Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Preference system must go

I'm more than delighted to see that something I've been complaining about for years has suddenly gone mainstream.

It's our utterly ridiculous voting system, with the preference system, as I've long said, decidedly shonky. It's the opposite of democratic, the opposite of fair, because our votes end up being given to candidates we didn't vote for. And because candidates being voted for by a few hundred people can end up being declared the winner.

Regardless of who you vote for, your vote will end up being given to someone else. 

It has to be the worst system in the world.

What seems to have brought it into the mainstream is the Senate seat given to Ricky Muir of the Australia Motoring Enthusiast Party.

That's in Victoria, where there were 34 'parties' contesting the six Senate seats.

The Coalition got just under a million votes, Labor about three quarters of a million, The Greens something over a quarter million and those parties took five seats.

The count for the final seat, which you can see here in detail,  then went off into never-never land.

It's mind-boggling. For example:

Count 36: Barry MICHAEL (Palmer United Party) excluded

  • 91,139 (3.75%) votes originally from Palmer United Party distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 6.
  • 11,152 (0.46%) votes originally from Katter's Australian Party distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 44.
  • 16,674 (0.69%) votes originally from DLP Democratic Labour distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 39.
  • 12 (0.00%) votes (549 ballot papers at 0.0225 transfer value) originally from Socialist Equality Party (Ticket 3 of 3) distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 22.
  • 10 (0.00%) votes (429 ballot papers at 0.0225 transfer value) originally from Group AJ distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 41.
By the time they got to Count 38, 'Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky Muir)' was given the final seat.

Out of millions of voters, 12,292 voted for Ricky Muir. He got less votes than nine other minor parties, coming thirteenth. Yet he was given the seat.

We have similar results in other states too.

I agree with the ABC's respected election analyst Antony Green, who says in Sydney Morning Herald: "It would be a bit of a joke, except that these senators have just been handed six year terms in high paying and well staffed Senate seats with significant powers over how the country is governed".

But I disagree with him totally when he says: "A better response would be to deal with the real problem, above-the-line voting. Getting rid of this would put preferences back into the hands of voters where they belong".

The real problem is not above-the-line voting, that simply exacerbates the problem. No, the real problem is the system of references itself.

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