The Senate voting reforms don’t reduce the incentive to vote for micro parties. If anything, writes Ben Aveling, these reforms make it easier.
There seems to be near universal agreement that Malcolm Turnbull, aided and abetted by the Greens, has dealt a death blow to the micro parties.
It’s true that Ricky Muir was elected by people who didn’t know that they were voting for him. That won’t happen again. Next time, he will be elected by people who know that they are voting for him.
Ask yourself, all those people whose preferences ended up with Ricky Muir, how many of them regret it? The answer is, I suggest, approximately none. They got what they voted for. Because they weren’t really voting for anybody so much as they were voting against the major parties.
In 2007, 11% of voters cast their first preference for a micro party or an independent – someone other than the Coalition, Labor, or the Greens. In 2013, 24% of voters cast their first preference for a micro party or an independent. Ever growing disillusionment with all of the major parties means that number is only going up. This matters.
It is the nature of our voting system that fractions tend to round down. If you get 20% of a quota, you are very unlikely to get elected. But the closer you get to 100% of a quota, the more likely you are to get elected.
The Motoring Enthusiast Party received first preferences amounting to just under 20% of one quota – in total across Australia. They were lucky to get a senator elected. There were micro parties that received 30%, 40%, even 70% of a quota without getting a senator elected. They were perhaps unlucky. But that is the way of it.
With so many micro parties receiving significant percentages of one quota, even though any individual party was unlikely to be elected, it was almost certain that some of those parties would be elected.
Turnbull’s Senate reforms will not change that. It will make the process less random, in that people will have to allocate their own preferences. But those preferences will still be out there. They aren’t magically going to come back to the major parties just because people have to allocate them for themselves. If they wanted to vote for major parties, they would have.
These reforms don’t reduce the incentive to vote for micro parties. If anything, these reforms make it easier to safely vote for a micro party.
In past elections, voting above the line for a micro party meant not knowing that you weren’t sending your vote somewhere you wouldn’t want it to go. With these reforms it is now safe to vote for a long line of independents, then send your vote to the major party of your choosing.
Voting for a micro party is no longer a bet on the unknown.
This is doubly true for the established micro parties, which have had a chance to make themselves known to voters. Muir in particular is widely agreed to have acquitted himself well. While I personally wouldn’t vote for Leyonjhelm or Lambie, I have reason to suspect a lot of people will. And for an independent senator, it doesn’t matter how many people vote against you, all that matters is how many people vote for you.
According to Sun Tzu, the Art of War is to win without fighting. To that end, Malcolm is ‘threatening’ the micro parties with an opportunity to get re-elected on half the usual quota. Some threat.
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