QUOTA

NOTES

 

Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia

 

QN2001A

March 2001

www.prsa.org.au

 

Constitutional Commission to Report on Victoria’s PR Bill

On 19th March 2001 the Premier of Victoria, Hon. Steve Bracks MLA, announced the establishment of a Constitutional Commission to investigate and make recommendations on reform of the Victorian Legislative Council.

Mr Bracks’s media release stated, “We made a commitment to Victorians that we would reform the Upper House to ensure that it is accountable and that it operates effectively as a genuine House of Review. The establishment of this Commission will give all Victorians a chance to have their say on whether the Upper House is doing its job, and how it could be improved. The Victorian Upper House is unrepresentative and obstructionist - and its reform is long overdue. ... Upper Houses have been reformed in all Australian states except Victoria, where we are still operating with an 1860s model for the 21st century.”

Mr Bracks noted that the Victorian Opposition had also committed to the establishment of a constitutional commission in its charter with the Independents (see QN1999D) and expressed hope for a “bipartisan approach to the development of a much more democratic and accountable structure for Victoria's Legislative Council”.

Chairing the Commission is Professor the Hon. George Hampel QC, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1983 to 2000, before his appointment to his present position of Professor of Advocacy and Trial Practice at Monash University.

Mr Hampel will be joined by the Hon. Ian Macphee AO and the Hon. Alan Hunt AM, who bring extensive parliamentary experience to the Commission.

A lawyer, Mr Macphee was the Liberal Member of the House of Representatives for the Melbourne seat of Goldstein from 1974 to 1990, and Fraser Government Minister in several portfolios. He was Chair of the Graduate School of Government at Monash University from 1993 to 1997.

Also a lawyer, Mr Hunt was a Liberal Member of the South Eastern Province in the Legislative Council of Victoria from 1961 to 1992, holding a number of senior ministerial portfolios up to the early 1980s, and then becoming President of the Legislative Council till 1992. He represented Victoria continuously on the Australian Constitutional Convention from 1973 to 1986 and is currently a Senior Fellow in the Monash University Governance and Government Unit.

The Constitutional Commission is to invite submissions from the public, conduct hearings throughout the State, and report by 30th June 2002, at an estimated overall cost of $2 million.

Its terms of reference are focused on the role of the Upper House, as well as on fixed four-year terms. Specifically, the Commission is asked to "research, investigate, consult, report on and make recommendations" concerning the following issues:

"Whether the governance of Victoria would be improved by any and, if so, what reforms of, or changes to, the Constitution Act 1975, The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958 and associated legislation that would:

(a) Enable the Legislative Council to operate effectively as a genuine House of Review. In considering this term, the
    Commission is to consider:

     (i) the responsiveness and responsibility of the Upper House to the Victorian people;


     (ii) the role of and accountability of the Upper House in relation to Executive Government;

     (iii) whether the Legislative Council should retain the power to reject appropriation bills, and, if so, whether any or
         what limitations should be placed on that power;

     (iv) whether the Members of the Legislative Council should be elected one half at each election or should all be simultaneously

           elected;

      (v) whether the Legislative Council should be elected on the basis of proportional representation and, if so whether this should be

           on the basis of multi-member electorates or on any other and what basis.

(b) Give effect to any and, if so, what of the following further measures:

      (i) a fixed four-year term of Parliament.

      (ii) the reduction, to any and what extent, of the total number of Members of either House of Parliament.

      (iii) the removal or modification in any way of the nexus between the Houses, which is provided by sections 27 and 28 of the

            Constitution Act.

That nexus is comprised of the following elements:

  • each Legislative Council province consists of four complete and contiguous Legislative Assembly districts;
  • each Legislative Council province returns 2 members, elected on rotation, with a term equal to two Legislative Assembly terms; and
  • requiring half of the Members of the Legislative Council to be elected at the same time as the Members of the Legislative Assembly."

In making the report or reports of its research and investigations, the Commission is to include any recommendations arising out of its inquiry as it considers appropriate, including recommendations regarding any proposed legislative or administrative changes that are necessary or desirable.

The PRSA’s Victoria-Tasmania Branch will continue to promote quota-preferential methods of electing the Council, and is planning to make a substantial submission to the Commission.

 

WA and Qld Assemblies: An Absolute Majority of Seats from Minority Vote

The defeat of the Court Government in Western Australia and the devastation of the Liberal and National Opposition parties in Queensland at parliamentary elections held on successive Saturdays in February 2001 were both widely interpreted as portentous for the Commonwealth polls due this year.

In both elections, a single party gained an absolute majority of Lower House seats with less than an absolute majority of first preference votes, and the percentage of seats won was about 50% greater than the percentage of first preference votes gained. The only other party to experience similar or greater seat leverage was the National Party in WA.

In each case, the overall summary of the percentages of first preference votes cast, the seats that could have been won under a Hare-Clark electoral system, and those actually won, is shown in the tables below.

2001 Western Australian Legislative Assembly Polls

 

Party or Group

First Pref. Votes

(%)

Hare-Clark PR Seats

(%)

Single-Member District Seats

(%)

Australian Labor Party

37.2

38.6

56.1

Australian Democrats

2.6

0.0

0.0

Greens

7.3

10.5

0.0

All Other Candidates

7.9

3.5

7.0

Liberal Party

31.2

35.1

28.1

Christian Democrats

1.0

0.0

0.0

One Nation Party

9.6

7.0

0.0

National Party

3.3

5.3

8.8

Graph Showing WA Results

2001 Queensland Legislative Assembly Polls

 

Party or Group

First Pref. Votes

(%)

Hare-Clark PR Seats

(%)

Single-Member District Seats

(%)

Australian Labor Party

48.9

53.9

74.2

Australian Democrats

0.3

0.0

0.0

Greens

2.5

2.3

0.0

All other candidates

8.7

5.6

5.6

Liberal Party

14.3

14.6

3.4

Country & City Alliance

2.4

1.1

0.0

One Nation Party

8.7

6.7

3.4

National Party

14.2

15.7

13.5

Graph Showing Queensland Results

A detailed PR Analysis of the 2001 polls for the Legislative Assembly of both of those States, obtained by aggregating voting figures in groups of adjoining single-member electorates, now appears at www.prsa.org.au, the Web site of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia.

In Western Australia, in 79% of the Legislative Assembly seats (45 of 57), the first preference votes of an absolute majority of voters were for candidates that were not elected, whereas that applied to 47% of Queensland seats (42 of 89).

In Western Australia, a total of 23 new members were elected, 19 being members of the Australian Labor Party, 2 members of the Liberal Party, 1 a member of the National Party, and 1 an Independent. The former Premier did not succeed with his plan to be replaced as Opposition Leader later in the year by a current Member of the House of Representatives.

While the Australian Labor Party increased its share of first preferences by just 1.4%, it achieved a net gain of 14 seats from the situation prior to the election, losing only the seat of Kalgoorlie. It benefited from strong preference flows from defeated Green candidates and sometimes from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party candidates.

Four Independents were elected and on four occasions, all in the South West Region, the last defeated candidate was from the One Nation Party.

In the 34-member Legislative Council based on regional electorates returning five or seven members through quota-preferential methods, Labor and the Greens lifted their first preferences by nearly 5% and 2.5% respectively, while the share lost by the Liberal and National Parties slightly exceeded 10% (One Nation’s vote was slightly less) and that of the Australian Democrats fell nearly 3%.

Compared with 1996 outcomes, Labor picked up two seats in the Legislative Council (both at the expense of Australian Democrats) as did the Greens (just edging out Liberals in both the Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region). The One Nation Party won three seats (one from Labor and two from the Nationals).

The Coalition held half of the seats in the previous Legislative Council during the previous Parliament, all seats in which are contestable at each General Election, unlike the other Upper Houses in Australia, where members normally retire in rotation. After the election Labor and the Greens together had 18 of the 34 seats. Critical in this shift of influence was the decision of One Nation to place the Greens before the Liberals on its Registered Voting List in both the Agricultural and Mining and the Pastoral Regions. Only one list per party is allowed, as the WA Constitution Act requires that all Members of Parliament be elected directly by the people.

In Queensland, over 40% of the electorates had only two or three candidates. For the former Coalition opposition parties, the percentages of first preference votes gained were Liberal Party 14.3% and National Party 14.2%, yet their respective shares of seats were, bizarrely, 3.4% and 13.5%. The table above shows how much closer to the true level of voter support Hare-Clark outcomes would have been.

Both the National and Liberal leaders stepped down after the election at which their parties’ combined seats fell from 32 to 15, with the former announcing his retirement from politics on election night itself and prompting a Surfers Paradise by-election.

The Australian Labor Party vote was particularly concentrated in the centre and suburbs of Brisbane. In the three 9-member simulated Hare-Clark multi-member districts suggested closest to central Brisbane, the ALP's 57.7% of the first -preference vote won it all 27 single-member seats. The Hare-Clark PR analysis by the Proportional Representation Society showed that this large and diverse area of Queensland’s capital city, in which 42.3% of voters gave their first preference vote to a non-ALP candidate, would instead have elected 17 ALP members (surely enough to make the point of the partyALP Government’s dominance), 7 Liberals, 1 Green, 1 National, and 1 Independent MLA.
 
 

Two Very Different Approaches to the Filling of Casual Vacancies

Australian Capital Territory and Federal experience in recent months has highlighted the vastly different impact on the business of government when casual vacancies are filled under the Territory’s Hare-Clark electoral system as opposed to the Federal single-member system.

One-time ACT Chief Minister, Mrs Kate Carnell, resigned from the ACT Legislative Assembly on 13th December 2000. Of the 42 candidates in her seat of Molonglo not elected at the general elections of 1998, 10 had nominated by 12th January 2001, the end of the ten-day period following publication in The Canberra Times of a notice inviting applications from eligible candidates for her seat. With candidates’ names printed on ballot-papers in accordance with the Robson Rotation system, no consenting candidate could expect a decisive advantage in the countback from votes straight down party columns.

As Mrs Carnell had received nearly three quotas of first preference votes, more than 25,000 ballot-papers had to be re-examined. A total of 1,529 (6.0%) were either exhausted outright or had no next available preference for any of the 10 consenting candidates. The rest were distributed among two Liberal candidates (88.7%), one ALP (3.2%), four Independents (3.1%), one Australian Democrat (3.0%) and two ACT Greens (2.1%).

With over 54% of the ballot-papers that had not become exhausted, Jacqui Burke was known to be the successor on the second day of counting, having been placed next on nearly 5,000 ballot-papers more than her Liberal colleague, John Louttit. She was formally declared elected two days later, on 18th January 2001.

Apart from some speculation about the successor, and explanatory material about Hare-Clark recounts in articles, the only media excitement was occasioned by the 3,000 ballot-paper advantage that Mr Louttit held at the end of the first day of counting. There was no diversion at all of the business of government in that period.

In contrast, when the former Defence Minister, Hon John Moore, resigned from the Brisbane seat of Ryan on 5th February 2001, the Speaker, after consulting with party leaders, set 17th March as the date for a by-election. Nine candidates nominated by the closing date of 22nd February, including Leonie Short for the ALP. Ryan had been a safe Liberal seat since its creation in 1949, so when news of the impending vacancy broke at the end of 2000, doubts were expressed about whether Labor would take the trouble to endorse a candidate.

A media throng focused for weeks on disputes in the hard-fought Liberal preselection contest, unprecedented extensive campaigning within the electorate by various party leaders, a stream of announcements of changes in government policy, and polling that suggested that there would be an extensive swing against the government.

The outcome remained uncertain after counting on the day of polling, and for a few days the lead after preferences of Ms Short continued to be pared back, before gradually increasing in the final stages to 255 votes among the 75,413 ballot-papers accepted as formal. Had the draw for ballot-paper position not favoured Ms Short, it is likely that she would have been defeated by a margin of the order of that by which she succeeded.
 
 

 Copyright 2001 Proportional Representation Society of Australia

National President: Bogey Musidlak 14 Strzelecki Cr. NARRABUNDAH 2604

National Secretary: Deane Crabb 11 Yapinga St. PLYMPTON 5038

Tel: (08) 8297 6441, (02) 6295 8137 Fax (03) 9589 1680 ggd@netspace.net.au

Printed by Prestige Copying & Printing, 97 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000

 

 

 

Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia

                                    QN2001A          March 2001                                           www.prsa.org.au

Constitutional Commission to Report on Victoria’s PR Bill

On 19th March 2001 the Premier of Victoria, Hon. Steve Bracks MLA, announced the establishment of a Constitutional Commission to investigate and make recommendations on reform of the Victorian Legislative Council.

Mr Bracks’ media release stated, ‘We made a commitment to Victorians that we would reform the Upper House to ensure that it is accountable and that it operates effectively as a genuine House of Review. … The establishment of this Commission will give all Victorians a chance to have their say on whether the Upper House is doing its job, and how it could be improved. … The Victorian Upper House is unrepresentative and obstructionist - and its reform is long overdue. ... Upper Houses have been reformed in all Australian states except Victoria, where we are still operating with an 1860s model for the 21st century.’

Mr Bracks noted that the Victorian Opposition had also committed to the establishment of a constitutional commission in its charter with the Independents (see QN1999D) and expressed hope for a ‘bipartisan approach to the development of a much more democratic and accountable structure for Victoria's Legislative Council’.

Chairing the Commission is Professor the Hon. George Hampel QC, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1983 to 2000, before his appointment to his present position of Professor of Advocacy and Trial Practice at Monash University.

Mr Hampel will be joined by the Hon. Ian Macphee AO and the Hon. Alan Hunt AM, who bring extensive parliamentary experience to the Commission.

A lawyer, Mr Macphee was the Liberal Member of the House of Representatives for the Melbourne seat of Goldstein from 1974 to 1990, and Fraser Government Minister in several portfolios. He was Chair of the Graduate School of Government at Monash University from 1993 to 1997.

Also a lawyer, Mr Hunt was a Liberal Member of the South Eastern Province in the Legislative Council of Victoria from 1961 to 1992, holding a number of senior ministerial portfolios up to the early 1980s, and then becoming President of the Legislative Council till 1992. He represented Victoria continuously on the Australian Constitutional Convention from 1973 to 1986 and is currently a Senior Fellow in the Monash University Governance and Government Unit.

The Constitutional Commission is to invite submissions from the public, conduct hearings throughout the State, and report by 30th June 2002, at an estimated overall cost of $2 million.

Its terms of reference are focused on the role of the Upper House, as well as on fixed four-year terms. Specifically, the Commission is asked to "research, investigate, consult, report on and make recommendations" concerning the following issues:

"Whether the governance of Victoria would be improved by any and, if so, what reforms of, or changes to, the Constitution Act 1975, The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958 and associated legislation that would:

(a)    Enable the Legislative Council to operate effectively as a genuine House of Review. In considering this term, the
        Commission is to consider:

(i) the responsiveness and responsibility of the Upper House to the Victorian people;
(ii) the role of and accountability of the Upper House in relation to Executive Government;

(iii) whether the Legislative Council should retain the power to reject appropriation bills, and, if so, whether any or
      what limitations should be placed on that power;

(iv) whether the Members of the Legislative Council should be elected one half at each election or should all be simultaneously elected;

(v) whether the Legislative Council should be elected on the basis of proportional representation and, if so whether this should be on the basis of multi-member electorates or on any other and what basis.

(b) Give effect to any and, if so, what of the following further measures:

(i) a fixed four-year term of Parliament.

(ii) the reduction, to any and what extent, of the total number of Members of either House of Parliament.

(iii) the removal or modification in any way of the nexus between the Houses, which is provided by sections 27 and 28 of the Constitution Act.

That nexus is comprised of the following elements:

  • each Legislative Council province consists of four complete and contiguous Legislative Assembly districts;
  • each Legislative Council province returns 2 members, elected on rotation, with a term equal to two Legislative Assembly terms; and
  • requiring half of the Members of the Legislative Council to be elected at the same time as the Members of the Legislative Assembly."

In making the report or reports of its research and investigations, the Commission is to include any recommendations arising out of its inquiry as it considers appropriate, including recommendations regarding any proposed legislative or administrative changes that are necessary or desirable.

The PRSA’s Victoria-Tasmania Branch will continue to promote quota-preferential methods of electing the Council, and is planning to make a substantial submission to the Commission.
 
 

WA and Qld Assemblies: An Absolute Majority of Seats from Minority Vote

The defeat of the Court Government in Western Australia and the devastation of the Liberal and National Opposition parties in Queensland at parliamentary elections held on successive Saturdays in February 2001 were both widely interpreted as portentous for the Commonwealth polls due this year.

In both elections, a single party gained an absolute majority of Lower House seats with less than an absolute majority of first preference votes, and the percentage of seats won was about 50% greater than the percentage of first preference votes gained. The only other party to experience similar or greater seat leverage was the National Party in WA.

In each case, the overall summary of the percentages of first preference votes cast, the seats that could have been won under a Hare-Clark electoral system, and those actually won, is shown in the tables below.

2001 Western Australian Legislative Assembly Polls

 

Party or Group

First Pref. Votes

(%)

Hare-Clark PR Seats

(%)

Single-Member District Seats

(%)

Australian Labor Party

37.2

38.6

56.1

Australian Democrats

2.6

0.0

0.0

Greens

7.3

10.5

0.0

All Other Candidates

7.9

3.5

7.0

Liberal Party

31.2

35.1

28.1

Christian Democrats

1.0

0.0

0.0

One Nation Party

9.6

7.0

0.0

National Party

3.3

5.3

8.8

Graph Showing WA Results

2001 Queensland Legislative Assembly Polls

 

Party or Group

First Pref. Votes

(%)

Hare-Clark PR Seats

(%)

Single-Member District Seats

(%)

Australian Labor Party

48.9

53.9

74.2

Australian Democrats

0.3

0.0

0.0

Greens

2.5

2.3

0.0

All other candidates

8.7

5.6

5.6

Liberal Party

14.3

14.6

3.4

Country & City Alliance

2.4

1.1

0.0

One Nation Party

8.7

6.7

3.4

National Party

14.2

15.7

13.5

Graph Showing Queensland Results

A detailed PR Analysis of the 2001 polls for the Legislative Assembly of both of those States, obtained by aggregating voting figures in groups of adjoining single-member electorates, now appears at www.prsa.org.au, the Web site of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia.

In Western Australia, in 79% of the Legislative Assembly seats (45 of 57), the first preference votes of an absolute majority of voters were for candidates that were not elected, whereas that applied to 47% of Queensland seats (42 of 89).

In Western Australia, a total of 23 new members were elected, 19 being members of the Australian Labor Party, 2 members of the Liberal Party, 1 a member of the National Party, and 1 an Independent. The former Premier did not succeed with his plan to be replaced as Opposition Leader later in the year by a current Member of the House of Representatives.

While the Australian Labor Party increased its share of first preferences by just 1.4%, it achieved a net gain of 14 seats from the situation prior to the election, losing only the seat of Kalgoorlie. It benefited from strong preference flows from defeated Green candidates and sometimes from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party candidates.

Four Independents were elected and on four occasions, all in the South West Region, the last defeated candidate was from the One Nation Party.

In the 34-member Legislative Council based on regional electorates returning five or seven members through quota-preferential methods, Labor and the Greens lifted their first preferences by nearly 5% and 2.5% respectively, while the share lost by the Liberal and National Parties slightly exceeded 10% (One Nation’s vote was slightly less) and that of the Australian Democrats fell nearly 3%.

Compared with 1996 outcomes, Labor picked up two seats in the Legislative Council (both at the expense of Australian Democrats) as did the Greens (just edging out Liberals in both the Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region). The One Nation Party won three seats (one from Labor and two from the Nationals).

The Coalition held half of the seats in the previous Legislative Council during the previous Parliament, all seats in which are contestable at each General Election, unlike the other Upper Houses in Australia, where members normally retire in rotation. After the election Labor and the Greens together had 18 of the 34 seats. Critical in this shift of influence was the decision of One Nation to place the Greens before the Liberals on its Registered Voting List in both the Agricultural and Mining and the Pastoral Regions. Only one list per party is allowed, as the WA Constitution Act requires that all Members of Parliament be elected directly by the people.

In Queensland, over 40% of the electorates had only two or three candidates. For the former Coalition opposition parties, the percentages of first preference votes gained were Liberal Party 14.3% and National Party 14.2%, yet their respective shares of seats were, bizarrely, 3.4% and 13.5%. The table above shows how much closer to the true level of voter support Hare-Clark outcomes would have been.

Both the National and Liberal leaders stepped down after the election at which their parties’ combined seats fell from 32 to 15, with the former announcing his retirement from politics on election night itself and prompting a Surfers Paradise by-election.

The Australian Labor Party vote was particularly concentrated in the centre and suburbs of Brisbane. In the three 9-member simulated Hare-Clark multi-member districts suggested closest to central Brisbane, the ALP's 57.7% of the first -preference vote won it all 27 single-member seats. The Hare-Clark PR analysis by the Proportional Representation Society showed that this large and diverse area of Queensland’s capital city, in which 42.3% of voters gave their first preference vote to a non-ALP candidate, would instead have elected 17 ALP members (surely enough to make the point of the partyALP Government’s dominance), 7 Liberals, 1 Green, 1 National, and 1 Independent MLA.
 
 

Two Very Different Approaches to the Filling of Casual Vacancies

Australian Capital Territory and Federal experience in recent months has highlighted the vastly different impact on the business of government when casual vacancies are filled under the Territory’s Hare-Clark electoral system as opposed to the Federal single-member system.

One-time ACT Chief Minister, Mrs Kate Carnell, resigned from the ACT Legislative Assembly on 13th December 2000. Of the 42 candidates in her seat of Molonglo not elected at the general elections of 1998, 10 had nominated by 12th January 2001, the end of the ten-day period following publication in The Canberra Times of a notice inviting applications from eligible candidates for her seat. With candidates’ names printed on ballot-papers in accordance with the Robson Rotation system, no consenting candidate could expect a decisive advantage in the countback from votes straight down party columns.

As Mrs Carnell had received nearly three quotas of first preference votes, more than 25,000 ballot-papers had to be re-examined. A total of 1,529 (6.0%) were either exhausted outright or had no next available preference for any of the 10 consenting candidates. The rest were distributed among two Liberal candidates (88.7%), one ALP (3.2%), four Independents (3.1%), one Australian Democrat (3.0%) and two ACT Greens (2.1%).

With over 54% of the ballot-papers that had not become exhausted, Jacqui Burke was known to be the successor on the second day of counting, having been placed next on nearly 5,000 ballot-papers more than her Liberal colleague, John Louttit. She was formally declared elected two days later, on 18th January 2001.

Apart from some speculation about the successor, and explanatory material about Hare-Clark recounts in articles, the only media excitement was occasioned by the 3,000 ballot-paper advantage that Mr Louttit held at the end of the first day of counting. There was no diversion at all of the business of government in that period.

In contrast, when the former Defence Minister, Hon John Moore, resigned from the Brisbane seat of Ryan on 5th February 2001, the Speaker, after consulting with party leaders, set 17th March as the date for a by-election. Nine candidates nominated by the closing date of 22nd February, including Leonie Short for the ALP. Ryan had been a safe Liberal seat since its creation in 1949, so when news of the impending vacancy broke at the end of 2000, doubts were expressed about whether Labor would take the trouble to endorse a candidate.

A media throng focused for weeks on disputes in the hard-fought Liberal preselection contest, unprecedented extensive campaigning within the electorate by various party leaders, a stream of announcements of changes in government policy, and polling that suggested that there would be an extensive swing against the government.

The outcome remained uncertain after counting on the day of polling, and for a few days the lead after preferences of Ms Short continued to be pared back, before gradually increasing in the final stages to 255 votes among the 75,413 ballot-papers accepted as formal. Had the draw for ballot-paper position not favoured Ms Short, it is likely that she would have been defeated by a margin of the order of that by which she succeeded.
 
 

 Copyright 2001 Proportional Representation Society of Australia

National President: Bogey Musidlak 14 Strzelecki Cr. NARRABUNDAH 2604

National Secretary: Deane Crabb 11 Yapinga St. PLYMPTON 5038

Tel: (08) 8297 6441, (02) 6295 8137 Fax (03) 9589 1680 ggd@netspace.net.au

Printed by Prestige Copying & Printing, 97 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000