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info@prsa.org.au      www.prsa.org.au     Tel + 61429176725    2019-12-11

The Growth and Success of Single Transferable Vote
Proportional Representation (PR-STV)


New South
New South
Tasmania Tasmania wa
Victoria Victoria qld
Queensland Queensland
Territory of
Norfolk Island

malta Malta
Republic of


United States
of America
United States
of America
canada Canada

The Growth and Success of Single Transferable Vote Proportional Representation
(Quota-preferential or PR-STV)

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INTRODUCTION: The proportional representation movement in Australia began; most strongly in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria; in the late 1800s, which was the era when the Australian colonies one-by-one finally abolished the hustings (the first was South Australia in 1856 and the last was Western Australia in 1895). Vote counting in public elections then, and up until 1919, was, except for Tasmania, by highly unsatisfactory relative majority (first-past-the-post, or plurality) procedures in single member, two-member or multi-member electoral districts. From 1919 plurality systems were replaced by majority-preferential systems, but Queensland's Legislative Assembly had had a contingent vote system since 1892 until it was replaced with a plurality system in 1942, and plurality systems still apply in some municipalities there. Western Australia has, most unfortunately, revived plurality counting for municipal polls. In the 1930s, South Australia became the last mainland State to discontinue multi-member Assembly districts.

Where there was plurality counting with more than one vacancy per electoral district, plumping (not voting for all vacancies), allowed, in a haphazard way, some minority voice, as it still does in some electorates of the world's oldest continuously operating legislative assembly, the House of Keys on the Isle of Man. Plumping was, however, often arbitrarily prohibited in Australian electoral systems, and it was not allowed at pre-1919 Senate elections. Hoag and Hallett's classic 1926 U.S. book "Proportional Representation" has a good account of the foundation of early PR history in Australia. The earliest precursor date mentioned is the year after Governor Phillip's landing at Sydney Cove. See electoral system categories, and a summary of current systems for public elections in Australia. Australia's electoral history has been generally progressive despite regressive tendencies in ballot-paper design. Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been the most progressive and, as shown below, have resisted those regressive tendencies. Australia's advances and setbacks in electoral legislation have been instigated by both major parties. See the National Library of Australia's list of early PR references.

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UNITED KINGDOM - PARLIAMENT: A fellow society of the PRSA in the UK, under its original name of the Proportional Representation Society of Great Britain and Ireland, was founded in 1884. It promoted the ideas of John Stuart Mill, and of Thomas Wright Hill, whose "schoolboy election" in the 1820s is a classic simple demonstration of the principles of proportional representation using the single transferable vote (PR-STV).

In Australia, PR-STV is sometimes termed quota-preferential proportional representation, to distinguish it from Australia's use of STV with majority-preferential counting, in both single-member districts, and also multi-member districts as unfortunately used for the Senate from 1919-46, and for a few years after the Liberal Party Government of Victoria revived it in the early 1990s for municipal elections until it was abolished there in 2003.

It was the PRSGB&I that was the first society in the world to promote the earliest forms of the quota-preferential (Single Transferable Vote) system of proportional representation allowing direct election of individual candidates, which does not take place under the inferior proportional systems known as party list systems, which have become the predominant electoral systems for lower houses in continental Europe. The first two words in its title changed to 'Electoral Reform' in 1958. It published its history 'The Best System' [1], in 1984. Its distinguished presidents have included the fourth and the fifth Earls Grey (see its 1922 Council), and in the 1980s the Hon. Dr Garret FitzGerald while Prime Minister of Eire.

Its president was, until his death in October 2004, Professor the Earl Russell, a great-grandson of the former Whig Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, whose 1832 Reform Bill set the foundation for representation of the general public in the House of Commons and, by example, in other parliaments in the then British Empire. The shameful conduct of UK elections in the century prior to that reform is strikingly depicted in William Hogarth's four provocative engravings "Chairing the Members", which was alluded to by a Federal Minister when introducing major Australian electoral changes in 1983. In recent years, the ERS has appeared to be less clear about the importance of direct election and PR-STV and has given the impression that it might not be opposed to party list voting, as the PRSA certainly is. That weakness has led to the formation of STV Action

The UK Parliament had more multi-member constituencies than single-member ones as late as 1880 (London was a four-member constituency). The number of multi-member constituencies was greatly reduced in 1885. Some were university constituencies, for which proportional representation applied from 1918. Multi-member constituencies were discontinued in 1945. A crude modicum of proportionality was achievable in the large number of non-university constituencies - in which PR-STV never applied - by voters plumping; by not voting for two candidates, but only one.

Winston Churchill spoke in favour of PR-STV - which is a system of direct election - in a 1931 Commons debate on a bill that sought instead to amend the Representation of the People Act by replacing plurality voting with the alternative vote, still in single-member constituencies, but he expressed, quite consistently, in a 1943 speech, his misgivings about some of the effects of the indirect party list form of PR, with a large district magnitude, used for most of continental Europe's legislatures by then. He first became an MP in 1900 in Oldham, one of the 23 two-member constituencies then. See the distribution of district magnitudes for constituencies for the House of Commons in the years below:


United Kingdom House of Commons:
Distribution of District Magnitudes over 130 years




No. of MPs from constituencies with the number of members per constituency shown




































The Proportional Representation Society of Great Britain and Ireland (later the Electoral Reform Society) and its members influenced the founding of Australian proportional representation societies and helped them by sending its Secretary, John Humphreys, to Tasmania during World War I where his evidence [1] to a Select Committee of Tasmania's Parliament helped defeat a proposed change from the Hare-Clark system of PR-STV (quota-preferential proportional representation) to a party list system, and also led to Tasmania's Electoral Amendment Act 1917 (7 Geo. V No. 65), whose Section 7 prescribed countback - the filling of casual vacancies in the House of Assembly by the Electoral Office by re-examination of the ballot-papers that formed the vacating member's quota. It ensures that all MPs are directly elected.

In 1948 the assistance of the Proportional Representation Society of Great Britain and Ireland was acknowledged by Australia's Attorney-General in his speech on his Bill for proportional representation for elections for the Australian Senate, which began the Senate's still-prevailing PR-STV system. In 1995 a prominent Electoral Reform Society member assisted the PRSA's campaign for entrenching Hare-Clark for the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory.

The UK's ERS and STV Action work for, as does the PRSA, proportional representation using the single transferable vote, PR-STV. PR-STV now applies in Northern Ireland for its Assembly and for elections to the European Parliament, although regrettably, despite strong opposition in the House of Lords, elections in the rest of the United Kingdom to the European Parliament are by a closed party list system. In the mid-1980s, the UK's Social Democrat Party produced an inspirational 10-minute VHS video of John Cleese advocating proportional representation for electing the House of Commons.

In 2011, an unsuccessful referendum to change the House of Commons electoral system from a Plurality Vote system to an Alternative Vote system was held as an outcome of the 2010 UK General Election.

United Kingdom - Local Government: From the first establishment of local government in England, when William the Conqueror granted a charter to the City of London in 1075, until the passage of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, which introduced widespread election by ratepayers, English municipal councils were not elected by the citizens, but were self-perpetuating oligarchies with vacancies filled by the council itself. PR-STV (quota-preferential PR) is still not used for local government elections in England and Wales, but is now used in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and also in the Republic of Ireland.

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For the sections below, see the table here that lists instigators of electoral advances and setbacks in Australia.

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:  Catherine Helen Spence's 1861 booklet, 'A Plea for Pure Democracy' [2] helped her to form, in 1895, a proportional representation group called the 'Effective Voting League of South Australia'. Miss Catherine Spence, whose father was appointed as the first Town Clerk of the City of Adelaide, witnessed, as a young girl, in front of the Beehive Building in King William Street, the first election for Adelaide City Council, in 1840, which was the first public election in Australia, and was also the first public election in the world to provide for and to use the quota system of proportional representation.

Miss Catherine Spence was the first female candidate at a public election in the then British Empire when she stood unsuccessfully at the 1897 election (under the unfair first-past-the-post multiple vote) for the 1897Australasian Federal Convention. The Constitution Amendment Act 1894 of the Parliament of the Colony of South Australia - which gave South Australian women the right to vote and stand for that Parliament, after it had been reserved for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure thereon, received Royal Assent from Queen Victoria on 21 March 1895, but the right to vote for the UK House of Commons was not gained by any women until King George V gave the Representation of the People Act 1918 his Royal Assent on 6 February 1918.

There is a statue in Light Square in Adelaide, unveiled on 10th March 1986 by Queen Elizabeth II, that commemorates Miss Spence. The PRSA later launched its reprint of her booklet there. She is remembered by her Autobiography, and was depicted on the Australian $5 banknote issued for the Centenary of Federation, in 2001. Another influential member of the Effective Voting League was its Honorary Secretary, Mrs Jeanne Forster Young O.B.E, who stood as an independent candidate at the 1937 Senate election, winning 6.5% of the first preference vote, but that gave her no hope of election under the since-discredited multiple majority-preferential electoral system then in force.

The PRSA's SA Branch (the League's successor, the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia) worked to influence the replacement of the first party list system, which is an indirect system of election, used for Australian parliamentary elections. It was introduced, for the Legislative Council, by the Dunstan Labor Government in a 1973 Act, and used while that Government held office, until it was superseded by the direct election system using the present PR-STV (quota-preferential) form of proportional representation that the Tonkin Liberal Government wisely introduced in 1981, and that the SA Electoral Act 1985 now prescribes for elections for SA's Legislative Council.

That 1973 Act also regrettably introduced Australia's first system to fill Upper House casual vacancies by appointment at a Joint Sitting of Parliament rather than the impartial, long-proven countback system of direct election. The SA Constitution Act 1934 requires a referendum before either House can be abolished, but it does not specify or entrench the electoral system, and that oversight should be remedied. The PRSA(SA) continues to advocate the replacement of the Legislative Assembly's system of single-member electoral districts with multi-member districts using the Hare-Clark electoral system.

South Australia - Local Government: Catherine Spence recorded, in Chapter III of her Autobiography, her witnessing, by an early form of PR in 1840, Adelaide City Council's first election, as her father was the Town Clerk. It was the world's first public election conducted by PR, and Australia's first public election, and was preceded by the enactment, for the first time in the world, of a law for a PR electoral system, a South Australian Act entitled an Act to Institute a Municipal Corporation for the City of Adelaide. That Act resulted from a recommendation in the Third Annual Report of the Colonization Commissioners for South Australia, 1839 that the election of the soon-to-be-created Adelaide City Council should be by a proportional electoral system. That report was signed by all nine commissioners, but was drafted by the Secretary of the Commission, Rowland Hill. At Pages 26 and 27, the Commission's Fourth Annual Report gave details of that PR system and its advantages.

Until 1984, South Australian municipal elections operated under a plurality (first-past-the-post) electoral system, which had long been discontinued for State and Federal elections. Sections 121 and 122 of South Australia's Local Government Act Amendment Act (No. 3) 1984 replaced that system with a system - which each Council had to choose - from either PR-STV, or a crude system peculiar to South Australia commonly called "bottoms up". Before PR-STV was made the only system, most Councils had chosen to utilize it rather than the less fair "bottoms up" alternative.

The PRSA's SA Branch successfully helped convince the Olsen Liberal Government, before it succeeded in having the Local Government (Elections) Act 1999 enacted, to have that Act make proportional representation using the single transferable vote (PR-STV) the only electoral system to be used in elections for local government in South Australia, by discontinuing the idiosyncratic "bottoms up"system, which fortunately appears to have never been used for public elections outside South Australia. Regrettably, municipalities can still be divided into single-councillor wards, as in Victoria, in which case the prescribed counting method still applies, but there can be no surplus votes and no proportional representation with only one position to be filled, so the system used in that way gives only a winner-take-all outcome. As at 2010, only six councils in the State had any single-councillor wards.

Unlike arrangements in New South Wales, there is unfortunately no prohibition of different wards in a given municipality having different numbers of councillors. Stalemate wards, which have an even number of councillors per ward, are permitted. As in Victoria, and more recently in NSW, elections in two-councillor wards are counted by PR-STV. Two-councillor wards are rather common, although small rural councils are usually not divided into wards.

Casual vacancies are filled by-election polls (not countback). The same unweighted inclusive Gregory transfer method used for transferring votes, by averaging, as is used in Senate scrutinies, applies. With partial optional preferential voting applying, voters must mark, for a valid vote, as many preferences as there are vacancies - it is optional after that number. General elections are held every four years, with polls being conducted by postal ballot.

For South Australian municipal elections:

  • All regular elections are general elections, held by postal ballot in November every four years after the first such election in 2006.

  • There is no requirement for all wards in a particular municipality to have the same number of councillors, so unfortunately election quotas can differ for different wards. The number of councillors in a council, which presently ranges from 7 to 20, is fixed by vice-regal proclamation.

  • There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to many councils’ unfortunately lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.

  • There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils can unfortunately have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, as 6 councils had in 2010. In those wards, the quota-preferential PR counting system prescribed for all SA council elections reduces to a bare majority-preferential winner-take-all system.

  • Partial optional preferential voting applies, so a valid ballot-paper needs as many marked preferences as there are vacancies.

  • Casual vacancies are unfortunately filled by a winner-take-all by-election poll, rather than by the fairer countback system.

  • Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates names being set by lot, but with direct election, free of Group Voting Tickets.

  • Unfortunately under Section 51 of the Local Government Act 1999, nearly all councils with a Mayor elect him or her at a separate, but concurrent popular election, but without Tasmania's requirement for the separately-elected Mayor to also stand, and succeed, at the election of councillors, in competition with all candidates for the electoral district he or she chooses to stand for. That major shortcoming thus diminishes overall proportionality owing to the increase in all councillors' quotas, and it deprives electors of the chance to elect a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate as a councillor, as mayoral candidates cannot, as they can in Tasmania, stand for both concurrent elections. For councils with a Chairperson rather than a Mayor, the Chairperson is a councillor elected by all councillors.

     It is provided in Section 86 of South Australia's Local Government Act 1999, that the Mayor, or a councillor substituting for the Mayor as the presiding officer at meetings of a council, has a casting vote only and, where the presiding officer is termed a Chairperson rather than a Mayor, the Chairperson, or a councillor substituting for the Chairperson, has a deliberative vote only. In each case, tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are lost, and are not overridden by that officer's being able to undemocratically have a second, or casting, vote in addition to a deliberative vote, which would be contrary to Westminster parliamentary usage, and to common law. South Australia's position reduces democratic concerns - which arise in jurisdictions where an additional casting vote is prescribed - about having councils with an even number of members.

  • The unfortunate deficiencies mentioned in the above arrangements result in South Australia's 63 councils having 33 different and idiosyncratic electoral combinations, leading to unnecessary institutionalized electoral inequities and injustice. South Australia's Local Government (Elections) Regulations 2010 do not, unlike Victoria's former practice, require the inclusion with ballot papers posted to electors statements of recommended preference voting orders supplied by each candidate. Accordingly, it does not experience the proliferation of 'dummy candidates' that Victoria's practice used to engender.

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TASMANIA - PARLIAMENT: Tasmania's Attorney-General in the 1890s, Hon. Andrew Inglis Clark, who sat on the four-member committee of the 1891 National Australasian Convention (see P. 247 of debates) that, on the Queensland Government Paddle Steamer, S.S. Lucinda, cruising on the Hawkesbury River, NSW, drafted a Bill to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia, which was adopted by that Convention. He spoke about proportional representation (PR) then. He did not stand for election to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention, but a Tasmanian delegate, Matthew Clarke MHA, spoke there (see P. 304 on 30 March 1897) in favour of a Hare system, like Tasmania's Hare-Clark electoral system for both houses of the proposed new Commonwealth Parliament.

Tasmanian proportionalists were members of Tasmania’s former Municipal Reform Group, which was informally associated with the PRSA before the PRSA adopted its constitution in 1982. PRSA members in Tasmania joined with Victorian members in 2000. In 2006 they formed the Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania) Inc.

Start of Hare-Clark:  Andrew Clark achieved legislation for PR-STV elections, with Hare-Clark's Single Transferable Vote, for part of Tasmania's House of Assembly in 1896. Under the Electoral Act 1907 (7 Edw. VII No. 6), Tasmania became Australia's first parliament to use quota-preferential proportional representation to fill all seats in one of its houses, and it has used it continuously since then. See the official report of the first state-wide Hare-Clark election in 1909. That Act also substituted majority-preferential voting for the first-past-the-post voting used until then for the single-member electorates that have always been used for the Legislative Council. Tasmania thus also has the longest record, among Australian parliaments, of continuous use of preferential voting in single-member electorates. Tasmania's Liberal Government in 1985 enacted the first consolidation of Tasmania's electoral laws since the Electoral Act 1907 in the Electoral Act 1985 (No. 46 of 1985) with unanimous parliamentary support. That Act, administered by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, was replaced, again with unanimous support, by the Electoral Act 2004 (No. 51 of 2004). Section 231 of the Act specifies countback. The centenary of the first Tasmania-wide Hare-Clark election occurred on 2009-04-30. The Commission's excellent website gives access to full reports of that first Hare-Clark election, and to every countback and to every election in both houses from 1909 onwards.

Countback: Hare-Clark, improved by requiring direct election by countback in 1918, for the filling of casual vacancies, after the evidence given by John Humphreys in successfully opposing a retrograde Labor Party proposal to replace Hare-Clark with a party list system, (see "UNITED KINGDOM" section above), is Australia's longest-established electoral system. The first result of a countback in Tasmania's official election reports from 1909 was the 1942 by-election using countback, which was occasioned by the death of a sitting member.

Hare-Clark impressed the Maltese-born Sir Gerald (later Lord) Strickland while he was the Governor of Tasmania from 1904-09, so that when he became Prime Minister of Malta from 1927-32 he had a prior acquaintance with its successful operation in Tasmania, and could continue to support its already well-established use for the election of Malta's MPs. 

Recognizing that Number of Vacancies to Fill Should be an Odd Number: In 1958, a Tasmanian political scientist, Dr George Howatt, wrote his classic PR-STV paper "Democratic Representation under the Hare-Clark System - The Need for Seven-Member Electorates", which the Government tabled in the House of Assembly in support of its Bill that succeeded in correcting the flaw in the original Hare-Clark system of having an even number of seats per electorate, rather than an uneven number, to ensure a majority outcome in any electorate where a party gained a majority vote, by changing the number of MHAs per electorate from the original number, six, to the recommended uneven number, seven.

Avoiding Regimentation of Voters: Dr Howatt's 1979 report, similarly tabled, "Voting - By Party Direction or Free Choice" was another PR-STV classic. Fortunately, Tasmania's Parliament heeded its warning against the regimented ballot-paper style that has developed for Senate elections. Tasmania has never had that legislatively-enabled regimentation, and the results of its freedom from that imposition can be seen by comparing the relatively even concentration of first preference votes on individual candidates in Tasmania's Hare-Clark with the stage-managed skewed concentration on a tiny few evident with Senate outcomes. Tasmania's unskewed spread ensures that the larger parties do not unfairly reduce their own party's electoral prospects, as can be seen for elections, like those for the Senate before 2016, and the two of Australia's mainland state Upper Houses, Western Australia and Victoria, where Group Voting Tickets still facilitate voters' regimentation.

Partial Optional Preferential Voting: Unlike the Senate system, where full (or almost full) marking of preferences was required, from 1934 until its discontinuance in 2016, for a ballot to be formal, Tasmania's Hare-Clark system has never required voters to mark more preferences than the number of vacancies, although ballot paper instructions encourage them to mark as many as they feel able to. As Dame Enid Lyons pointed out in the 1948 debates on PR-STV for the Senate, that has not resulted in a high or unacceptable incidence of exhausted votes. The minimum number of consecutive preferences, beginning with a unique first preference, had been three before Section 18 of Tasmania's Electoral Act 1973 increased it to seven, which was the number of vacancies to be filled per division by then, but the number was reduced to five by Section 21 of Tasmania's Parliamentary Reform Act 1998, to correspond with that Act's reducing the number of MHA's per division to five. The Group Voting Ticket device, which has fortunately never been introduced for Tasmania's State elections, was imposed for Senate polls from 1983 to 2016 ostensibly to reduce the incidence of informal ballots, but a much more reasonable way to reduce it would be to adopt partial optional preferential voting, as Tasmania's record shows. Partial optional preferential voting and Robson Rotation also apply for elections to Tasmania's Legislative Council, and to all its municipal councils.

Tasmania has wisely avoided adopting the Group Voting Tickets that

  • used to apply for elections to the Senate, and the South Australian and New South Wales Legislative Councils,
  • were unsuccessfully attempted to be introduced for the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly, and
  • still linger for the Western Australian and Victorian Legislative Councils.

The combination of the mainland's use of how-to-vote cards, the conjoint election of both houses in the relevant mainland bicameral parliaments, and that continuing GVT system, has had adverse effects. It has managed to persuade a large majority of voters for those two mainland Legislative Councils for which GVTs still persist to take the relatively easy course of abandoning individual consideration of the relative merits of a party's candidates. Those voters instead still accept the preference order for their chosen party's candidates, and all other candidates, as decided by their party - which is generally not made very evident to voters - and do that by just marking an above-the-line box.

Robson Rotation: A key part of Tasmania's Electoral Act 2004, Robson Rotation, is specified in Sections 97 and 98 and Schedule 3. It requires ballot-papers to be printed in different batches, of equal size, so that candidates' names have an equal incidence of appearance in prescribed positions down the columns. Applying also to polls in all municipal elections, and the single-member Upper House electorates, it disarms organized 'tickets', and neutralizes the unintended effects of 'donkey voting'. A former Tasmanian MHA, the late Hon. Neil Robson AM, who was a PRSA Honorary Life Member, was its initiator in by means of his successful private member's bill, which resulted in the Electoral Amendment Act 1979. The 1992 Tasmanian book "Hare-Clark in Tasmania", by Terry Newman, describes Robson Rotation well.

Prior to the 1976 Assembly election, the order of candidates' surnames in party columns on the ballot-paper was alphabetical. Tasmania's high incidence of election, and re-election, of MPs with surnames like Abbott, Adams, Agnew, Amos, Anderson, Batt etc. had started to remind some Tasmanians of the Australian Labor Party's notorious four A's ploy in the 1937 Senate election in NSW, which led to the Menzies Coalition Government retaliating, in 1940, by introducing the present listing of Senate candidates' names by mutual consent (effectively by party decision). Tasmania's first change from an alphabetical list of candidates' names in the party columns was fortunately not to adopt that party machine concession, but instead the Electoral Act 1973 made the order set by lot, but that was in force for the 1976 and 1979 elections only, as circumstances happily resulted in the adoption of Robson Rotation in 1979.

Unlike the mainland States, where electors in State lower house elections had only one candidate from each party to choose from, the existence of multi-member electorates, with casual vacancies filled by countback since 1918, meant that parties normally stood more candidates than the number of seats they expected to win, thus giving Tasmania's voters a wide choice of candidates within each party. How-to-vote cards, which list a party's candidates in a particular recommended order for voters to copy onto their ballot papers,and are handed out by party supporters to electors outside polling booths, had never been used in Tasmanian Assembly elections. Attempts to introduce them were nullified by the introduction of Robson Rotation. Tasmanian law has since made heir use near polling booths an offence.

Constitutional Entrenchment by Referendum Needed: Tasmania's Constitution Act 1934 does not prescribe a method for counting votes, or require a referendum or special majority to alter it, or the electoral system; or even to abolish either House, except for alterations to the term of the House of Assembly. Hare-Clark, although very popular, could be abolished by ordinary legislation. Tasmania's Constitution Act 1934 ought to specify key Hare-Clark features and entrench them, so that they can only be removed after a referendum. In contrast, Malta [66(2)], Eire (Article 16.2), and the A.C.T, have each protected their PR-STV system by constitutional entrenchment.

The number of members in each house of the Parliament has varied over the years. The number of members in each of the five House of Assembly electoral districts was increased from six to seven following the 1958 Howatt Report above. A 1984 Report reviewed that increase and considered that it had been appropriate. The Morling Board of Inquiry in 1994 agreed with that view, but in 1998 an ALP private member's bill was passed that reduced the size of the Legislative Council from 19 to 15, and the size of the House of Assembly from 35 to 25, which increased the quota for election as an MHA from 12.5% to 16.7%. PRSA and many Tasmanians opposed that reduction in size, which has come to be seen as a mistake, as is evidenced by a 2012 House of Assembly resolution that supported a return to a 35-member House.

Tasmania - Local Government:
The Groom Liberal Government's Local Government Act 1993 introduced Hare-Clark proportional representation (Section 299 invokes Part 3 of Schedule 7) for all Tasmanian municipalities (PR had previously applied just to Hobart City Council), with Section 25 invoking Schedule 3, which specifies the number of councillors in each of Tasmania's 29 municipalities, which currently ranges from 7 to 12, and the number of subdivisions in each municipality if there are to be any (Schedule 3 has to date shown no municipalities as being subdivided, but its details may be varied by the Governor on the Minister's recommendation). Vacancies are filled (Section 307), Assembly-style, by countback, for all municipal polls. The Act provides that councillors' terms be for four years, with the term of as near to practicable half the councillors ending every two years. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission website commendably shows the complete and detailed results of municipal elections and countbacks since 1994, when Hare-Clark first applied to all elections of municipal councillors.

For Tasmanian State and municipal polls, partial optional preferential voting applies. As a result of requests from MHAs that had been municipal councillors, ballot-papers for election of councillors have, since 2002, been required to be printed using Robson Rotation by Section 288(2) of the Act, which refers to a prescribed order, and that appears in Schedule 1 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2005.

PRSAV-T Inc. made a 2-page submission to Tasmania's 2019 Local Government Legislation Review, largely on supporting the status quo regarding Tasmania's exemplary method of electing Mayors.

For Tasmanian municipal elections:

  • All councillors are regularly elected, by quota-preferential proportional representation, for four-year terms at general elections, by postal ballot conducted by the Tasmanian Electoral Commisstion, with the total number of councillors in some municipalities at the 2014 elections being reduced, and with no wards in any municipality - as governed by Schedule 3 above, which is alterable by vice-regal proclamation. Ballot material posted to electors includes statements and photographs of themselves that candidates may provide. There is no compulsory full marking of all preferences as in Victoria, so there is a lower incidence of 'dummy candidates', and a lower rate of informal ballots than in Victoria. The printing of ballot papers using Robson Rotation also ensures that voters do not easily transcribe candidates' recommended voting orders slavishly onto their ballot paper.

  •  Partial optional preferential voting applies, so a valid ballot-paper needs only as many marked preferences as there are vacancies.

  • Casual vacancies are filled by the very fair and direct countback system.

  • Robson Rotation applies for ballot-papers, which fortunately forestalls "donkey votes" and organized "how-to-vote"cards.

  • The presiding officer at meetings of Tasmania's 29 councils or their committees has a deliberative vote only, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are lost, and are not overridden by that officer's being able to undemocratically have, contrary to Westminster parliamentary usage, and to common law, a second, or casting, vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote. Tasmania's position on that reduces democratic concerns about having councils with an even number of members.

  • In all Tasmanian municipalities, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected separately for a four-year term, at each quadrennial general election of councillors, by direct, popular election, but there is an important requirement - unfortunately not yet found elsewhere in Australia for other elections of the Mayor or Deputy Mayor by popular vote - for the separately-elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor to also stand and succeed at the concurrent election of councillors. A report in April 2000 by Tasmania's Local Government Board indicated that Tasmanians generally supported their exemplary method of election of Mayors and Deputy Mayors. Tasmania's provision is still the only implementation in Australia yet of an obviously sensible prerequisite that a candidate for a leadership position such as Mayor or Deputy Mayor should have enough popular support to also be elected as a councillor, in competition with other candidates for councillor positions.

  • A 2011 election for a Deputy Mayor, who might have thought he would be continuing as Deputy Mayor unopposed, shows how the above requirement properly denies election to candidates for such offices if they do not also win a Council seat - as he failed to do - in competition with all other candidates for Council, and can then rightly transfer the power to the Council as a whole to fill such offices from among the councillors, all of whom must have been first elected councillors as such by the electors. Candidates for those leadership offices cannot stand for both offices concurrently.

  • Tasmania's superior approach gives maximum flexibility and choice to both candidates and voters. It fully maintains overall proportionality. It gives electors the chance to elect, as a councillor, a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor or Deputy Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate standing for a councillor's position only. If a candidate at an election for Mayor or Deputy Mayor fails to win a quota in the concurrent election of councillors, each voter's vote for that candidate at the election for Mayor or Deputy Mayor is transferred to the voter's next preference. If necessary, the election of Mayor or Deputy Mayor reverts to the Council.

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VICTORIA - PARLIAMENT: As named on an early letterhead, the Proportional Representation League of Victoria's Secretary, from the late 1800s, was Edward Nanson, the University of Melbourne's Mathematics Professor from 1875 to 1922. Also named is the league's President, Sir James Barrett, who was Vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1931-34 and Chancellor from 1935-39. Professor Nanson convinced the University of Melbourne to adopt proportional representation with the Single Transferable Vote (PR-STV) for polls for its Senate, of which he was a member.

Single Transferable Vote proportional representation was used for that Senate - later renamed the Committee of Convocation - until it was replaced in 2011 by an Alumni Council, where Clause 3(d) of Regulation 3.1.R1 regressed by requiring its elected members to be elected using the crude and unfair plurality system.

The League's successor, in 1943, was the Proportional Representation Society of Victoria, which campaigned then for PR for Senate elections. The PRSV became the PRSA's Victorian Branch in 1981, and was renamed Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania) in 2000, and incorporated as Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania) Inc. in 2006.

PRSAV-T Inc. has successfully helped promote proportional representation for elections for Victoria's Legislative Council, Victoria's municipal councils, the Council of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Diocesan Council of the Anglican Archdiocese of Melbourne by its Synod, the Board of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), the ALP Victorian Branch and other bodies. It has had less involvement in Tasmania because Tasmania's longstanding use of PR for its Lower House has led to widespread understanding of its value there, and most of Australia's PR advances have been instigated there. See details here of some of PRSAV-T Inc's present and former members, and here for some AGM Guest Speakers.

150 Years of Winner-take-all Periodic Upper House Polls Ended in 2006:
Alfred Deakin, a Victorian MP, later Australia's second Prime Minister, worked for 
PR-STV in Victoria's Colonial Parliament, but failed. The PRSA Election Analysis of the last, in 2002, of Victoria's winner-take-all periodic polls for the retiring half of its Legislative Council shows the unsatisfactory nature of that system. Victoria led the world when it introduced the secret ballot in 1856, which was also the year its Legislative Assembly, which has always been a fully-elected House, was established, and the year its Legislative Council:

  • first became a fully-elected House,
  • first occupied its present meeting chamber,
  • first became the Upper House of the present bicameral legislature, and
  • had its first - and until 25th November 2006 - only general election.

The count for that first general election used a multiple, or bloc, first-past-the-post method, with subsequent elections being the filling of single vacancies by a first-past-the-post (plurality) method until that was changed to a preferential method in 1921. Victoria's was the last Australian bicameral parliament to have neither House elected by proportional representation. The ornate Legislative Council chamber was used by the Senate from 1901 until the Federal Parliament was relocated to Canberra in 1927.

Efforts for Hare-Clark in Victoria: The PRSAV held a public meeting in 1999 to draw attention to the Victorian Government's plan to apply PR to Upper House polls. The Constitution (Proportional Representation) Bill 2000 was improved after countback amendments by Independent Gippsland East MLA, Craig Ingram, for direct election of all MPs, were accepted by the Bracks ALP Government, but it still lacked proper Hare-Clark features such as Robson Rotation and absence of Group Voting Tickets. That apparent acceptance of countback then appeared to be a deceptive feint, as the eventual amendment of the Constitution Act 1975 now in force provides, in its Section 27A, for filling of casual vacancies by a joint sitting of the Parliament by a candidate that is a member of the vacating member's party. Except for special provisions for replacing independent MLCs - if any ever get elected - that amounts to party appointment, as Section 27A(4) states that the joint sitting "must choose a member of the registered political party referred to in subsection (3) nominated by that registered political party if the registered political party nominates a member of the registered political party for the vacancy who would otherwise be qualified to be elected a member of the Council." The Section 27A(4) words "must choose" are an obvious oxymoron, given that parties only ever nominate one person. Mr Ingram, consistently with his position above, succeeded in having his dissent recorded in relation to the process for filling the vacancy at the first such joint sitting, in 2009 (See P. 70). See also the problems with the Senate casual vacancy provision that the Victorian system has followed rather than adopting countback.

Victoria's Constitutional Commission: The PRSAV-T made a submission to the Constitution Commission of Victoria set up to report on the Bill. In 2001 the PRSAV-T brought Hon. Neil Robson, a former Tasmanian minister administering Tasmania's Electoral Act, and also the instigator of Tasmania's excellent Robson Rotation system, to Melbourne for a meeting the three Commissioners agreed to have with him, and for a public meeting. Section 11 of the Commission's Report foreshadowed future benefit in instituting Robson Rotation for Legislative Council elections and also for dispensing with above-the-line voting. In 2002 the Bracks ALP Government constructively transferred legislative detail on its electoral systems from the obscurely-named The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958 to the new Electoral Act 2002.

Institution of PR for the Legislative Council: Proclamation of the Royal Assent to the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, which enabled alteration of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 and its Electoral Act 2002 to require quota-preferential proportional representation elections for the Legislative Council, appeared in Special Government Gazette S57 of 8th April 2003. Victoria's  PR-STV system has impressively reversed a retrograde trend in Australia, which the Commonwealth began in 1934, to move towards a requirement that a preference must be indicated for every candidate in a multi-member electorate in order for a ballot to be deemed valid. Tasmania's Hare-Clark system has always had partial optional preferential voting. On the day the Legislative Assembly that was elected in 2002 was dissolved, Part 3 of Division 2 of the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003 became operative and implemented other provisions needed for the change to  PR-STV that also became operative then, and have amended the Constitution Act 1975 and the Electoral Act 2002 to institute  PR-STV for the Legislative Council.

Section 36 of the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, operated to insert, on that day, a Section 93A into the Electoral Act 2002, which reversed the retrograde trend mentioned above, and to cause Victoria's rule on below-the-line voting to differ markedly from the Senate below-the-line rule, by deeming a ballot-paper to be valid provided that the number of preferences indicated is at least equal to the number of candidates to be elected. Likewise, Section 42 of that Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, on that day, operated to insert Schedules 1A and 1B into the Electoral Act 2002, which provides for the new form of ballot-paper and introduces, in its Section 74(3B)(b), a novel aspect to the Legislative Council ballot-papers that was specifically recommended by the Constitution Commission above, viz. the printing - to the right of each candidate's name on the ballot-paper - after the name of that candidate's party (if any), the name of the suburb or locality at which that candidate is enrolled.

Three major changes made by the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003 were:

·         the insertion of a Section 114A into Victoria's Electoral Act 2002, which provided for Single Transferable Vote proportional representation counting for Legislative Council polls,

·         changes to Section 27 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 to provide for 8 electoral regions each electing 5 MLCs, and

·         changes to Section 28 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 to provide for the dissolution of the Legislative Council at the same time as the Legislative Assembly.

Most importantly, changes to Section 18 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 entrenched the above Sections 27 and 28 (in Subdivision 1 of Division 5 of Part II of that Act) by requiring any alteration to them, or other sections in that Subdivision, or to Section 18 itself, to be approved by a referendum before they can take effect. This was the first time a requirement for a referendum appeared in Victoria's Constitution.

The PRSAV-T wrote to all MLAs and MLCs advocating countback, the Robson Rotation, and the omission of the unfortunate Group Voting Tickets provision, but those aspects did not form part of the Act. The Minister that introduced the Act into the Upper House, the Hon. John Lenders MLC, had met a deputation from the PRSAV-T to discuss those aspects, and the Upper House Opposition Leader acknowledged the PRSAV-T's advocacy to him in his speech (Hansard Page 437) in the House. The first Legislative Council casual vacancy, that of Evan Thornley, who had been directly elected by a quota of votes in Victoria's Southern Metropolitan Region, was filled in 2009 by a Joint Sitting of Victoria's Parliament, using the undemocratic party appointment method, by a person nominated by the Australian Labor Party's National Executive.

Other PRSAV-T Inc. Work: Evidence of PRSA permission to incorporate the Rules for conducting elections by the Single Transferable Vote method of proportional representation from the Society's PR Manual in Schedule 1 of the Health Services (Community Health Centre Elections ) Regulations 2001 appeared as Endnote 1 to those regulations, until those PRSA rules were superseded by a reference to the proportional representation rules in Victoria's Local Government Act 1989.

The PRSAV-T Inc. provides a vote-counting service for organizations, which particularly assists those that conduct proportional representation polls.

Victoria -
Local Government: In the 1920s, preferential voting, usually in single-vacancy elections, replaced the original plurality voting that had begun for the City of Melbourne in 1842, when what is now Victoria was part of the Colony of NSW. The Victorian Branch of the PRSA put the case for proportional representation in a 1978 submission to a Victorian Government Board of Review. As proportional representation elections had not been prescribed for public elections in Victoria even a decade later, the forerunners of the Victorian Electoral Commission had no experience in counting single transferable vote proportional representation elections then, so the PRSA's Victorian Branch assisted the officials counting Victoria 's fortuitous (no explicit statute, but ordered under the then ALP Minister's powers) first
PR-STV municipal election, for a restructured City of Richmond, in 1988 after its dismissal.

When the ALP Government introduced the consolidated Local Government Act 1989, it continued the traditional 3-year term for all councillors, but added the option of triennial general elections to the only option that had previously existed in Victoria, which was periodic elections, where the longest-serving third of the councillors retired annually. Unfortunately, owing to amendment by the Coalition in the Legislative Council, that  PR-STV option of the ALP Government was omitted, so where a municipality used the general election model - with all three seats in each ward being filled as a group - they were filled by the winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential method that had previously been used only by the few  municipalities that had chosen not to be divided into the 3-councillor wards, which were the only wards allowed then. That method had been discredited and superseded for Senate elections in 1948 by single transferable vote proportional representation. That method was also used in some municipal elections in both New South Wales and the Northern Territory, but it has not applied in either of those places since 2012.

Victorian Liberal MPs have been slower to support  PR-STV than their counterparts in other States and the ACT, but in 1995 the Kennett Liberal Government amended the Local Government Act 1989 to prescribe PR-STV (proportional representation using the single transferable vote) election at large for 5 of the 9 seats on Melbourne City Council, which were filled in 1996.  PR-STV in the City of Melbourne has since regressed, as the Bracks Labor Government introduced Group Voting Tickets there, although  PR-STV casual vacancies are now filled by countback.

The Kennett Government amended Victoria's Local Government Act 1989 in 1997 to allow some or all councillors in a declared municipality to be elected by PR-STV. The Act thus empowered the Minister for Local Government to apply the Melbourne model, or  PR-STV for prescribed vacancies, to any other Council. Until it was superseded by Bracks Government reforms in 2003, such a structure applied for the Greater Geelong and Nillumbik Councils.

The PRSAV-T wrote to all of Victoria's Councils in August 2003 advocating Hare-Clark features for the  PR-STV system that is now mandatory for all multi-vacancy polls, in place of the previous winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential method. By the Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act 2003, whose relevant sections came into effect on 10 December 2003, the Bracks Labor Government amended the Local Government Act 1989 resulting in its Section 42. That section invokes Schedule 3, Clause 11B of which provides - for any poll where more than one councillor is to be elected for a ward or electorate - that proportional representation using the single transferable vote (PR-STV) shall apply, thus fortunately discontinuing that previous multiple majority-preferential method (identical to the 1919-46 Senate system), which had lingered until its last use at the March 2003 municipal elections, for the 21 municipalities then still encumbered with it.

See the example of the 2000 Strathbogie Shire elections in the last year in which that now discredited multiple majority-preferential method was used there, where the candidate with the second highest number of first preference votes was not one of the five candidates elected, but where the candidate with the fewest first preference votes - who would have lost his deposit for failing to obtain at least 4% of first preference votes had he not been elected - was the last candidate elected from the nine standing. By the 2003 elections, Strathbogie Shire had been reconfigured to consist of seven single-councillor wards, but by the 2005 elections two of those wards had been joined to form a sole two-councillor ward, which gave some local indication of the benefits of  PR-STV. At the electoral representation review of Strathbogie Shire in 2011, the former Deputy Premier and Nationals leader when the now-abolished former system had been left as the only alternative to a single-councillor ward system made a submission advocating proportional representation in a single undivided electoral district for the Shire, and criticizing the single-councillor ward system.

Countback provisions arise from Section 37A of the Local Government Act 1989, which invokes Schedule 3A, under which countback is to be used to fill casual vacancies following PR polls. Unlike the Tasmanian Electoral Commission website, that for the Victorian Electoral Commission regrettably failed to give more than first preference and final total votes for general elections until the 2012 polls, but since PRSAV-T Inc. asked for the July 2011 countback for Melbourne City Council to be detailed on its website, the VEC remedied that oversight and now gives hyperlinks to both its general election and its countback distribution reports.

Single-councillor wards, which can only give winner-take-all results, had not applied in any Australian jurisdiction, except Queensland, until they became an option in Victoria near the end of the 20th Century. After Victoria had appointed commissioners replacing elected councillors in the last decade of that century, those commissioners were required to propose the arrangement of electoral districts for the re-introduction of elected councillors. As winner-take-all electoral systems were all that was available prior to proportional representation becoming an option for any council, most councils' commissioners recommended single-councillor wards as the lesser of two evils, so they briefly became the predominant pattern. until after proportional representation using the single transferable vote (PR-STV) became the only system for use in multi-councillor electoral districts in 2003.

That novelty of single-councillor wards soon palled when their faults became evident, so their brief predominance was soon replaced by that of multi-councillor electoral districts once the greater benefits of proportional representation using the single transferable vote (PR-STV) became better known. The Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act 2003 amended the Local Government Act 1989 to provide that their use in a given municipality is now an option, although the adoption of that option is decided by ad hoc and rather opaque periodic Representation Reviews conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission under Sections 219A-219G of that 1989 principal Act, which require formal ratification by the Minister for Local Government before they can take effect, but a system like the NSW Constitutional Referendums would be much sounder. The Act regrettably is so loose that its provision for the structure of councils does not require elementary conditions:

  • for electoral parity as it fails to require each ward to have the same number of councillors.

The PRSAV-T Inc. has made submissions to most of those reviews. Of Victoria's 79 councils in 2008, 18 still had winner-take-all single-councillor wards only, but 40 councils (51%) used  PR-STV in all polls, and the PR-STV remaining 21 councils had some PR-STV wards. It would be far sounder if a system, for each municipality, of multi-councillor electoral districts, each with an uneven number of councillors, to avoid "stalemate" wards, and the same number of councillors per electoral district (for parity of the quota throughout the municipality), were made standard, without the implausible hotchpotch of inequitable, confusing and shifting arrangements for municipal elections that are now allowed. See the 2010 PRSAV-T Inc. submission to Local Government Victoria on Victoria's present system of Representation Reviews, and its 2013 submission to the Local Government Electoral Review Panel.

A PRSAV-T submission, concerned about the 'dummy candidates' problem peculiar to Victorian municipal elections since postal voting was introduced late last century, supported a draft of what were Victoria's Local Government (Electoral) Regulations 2005 which - had it been adopted - would have discontinued the circulation, with postal ballot-papers, of indications of candidates' preferences. Unfortunately, that circulation was not discontinued, so a distinctive weakness of Victorian municipal electoral arrangements continued to be the provisions in Regulation 38, which Returning Officers had to implement by circulating to electors in postal ballots voting preference orders lodged by candidates. That practice seems to have created Victoria's former 'dummy candidates' problem.

That circulation, at public expense, encouraged in Victoria's municipal elections a confusing proliferation of 'dummy candidates', who were candidates nominated at the behest of more serious candidates, simply to appeal superficially, on account of certain characteristics - such as their attractive appearance, or their particular hobby horses - to different relatively small groups of uninformed voters. It was intended that they collect a low enough vote to be excluded reasonably early in the count, with the result that their ballots were then transferred to the intended principal beneficiaries, who were those listed later in the preference order that they lodged, and that was circulated to voters with their ballot-papers. Recommendation 26 of the 2014 report of the Local Government Electoral Review Panel was that the circulation by Returning Officers of preference orders lodged by candidates should be discontinued. In late 2016, the Legislative Council admirably disallowed the relevant Regulation 38, so the dummy candidate problem at future municipal elections should become largely confined to remaining single-councillor wards, where it can still have a distorting effect on the result of the election.

Victoria's 'dummy candidates' problem became the subject of press reports in the March 2003 municipal polls when nearly all municipalities' postal ballots were still for single-councillor wards, as the then alternative multiple majority-preferential system for multi-councillor wards was confined to a minority of municipalities, before proportional representation became Victoria's standard system for multi-councillor electoral districts in December 2003, leading to most municipalities using proportional representation by the 2008 elections.

The use of 'dummy candidates' was far less effective in PR-STV polls as, in those polls, ballot papers are first transferred for surpluses of elected candidates, who are usually the highest-polling candidates, whereas if only a single position is being filled, all transfers are from the lowest-polling candidates, who are more likely to be 'dummy candidates'.

Victoria, unlike its three neighbouring States - which have had much longer experience with proportional representation at the State and municipal level - lacks even partial optional preferential voting as Regulation 22 of Victoria's Local Government (Elections) Regulations 2016 requires that ballot-papers are not formal unless all consecutive preferences, or all but the last such preference, are marked, but that regulation could be amended without a change to the Act. The combination of the former facility for candidates to have their recommended preference orders circulated for them at public expense, and that requirement that ballots that do not have all preferences marked are informal, provides a lure that ethical candidates - however reluctant they might be to stand 'dummy candidates' themselves - cannot ignore if they are not to be beaten by opponents that can be counted upon to stand 'dummy candidates' to assist their electoral prospects.

The introduction of partial optional preferential voting does not require legislation, but only an amendment to that Section 22 of the regulations above, which Victoria's Governor-in-Council can make. Given the adoption in March 2016 of partial optional preferential voting for the Senate's PR-STV elections, and Victoria's use of that voting option ever since it adopted  PR-STV for its Legislative Council elections, it would be consistent to adopt the same partial optional preferential formality rule for municipal  PR-STV which is the dominant municipal electoral system in Victoria. There is no justification for the PR-STV lowest-ranking of the three  elections in which Victorians vote to have a different formality requirement from those other two elections.

Removal of the multi-councillor PR-STV ward option in proposed Local Government Bill 2019:
Victoria's Minister for Local Government has foreshadowed aspects of this bill to replace the Local Government Act 1989, but not yet released a copy of it publicly. In the Andrews Labor Government's 2014-18 term, its Local Government Bill 2018, which would have replaced that 1989 Act, had - like many reviews not long before it that had been exposed to public inquiries and comments - simply lapsed.

The PRSA's Victoria-Tasmania Branch is strongly opposed to the Bill's unreasonable reversal of the Bracks Labor Government's fine 2003 reform that created that multi-councillor PR-STV ward option. It wrote to all of Victoria's MPs urging them to amend the bill to retain that option, but to nevertheless require that:

  • there be parity among all wards in a given municipality,
  • there be no wards with an even number of councillors, which can become 'stalemate wards', and
  • the maximum number of councillors in a municipality be increased to 15, which would allow - for Victoria's most populous municipalities - three 5-councillor wards, or five 3-councillor wards.

For the City of Melbourne, the City of Melbourne Act 2001 regrettably provides for popular, but indirect, election of the Lord Mayor and the Deputy Lord Mayor, with the limiting and inflexible requirement - from the perspective of the electors - that there be a joint nomination for those two offices, and it segregates candidates for that election from those standing for the remaining Council positions, which are filled by the undesirable Group Voting Ticket system. See the PRSAV-T Inc. submission to a 2007 Elections Process Forum.

The use by Victoria, in the 19th Century, and up till 1920, of multiple plurality counting for municipal elections is illustrated by an 1888 report of the results of an election for the East Riding of Moorabbin Shire, as is its use 124 years later, of PR-STV (proportional representation using the single transferable vote), for the 2012 elections for Bayside City Council, which is a municipality within the area of that former shire, where some names of that former Shire's councillors are commemorated by street names.

For Victorian municipalities other than Melbourne:

  • All regular elections are general elections, on the fourth Saturday in October in every leap year, with nearly all municipalities using postal ballots, except for a small number that have chosen to use attendance voting.

    There is no requirement for all wards in a particular municipality to have the same number of councillors, so unfortunately election quotas can differ for different wards. Section 5B(1) of the Local Government Act 1989 fixes the number of councillors in a council in Australia's narrowest range, from 5 to 12.

  • There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to many councils lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR-STV systems that use of an odd number entails.

  • There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils can unfortunately have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, as 29 of Victoria's 79 councils (37%) had in 2008.

  • Unlike any other Australian State's municipal elections, an unnecessary, and often onerous, full marking of all preferences is required for a ballot-paper to be valid. The absence of optional preferential voting, or partial optional preferntial voting, added to the former problem, peculiar to Victoria, of the nomination of many "dummy candidates" in single-councillor wards, and leaves the percentage of informal votes higher than it need be. The notorious proliferation of "dummy candidates" was also greatly facilitated by what was - until it was discontinued in late 2016 - Victoria's unique practice of inclusion of candidates' recommended preference orders with the ballot-paper posted to voters for each candidate that submits such a preference order. The combination of those two features, which was unique to Victoria, created an arrangement where some serious candidates procured "dummy candidates", who were not seriously trying to be elected, to appeal to a certain section of the electorate that would not normally vote for the serious candidate in question, but could be expected to vote for the superficially appealing "dummy", and be likely, as many voters are, to slavishly follow the "dummy's" recommended order of preferences. The result of that exercise was that the "dummy" was excluded early in the count, thus giving his or her procurer the votes transferred at that exclusion. Once the practice began, the pressure to be elected convinced most serious candidates that they too needed to procure a "dummy", even though they would much rather not. The recommended preference orders circulated with the ballot papers had much of the same corrupting effect as the Group Voting Ticket device that still unfortunately applies for Melbourne City Council elections.

  • Casual vacancies are filled by countback, except for single-councillor wards, or where there are no continuing candidates, in which by-election polls are held. PRSA's Victoria-Tasmania Branch strongly opposed Recommendation 54 of the 2014 Local Government Review Panel as it recommended a change to a process inferior to countback.

    Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus regrettably not forestalling donkey votes or organized how-to-vote cards. Instead, the order of candidates' names is set by lot, together with - except for the City of Melbourne - direct election free of Group Voting Tickets.

  • The Mayor and Deputy Mayor are each elected by the Council, except for the City of Melbourne and the City of Greater Geelong. In the City of Melbourne, they are popularly elected, but indirectly as a mandatory joint nomination, but that exceptionally bad Melbourne arrangement unfortunately lacks Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor to not only be popularly elected by separate concurrent ballots, but to also succeed at the election of councillors if they are not to be excluded in the counts of the elections for Mayor and Deputy Mayor, which are, in the Tasmanian system, undertaken after the count for the election of councillors has been concluded. That important democratic provision avoids diminishing overall proportionality in the election of all those that will ultimately sit on the Council, and depriving electors of the chance to elect as a councillor a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor or Deputy Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate that is standing for a councillor position only. Candidates for Melbourne's Lord Mayor and Deputy Mayor are, contrary to Tasmania's practice, prevented from standing at the concurrent election for councillors. In the City of Greater Geelong, for a time, the Mayor was  directly elected by the voters, but could not, unlike Tasmania, stand for the concurrent election for councillors; and an elected councillor is elected as Deputy Mayor by the Council.

  • Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of Victorian councils or their committees has, by statute, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors, as well as distorting the representation of voters.

    Deficiencies in the above arrangements result in a miscellaneous collection of electoral combinations with little overall rationale, where 50 of Victoria's 79 municipalities in 2008 used  PR-STV in multi-councillor electoral districts exclusively, with only 37 of those avoiding districts with an even number of councillors to be elected, but 14 other municipalities used a mixture of multi-councillor and single-councillor districts, and 15 others used exclusively single-councillor districts, leading to unnecessary institutionalized electoral inequities and injustice.

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NEW SOUTH WALES - PARLIAMENT: A New South Wales Proportional Representation Society began in 1913, following the replacement of plurality counting in NSW Assembly polls in single-member electoral districts by a second ballot system for the 1910, 1913 and 1917 polls. Proportional representation, promoted by that forerunner of the present NSW Branch of the PRSA, and introduced by a 1918 Act, was used for Legislative Assembly polls in 1920 (won by Labor), 1922 (won by a non-Labor Coalition), and 1925 (won by Labor, under Jack Lang).

The first Lang Labor Government repealed the proportional representation provisions in its first term (1925-27), but lost the ensuing 1927 election, which was held on the system of single-member electoral districts with fully optional preferential voting that it had introduced in Section 8(10) of a 1926 Act. Criticisms of that particular proportional representation system included its failure to make satisfactory provision, such as countback, for filling casual vacancies, and the difference in the quota for the 5-member urban districts and the larger quota for the 3-member rural districts.

A requirement that all preferences be marked for a valid vote was first introduced by a non-Labor Coalition by Section 28 of a 1928 Act. That took effect for the 1930 Assembly elections, and remained until Labor re-introduced fully optional preferential voting for the 1981 elections.

Legislative Council of NSW elected by  PR-STV: The first NSW Legislative Council had all of its members appointed by the Governor-in-Council.  It became part of a bicameral NSW Parliament, from 1856 to 1933. In 1861, George Holden MLC, supported by Sir John Darvall MLC, introduced a bill to have its members elected by PR-STV, which was passed by the Legislative Council, but lapsed after the Legislative Assembly rejected it. The Legislative Council was reconstituted, by a 1933 referendum, to be indirectly elected by an electoral college of MPs, whereby the third of that Council's seats that became vacant at each Assembly election were elected by PR by an electoral college of all MLAs and the continuing MLCs. The Heffron ALP Government's attempt to abolish the Legislative Council, and prohibit its restoration, was defeated at a 1961 referendum.

The PRSA's NSW Branch influenced the Wran Government away from [4] a party list system of PR towards the present direct election by a quota-preferential system (albeit marred by the imposition of a Group Voting Tickets contrivance) when that Government introduced a Bill for direct popular voting for the Legislative Council, which was approved at a 1978 referendum. The NSW Electoral Act 2017 governs NSW State elections. The NSW Constitution Act 1902 entrenches a referendum requirement before a bill or bills that the Legislative Council fails to pass can - notwithstanding such a failure to pass the bill or bills - become law; and also before prescribed changes to either or both of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, including abolition, can become law, although there is no express entrenchment of the sections that prescribe such referendums.

Changes in the NSW Legislative Council electoral system: Exploitation of the weaknesses of the Group Voting Tickets device referred to above reached such a level at the 1999 election that an enormous 720 x 1010 mm 'tablecloth' ballot-paper was used for the State-wide electoral district. Retrograde changes to supposedly overcome those weaknesses, including the imposition of a 'threshold' of the type being proposed for Senate elections by a NSW Liberal senator, were proposed by the then NSW Treasurer, but fortunately neither of his ill-considered proposals went any further. The above-the-line contrivance was modified by a 1999 law that replaced the 1978 provision for Group Voting Tickets with a set of party boxes that voters could use to indicate preferences among predetermined columns of party candidates' names where the preference order of the party candidates' names within each had been lodged by the party in its preferred order. That made another 'tablecloth' ballot-paper less likely at the 2003 elections.

Optional preferential above-the-line voting: Here, 'Group Voting Squares', which only relate to the candidates of the party lodging them. replaced Group Voting Tickets. They let voters mark preferences in boxes above-the-line to enable transfers to take effect under Section of 129EA of the Act, in a similar unsatisfactory manner as was proposed in a bill unsuccessfully introduced by former Tasmanian Senator, Bob Brown, and later by others, such as Senator Nick Xenophon.

Surplus transfer still uses random selection of ballots: The electoral system for NSW Legislative Council elections still uses, under Clause 10(f) of Schedule 6 of the Constitution Act 1902, the random transfer of ballots to transfer surplus votes, rather than a Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer system. That random transfer also persists for NSW Local Government elections, but was discontinued for Senate elections in 1983.

Other PRSA(NSW) Work: As a result of the Branch's advice, a By-law of Macquarie University (See Clause 9(7) of Schedule 1 of By-law 2005 of Macquarie University) specifies the use of the Society's PR Manual for PR elections to the Council of that University. 

PRSA(NSW) Vice-Presidents, Edwin Haber and Andrew Gunter, were 2 of the 20 candidates elected for NSW at a national postal ballot, to Australia's 1998 Constitutional Convention. Entrenching proportional representation in the Australian Constitution was raised by Ted Mack (Page 44 on 1998-02-02) and by Edwin Haber (Pages 252-254 on 1998-02-04 and Pages 368-369 on 1998-02-05) at that forum, but without success. Ed Haber, who died on 28 May 2018, had noticed an obstacle in the Constitution Alteration (Fair Elections) Bill 1998 to the achievement of PR-STV  for the House of Representatives, and alerted the PRSA in time for it to successfully lobby the Senate to avert that.

New South Wales - Local Government: In 1928 the Council of the then City of Armidale in north-eastern NSW became the first municipal council in NSW to be elected by quota-preferential proportional representation as a result of a local referendum to adopt it. What is now the PRSA's NSW Branch helped NSW to become the first State in Australia to have  PR-STV as its predominant electoral system for local government, which the Cahill ALP Government began in 1953. In 1968, the Askin Liberal Government had reverted to a "winner-take-all" system for all councils, but the PR option was restored by the Wran ALP Government in 1976.

PR is one of the two electoral systems in Section 285 of the Local Government Act 1993. The detail of the  PR-STV used appears in Schedule 5 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2009, which shows that the transfer of surpluses still takes place by the primitive random sampling method that was discontinued for Senate elections in 1983. Quota-preferential PR used to apply only where more than 2 councillors are to be elected from an electoral district but, since April 2012, an amendment by the O'Farrell Liberal Government has extended it to all cases except single-councillor wards. The official term for the alternative system is "optional preferential", but that is a confusing term, as the other option of  PR-STV is also an optional preferential system. That system, where only one, and formerly two, councillors are to be elected from a ward or district, is a preferential winner-take-all system.

In 2008, 139 councils used  PR-STV, compared with only 13 councils using the then available multiple majority-preferential winner-take-all system for any polls they had, as they had wards with fewer than 3 councillors. When 2 councillors were to be elected in a ward, that system - which is the same system that the Chifley ALP Government, with the support of the Opposition led by Robert Menzies, discontinued for Senate elections in favour of the present  PR-STV system in 1948 - usually results in both vacancies being filled by the same bare majority of voters, even where the second candidate elected gains a much lower first preference vote than the strongest-polling unelected candidate. For more details, see the third dot point below.

The systems, neither of which uses Robson Rotation, appear in NSW Local Government (General) Regulation 2005, Schedule 4 [majority-preferential winner-take-all] and Schedule 5 [quota-preferential PR]. The first of those systems is termed "optional preferential" in the regulation, which is confusing, because the  PR-STV option is also an "optional preferential" voting system. The  PR-STV option unfortunately does not fill casual vacancies by countback. It is good that partial optional preferential voting applies, but NSW regressed when it introduced Group Voting Tickets into local government in Australia. Unlike the lopsided ward representations allowed in Victoria and SA, the number of councillors per ward must be identical for a given council, but there is unfortunately no requirement for the number of councillors in the electoral districts to be an odd number.

A flexible and reasonably democratic feature in NSW is the requirement for a council to hold a municipal Constitutional Referendum, under Sections 15, 16 and 17 of the Act, to enable certain aspects of a municipality, such as the number of councillors or wards, and hence the electoral system, to be changed, but the electors have no ability to initiate such a referendum, so a council that is one of the few councils to have a winner-take-all rather than a  PR-STV electoral system is unlikely to move for a change to its status. If electors wish to initiate a change, they have to elect a majority of councillors supporting such a change, which is possible if there is enough support for a change. View the worksheet here that shows the details and results of the Constitutional Referendums held in 16 municipalities in 2008.

For New South Wales municipal elections:

  • All regular elections are general elections, on the second Saturday in October in every leap year. Attendance voting is the standard procedure, but electors may apply for a postal ballot instead.

  • Section 210 of the Local Government Act 1993 requires that for all wards in a given municipality divided into wards the number of electors per ward must not differ by more than 10 per cent, so for a given municipality all wards must have the same number of councillors. Fortunately election quotas are thus essentially equal for all its councillors. Section 224 of the Act fixes the number of councillors in a council in a range from 5 to 15.

  • All but 13 of the 152 municipalities in NSW had 3 or more councillors per electoral district for the 2008 polls, in which case  PR-STV elections applied, but those remaining thirteen municipalities each had provision for only two councillors per district - in which case the multiple majority-preferential winner-take-all electoral system, which could easily result in one-party, group, or school of thought gaining all, or nearly all, of the available seats - applied, examples being Wollongong Council, where corruption led to the councillors being replaced by administrators, and Botany Bay Council, whose Mayor and all six other councillors belonged to the same political party in 2008, the Australian Labor Party, which had all seven councillors elected unopposed. As at 2012, six of Botany Bay Council's seven councillors had first been elected 15 or more years ago, with the Mayor having had a record term in office of 31 years, following which he was elected as the MLA for Heffron. Botany Bay Council's exclusionary winner-take-all regime has been defensively protected by the Council's changing from its previous two-councillor ward system, which would, since April 2012, be counted by  PR-STV, to a single-councillor ward system. Operation Ricco of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption later found serious cases of corruption by senior Council staff. In 2008, only 8 of the 138 PR-STV councils in NSW that held elections (just 6%) had some unopposed elections, whereas eight of the eleven non-PR councils that held elections (73%) had some unopposed elections. Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils held elections again in 2012, but they used proportional representation instead of the previous winner-take-all system, as did all councils, except Botany Bay Council, which expediently reconfigured its electoral arrangements ahead of the 2012 elections. Since then, further reform has subsumed that council into Bayside Council, which uses PR-STV.

  • There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to some councils lacking the maximizing of the fairness of  PR-STV systems that use of an odd number entails.

  • There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils could have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, although few are used at present, and it would appear to be an option that would win little support at a referendum.

  • Partial optional preferential voting applies, where the number of preferences to be marked must not be less than the number of candidates to be elected.

  • Casual vacancies are unfortunately not filled by countback, but by by-election polls.

  • Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates' names being set by lot, together with - for all proportional representation polls - the use of a Group Voting Tickets option, which detracts from the ideal of direct election of candidates.

  • The Mayor can either be elected by the Council, as in most councils, or by a separate, but concurrent popular election. A person can stand for the position of Mayor and also for that of a councillor, and if elected Mayor, his or her votes in the election for councillors pass on to the next available preference of those that voted for him or her. Unfortunately Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors does not apply, thus diminishing overall proportionality, as the Mayor's seat on the council does not depend, as it does in Tasmania, on his or her receiving the same quota of votes, on the same basis, as every other councillor.

  • Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of NSW councils or their committees has, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors.

  • Deficiencies in the above arrangements, including the use of electoral districts unfortunately returning an even number of candidates, result in a less than ideal pattern overall, but nearly all councils are elected with  PR-STV, with the main deficiency being that, instead of Robson Rotation applying to enhance electors' role in themselves participating in the choice of which of a party's candidates become elected, all  PR-STV municipal elections in NSW have imposed on them a Group Voting Ticket option, which is the aspect that greatly facilitates the domination of political party organizations in the decision of who is ultimately elected from a party.


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WESTERN AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:  A  “Proportional Representation Society of Western Australia” was formed in 1913, with Hon. Douglas Gawler MLC as its President, and Mr Frederick J Esmond as its Hon. Secretary, but it would appear that the onset of the First World War led to its early demise.

The PRSA's WA Branch (Electoral Reform Society of Western Australia Inc.) was established in the latter part of the 20th Century. It promoted the 1987 law that introduced the then Senate-style  PR-STV for the Legislative Council, which provided for its 34 members to be elected from six electoral districts termed regions, and having concurrent terms. Unlike the Senate then, each such region would return an odd number of MLCs, with four 5-member regions and two 7-member regions.

In 2005, as part of the parliamentary reform that discontinued the previously prescribed malapportionment of Legislative Assembly districts - but not that of the Legislative Council regions - the law was changed to provide for six 6-member regions. Defenders of the marked malapportionment - in which three regions cover Perth's metropolitan area, and the other three cover the rest of the 2.5 million square kilometres of Western Australia, which includes only about 25% of the State's electors - point out that, without it, WA's already great disparity in area between the three metropolitan and the three non-metropolitan regions would be very much more extreme than it is now.

A PRSA(WA) member, Hon. Ed Dermer MLC, spoke of its work, and that of one of its founders, the late Roland Stephens, in his inaugural speech on 12th March 1997 to the WA Legislative Council. The paper, Proportional Representation in Western Australia, details much of WA's  PR-STV history.

Fortunately, Section 156 of Western Australia's Electoral Act 1907 provides that casual vacancies in the Legislative Council are to be filled directly by the people's votes, and not by political party appointment like the Senate, as had, until WA's direct election requirement was remembered, originally been intended. That filling, which has been conducted occasionally, is unfortunately conducted by a method that is inferior to the Tasmanian and A.C.T. countback method, as it involves a total recount of the ballot papers at the original election, with a savings provision that continuing MLCs are not to be displaced.

That direct election results from an excellent prior alteration of Western Australia's Constitution Act 1889 by the Government of Sir Charles Court in 1978. Its Part VII Section 73(2)(c) - alterable only by referendum - entrenches a requirement that all of Western Australia's State MPs be directly chosen by the people. Australia's other States lack such a provision and, unlike the similar Sections 7 and 24 of the Commonwealth Constitution, it also applies to filling casual vacancies.

Mr Jack Wright, PRSA National President, was keynote speaker at the WA Government's 1984 Parliament Week seminar. The unfortunate Unweighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer provision for the Legislative Council, which replicated the transfer value introduced for the Senate system in 1983, was replaced in 2006 - after Dr Narelle Miragliotta's 2002 monograph commissioned by the WA Electoral Commission - with the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer provision in Schedule 1 of Western Australia's Electoral Act 1907.

Suggestions were made in 2017 that the Greens party might support a move by WA's Labor Government if it were to legislate to discontinue the Group Voting Ticket contrivance that still encumbers the ballot paper for the Legislative Council. A Greens MLC introduced a Bill for that discontinuance in 2019.

Unfortunately, the PRSA's WA Branch - much like its early 20th Century predecessor - ceased to have enough active members, which led to its demise, in the first decade of the 21st Century.

Western Australia - Local Government:
Richard Court's Coalition Government replaced the preferential system used for local government with the primitive plurality procedure, in both its single and multiple form, which ran counter to enlightened electoral systems for Australian local government that began in South Australia in 1840. The 1995 Act, whose Schedule 4.1 provides for plurality counting, at least did not prohibit "plumping", nor did the Regulation 35 of Part 7 of the then Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.

The PRSA's WA Branch campaigned for the replacement of this anomalous plurality throwback by a quota-preferential proportional representation system. In 2006 the then WA Government introduced a Bill for that purpose. A hostile and negative campaign by the Western Australian Local Government Association resulted in that bill being referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny, but the bill was enacted in 2007. Regulation 35 of WA's Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997 then required the full marking of preferences for a vote to be valid.

The WA Local Government Association continued its campaign against that excellent new quota-preferential proportional representation system then provided for in Schedule 4.1 of WA's Local Government Act 1995. The WA Liberal Government announced that it would legislate to revert to the previous crude plurality procedure to take effect for the October 2009 municipal polls, and it did so via a 2009 Act.

For Western Australian municipal elections:

  • WA holds municipal elections for as nearly as practicable half the councillors on the third Saturday in October in every odd-numbered year. Some councils use attendance voting, whereas others use postal voting.

  • The number of councillors in a council is fixed by vice-regal proclamation.

  • Schedule 4.1 of the Local Government Act 1995 now unfortunately prescribes a plurality procedure for the filling of both single and multiple positions on councils in WA, but plumping by voters is permitted.

  • Municipalities in WA may be undivided or may be divided into wards.

  • Mayors and presiding officers at a meeting have both a deliberative and a casting vote, under Section 5.21 of WA's Local Government Act 1995.

  • The system to elect the Mayor or President of a municipality may be either by councillors, or by electors. The latter may requisition a referendum on that.


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QUEENSLAND - PARLIAMENT:  Queensland was the first Australian Colony or State to change from the defective plurality procedure in its single-member electoral districts. In 1892 a conservative government adopted "contingent voting", which is a form of transferable voting set out in Sections 78A-78H of The Elections Act of 1885). A Labour Government had Queensland revert to the plurality procedure from 1942 until 1962, when the Nicklin Country Party Government re-introduced transferable voting via a majority-preferential method (alternative vote) - but with a requirement for full marking of all preferences.

In the late 1980s, the Fitzgerald Inquiry - a major judicial inquiry - led to the gross malapportionment of electoral districts being greatly reduced, but the PRSA's former Queensland Branch had steadfastly warned that equal enrolments will, by definition, stop malapportionment, but will in no way prevent substantial electoral distortions being produced by gerrymanders, either accidental or intentional.

That inquiry's recommendation that marking preferences other than a first preference should be fully optional was implemented by the Goss Labor Government in 1992. In 2016, with no public forewarning, the minority Palaszczuk Labor Government opportunistically achieved a reversion to the mandatory full marking of all preferences that had been a hallmark of the long-running Bjelke-Petersen Nationals Government.

Electoral Legislation: The electoral provisions for Queensland's unicameral Parliament are in Queensland's Electoral Act 1992. The former PRSA Branch sought the re-introduction of an Upper House, elected by  PR-STV. The former Upper House was abolished by the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1922. It was not until twelve years later that the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1934 amended the Constitution Act 1867 (which still operates concurrently with the Constitution of Queensland 2001) to entrench that abolition, so that approval at a referendum is required before any Bill to restore an Upper House, or to extend the term of the Legislative Assembly beyond three years, could take effect. It was not until 2016 that a referendum to alter that term was held, and it succeeded in extending the term to four years.

Queensland - Local Government:  The Local Government Electoral Act 2011 provides two methods for voting and counting, depending on whether the municipality is divided into separate electoral districts, or is undivided. In single-councillor electoral districts, known as wards, which are usually found in urban or near-urban areas, fully optional preferential counting applies. Attendance voting is the standard procedure, but electors may apply for a postal ballot instead.

There is no provision for  PR-STV in Queensland municipal elections. The Parliament in 2010 resolved to refer its possible introduction to a parliamentary inquiry, but the Inquiry did not recommend  PR-STV.

For multi-member electoral districts, which are found typically in Queensland's rural areas, the highly unsatisfactory multiple first-past-the-post procedure that was abandoned for Senate elections in 1919 applies, except that plumping is allowed, and Section 84(3)(b)(ii) of the Act makes rather unusual and deceptive provisions that allow the voter's marks in ballot paper boxes to include sequential numbers, which can give voters the false impression that their ballots might be counted using one of Australia's normal transferable vote counting systems. Section 87(5) of the Act requires that voters mark a number of boxes equal to the number of vacancies to be filled, but its  also provides that any numbers marked beyond the sequence required will be disregarded, without that rendering the ballot informal. Certain unions also use this surreptitious variant.

For Queensland municipal elections:

  •  Section 65 of the Local Government Elections Act 2011 prescribes the two different counting methods used. Fully optional preferential voting applies for polls in municipalities with single-councillor wards, where a single, unique first preference constitutes a valid ballot-paper. For municipalities with multi-councillor electoral districts, the unsatisfactory multiple first-past-the-post system applies.

  • The Queensland Act allows plumping, but it requires, unlike nearly all plurality systems, that all preferences after the first, which can be marked with a tick, a cross or the number 1, must be marked as consecutive numbers 2, 3, etc. The Act provides that if the number of marks exceeds the number of positions to be filled, the preference numbers marked beyond the number of vacancies to be filled are disregarded. Despite an order of preference having to be marked, as in normal public polls in Australia - which have used preferential voting and counting since the 1920s - that order as such is disregarded in the count, as the highest number marked and recognized, up to the number of vacancies to be filled, counts equally with the lowest number marked and recognized.

  • Allowing voters to mark preference numbers when the counting system treats a defined number of those markings as each carrying equal weight and significance, with preferences marked beyond the number of vacancies to be filled being disregarded, appears to be deceiving voters into believing that the counting is preferential, when it is not, so the ballot paper should warn of that likely misconception. The apparent subterfuge that is represented by this system does succeed in overcoming what has always been a major difficulty with the multiple first-past-the-post system, namely avoiding the tendency for many voters to vote for more than the number of candidates to be elected, and thus to cast invalid votes.

  • All regular elections are general elections, on the last Saturday in March in every leap year. Access details and results here.

  • For all wards in a given municipality divided into wards the number of electors per ward must not differ by more than a defined percentage, so for a given municipality all wards must have the same number of councillors, and fortunately election quotas are thus relatively equal for all its councillors.

  • The number of councillors for a municipality is five unless a regulation requires otherwise for that municipality. Wards are winner-take-all single-councillor wards.

  • Casual vacancies are filled by by-election polls.
  • Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for where preferential voting applies, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates' names being set by lot, but fortunately a Group Voting Tickets option, which detracts from the ideal of direct election of candidates, does not apply.

  • The Mayor is elected by a separate, but concurrent popular election. Unfortunately Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors does not apply, thus depriving electors of the chance to elect a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate as a councillor, as candidates for Mayor cannot, as they can in Tasmania, stand for both concurrent elections.

  • Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of Queensland councils or their committees has, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which that officer may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors.


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AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY - LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY:  The electoral system used for the first self-government election, in 1989, instituted by the then Labor Federal Government, was a modified party list form of proportional representation called the Modified d'Hondt system.

The Modified d'Hondt system was a highly unsatisfactory system that was widely ridiculed and regarded as unfair. Its last use was at the 1992 election, as the Hawke Federal Government had acknowledged its failure, and had decided, as its preference for 17 single-member electorates was blocked by the Senate's preference for Hare-Clark, to have the matter resolved by holding an indicative poll in conjunction with the election to enable ACT electors to indicate which of two alternative replacement systems they preferred for future ACT polls.

That 1992 advisory poll in the ACT, which was officially, but misleadingly, described as a referendum, was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. The Commission sent all ACT electors a Referendum Options Booklet that depicted the format of the proposed Hare-Clark ballot paper. Over 65% of voters favoured a Hare-Clark form of  PR-STV over the alternative of 17 single-member electoral districts. The Labor Party, which regularly receives an absolute majority of ACT votes at Federal elections, campaigned for 17 single-member electoral districts, but the Liberal and the Australian Democrats parties campaigned for Hare-Clark, assisted by the PRSA's Australian Capital Territory Branch.

The ACT's Electoral Act 1992 eventually implemented the choice made by the advisory poll, but only after a form of stage management that was not revealed during that plebiscite - the imposition of the Group Voting Tickets contrivance used to encourage voters to delegate their right to choose candidates directly - which was not shown as an aspect of the specimen ballot paper shown on the first blue page in the
Referendum Options Booklet above, had been attempted. The PRSA(ACT)'s complaints about that Government dodge aroused widespread public protest that led to the planned imposition fortunately being expunged from the Bill. That attempt to enact something different from what was proposed at the advisory poll, a form of plebiscite, shows how voters can be misled by plebiscites, rather than the far more straightforward use of referendums, at which precisely what is to be enacted is voted on, and becomes law if, and only if, the referendum is passed.

A 16-1 Assembly vote in December then passed the Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Bill 1994. The ACT Electoral Commission sent to all electors an informative booklet setting out cases for and against approving the Bill. The Bill was approved by 65% of ACT voters at a 1995 referendum. The PRSA(ACT) campaigned strongly, the resulting Act prohibits the Assembly from making changes to the major Hare-Clark aspects of the electoral law without a two-thirds Assembly majority or a referendum. As the prominent poster below that was used in the campaign shows, the PRSA's ACT Branch, led by Bogey Musidlak, played a major role in the campaign.


with YOUR Electoral System
to safeguard HARE-CLARK
Authorized by B. Musidlak Proportional Representation Society 14 Strzelecki Crescent Narrabundah 2604

 See sample ballot papers and an explanation of the Robson Rotation used in their printing. The 2016 ACT general election was the first with 25 MLAs to be elected, with five electorates each returning five MLA's.

ACT - Local Government:
As there is no separate system of local government in the ACT, the functions of local government are carried out by the ACT Assembly and the ACT Government.

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NORTHERN TERRITORY OF AUSTRALIA - LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY: The Electoral Act of the Northern Territory specifies preferential voting in the single-member districts prescribed by Section 13(4) of the Commonwealth's Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (which is effectively the Territory's Constitution), and also specifies a requirement for voters to indicate all preferences. The ballot-papers have, for Australia, the novel requirement that a photograph of the candidate must be printed against the name of each candidate, and a requirement, superseded elsewhere in Australia, that names be listed in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper.

At the first election of the Northern Territory’s Legislative Assembly, in 1974, before self-government, the Australian Labor Party won none of the 17 seats available, despite – over the NT as a whole – having gained more than 30% of the first preference vote. As NT Electoral Commission figures show, a huge imbalance between seats and votes still occurred at the 2005 NT elections.

A 2017 paper by a former MLA makes a good case for the Territory's government and representation being greatly improved by a change to a Hare-Clark electoral system. As stated below, since 2012 NT voters at municipal polls have experienced and benefited by a  PR-STV system like Hare-Clark. If Hare-Clark is used for the Assembly, it would operate best if Robson Rotation and optional preferential voting were also included.

Northern Territory - Local Government:
Local government elections in the Northern Territory are held under Schedule 1 of the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations. Until 2011, these prescribed a winner-take-all majority-preferential system if there was only one seat per electorate, but where there was more than one seat per electoral district, it prescribed a winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential system, of the type that became discredited, and was abandoned for Senate elections in 1948. Fortunately that multiple system has now been replaced by a 
PR-STV proportional representation electoral system, which was first used in the municipal elections held in March 2012.

View the 2008 count for Alice Springs Town Council aldermen to see how, with that now superseded system, the successive re-use of the same ballots that elected the early winners allowed the last candidate elected to win despite stronger support for other, unelected candidates. Compare that with the very much fairer 2012 count using  PR-STV.

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TERRITORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND - FORMER LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY:  Section 20 of the former Legislative Assembly Act 1979 of Norfolk Island had prescribed, for the election of the Territory's 9-member Legislative Assembly by a single Territory-wide electoral district, cumulative voting. That is a crude, inferior procedure that was used in Cape Colony (South Africa) in the 19th Century, and by the U.S. State of Illinois from 1870 to 1980, until Illinois's only constitutional change ever effected by a citizen-initiated referendum replaced it in 1980 with the even worse 'first-past-the-post' system that all the other U.S. States use.

A 1982 Norfolk Island referendum had unfortunately substituted that cumulative voting for the earlier Hare-Clark PR-STV used for the first two elections under that Act. That cumulative voting procedure required each voter to mark 9 crosses on the ballot-paper, each of equal value, and they could mark an arbitrarily prescribed maximum of 4 for any one candidate.

As it used non-preferential, non-transferable ballots, votes were wasted by some candidates receiving more than a  PR-STV quota, and others receiving less, with no procedure for transferring such votes to contribute to a quota. At the 2001 polls (at others it could have beeb worse), 36.5% of the 9,243 votes on the 1,027 valid ballot-papers completed by the Territory's voters made no contribution to electing anybody, but with  PR-STV, in this case of 9 vacancies being filled by the votes of one electorate, the wasted fraction of the votes would have been only 10.0%, and never more.

Under 2015 Commonwealth legislation, self-government on Norfolk Island was abolished.

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Tom Roberts's painting
of the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament in the Royal Exhibition Building
 in Melbourne hangs in the Parliament building in Canberra, on permanent loan from Her Majesty the Queen.

Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament:
Members in both Houses of the first Commonwealth Parliament (1901-03), which is shown above at its opening on the 19th May 1901 by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V), had been elected by the systems for the Lower Houses of the Parliament in their State (see Sections 9, 10 & 31 of the Australian Constitution). Quick and Garran's "Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth" gives background on the Constitution.

Thus Tasmania's first 5 members of the House of Representatives and 6 senators were elected by the Hare-Clark system from the same single state-wide electoral district, so each of its 5 MHRs was referred to as an 'Honourable Member for Tasmania' as each represented the same State-wide electorate, although each had been elected by a different quota of the five quotas of ballots cast. That was the only Australian House of Representatives election ever in which over 83% of the single transferable vote was effective, with less than 17% electing nobody and thus being wasted. Since the introduction of preferential voting in single-member divisions in 1918, the effective vote in the House of Representatives has been limited to 50% of the vote, plus one vote, with the remaining 50%, less one vote, electing nobody and thus being wasted. The 5 MHRs elected for Tasmania were 3 Free Trade candidates, 1 Protectionist candidate, and 1 independent candidate, King O'Malley, who later joined the Labour Party. Those 5 MHRs were the only Australian MHRs to have ever been elected in a multi-member electoral district by PR-STV counting, which has never been prohibited by the Constitution.

Queensland used its contingent voting, which was a limited form of preferential voting, in single-member electoral districts. All other States used plurality (relative majority) voting; MHRs from single-member electoral districts, with boundaries fixed by the State Governments, except South Australia, which used a single State-wide electoral district to elect its 7 MHRs as a group. Each of its 7 MHRs was referred to as an 'Honourable Member for South Australia'.

Each mainland State elected its 6 original senators as a group with the whole State as one electorate, using a multiple first-past-the-post voting system where plumping was prohibited. A complete list of all the people ever elected to the Commonwealth Parliament, and all Federal Ministers that have held office, appears in the latest Parliamentary Handbook.