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PRSA Response to the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016


The Society has continued to focus on the need for Senate electoral system changes to make it easier for electors to readily turn their own assessment of parties and candidates into a formal vote.

The initial Government decision to make only a token change to below-the-line requirements was criticised for its failure to do anything for voters, and the unprecedented incoherence between above-the-line and below-the-line formality rules was highlighted as submissions were rushed to the March 2016 Inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Reform (JSCEM) into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016.

After the JSCEM repeated its advice that it should be straightforward for voters to express their own views as a formal vote, the Government announced its proposed amendments to its Bill to have the marking of one party square above-the-line, or six candidates' squares below-the-line, accepted as formal even though the ballot paper will ask for at least six party squares or twelve candidates' squares to be marked.

The PRSA acknowledged those proposed Government amendments as a significant improvement even though the ballot paper will remain unnecessarily cluttered, the Australian Electoral Commission will not be able to simply focus on how electors can make the most of their single transferable vote, and there are no proposed changes to the current defective transfer value definition.

As speculation intensified about Government intentions on changes to party registration and Senate formality provisions, the PRSA emphasised the need to keep changes simple, and oriented towards votersí wishes.

Party squares are not needed. They make the ballot paper more cluttered, and divert electoral officials from just advertising that the marking of preferences is an instruction about the order in which continuing candidates may have access to anything that remains unused of their single transferable vote.

Electors that understand that the marking of further preferences cannot harm the prospects of those they support most strongly are likely to make the most of their vote.

The earlier proposed changes announced on 22 February 2016 ignored a key JSCEM recommendation that it should be much easier to record a formal vote below-the-line and, remarkably, treated as formal some party box numberings while rejecting equivalent numberings below-the-line, allegedly because insufficient squares have been numbered. Such inconsistent treatment is unprecedented in Australian and world electoral practice.

The JSCEM invited online submissions until 29 February 2016. The PRSA was invited, and did so.

National President's Feb. 2016 media release    National President's criticism of Senator Xenophon's proposals

PRSA submissions to the JSCEM in 2014          National Secretary's 2016 article on The Conversation website