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Senate Voting Needs Urgent Reform

11th September 2013

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, will be introducing a bill to the new Parliament to overhaul Australia’s voting system for the Senate to an optional preferential below the line system. This follows a complicated series of preferences that saw several ‘micro parties’ elected with only a tiny number of votes, as well as bizarre preference deals between major and minor parties.

“It’s clear that the Senate voting system represents the will of the parties, not the people,” Nick said. “Preferences have become so complex that it’s impossible for people to know who they’re really voting for.”

Senator Xenophon pointed to the examples of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, which won a seat in Victoria with only 0.51 per cent of the primary vote, and the Australian Sports Party, which won a seat in Western Australia with 0.22 per cent. A Senate quota is 14.29 per cent.

“I’m the first person to say that small parties and independents are good for Australian politics,” Nick said. “But they – or any candidate – should only be elected if that reflects what voters want.”

Senator Xenophon said it was time to do away with the above and below the line voting system, which leads to ‘ridiculously complicated’ preference deals on one hand, and requires voters to nominate every party on the ballot paper on the other.

“A better system would be to have only the below the line set-up, but not force voters to number every box,” Nick said. “Instead, they would be required to list their first six preferences, and as many as they wanted after that.”

“The only ones who should have the power to decide where their vote goes are the people of Australia,” Nick said. “It’s time to stop parties using this complicated and confusing system for their own good.”

Senator Xenophon received 25.7 per cent of the primary vote in South Australia, out-polling all other candidates except the Liberal Party, which received 27 per cent. However, his running mate Stirling Griff seems set to miss out on a seat due to the ALP preferencing the Liberal Party ahead of him.

“ALP voters are entitled to ask why their party went to Family First and the Liberals before my running mate, who is firmly from the political centre,” Nick said. “When you look at the primary vote, you have to ask whether this is really what South Australians want.”

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