of the Proportional Representation
The Constitution Commission Victoria (see QN2001A) has begun its public participation process by establishing a Web site (www.constitution.vic.gov.au) which contains a number of downloadable documents, and holding several seminars and public consultations.
Members of the Victoria-Tasmania
Branch of the PRSA were present at
the August seminar "Voting Systems
Towards a Genuine House of Review",
which was attended by all three
members of the Commission, and
featured Professor Colin Hughes, the
former Australian Electoral
Commissioner; and Dr Nick Economou,
a Senior Lecturer in Politics at
of the PRSA strongly supported the
very pointed remarks of two members
of the audience at question time.
Emeritus Professor Joan
Rydon began by trenchantly
Voting Tickets and the
associated insidious apparatus on
ballot-papers of above-the-line
and below-the-line voting
"options". A former President of the
Senate, Mr Michael
Beahan, said that he had
concluded that those 1984 changes
had weakened voters' identification
with the senators they were
electing. These party-focussed
electoral manipulation devices are
included in the Constitution
(Proportional Representation) Bill
2000, which has been referred
to the Commission. Mr Craig
Ingram MLA moved, in
Mackerras then attracted the
attention of the seminar by a bold
and accurate declaration about the
Senate elections held since the
introduction in 1984 of Group
Voting Tickets. He said that,
since then, senators have not been
elected by an electoral system, but
have instead gained their seats by a
system of party appointment, and
that the electors have confined
their involvement to deciding how
many senators each party gains. He
went on to stress the disengagement
between the electors and their
supposed representatives that such a
process has produced, and to
advocate the use of a Hare-Clark
electoral system for the Victorian
Legislative Council, along the lines
already successfully operating in
PRSA Office-bearers made points to those present. The PRSA National Vice-President, Geoffrey Goode, suggested that the Constitution Commission had a role similar to that of the Federal Parliament in the early 1990s when the ALP, in Government in the ACT and federally, wanted it to legislate for single-vacancy electorates for the new ACT Assembly to replace the disastrous "Consolidated d'Hondt" party list PR that had earlier been imposed and was now condemned by nearly everybody.
That grim experience of a party list type of PR fortunately encouraged those opposed to single-vacancy electorates to focus on the untrammelled Hare-Clark form of PR. The ALP was opposed in its wish by Coalition and Australian Democrat senators, who had a majority of Senate seats, and wanted a Hare-Clark system. The solution achieved was the passage of Federal legislation to hold a plebiscite in the ACT to let voters choose between the two systems. At the 1992 plebiscite 65% of voters chose Hare-Clark. The ACT Assembly legislated accordingly, after the Follett ALP Government's unsuccessful attempt to include party boxes (QN 74, June 1994).
Mr Goode noted that in
Returning Officer is Mr Norman Cox,
Secretary of the PRSA's Western
Australian Branch, as the Secretary
of the South Australian Branch, Mr
Deane Crabb, intends to stand again
for the position of National
Secretary. Under the PRSA
Constitution the Returning
Officer rotates among the Branch
Secretaries. The order, by
Any candidate may submit, with
the nomination, a statement of up to
one hundred words to the Returning
Officer, who shall submit it to
voters with the ballot-papers. The
two-year term of each office begins
on 1st January 2002. If a poll is
required, ballot-papers will be
posted on 7th November 2001, and the
poll will close on 14th December
2001. Results will appear in Quota
Notes for December 2001, QN2001D.
The PRSA's Victoria-Tasmania Branch made a submission (www.prsa.org.au/ahwxlocg.htm) in August 2001 to a Review of Victoria's Local Government Act 1989. The submission supported the suggestion in the Review that a quota-preferential PR option should be available for those Councils that wish to use it. At present the only PR aspects ever specifically sanctioned by Victorian local government legislation have been the use of PR for Melbourne City Council elections, and its use as ordered by the Minister. That latter application has operated for pure political expediency, and never extended beyond two municipalities. It now survives in only one.
A key feature of the PRSAV-T
submission was its opposition to Group
provisions, which were introduced
for the first time in a Victorian
Act for the recently conducted
elections for the City of
On 18th August 2001, the first close NT election outcome since the Legislative Assembly became fully elected in 1974 saw the long reign of the Country Liberal Party come to an end. After a few daysí wait in the most marginal electorate, Millner, for postal votes to trickle in, it became clear that this was a seat where the CLP did particularly badly with preferences, taking less than thirty percent of the vote that went to Independents and one minor party, and falling eighty-two votes behind the ALP candidate.
Led by Clare Martin, Territory
Labor obtained thirteen seats
compared with ten for the Country
Liberal Party (CLP) and two won by
Independents, an excellent return
for its 48.1% of the
two-party-preferred vote. The CLP
lost seven seats, six in the suburbs
That left Labor with eight of
the thirteen seats in
Of the eleven new MLAs, two went straight into Cabinet. Five sitting CLP members, including three Ministers, were defeated and two other seats where incumbents first elected in 1983 retired also changed hands. Two other MLAs from each of the CLP and Labor retired and were replaced by candidates their parties endorsed.
Seven women were elected (four ALP, two CLP and one Independent, Loraine Braham, a one-time CLP Minister who was disendorsed in favour of a much younger candidate) and four Aborigines (all ALP, one female). Mrs Braham is expected to become the new Speaker when the Assembly convenes in October, and the other Independent, Gerry Wood, Deputy Speaker.
Across the Territory, in 1997 the CLP obtained 54.7% of first preferences and 58% of the two-party-preferred vote, emerging with eight of the twenty-five seats on that occasion. In 2001, its first preferences fell to 45.4% while Laborís rose slightly, from 38.5% to 40.6%.
The total number of candidates
rose from sixty-six to eighty-eight.
Of these twenty-seven were CLP,
twenty-five were Labor, twenty were
Independents and sixteen were from
four smaller parties. There were two
electorates in which the CLP
endorsed a pair of candidates. There
were just three two-candidate
contests, compared with thirteen at
each of the previous two general
elections. Five candidates nominated
on three occasions. Turnout rose
slightly to 81% and informal voting
dropped overall from 5.2% to 4.3%,
ranging from 2.7% in Nelson (won by
an Independent, Laborís vote being
under 10%) to 10.0% in
To cast a formal vote, Territorians are required to indicate preferences for all candidates. Candidatesí names appear in alphabetical order and their photographs are included on the ballot-paper, but there are no party designations.
Commentators attributed a sizeable part of the fall-off in support for the CLP in Darwinís multicultural suburbs to its indignant refusal to place the One Nation party last on how-to-vote material. In the 5 seats One Nation contested, its first-preference support varied from 5.3% to 9.8%, with the CLP being favoured by between half and two-thirds of those voters. All 5 seats were won by margins ranging from nearly 12% percent to over 16%. In the aftermath of defeat, outgoing Chief Minister Denis Burke apologized to Territorians for not having placed One Nation last.
Only six of the twenty-five electorates were won by margins less than the six percent traditionally regarded as providing a fairly safe buffer. Six CLP and five Labor margins were more than ten percent.
To simulate what might have happened under quota-preferential proportional representation, the PRSA grouped the twenty-five single-member electorates into five, with each returning five members. The CLP and Labor would both definitely have won eleven seats. The election of three Independents would have been quite likely, though in one case it is possible the vote away from the major parties would not have adhered, and Labor would then have picked up a twelfth seat.
The table below illustrates voter support in each of these five groupings. The table shows outcomes that could have been expected under quota-preferential PR, and shows by contrast how much fairer they would have been than the actual winner-take-all single-member outcomes. A similar exercise on pre-redistribution boundaries showed that the CLP would have won fifteen instead of eighteen seats in 1997, with the rest going to Labor.
A quota-preferential PR system would have much better reflected the voters' wishes at this election, as it would have at all previous polls including that for the first fully elected Assembly in 1974, when the ALP won no seats, despite receiving more than thirty percent of first preference votes.
On 8th May 2001, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced that general elections for the House of Commons would be held on 7th June. English local government elections due for 3rd May had been postponed for a month because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and the general election was held concurrently with them.
Labour's vote dropped 2.6%
nationwide to 40.7%, but skilful
targeted campaigning saw its vote
share increase overall in the seats
it barely held, and helped contain
its net losses to just six seats.
Endorsed for the first time ever by
The Times newspaper, Labour
emerged with 412 of the 659 seats
(62.5%). It maintained its heavy
After the voicing of some fears
during the campaign that the
Conservative Party might suffer
further reverses, its share of the
vote rose by 1% to 31.7%, for a net
gain of one seat to 166 (25.2%). The
Conservatives remained either
without seats, or obtained only
vestigial representation, in vast
tracts where their overall support
was between 15% and 30%. In
particular, they won just a single
The Liberal Democrats, now led
by Charles Kennedy, increased their
vote by 1.6% to 18.3%, picking up a
further six seats in
After the election, the Scottish
National Party and their Welsh
confreres Plaid Cymru
announced the creation of a joint
The table below summarizes the
extraordinary mismatches between
levels of voter support and
electoral success across
Unfortunately every other Victorian municipality but one either has winner-take-all wards, or is unsubdivided and subjected to the multiple majority-preferential system, which was used for Senate elections from 1919 to 1948, when it was wisely and fortunately superseded by the present system of quota-preferential PR.
One of these unfortunate
municipalities is the Borough of
Queenscliffe, on the western side of
the entrance to
The QCA thought a PR electoral system might not produce such puzzling results, and thus asked the PRSA to provide a speaker for a meeting they were having to investigate the subject. The PRSA sent its National Vice-President, Geoffrey Goode, to speak. He was pleased to note that the councillor that received only 59 first preference votes also took the trouble to attend.
Mr Goode told of the history of
Mr Goode warned that a PR system
can be overlaid with provisions such
as allowing candidates to decide the
order in which their names appear on
the ballot-paper, and the Group
Voting Tickets instituted in
1984. He said that these tend to see
most elected candidates gain very
few first preference votes. Most
senators since preferential voting
began in 1919 have won very
few first preference votes.
Senator Robert Ray (ALP) was elected
in 1987 with 0.01% of
The meeting concurred with the PRSA's view that PR was far fairer than any winner-take-all system. Late news to hand indicates that the Borough has made a submission to the Local Government Review supporting a change to PR!
Proportional Representation Society
National President: Bogey Musidlak 14 Strzelecki Cr. NARRABUNDAH 2604
National Secretary: Deane Crabb 11 Yapinga St. SOUTH PLYMPTON 5038
Tel: (08) 8297 6441, (02) 6295 8137 email@example.com
Printed by Prestige Copying & Printing, 97 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000