We Need Electoral Reform
By Steve Laing
If you don’t get the reference to the title, it concerns the latest defection, and the reasoning behind it, because Cory Bernardi has finally gone and done it?
My belief (based on reason and logic,), that making such a move would never happen, has been found to be totally wrong. After years of threatening to branch off on his own, he has finally plucked up the courage. He has spent the last three months at the UN in New York and watching first-hand the enthronement of the populist Trump.
And clearly the experience has finally given him the impetus to let go of the Coalition coat-tails and venture out into the real world. Well, at least he has shown he has some cojones.
Will it make any difference? Other than some slight embarrassment to the government, probably not. He will undoubtedly vote like Pauline, in line step with the government. But being on the outside, the stranger of his views can largely be ignored. He is just another cross-bench senator, his political power somewhat diminished, though I am sure he will continue to be a paid up member of sideshow alley.
So why the article?
Because this defection highlights another absurdity within our electoral system, revealing that political party opportunists can manipulate the system so that the electorate gets what the politicians want rather than the other way around.
Bernardi’s senate seat came almost entirely from votes above the line, where electors voted for the Party, not the candidate. Those votes cast for a Liberal have now ended up with whatever Cory calls his new party. And ‘there ain’t diddly squat’ anyone can do about this rather duplicitous sleight of hand. Moreover, it was no secret, with Cory buying the URLs for party names well before the last election. Yet he was still given second place on the Liberal SA senate ticket.
So again, the electorate have been conned, and there is nothing that can be done about it. We now have a new party for those who despair for how the political system is abused by politicians who don’t do what is right by the electorate; which might include politicians campaigning for one party, then jumping ship once elected.
There is no mention of political parties in the rules of our government, so why do they appear in elections? If people are only supposed to vote for candidates, then how is it that we vote for parties in the senate?
Given the recent below the line voting changes, making it much quicker and simpler, is it now time to get rid of above the line voting? Should not the voter pick the order of senate candidates? The current mechanism only encourages the lazy.
And if there is a significant section of the electorate that doesn’t care and just donkey votes, can’t we give them some voting options. What about, “Don’t know”, “Don’t care”, “They are all a bunch of crooks” and “I would rather disembowel myself with a spoon than vote for any of these cretins”.
At least then our politicians would get an idea how the disillusioned and disenfranchised really feel, rather than pretending that they understand their frustration.
We should abandon preferential voting too. I personally don’t want any part of my vote going beyond the candidate I’d actually voted for. I’d like that to be numerically recognized so that the winning candidate can’t necessarily claim a majority mandate from a 2 party preferred vote. I want to vote for the one I’m prepared to support and no other.
Voting should not be stupidly simple, but should have voting options for people who don’t want to vote. But I do believe there is merit in making electors get down to the polling station and record what they want (or not). I want the electoral truth out there, rather than have candidates falsely claim mandates.
We need electoral reform if voters are to reengage with our democracy. We don’t need another populist party offering hollow promises. People do want their voice heard. Getting rid of above-the-line voting in the senate would be a good start.
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I don’t particularly care about by local member of parliament who is invariably a rather unimportant back bencher.
During elections I vote for the party with the best policy platform and for me that’s the Greens. I therefore also support electoral reform to provide proportional representation voting for the lower houses of our parliaments such as the Tasmanian Hare-Clark system or the New Zealand and German mixed-member proportional representation voting system so that all parties win an appropriate number of seats that is proportional to the percentage of the total votes that party received nationally, or statewide for state elections.
Currently the Greens are way under represented in the House of Representatives and the Nationals are way over represented and the corrupt duopoly has a stranglehold on government and most small parties eventually fade away. Popular independents also seem to do well in a proportional representation voting system.
As someone said years ago (and for the life of me I can’t remember who it was): Those who should be running the country have more than enough sense to steer clear of politics and so we are left with the dregs.
On aside note, the main slease media has been pumping the sock puppet up after his nasty, vicious slagging of Bill Shorten. Plainly and simply, Trurnballs lost it because of everything that’s happening in the LNP. I can see more of these parliamentary privilege attacks (he’s a coward and wouldn’t say anything outside in the real world, neither would the rest of the LNP come to think of it) occurring.
There is nothing wrong with voting for a party. And the Constitution was arranged around political parties. The Electoral Act (1918), which provides the workings of the electoral process required by the Constitution, makes express allowance for parties. When there is a casual vacancy, for the Senate the replacement is to come from the party represented by the departing Senator when originally elected. Despite quitting One Nation and going independent, Rod Culleton will be replaced by One Nation unless the special recount finds someone else has the numbers (which is pretty unlikely) because the electorate voted for One Nation – only just over 1,600 people actually voted for Culleton below the line. That is to ensure the will of the electorate is paramount. In the House of Reps, they are to be replaced through a by-election in that Member’s electorate. What needs reform is this loophole that allows people like Bernadi to get elected on the ticket of a specific party only to spit the dummy and do a runner. The moment they quit the party that saw them elected, their spot should automatically treated as a casual vacancy. To continue to pocket their generous salary and all the benefits when no longer representing the will of the electorate is purely and simply ethical fraud. And it could be quite readily addressed by a relatively straight forward amendment to the Electoral Act.
Ausross – but do you believe that above the line voting is still legitimate? The prime candidates elected tend to be those who have inveigled themselves to be top of their parties list, some of whom I suspect would otherwise not be elected at all! Surely we want the electorate to do at least a little bit of work when they vote?
Which means I would ban how to vote cards too.
Agree with most of what you said, Steve Laing, but I do like preferential voting and proportional representation. think Andreas Bimba’s suggestion of the Hare-Clark system, as they have in Tasmania, or the system in Germany. First past the post is a very crude system, which works fine for 2 candidates, but otherwise is not a good system as the person elected may become the Member but have less than the majority of the vote;
Example: An electorate has 12 voters, who case their votes thus:
In first past the post A is elected with less than 50% of the vote.
However, in preferential voting, C is eliminated, as s/he has the least number of votes. C’s votes are distributed. Forsake of simplicity all of the people who voted for C had B as their 2nd preference.
B – 4 + 3 (from C) = 7
Therefore B is elected.
In this case, slightly more than 50% of voters had their 1st or 2nd choice elected.I think this is a much better system, as the electorate is not represented by someone who achieved less than 50% of the people’s choice.
Of course this is simplistic. but makes the point.
What Andreas said.
I’d be quite happy with optional preferential or in a true democracy the right not to vote at all if so inclined
If a voter doesn’t like any of the candidates , why should they be compelled to vote?
Thanks, Steve. I don’t think it would be a good idea if we were to do anything to prevent people, Senators or MPs, from leaving the party they were elected with. People can have very good and genuine reasons for wanting to leave their party.
I would also be very sorry to see the end of the above-the-line vote. It would lead to a helluva lot of informal voting, and disadvantage the majority of voters who do want to vote the party rather than the individual. We need both above and below the line.You say, ‘The current mechanism only encourages the lazy.’ Perhaps, but it also encourages the bewildered, and those who are not particularly politically savvy who might not otherwise cast a valid vote at all. How many people would be able to tell you anything about the 50 or 60 or 100 candidates below the line on the senate paper?
On the other hand, this is a democracy, and we need to be able to number our choices below the line if that’s how we actually want our vote to go. This happened to an amazing number of Labor voters in the last election when a sitting Senator had been moved to the unwinnable 6th position on the ballot. She was elected because enough people took the trouble to number every square.
“but should have voting options for people who don’t want to vote.”
If they don’t want to vote what is the point of options
Can’t agree about preferential voting, either. The current system has allowed a lot of people to do things like putting the Greens first in seats where they can’t possibly win, then putting Labor (or less likely) Libs second. This way peope get to vote their first preference and send a message without wasting their vote.
Proportionate voting for a multi-party elective government is the way to go for our political system.
That way diverse parties and/or independents get to have proportional influence on issue exposure, policy formation and political representation.
This better represents the diverse electorates’ voices.
nurses1968, I agree that ‘optional preferential’ voting seems to lead the pack when it comes to democratic voting systems.
Actually people are not compelled to ‘vote’ in any realistic sense. Technically speaking, people are only required to turn up and have their name ‘ticked off’ (actually a line drawn through same), receive a ballot paper and then do as they like. And for those who choose to not ‘turn up’ then it would seem ‘any excuse will do’.
Personally I believe that if you want to be a citizen, then ‘voting’ comes with that territory.
“Actually people are not compelled to ‘vote’ in any realistic sense.”
yes they are
” Technically speaking, people are only required to turn up and have their name ‘ticked off’ (actually a line drawn through same), receive a ballot paper and then do as they like.”
apparently, legally speaking no they aren’t
reform??? the above the line was necessary when an elector had to mark every box. That is no longer the case so remove the top line and the preferences, as in the lower house, belong to the voter.
I would like the end to ‘buy’ elections in that we have a preferential system so if a member dies, resigns or is removed from office their preferences are redistributed first then apply the normal election processes. Are the pollies silly enough, to set such a precedent with culliton??
As for the loonies many labor voters feel they are over represented.
Arguably, the xslimes and hansonites got more votes than the dilubransims yet only got 7 senators to the loonies 9 the major parties got 8 times the vote for the loonies and only got 6 times the seats.
I have no doubt they, unlike the NP, chase the $ at elections by contesting everywhere and who can blame them for a dollar is a dollar???
preference does not require liking it should command research but is safer than any first past the post because it is 50% plus one. or quota plus one in the senate
wam bam thank ya mam,
same old, same old Labor waffle for the Lib/Lab duopoly!
So wam, when are you going to advocate to your Labor neoliberalist paymasters that It’s Time for the Greens and Labor to form that l-o-n-g overdue ALLiance that you know you really want?
nurses1968 at 8:46 pm
I see my point has gone completely above your head. Never mind.
Maybe next time?
It’s hard when one commenter is playing 2 roles.
I always thought (naively perhaps) that a majority (however formed) in the H of R entitles to form government, hold the flag, AND GOVERN FAIRLY AND JUSTLY ON BEHALF OF ALL CITIZENS irrespective of a hypercritical platform (is not a mandate – it is a wish list of promises which can be lies and and ain’t much citizens can do)
Just woke up.
It’s simple, people are compelled to vote
“Technically speaking, people are only required to turn up and have their name ‘ticked off’ ”
No they aren’t
Which part are you having trouble understanding?
there is a mandatory obligation on the part of electors to cast a valid vote.
Perhaps you have a link to that obligatory requirement to cast a valid vote and, more importantly, an example or two where a voter has done otherwise and been successfully prosecuted?
And if in the unlikely even you can produce same, what does it say about the ‘confidentiality’ of the ballot box? You know – the ‘secret ballot’.
I await your response with interest – as always.
As for your ‘understanding’ — also a matter of interest.
“According to Tim Evans, when he was Director of Elections Systems and Policy at the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), there is a mandatory obligation on the part of electors to cast a valid vote. In court cases going back over many decades, judges have determined that casting invalid votes, not marking ballot papers or not placing them in the ballot box are all violations of the Electoral Act”.
” what does it say about the ‘confidentiality’ of the ballot box? You know – the ‘secret ballot’.”
I don’t create the laws, suggest you take up the issue with those who do
An article you may be interested in,or maybe not….
How Compulsory Voting Subverts Democracy
contains the Tim Evans quote
“In a true democracy voting is not compulsory.”
I don’t think we are a true democracy anymore. We are a Plutocracy where government is controlled by the wealthiest and the most powerful. Politicians these days are merely pawns dictated to by those who fund them. Interestingly, the Liberal party keeps 60% of its funding a secret. I wonder why.
Compulsory voting is, in fact, only a compulsion to turn up. The privacy of the ballot box ensures no-one knows how, or even if, you vote. The idea of there having been prosecutions as referred to by Nurses, surprises me. As for suggesting an article in quadrant, well thanks but no thanks. I support compulsory voting, and agree with MN its part of living in a democracy (even a broken democracy). I do like the idea of Multi Member system as per Tassie, less so the NZ system.
nurses1968February 10, 2017 at 12:47 am What he/she said.
” As for suggesting an article in quadrant, well thanks but no thanks”
This seems to be flavour of the month, to bag links provided if they are presenting an opposing view.
This happens regularly
I made a comment a couple of days ago and a prolific author here on AIMN directed me to a Quadrant link
Seems the source whether acceptable or not depends on the commenters p.o.v
a case in point, the article
Sorry – should have been much clearer about my views on preferential voting. I am very much in favour of it, but only as far as voting for the candidates on the list I want to vote for. I don’t want to allocate any part of my vote to One Nation, or the Liberals, Family First, or any of the other wackjob parties candidates. (I’d also like to see a restriction on the number of candidates that can be voted for, because it certainly does get out of hand in the senate – but that’s for another day). The below the line voting for the senate is now pretty much spot on as far as exercising my choice on the ballot is concerned. I can ignore all the rubbish, and concentrate on those I want. It has made below the line voting realistically possible for those who don’t want to spend 10 minutes in the polling box, putting numbers in boxes for candidates or parties they don’t know or care about, and who they would have no idea which they would prefer or not.
Nurses – the point of non-voting options is that the political classes know why people aren’t voting for them. Its data. And data is always useful. People are then doing the mandatory vote, but it should absolutely their imperative to register than they believe nobody is representing their interests. If enough of this occurs, then perhaps politicians need to look at changing the system such that this improves. Having access to the full breakdown of voting habits would be fascinating.
John Kelly – yep. The party system unfortunately encourage this. The parties need money, they become reliant on their donors, they look after their donors. Its a very nasty spiral. I’d like to see greater diversity in the candidates available to be elected, not simply the hacks that the parties put forward, with a greater range of opinions that they be allowed to state and vote for. Here in WA for example, people vote Liberal because that’s just what they do, but many of those same voters also have solar pv on their roof. So when Barnett was going to remove the tariff, their was an alright outcry and within 24 hours entirely changed his tune, knowing of course, that this was very much his “constituency” prepared to shout. So I wonder who they would vote for if they could choose between a pro-renewables Liberal and a “pro-coal” Liberal? Unfortunately they simply aren’t given the choice and they can only vote for a pro-coaler because thats what Party HQ has decided, and thus we get the same bollocks governments. Parties deny the people choice. And the people are getting increasingly bored of that, which is why they don’t know who to vote for, so many just don’t bother. Apparently 1m voters under the age of 30 in Australia are simply not on the electoral register – they just don’t see the point. But this isn’t really an issue apparently.
It’s easy NOT to vote.
Don’t show up and dispute the fine online saying YOU DID vote… it’s waived instantly.
Walk in mark off your name and walk out.
Joanne – it is far too easy. Moreover, it is also far too easy to vote multiple times – how could anyone check if I voted at every polling booth within my electorate (unless I was stupid enough to tell people I had)? Yet we apparently are “proud” of our mandatory voting system. It is so easily corruptible, its a joke.