Monday, September 16, 2013

Making a demockeracy of the Senate

As has been noted by more than a few people, our senate voting system is in urgent need of repair. A system that allows a person to be elected to represent a state of a few million people while gaining just 0.5% or 13,002 first preference votes (Ricky Muir, Motoring Enthusiasts Party - Victoria) or worse yet 0.22% or just 2,030 votes (Wayne Drupolich, Australian Sports Party - WA) is a shambles. These results have come about due to Glenn Druery arranging preference swaps for a suite of different parties. What he has done is not illegal and both major parties have been warned about something like this happening since at least 1995.

The simplest way to reform the senate and encourage results that closer reflect the will of  the people is to make the threshold for election the same as the threshold for public funding - 4% of the primary vote. Although this method goes against the spirit of the Single Transferable Vote .
The method that seems to be gaining the most traction is the one that has been advocated by Antony Green and The Greens for a long time - Optional Above The Line preferencing like that used for the Upper House in NSW state elections. This system will allow voters to determine their own preferences instead of putting people's votes in the hands of backroom dealers. Along with this method allowing voters wanting to vote 'Below The Line' to only number as many boxes as there are candidates to elect (normally 6 but 12 in a double dissolution election) will give plenty of power back to voters and lower the informal vote rate.

To stop the situation we've seen in NSW this time where David Leyonhjelm from the LiberalDemocrats got a massive primary vote compared the LDP normal vote due to being in column 'A' and voters confusing them for the Liberal Party we could also introduce 'Robson Rotation' where the order on the ballot is randomised so each candidate (or party) shows up in each column the same number of times. Speaking of David, he is the registered officer for at least 2 parties, the LDP and The Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens). He was the lead LDP senate candidate for NSW this time, the ORP candidate for the Penrith by-election in 2011 and the LDP candidate for Bennelong at the 2007 Federal Election (where he got 0.1%) This is another situation that needs to be brought under control. How can one person be involved in at least 2 (though probably more parties) Which party's policies will guide him in the senate?

My preferred method of electoral reform is a little controversial, abolish the Senate (this will require a referendum that will only pass with bi-partisan support) and to introduce Mixed-Member-Proportional (like that used in NZ) voting to the lower house. If we have a truly proportional lower house we can do away with the senate and probably even preferential voting but if we are to keep the Senate (and preferential voting) we MUST make sure voters have control over where their vote goes if their first choice candidate isn't elected.

One last thing, while we're reforming the electoral system, let's ban the use of how-to-vote cards supplied by parties. We can either use the South Australia system and display a copy of each one in each booth or use MMP voting with no preferential voting. That way people only need to tick/cross 1 box and we won't need How To Vote cards. 
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