At 8.20am on Saturday morning on Radio National’s AM, veteran psephologist Malcolm Mackerras slammed the Senate voting reform and predicted a High Court challenge. What upsets him is the party list. He says we should be voting for individual senators directly, according to the Constitution.
At 10.40am ABC Online reported Family First senator Bob Day’s announcement of a High Court challenge.
Mackerras is passionate about the voting reform legislation:
- This legislation that was passed yesterday is clearly unconstitutional. I describe it as breathtaking in its contempt for the Australian constitution.
- Section 7 of the constitution says: “The Senate shall be composed of senators for each state, directly chosen by the people of the state voting as one electorate.”
Section 24 says, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth.” The words “directly chosen by the people” appearing in Section 7 and in Section 24, in my opinion, commands that the electoral systems must be candidate-based.
Now, what this thing does is to introduce a party list system.
But the legislation does not “introduce” a party list system, it’s been there for ages now. Effectively Mackerras is saying that above the line voting is illegal and always has been.
From the first link above, Mackerras had been advising Day, and mentions some-one raising funds for the challenge.
Senator David Leyonhjelm said the Liberal Democrats would help to fund the High Court challenge. Jacqui Lambie and Ricky Muir declined to support the bid, probably saving their money for the elections. Labor has said they’ll take a look, but are extremely unlikely to join.
In the interview I heard Bob Day give, he mentioned a second basis for the challenge – the disenfranchisement of some 3 million voters. It was interesting that this reason, I think the weaker of the two, was the only one mentioned in reports by the SMH and The Australian (paywalled).
Meanwhile the all-night sitting descended into a farce, very much Labor’s doing and to their discredit. For once at least I’d agree with Senator Lee Rhiannon that Labor has ended up on the wrong side of history. To me they never got past their initial anger at seeing the Greens do a deal with the LNP. How they conducted themselves rather than the substance of the matter will stick in voters craw
- They could have presented their arguments and debated the issue in a few hours. Instead, they talked and talked and talked, generally saying little of consequence but behaving like pork chops.
Monty Python fart jokes, comparing the bill with a colonoscopy, reading a dictionary definition of “filibuster” into Hansard to waste time, hurling insults across the chamber, sneering and shouting. Can they really think this impresses voters? About the only thing they didn’t try was reciting names from the phone book, a ploy a Republican, one Alphonse D’Amato, used in a 1992 filibuster in the US senate.
He points out that if they put on a filibuster of the same kind to delay the ABCC bill on May 10, the Governor General will count it as a “failure to pass”.
It got worse when:
- Senator Jacinta Collins decided to trace a similar theme last night, musing on whether or not [Senator] Robert Simms, a gay man, was in fact a woman.
As Ben Eltham argues, what is behind the Labor position is the existential fear of the Greens taking more inner city seats, ending the careers of high-flyers like David Feeney, Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese. That fear is real and understandable, but in the process they’ve adopted positions which Eltham described as “breathtakingly hypocritical”, made themselves look like fools and lowered the bar for the behaviour of politicians generally.
On the Government side, the sight of LNP back-bencher George Christensen welcoming the ‘gutting’ of ‘bad content’ in anti-bullying program didn’t help.
For earlier posts, see: