires a deliberative assembly, which requires justification and reflection. The senate should be the chamber of reflection. At present only Ricky Muir and possibly Glen Lazarus look at issues without baggage.

    Fourth, Prof George Williams argues for below the line voting reform. His important insight, I think, is that with ATL the parties are still in charge of the order of the candidates.

    To me that’s an argument for getting rid of ATL.

    Fifth, Laura Tingle reckons a double dissolution is an “increasing certainty”.

    Labor meanwhile would have more credibility if they knew what the favoured on senate reform rather than what they opposed.

    Things seem to be in a schmozzle apart from Turnbull and Xenophon, who are smiling.

    The Greens and Labor should learn to cooperate, but you can’t really expect this when the Greens’ explicit aim is to replace Labor.

  27. Brian,
    The data strongly suggests that many people struggle to get the preference system right. To make things worse the people who struggle tend to be the ones towards the bottom of the pile.
    Have you got a clear picture of exactly what is being proposed and what alternatives any of the opponents are proposing?

  28. Prof Dryzek is very convincing. Maybe we need to ban parties from the Senate? (not that there’s much hope of that)

  29. zoot, I think Dryzek is a timely reminder that the senate is not performing it’s designed function as a house of review, and can’t while parties own it and members can be ministers etc.

    John, to recap, the bill has three main provisions.

    Firstly, there is optional preferential voting above the line and voters are urged to fill in 6 boxes.

    Secondly, there is a ‘saving’ clause, whereby if voters only fill in one box, or less than 6, their vote will be counted. The purpose is to minimise informal votes.

    Thirdly, there is compulsory voting below the line – all boxes must be filled in. This is different from the joint committee’s recommendations from 2014, which recommended optional voting as per ATL.

    That’s what I understand without having seen the actual legislation.

    As to ‘opponents’, I guess the micro parties want to keep things as they are.

    Labor sent Gary Gray along to the 2014 committee and he agreed with what’s there. He also agrees with the bill even though it’s different.

    I’m not too sure exactly what happened, but it seems Labor was blind-sided by the Greens and Xenophon doing a deal. I’d suggest that if Turnbull was being principled rather than political he would have cut Labor into the dealing to make sure support was bipartisan and enduring.

    It’s clear that Gray was rolled by Wong, Conroy and Dastayari in shadow cabinet. However, they haven’t come up with an alternative, as far as I know. The anger at the Greens doing a deal is not the best environment for rational decision-making, and it’s a negative to Shorten’s leadership that he has let the issue drift. It’s possible, of course, that they’ve flipped to join the cross bench, and that is the implication from letting it drift, which is defending the indefensible.

    The committee hearings were today, and the most notable thing emerging was the testimony by Antony Green and George Williams suggesting that below the line should be in sync with above the line. Green has suggested that to do otherwise is to make the whole thing vulnerable to a high court challenge. How likely such a challenge is we don’t know.

    I gather plenty of others made a similar point to Green and Williams. We’ll know tomorrow whether the committee recommends changes. Of course Turnbull, Di Natale and Xenephon don’t need to take any notice of the committee.

    The bill is quite hostile to independents, as Stephen Mayne told Phillip Adams.

  30. Brian,
    The data strongly suggests that many people struggle to get the preference system right. To make things worse the people who struggle tend to be the ones towards the bottom of the pile.

    John, I think there is always going to need to be a ‘saving’ clause if preference voting is more than optional.

    I’d still favour doing away with above the line and encouraging people to fill in 1 to 6, or 1 to 12 for a full senate, to get people used to the idea that they are actually electing 6 senators.

    We could have a ‘saving’ clause to pick up those who don’t and also a clause specifying that how-to-vote cards must have at least 6 preferences.

  31. Could a mathematician please take a few minutes to explain La Tingle’s “increasing certainty”?

    * * ** *** *****
    I think optional preferential is the fairest voting format, given that many citizens would often have several candidates they wanted to put “equal last”.

    I quite like the half-Senate elections and the long Senate terms. Having a full Senate election with every HoR election would be more likely to give “winner takes all” results, si?

    A strong reformer pollie may prefer that; I recall David Lange’s contempt for the NZ list system when it was introduced. In his view, the likelihood of coalitions being needed to govern, was distasteful.

    But Aussie voters have a penchant for voting differently in Senate and Reps; commentators usually attribute this to a desire to have a handy brake on the Govt, available when needed.

    And wasn’t it needed with that Horror Budget in 2014?!!

    BTW, Mr Abbott recently wrote that he wore the criticism of Mr Hockey’s 2014 Budget as a “badge of honour”. Tony, your government ejected you – after swearing blind they’d not repeat the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd fiasco – because there was such a community groundswell of criticism of that Budget. You and your Treasurer and Finance Minister could not persuade the critics that they were mistaken. The opinion polls – a kind of “democratic sampling between elections” if you will – were consistently against your Budget. The longer you defended it, the worse the polls. Please have your “badge of honour” re-made as a knighthood, at any nearby Dick Smith’s, Masters, Holden, Toyota, etc.

    So I thank the cranky Senate and the cranky ALP.

    The current brouhaha is confusing. Thank you Brian, JohnD et al for your explanations.

    I’ve seen a comment today that the Greens would support “LNP nasties” at a DD sitting. I don’t see why they should. If their current gambit is aimed primarily at increasing the number of Greens Senators and HoR members, and this may be more likely in a full Senate election, might this be a useful aim just in isolation? Pure pragmatism, undiluted self-interest.

    Then, whatever the overall numbers in the Joint Sitting [ah, 1974…. those were the days…] the Greens could vote on each item in accordance with their policy. They might support the Clean Energy Finance mob, for instance.

  32. I’ve seen a comment today that the Greens would support “LNP nasties” at a DD sitting.

    I don’t know where that came from, but I heard it too. Seems it’s a red herring. The only matters that can be considered at a DD joint sitting are the trigger bills.

  33. According to Patricia Karvelas on RN Drive, the bill has been amended to provide optional preferential voting below the line, with 12 boxes having to be filled in.That’s a good result, all things considered, and I’d vote for it if I were a senator. It’s being debated tonight and is sure to be passed.

    Karvelas interviewed Richard Di Natale tonight. It was a bit weird, I thought. Di Natale was just taking the line that it was long-standing Greens’ policy and the right thing to do. It was all completely unproblematic to him and he didn’t seem to care about what happened below the line.

    I was gobsmacked when he said he was confident the CEFC would be retained because he’d read it in the paper!

  34. Ambiguous: Full Senate elections make it harder for a major party to get control and easier for minor parties to get in.
    In terms of the Greens it will increase the certainty of having at least one Green senator in each state (good for Qld) and harder to get 2. Given that the Greens have 2 senators in many states they may end up worse off.
    From a democracy point of view I don’t like the idea of someone elected 5 years ago still being able to vote in the Senate. Like even less senators having to wait for months after they have been elected because they have to wait for the term of someone elected years ago to leave.

  35. Thanks John

    Yes, full Senate elections make it easier for minor parties to get in. A ‘quota’ for one seat is about 7.69% isn’t it? Instead of 14.28% in a half-Senate election.

    So if the Greens have 2 Senators in some states now, I suppose they were elected at two different half-Senate elections, were they?

    And you’re assuming a Greens vote of (say) 6% to 9% in every State?

    But I seem to recall the Greens often scrape in with the ‘last’ Senate seat in a State, when they win one; and do so with the help of some preferences (including some from ALP voters). In other words their first preference votes totalled less than 14.28% of the State vote. So getting one seat means the party was then over-represented, albeit slightly.

    Nothing wrong with that: every party getting Senators elected at that poll will finish up being over- or under-represented [on crude first-preference comparisons] in that State because Senators are ‘lumpy’ .

    In a sense, then, a full Senate election is likely to have a smaller degree of over- and under-representation, for all parties. And it would go some way to meeting your objection that some sitting Senators were elected too long ago.

    I like preference voting, and support proportional representation in the Senate. I also like the fact that HoR and Senate voting systems differ. It’s a very minor “check and balance”. We could do with more. Separation of powers is another; let’s guard it.

    Brian, the “nasties” referred to were DD trigger bills, e.g. abolishing the CEFC, and re-establishing the building industry CFMEU police union watchdog commission taskforce protection ministry outsourced offshore transparently agile best practice multifaceted innovation-rich etc.

    I didn’t mean extra not-previously-announced “nasties” a la Abbott/Hockey….

    …. and BTW isn’t Mr Abbott covering himself in glory?
    he’s becoming more like a robotic Ruddbot every day, methinks… free of the constraints (such as they were) of his previous job

  36. I understand that the last position in a normal half senate election is frequently decided with less than a full quota because of the exhaustion of preferences.

  37. Fair point, John.

    Should preferences be weighted? First pref. worth more than second, etc? or just flow through with full value as at present?

    Preferential voting is one of the most appealing features of our system, I think.

  38. That may lead to, in rare circumstances , not enough to fill the last quota.
    Is that right ?

  39. Jumpy, I think if it’s optional preferential voting it may be common for the last quota not to be filled. But I don’t really understand how votes are counted, so I could be wrong.

  40. Michelle Grattan reports:

    voters will be instructed to number at least 12 boxes in order of their preferences when voting below the line. There will be a “savings” provision that any vote with at least six boxes numbered one to six below the line would be considered formal.

    Bill Shorten has replaced Gary Gray as shadow minister of state by adding the portfolio to Brendan O’Connor’s, who is employment and workplace relations spokesman.

  41. Oh, and there is a little Referendum that has received little attention or debate.

    I’ll be in the NO camp.

  42. John, as this one disappears over the horizon, back here you quoted an Essential poll saying

      53% total favoring the proposed reform, 16 % against. Both LNP (71/9) and Labor(52/19) had over 50% approve. Greens were 46% approve, 29% disapprove.

    William Bowe (Poll Bludger) who writes at Crikey, reckons that poll would have asked about 100 Greens. He refers to a private poll mentioned by Mark Kenny, also by Essential but commissioned by the ACTU sampling 2700 Greens. It found “Greens’ voters opposed their party’s cooperation with the federal government on Senate changes at the rate of two to one, 54 per cent to 27.2 per cent. Another 14.7 per cent had no firm view.”

    He comments:

      Contradictory as these findings may appear at first, they in fact reflect a perfectly cogent view that the reforms are desirable in their own right, but that the Greens should not be pursuing them arm-in-arm with a Coalition that could, for all anyone knows, emerge in a few short months with enough Senate muscle to pass the kinds of measures that were blocked after the 2014 budget.

    His words, not mine.

Comments are closed.