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And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you

February 26, 2016

For sale to the gullible

Since the 2013 Federal Election a number of people in the political establishment have been claiming that minor parties have been gaming the system to get elected.

However the evidence simply does not support this claim.

At the 2013 Federal Election 3,157,622 voters cast a first preference for Senate candidates other than Liberal, Labor or Green. That’s 24% of all votes cast, but only 10.5% of Senators are other than Liberal, Labor or Green.

The 7 minor party/independent Senators elected in 2013 represent 19% of the 36 seats available in the Senate (excluding NT and ACT). Arguably there should have been at least 8 minor party Senators elected from that 24%.

If minor parties were using Group Voting Tickets to game the system then Senators representing minor parties or independents would exceed 24% of all Senators but that simply is not the case. The results are reflective of the intentions of the voters for minor parties to have a presence in the Senate.

If you believe the Liberals and Greens are putting forward Senate voting reform to benefit the voters… I have a bridge to sell you!

If minor parties are driven out of Australian politics, progress will slow dramatically.

Without progressive minor parties dragging the major parties out of their myopia, it’s doubtful medical cannabis would be legal in our near future.

Without progressive minor parties pushing for change, it’s unlikely we’d now have an R18+ classification for video games.

Without progressive minor parties raising the issue it’s possible we may not have the current royal commission into child sexual abuse.

And without progressive minor parties keeping pressure on the major parties we may never achieve marriage equality, voluntary euthanasia or drug law reform.

Many complain that the Senate ballot paper is now too big, but have they really considered why? Antony Green suggests the increase in nominations has been “a deliberate strategy” to make the Senate ballot unwieldy “to increase confusion, to make BTL voting harder, and therefore to encourage even more ATL voting.”

There should be no doubt that the Senate ballot paper has grown in size in recent years, not because of a desire to game the system, but because for too long the major parties have ignored issues important to many Australians.

In past the major parties had been able to ignore these voices, but with the advent of the internet and social media people have been able to connect to like minded people and express their discontent. For some this has led to them organising as lobby groups, for others they’ve decided to get directly involved in the political process to effect change.

Just look at the names of minor parties recently registered and the issues they pursue, and you quickly get a good idea of the issues major parties have ignored. (Personal note: some of these issues, racist and bigoted, should be ignored.)

There is only one way to reduce the size of the Senate ballot, and that’s to reduce the number of parties and groups of independents contesting an election.

The changes to the Senate election process are clearly designed to weaken the chances of candidates from minor parties representing Australians in the Senate, despite their success in gaining 24% of the vote.

That will mean minor parties will be locked out of the Senate.

That will mean that the major parties can go back to the status quo of ignoring issues important to millions of Australians.

Remember at the 2013 Federal Election that was 3,157,622 Australians.

The Senate voting process can be simplified to allow voters to allocate their own preferences. Allow them to complete a minimum of boxes below the line (BTL) rather than requiring them complete every box.

That will ensure voters have the power to vote for candidates, not just parties.

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