Proposals to Change the Senate’s Electoral System

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April 28, 2014

Proposals to Change the Senate’s Electoral System

As happens after every federal election, the Commonwealth Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is undertaking a review of the conduct of the election.

In its early stages the inquiry is concentrating on proposals to changes the Senate’s electoral system. Implementing changes to Senate ballot papers and counting systems will take time to implement, hence the pressure to produce interim recommendations on the Senate early in the life of the current parliament, leaving plenty of time for legislation and implentation.

There is general agreement that the first step is to toughen up rules for the registration of political parties, to bring the Commonwealth’s procedures into line with tougher regulations specified by several state acts.

On the Senate’s electoral system, there are three broad approaches taken in submissions.

One is a minmalist option that keeps the current ticket system but eases the requirement for full preferences ‘below the line’. Various options require between 6 to 15 preferences. This provides voters with an easier option to give their own preferences rather than the current system that requires 90% of boxes to be completed.

Another options keeps the current group tickets but puts a threshold quota on first preferences. A party must achieve this threshold first preference percentage or be immediately excluded from the count.

The more far reaching proposal is to keep the current ballot paper with above and below the line voting, abolish the group preference tickets, and permit full optional preferential voting above the line for parties, or for candidates below the line.

You can find all the submissions via this link.

My own submission for this third option is Submission 180 and includes analysis of how this system has worked for the NSW Legislative Council.

The Labor Party’s submission is No. 187, the Liberal Party 188, The Greens 175, National Party 184, and many other interested parties, groups and individuals.

It is alo worthwhile reading the transcipts of the Committee’s hearings, where many issues relating to the Senate have been analysed.

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