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Federal Politics 2013-

Feb 21, 2016

Double trouble

As parliament prepares to resume, it appears action is finally brewing on Senate reform – auguring a double dissolution election in July, if some media reports are to be believed.

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UPDATE: The legislation has been introduced, and you can read all about it here. Contrary to the impression given below, the savings provision has not turned out to be retaining group voting tickets, but simply allowing one-box only votes to exhaust, along the lines recommended by Antony Green, even though the ballot paper will direct voters to number at least six boxes.

With all the talk lately of Senate reform and a possible double dissolution, I thought this site could use a thread specifically for the discussion of such matters. The Senate reform train finally began gathering momentum the week before last, when it was reported that a deal with the Greens and Nick Xenophon had produced a set of reforms which the government hoped would be through parliament by the end of the autumn session on March 17. The proposal was to abolish group voting tickets and require that voters number at least six boxes either above or below the line, with votes dropping out of the count when there were no numbered parties or candidates for them to pass on to. Antony Green, for one, is alarmed about this proposal, as it would render informal the votes of those who failed to notice the change as simply numbered one box above the line. Perhaps for this reason, Special Minister of State Matthias Cormann has kept open the option of retaining group voting tickets essentially as a savings provision for those who don’t vote in the favoured manner. Antony Green’s preference is for the ballot paper to direct voters to number at least six boxes, but nonetheless to allow voters to number fewer boxes and have their vote drop out at any earlier point of the count than envisioned.

Further raising the stakes, the government has been putting it about that the passage of the legislation will create the opportunity for a double dissolution election on July 2 — late enough to avoid the mid-year cut-off point, before which the Senate term would have been backdated to the middle of the last year, causing the next half-Senate election to fall due in two years’ time. As a double dissolution cannot be called in the six months before the final day of the parliamentary term, the last day such an election can be called is May 11. This raises two problems for the government: the seven-and-a-half week campaign that would ensue to stretch the election timing elastic all the way to July, and the fact that the budget is to be brought down on May 10. The former is a cause for wariness on the part of the government if only because of the precedent of the 1984 election, at which a Prime Minister who had a lot in common with Malcolm Turnbull was run unexpectedly close by an Opposition Leader who was in a similar position to Bill Shorten. The latter would require the spectacle of the government guillotining the budget through both houses of parliament, perhaps in a matter of hours.

It’s possible there are procedural hurdles that have been overlooked in this scenario, either in terms of getting the budget through in such haste, or initiating the election through the Governor-General and state Governors in whatever time might be left available. While there is no indication the government would proceed on any basis other than getting the budget through first, there has been a fair bit of discussion about the potential for the budget to be postponed until after the election, and an interim supply bill passed to cover the gap. The Hawke government was obliged to rush just such a bill through parliament when it called a July double dissolution in 1987, albeit that this was in the age of August rather than May budgets (although the government had brought down a mini-budget in May that had yet to make it through the Senate). It’s also possible that the government would not need to pass a supply bill in any case. The departmental budgets that are funded by the regular supply bills account for only about 20% of total expenditure, which is considerably less than in Gough Whitlam’s time. Departments might well be able to struggle by on their reserves until such a bill was passed — although it’s been noted here in comments that this may not extend to the funding the Australian Electoral Commission would need to conduct the election.

More of my take on such matters, including the obstacles that the Australian Electoral Commission would face in implementing the reported reform proposals, in a paywalled article in Crikey.

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75 comments

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Kevin Bonham
Guest
Airlines@72 Kevin, 71 Good analysis. I’m not sure on a couple of points though: -PHO being able to pass legislation in (sole) cooperation with the government during a 2001 DD (as 34+3=37, one short) -Greens missing out on a Senate seat in a 2007 DD in Victoria -PUP being able to pass legislation in (sole) cooperation with the Coalition during a 2013 DD (32+5=37, one short) There were a few errors in the original where I had a case of brainfade and had 37 as the majority number instead of 39. Thanks to a reader comment (which for all I… Read more »
ltep
Guest

Repeated post from the other thread:

Cormann announces in the Senate further amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 to introduce optional preferential BTL votes. Voters will be directed to number 1 to 12 below the line, with a savings provision in place if someone only votes 1 to 6.

ltep
Guest

Airlines, in both of those cases it’s 2 short given evenly divided votes are resolved in the negative.

Airlines
Guest

Kevin, 71

Good analysis. I’m not sure on a couple of points though:
-PHO being able to pass legislation in (sole) cooperation with the government during a 2001 DD (as 34+3=37, one short)
-Greens missing out on a Senate seat in a 2007 DD in Victoria
-PUP being able to pass legislation in (sole) cooperation with the Coalition during a 2013 DD (32+5=37, one short)

Kevin Bonham
Guest
http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/senate-reform-jscem-submission-take-two.html Senate Reform: JSCEM Submission Take Two Links to my submission to the current JSCEM enquiry, which took me a little over a day to do on the weekend, with comments. I provide detailed simulations of what results might have happened had the proposed system existed at previous elections. The party most benefited in seat terms is the ALP (yes the party that is opposing the reform). Had this system existed prior to 2010 then based on the votes cast Abbott would have come to power facing a blocked Senate. Had a double dissolution been held in 2013 it would… Read more »
TPOF
Guest
Antony GREEN
Guest
meher baba
Guest
I’m finding it difficult to read some of the posts of the Laborites on this and the Newspoll thread without getting a fit of the giggles. Leyonhjelm, Day and Lambie more “normal” indeed! Stand up for the rights of minor homophobe and Islamophobe parties to get elected unwittingly by voters. Victorians wanted Ricky Muir as a Senator even though they didn’t realise they did (and, once he was elected, moved from bring a “class in itself” to a “class for itself”: Ricky Muir as Australia’s Lenin, how wonderful). I really hope for all your sakes that the legislation fails, Shorten… Read more »
Pegasus
Guest

Antony Green:

[I expect the BTL provisions of the bill to be substantially changed.]

http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/02/senate-electoral-reform-bill-abandons-election-night-senate-counting.html#more

Pegasus
Guest

Richard Di Natale and Bob Day interview this morning on ABC RN Breakfast on senate voting reforms:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/richard-di-natale-on-the-greens'-support-of/7194760

Kevin Bonham
Guest
Keyman@48 I am surprised the issue seems to be about these very destructive micro parties rather than the preference deals that see them elected with OTL voting. Wow, they have wreaked so much damage compared to the major parties – not! I would much rather have people like Lambie, Day, Lazo, Muir etc in the Senate with all the checks and balances that our system provides (eg advisors, Parliamentary Library Resources etc) than more party hacks without real life experiences. Lambie was not motivated to run by anti-Islamic beliefs – it was the plight of ex-military’s poor treatment at the… Read more »
Raaraa
Guest

The Sex Party is sort of left in terms of social issues but they were founded by sex industry’s interests so there’s a few economically liberal policies in there geared towards small businesses in general. Not quite sure what their views of the big end of business is though.

caf
Guest

The Sex Party isn’t really “left”, their philosophy is most closely aligned with the Libertarian movement (which yes, can make common cause with the anti-authoritarian Left sometimes, eg. drug policy but on economic policies they align with the Right). In many ways the Sex Party are the polar opposite to the Nationals.

daretotread
Guest
I just do not get this whole stuff about there not being as big a split in the RW vote. In fact I think there is rather more. On the left side of the ledger you have Labor and the Greens. I guess you can sort of add in the Sex people as they are big enough to win seats, but I rather think they are a votes harvesting party, than a real entity. On the right side of the ledger, you have Liberals, Nats in WA and SA, FF, DLP, One Nation, Katter, and the original Shooters and Fishers.… Read more »
daretotread
Guest
Martin My guess will be that the majors will get pretty much the same vote as last time in PV, possibly with a slight shift from Labor to Greens in line with polling. There will be a consolidation of votes into a few minor party groupings 1. the religious right – FF, DLP, Christians 2. the red necks – Shooters and Fishers and anti Carbon taxers, MEP and One Nation and RUA etc, possibly with Katter 3. The mushy middle – Democrats, AJC, Republicans, Drug law reform, Hemp, sex The only here to harness votes – pirates, , secular stable… Read more »
Martin B
Guest

” election run under the new rules would see different voter behavior”

People who vote 1 for a major under the old system are almost certain to vote 1 for the same party in the new system (taking overall electoral shifts into account). The first order question is how many Lab or Lib voters will write in second preferences for Green, and the second order question is how many first or second preferences will minors get.

DisplayName
Guest

caf, thanks.

Not much different.

Martin B
Guest

“Of course, take this with a pinch of salt”

I suspect that’s pretty close. I would raise the following caveats:

NSW: Give the LDP back to LNP.
QLD: GRN v PUP for the last could be close
SA: XEN obviously depends on whether he is personally standing or not. 3
WA: I’d go 2013 results.

caf
Guest
DisplayName: That’s pretty easy to do. Just look at the AEC’s Senate First Preference results from 2013. In a state, any group with more than 14.29% elects a candidate (multiple candidates, if they have a multiple of that quota). After that, allocate candidates to the highest remaining groups until you get to six. For 2013, that gives you: NSW: 2 ALP, 2 LNP, 1 LDP, 1 GRN VIC: 2 ALP, 3 LNP, 1 GRN QLD: 2 ALP, 3 LNP, 1 PUP SA: 2 ALP, 2 LIB, 2 XEN TAS: 2 ALP, 3 LIB, 1 GRN WA (2013): 2 ALP, 3… Read more »
Martin B
Guest

Normally, I like to run the “all politics is pragmatism and principle, it’s a false dichotomy to say only one or the other” line. In this case I find it difficult to see the principle in the ALP stand. The ALP appears to me to be motivated by

1. Oppositions oppose
2. Buddying up with cross bench is good tactics

They are possibly motivated by
3. We iz good at GVTs
although I fail to see how they could be justified in that.

caf
Guest

Even if they didn’t realise they did.

This is self-evidently complete nonsense.

Martin B
Guest

“They arent products of the machine that requires prospective candidates to know and influence the right people”

Leyonhjelm’s a political insider.

pedant
Guest
Most of the efforts to explain the ALP’s hostility to these latest reforms have been based on silly notions of how the coalition might somehow get a majority because of them. My guess is that two other factors are dominant. First, the ALP probably thinks that it has an inherent advantage when it comes to dealing with the sorts of characters who get thrown up as cross benchers under the current system. Union officials spend a a fair bit of their life dealing with the Lambies and Muirs of this world, whereas someone like Senator Brandeis probably thinks they are… Read more »
bryon
Guest

I don’t see the problem with the current system. It is preferential. So what if Muir only got 0.5% primary. The balance of voters preferred him to the remaining candidates. Even if they didn’t realise they did.

On the normality of the cross bench. Folk need to mix more ignorant is normal. And since she got a minder Lambie is better informed and more sensible than most of the Coalitions Sennate team. They are thick with haters, racists, homophobes.

Seriously you want an electoral system that helps more of these shadow dwellers to get elected.

bug1
Guest

Kevin@38

I meant the crossbench senators are more normal from a socio-economic perspective rather than ideological.

They arent products of the machine that requires prospective candidates to know and influence the right people, or be famous for something else to get selected in a winnable seat. (i guess Glenn Lazarus is the exception)

DisplayName
Guest

Part of the question is:

In fptp we may see the votes for a loose grouping of candidates – e.g. right or left – split. Going from compulsory to optional preferences, you would expect this effect to emerge to some lesser extent.

However, as our preferences in the senate feed into a proportional calculation, does this effect still emerge?

DisplayName
Guest

There is certainly some cynicism from Labor on the issue, but some of the concerns are probably genuine (though possibly misguided) ones about “just vote one”.

Has anyone run (and/or can point to) some numbers/analysis to compare the result of an election – the last election, say – under the current rules with full preferences, to the same election under the new rules with all but first preferences discarded? Would it even be instructive to do so?

Keyman
Guest
I am surprised the issue seems to be about these very destructive micro parties rather than the preference deals that see them elected with OTL voting. Wow, they have wreaked so much damage compared to the major parties – not! I would much rather have people like Lambie, Day, Lazo, Muir etc in the Senate with all the checks and balances that our system provides (eg advisors, Parliamentary Library Resources etc) than more party hacks without real life experiences. Lambie was not motivated to run by anti-Islamic beliefs – it was the plight of ex-military’s poor treatment at the hands… Read more »
daretotread
Guest

I think also there were some pretty bizarre preference deals in NSW, with parties like Sex and Hemp going to Lib Dems and eventially even to Sinodinos. The Greens would probably have won in NSW without the GVT. Sinodidos would probably have lost.

Lazarus would still have got in due to PUP but not if he was with some unknown party.

daretotread
Guest

Labor really has itself to blame for the mistrust of them in particular as allocators or preferences. I think that probably 70% of ALP voters would have put Xenophon ahead of Day.

Matt
Guest

Blackburnseph @41: You poor soul. Marching into the trenches of RW radio, so the rest of us don’t have to XD

And yes, Day’s off his rocker (as usual) – Parliament can make any damn law it pleases, so long as all States are treated equally. Hell, they could move to Statewide MMP voting for the lower house if they wanted!

Wakefield
Guest

RA – getting rid of the “No Land Tax”, “Support smokers” etc and other concocted parties having no presence outside Senate, Upper House elections is useful esp if it reduces ballot paper phobia/confusion. But in today’s virtual world it is not too difficult to get something looking like a party so not surprising that the option of trying to make registration harder hasn’t been run too hard.

Rates Analyst
Guest

Wakefield – you seem to be suggesting that the change makes it more likely that the candidates the voters actually want get elected…. Heaven Forbid!

My reading is that this doesn’t harm the Majors or the Minors. It benefits both Majors and Minors at the expense of Micros. Which is why the cross-bench is so peeved.

Wakefield
Guest
One of the most significant outcomes of the proposed Senate change will be a significant % of people who will effectively vote 1 LNP 2 Labor or 1 Labor 2 LNP. Often 10-20% of voters do this in HOR voting but its all hidden. These are the “plague on small parties” voters. GVT essentially stops this but proposed system will allow/encourage. Equally the proposed system makes it harder for the big players to gang up on a party. The anti Xenophon GVTs in SA in 2013 being the best example. Grif would have romped in under proposed system. Not surprising… Read more »
blackburnpseph
Guest

Those of us listening to AM this morning had to endure the execrable Bob Day spouting absolute dribble about constitutional challenges. It would help if he actually read the Constitution (Section 9) about the parliament making laws for voting – as long as the same laws apply in every state.

Matt
Guest

Kevin @38: Indeed, I don’t mind the idea of reform to Senate voting (some of the results have been absolute wowsers), but I’m not at all sure I like this outcome.

ltep
Guest
[These accidental senators that the bill is aiming to prevent might be a bit strange at the start, but they are the only ‘normal people’ who get a vote.] Whether it’s a preferable thing to have ‘normal people’ in the Parliament is another argument. The question is whether we want an electoral system that values voter choice. People should not be forced to number a heap of boxes below the line, which increases the chances of their vote becoming informal, just to know for sure that their vote won’t end up electing someone they never intended it to elect. And… Read more »
Kevin Bonham
Guest
bug1@36 “At the moment, voters have no idea where their vote will end up” If they vote below the line they know exactly where their vote will end up, its their choice. But it is not a practical one. It is one that places them at risk of their vote being made informal if they make mistakes, and that discriminates against them by giving them no easy way to express their preference compared to someone who just whacks a 1 in the party box. This discrimination is a breach of Australia’s human rights commitments to grant people of differing political… Read more »
Raaraa
Guest

My view is that while they’ll get more seats, it’s still very hard to get a majority in the Senate. Remember that Howard got a majority in the Senate through the old (existing) system, and partly through a fluke where the Nationals ran separate tickets in Queensland.

And if a party actually got more than 50% of the votes in the Senate through two election cycles (combination of two half-senates), then perhaps they really are deserving of getting a majority in the Senate.

Better that than “accidental senators”.

bug1
Guest

“At the moment, voters have no idea where their vote will end up”

If they vote below the line they know exactly where their vote will end up, its their choice.

There are other measure can be taken to reduce the growth in micro parties that dont result in votes being exhausted, and our democracy weakened.

bug1
Guest

It makes it easier for the senate to be controlled by the government, meaning they dont have negotiate with anyone. e.g. Howards last years.

These accidental senators that the bill is aiming to prevent might be a bit strange at the start, but they are the only ‘normal people’ who get a vote.

Raaraa
Guest
bug1@31 Voters should have to number every box above the line. This is in effect a move toward optional voting, 99% of people will only number 1 to 6, because its in our nature to be lazy. Its going to result in more extreme politics and the senate will become a rubber stamp. 1-6 is more broken than the current system. I’m not sure how it’ll become more extreme. In any case, it’ll more likely eliminate parties with extreme views earlier on. I thought it’s more likely to entrench votes in mainstream parties more, and smaller parties will have to… Read more »
ltep
Guest

It’s sad that they won’t be reporting first preference votes for the Senate on election night; even with the changes you’d still be able to get a rough idea of the eventual makeup I’d imagine.

ltep
Guest
I’m struggling to see Dastyari’s motive in peddling all this stuff. It seems pointless angling for more House of Representatives preference deals if that’s what he’s after. [1-6 is more broken than the current system] No, I don’t think so. At the moment, voters have no idea where their vote will end up as it’s impossible to predict the order of exclusion of micro party candidates even if you were aware of the ticket your chosen party had chosen to direct its preferences to. Under the proposed system it will be beyond doubt that people are aware of where their… Read more »
bug1
Guest

Voters should have to number every box above the line.

This is in effect a move toward optional voting, 99% of people will only number 1 to 6, because its in our nature to be lazy.

Its going to result in more extreme politics and the senate will become a rubber stamp.

1-6 is more broken than the current system.

Kevin Bonham
Guest

My comments:

http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/senate-reform-its-finally-on.html

It’s not perfect but it’s a massive improvement. The failure to liberalise BTL voting to more than a token degree requires explanation.

Dastyari is an embarrassment.

Pegasus
Guest

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/feb/22/malcolm-turnbull-moves-to-overhaul-senate-voting-system-before-election

[Labor was deeply divided on the reforms, with Labor senators, including the Senate leader, Penny Wong, and deputy leader, Stephen Conroy, saying they would entrench a Coalition advantage in the upper house, but the shadow special minister of state, Gary Gray, strongly arguing they were “the right thing to do” in the interests of democracy.

It is understood the shadow cabinet decided on Monday night to recommend to the caucus that Labor oppose the moves.

But the party’s Senate leadership, Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy, have vehemently oppose the changes.]

Antony GREEN
Guest

Interestingly the bill ends reporting of Senate totals on election night. In line with security and accuracy problems raised by Keelty and the AEC, but still surprising.

http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/02/senate-electoral-reform-bill-abandons-election-night-senate-counting.html

Raaraa
Guest

I believe the justification put out so far on not making any significant changes on BTL is that an overwhelming majority of voters voter ATL anyway.

Though to be fair, making BTL easier would increase the number of BTL votes.

Airlines
Guest

Not entirely sure why there was no BTL OPV implementation, but the savings provisions ATL is definitely a good idea

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