QUOTA

NOTES

 

 

 

Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia

 

 

 

QN2003B       

June 2003

www.prsa.org.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

Formal Proclamation of Upper House PR

 

As reported in QN2003A, Victoria’s Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Bill 2003, which introduces quota-preferential proportional representation as the electoral system for elections to the Legislative Council, was passed by that Council on 27th March 2003 after it had earlier been passed by the Legislative Assembly.

A proclamation by the Governor of Victoria, Mr John Landy, of the Bill’s having received Royal Assent on 8th April 2003, and of the dates from which various parts come into operation, appeared as the only items in a Special Victoria Government Gazette (S57) published on that day. The first general election of the Legislative Council to be held in Victoria since 1856 will, under changes to Victoria’s Constitution Act 1975 that became law with that proclamation, be held in November 2006.

 

 

 

Victorian Focus now on Local Government

The Bracks ALP Government in Victoria had not, prior to 2003, succeeded in its efforts to introduce a proportional representation electoral system for either the Legislative Council or for local government generally. 

As the article above and one in QN2003A show, the Government has now succeeded in achieving such a system for future general elections of the Legislative Council. The Victorian Government has indicated that it proposes to re-introduce its proposed amendments to the Local Government Act 1989 to provide for proportional representation as an option for all Victorian municipal councils that the Legislative Council rejected in 2002.

The Victoria-Tasmania Branch of the PRSA is understandably pleased that such amendments are to be pursued, but it is considers that explicit provisions for direct elections, countback, and Robson Rotation are definitely needed as well, and it plans to campaign for those important features in coming months. The Branch also argues that a uniform electoral system of PR for all councils is more desirable and clearcut than the confusing patchwork of some Councils with single-member wards, and others with PR, that the Victorian Government appears to be envisaging.

 

 

 

Scottish Executive commits to STV-PR for future Local Government Elections

Thanks particularly to the generosity of the NSW, Victoria-Tasmania and ACT Branches, the PRSA has despatched £150 to the cross-party Fairshare Campaign Committee, established in January 2001 to press for the adoption of quota-preferential proportional representation (STV-PR) for future Scottish local government elections. Committee Treasurer, Dr James Gilmour, who has been campaigning for such reform for over forty years, and said it "will be much appreciated and put to good use".

On 15th May 2003 the incoming Scottish Executive, a coalition of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, agreed to reform local government in the first year of the current Parliament, including introducing STV-PR for the 2007 local government elections.

This followed five years of ongoing struggle to abandon the winner-take-all first-past-the-post single-member-constituency system that often leaves a single party, usually the Scottish Labour Party, with resounding numerical majorities in many local government areas (and at Westminster) despite it getting well short of half the votes. In May 1999, 12 of 32 councils were dominated by parties that had received a minority of votes, typically with turnouts under 50%. In 2003, 72 of the 79 Glasgow councillors were Labour members.

After the September 1997 referendum vote of 74.3% in favour of re-establishing a Scottish Parliament, the McIntosh Commission was set up in January 1998 to examine the implications this would have for local government. In June 1999 it recommended that a form of proportional representation should be introduced for local elections, determined through consideration of the criteria of proportionality, the councillor-ward link, fair provision for independents, allowance for geographical diversity and a close fit between council wards and natural communities.

The Kerley Renewing Local Democracy Working Group reported in June 2000 that STV-PR was the most suitable system. Under the Fairshare banner, Scotland’s cross-party Campaign for Local Democracy was launched in January 2001 to campaign for the introduction of STV-PR for the May 2003 elections.

Following the death of Donald Dewar, Jack McConnell became First Minister in November 2001 under an agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats that included the setting of an early timetable for local government electoral reform. In March 2002, the Scottish Executive published a White Paper on local government reform, called 'Renewing Local Democracy: The Next Steps' (www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/localgov/rldm-00.asp), which became the basis of a four-month public consultation.

Although public support for STV-PR was overwhelming, there was no urgency in dealing with the Member’s Bill of the Scottish Nationalist Party’s Tricia Marwick to introduce STV-PR for future local government elections, and in early 2003 the Executive published a draft Local Governance Bill that mentioned STV, but not proportional representation.

Disappointed at the lack of progress, Fairshare had broadened its campaigning beyond party contact to reach out more to the community, and now revised its goal to have the incoming Executive commit to specific electoral reform as part of its program.

At the May 2003 elections, Scottish Labour won nearly two-thirds of the constituencies (46 of 73) with 35.1% of the vote: 29.3% of the regional vote entitled it to just four of the 56 top-up seats. The Liberal Democrats secured 13 constituency and four top-up seats, enough to make a majority in combination with Labour, on respectively 15.6% and 11.8% constituency and regional support. Although outvoted by both the Conservatives and Scottish National Party, in another stark reminder of first-past-the-post unfairness, they had one more constituency seat than the combined tally of those parties: their SMPs stood firm on early local government electoral reform as a condition of renewing the governing coalition. Support for electing the Scottish Parliament through STV-PR rather than the current top-up system has continued to grow.

In Wales, the Commission on Local Government Electoral Arrangements in Wales, instituted following coalition government agreement between the Welsh Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats and chaired by Professor Eric Sunderland, published its Report, ‘Improving Local Democracy in Wales’ (www.cologea.com/scripts/docs/280_e_englishfinalreport.pdf) in July 2002. Public consultation followed the report’s reference to widespread concern about low voter turnouts and numerous uncontested elections, and its recommendation of STV-PR as the best system for local government in Wales.

In Great Britain, in June 2002, the report by the Commission on Local Governance, an independent group established by the Local Government Information Unit, advocated democratic reform of local government including proportional representation for local elections and lowering the voting age to 16.

 

 

 

Death of Two Veteran PRSA Members

Mrs Katie Wright, the widow of the first National President of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia, the late Jack Wright, died on 9th June 2003, aged 89.

Katie, who was a strong supporter of proportional representation, was a PRSA member from the inauguration of the Society on 1st January 1982, and she and Jack formed a very good team for the cause. After Jack’s death Katie Wright began a course at Macquarie University, and gained her first degree in her 80th year. The current PRSA National President, Bogey Musidlak, was introduced to the concept of PR through a leaflet when Katie had handed out to him a leaflet on PR.

Miss Dorothy Bell, who was an original member of the Proportional Representation Society of Victoria that was re-established in the early 1940s, and became a Life Member of the Victorian Branch of the PRSA in 1988, died on 4th February 2003, aged 98. Her brother, Harcourt Bell, was the re-established PRSV’s inaugural Treasurer. In its earlier period of existence, from before Federation to the 1930s, it had been a significant, but largely unsuccessful voice for PR. Its distinguished President, Sir James Barrett, who had succeeded Sir John Monash as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne in 1931 (the year of Sir John’s death), and was Chancellor from 1935 to 1939; and its Secretary, Professor Edward Nanson, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Melbourne, helped lay groundwork that would have contributed to the adoption of quota-preferential PR for the Senate in 1948. Certainly the re-established PRSV, with the Bells as members, worked for that, as members of a conference in the Melbourne Town Hall that called for PR for the Senate, and in a letter to the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. John Curtin, to that effect.

 

 

 

Canadian Interest in PR Increases

Canadians have long suffered from much more primitive electoral arrangements than Australians. Their national lower House of Parliament, the House of Commons, still has the same electoral system (single-member electorates with first-past-the-post counting) as the UK House of Commons and the US House of Representatives, whereas the basis for election to all of Australia’s national Lower House seats changed from that in 1919, and that for the overall allocation of the seats in New Zealand’s unicameral Parliament changed from that in 1993 (See QN72).

Australia’s senators have been elected by proportional representation since 1948. They have always, except for the filling of casual vacancies, been "directly chosen by the people", as provided by Section 7 of the Australian Constitution, so the only form of PR providing direct election, quota-preferential PR, has had to be used. In stark contrast, Canada’s senators have never been elected by the people, but are instead still appointed by the Governor General in Council.

The Table below, which lists percentages of votes and seats in all of Canada’s federal elections, highlights frequent major imbalances when government has changed.

 

Year

Conservative

Liberal

Social Credit

New

Democratic Party

Canadian

Alliance (Reform)

Bloc 
Québécois

Others

 

Vote

%

Seat

%

Vote

%

Seat

%

Vote %

Seat

%

Vote

%

Seat

%

Vote %

Seat

%

Vote %

Seat

%

Vote %

Seat

%

1867

50

56

49

44

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

1872

50

52

49

49

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

1874

45

35

54

65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

1878

53

67

45

33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

1882

53

66

47

34

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

 

1887

51

57

49

43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

 

1891

52

57

46

43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

1896

46

41

45

55

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

3

1900

47

38

52

62

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

1904

47

35

53

65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

1908

47

38

51

60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

1

1911

51

60

48

39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

1

1917

57

65

40

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

1921

30

21

41

49

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29

29

1925

47

47

40

40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

12

1926

46

37

44

47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

16

1930

49

56

44

37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

7

1935

30

16

44

70

4

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

22

7

1940

31

16

55

73

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15

11

1945

28

27

41

51

4

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

27

16

1949

30

16

50

73

2

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

8

1953

31

19

50

65

5

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

11

1957

39

42

42

40

7

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

11

1958

54

78

34

18

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

3

1962

37

44

37

37

12

11

13

7

 

 

 

 

0

0

1963

33

36

42

49

12

9

13

6

 

 

 

 

0

 

1965

32

37

40

49

4

2

18

8

 

 

 

 

6

4

1968

31

27

46

59

4

 

17

8

 

 

 

 

2

6

1972

35

41

38

41

8

6

18

12

 

 

 

 

1

1

1974

35

36

43

53

5

4

15

6

 

 

 

 

1

0

1979

36

48

40

40

5

2

18

9

 

 

 

 

2

 

1980

33

37

44

52

2

 

20

11

 

 

 

 

2

 

1984

50

75

28

14

0

 

19

11

 

 

 

 

3

0

1988

43

57

32

28

0

 

20

15

 

 

 

 

5

 

1993

16

1

41

60

 

 

7

3

19

18

14

18

4

0

1997

19

7

39

51

 

 

11

7

19

20

11

15

2

0

2000

12

4

41

57

 

 

9

4

26

22

11

13

2

 

The results of the last decade have given new impetus for PR there, particularly the regional polarization and the abrupt change in the historical pattern represented by the spectacular decline of the Conservative party at the federal elections in 1993.

Those 1993 elections to Canada’s House of Commons (See QN72) saw the Conservative Party, which had entered the elections as the Government Party, reduced to 1 seat (0.7% of the seats), after gaining only 16.1% of the national vote. The 41.6% of the vote gained by the Liberal Party saw it become the Government with 60.3% of the seats.

Although the first non-mainstream MPs were elected in 1896, the original two main parties, in terms of their share of votes, continued steadily as such for over 120 years, despite the long tenure, from 1935, but ultimate demise, after 1979, of the Social Credit Party. Social Credit was the earliest party to achieve the position of being the third largest party grouping, by vote share, although that share never exceeded some 12%.

The successor to the Social Credit Party as the third largest party by vote share, the New Democratic Party, achieved support as high as 20%, but it lost its place as the party with the third highest vote to the Conservative Party in the amazing 1993 election that saw the new Reform Party (since renamed as the Canadian Alliance Party) become the party with the second-highest vote share (19%). The Liberal Party is now the only Canadian party that has always been one of the two largest parties, by vote share.

The 1997 elections to Canada’s House of Commons let the Liberals retain Government with 38.5% of the vote giving them 51.5% of the seats. The vote for the Conservatives increased to 18.9%, but that only gave them 6.6% of the seats. (See QN1997B). The Reform Party, with 19.4% of the vote, continued to have the second-highest vote share.

The 2000 elections increased the vote share of both the Liberal Party and the Reform Party (now renamed Canadian Alliance Party), and reduced that of the Conservative Party (Progressive Conservative Party of Canada).

The policy on electoral systems of each of these parties is not surprising:

  • The Liberals seek no change to the status quo.
  • The Conservatives advocate "a Commission to hold public consultations on the most appropriate electoral system for Canada, which would make recommendations to Parliament, with changes before the next elections" (They also want "direct election of the Senate").
  • The Canadian Alliance "will consider electoral reforms including proportional representation, the single transferable ballot etc. and will submit such options to a nationwide referendum".
  • The New Democratic Party favours "an all party parliamentary committee to examine merits of various models of PR and other electoral reforms that would combat the increasing regionalization of Canadian politics and introduce a measure of PR into the Canadian electoral process".

Fair Vote Canada (www.fairvotecanada.org) is an electoral reform organization that is campaigning for a proportional representation system for Canada. It appears to find the New Zealand MMP system, where most MPs are still elected in single-member electorates, to be a model worth applauding. It also shows no sign yet of supporting the vital concepts of preferential voting, and the direct election of all MPs, which would lead to emphasis being placed on the STV form of PR, with appropriate inclusion of countback for filling casual vacancies, and one would hope, Robson Rotation.

 

 

 

An ACT Countback & The Redistribution Process 

Countback: In November 2002, former Senate President Margaret Reid announced she would retire shortly, prompting an opening of Liberal preselection. Gary Humphries resigned as Assembly Opposition Leader soon afterwards to concentrate on his candidacy. His Deputy, Brendan Smyth, became the new Leader.

Former Chief Minister Kate Carnell and Prime Ministerial staffer Gerard Wheeler both achieved extensive preselection publicity, in part in relation to public endorsements. Five others nominated, including serving MLAs Bill Stefaniak and Steve Pratt, and the PRSA’s ACT Branch Deputy Convenor, Martin Dunn.

When nearly 400 Liberals met on 21th December to determine the preselection, there was a 10% threshold to survive the first round, after which sequential exclusions began. When Ms Carnell was excluded, Mr Humphries beat Mr Wheeler by 191 votes to 147. ACT Convenor Bogey Musidlak sent him a note of appreciation for his achievements in helping establish the Hare-Clark system and entrench its key principles. Bill Stefaniak became Deputy Opposition Leader.

Mr Humphries was sworn in as a Senator when the Federal Parliament resumed on 18th February 2003. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly announced Mr Humphries’ resignation from the ACT Assembly on 24th January, initiating a ten-day period in which defeated candidates in Molonglo could indicate their consent to fill the vacancy.

The ACT Electoral Commissioner, Phil Green, announced, "At 12:30 p.m. on Friday 7th February 2003, I will declare the names of the candidates contesting the vacancy. At 3:00 p.m. that day, a computer counting program will be used to determine which candidate will be elected to the Assembly to replace Mr Humphries. The result should be known shortly after 3:00 p.m.".

All 15,856 ballot-papers with first preference for Mr Humphries were re-examined, as they helped constitute his quota of 9,817 votes. Three Liberals were among the eight consenting candidates. Jacqui Burke, who had replaced Kate Carnell in the previous Assembly, was expected to win because Mr Humphries had commended support for women and because she had attracted stronger preference flows during the scrutiny than had her two colleagues.

After a count lasting just minutes, she emerged with a 5,112 to 3,792 victory over prominent small businessman Manuel Xyrakis, another 913 votes being exhausted (predominantly) or lost by fractions. Over 90% of Mr Humphries’ votes were marked next for Liberals, with more being exhausted than initially going to any single candidate among the rest: 77 papers had no further preferences, and 343 none for any of the consenting candidates.

After a count lasting just minutes, Ms Burke was officially declared elected on 10th February 2003, and was sworn in by the Chief Justice of the ACT Supreme Court on 18th February 2003.

Redistribution: After the aborted efforts to approach the Territories Minister, Wilson Tuckey MHR, for an increase in the size of the next ACT Legislative Assembly (see QN 2003A), the normal redistribution process began in May 2003 with the public solicitation of suggestions for boundaries and names of the ACT’s electorates.

In keeping with its long-standing emphasis on boundary stability, the PRSA’s ACT Branch made a submission (posted with six others at www.elections.act.gov.au/redis03ps.html#s) highlighting Hare-Clark supporters’ earliest expectations of minimal or no change and expressing satisfaction that the previous ACT Redistribution Committee had explicitly stated that any mandated change should not be disruptive but "affect as few electors as possible".

The ACT Branch noted that current boundaries were easily within the 10% tolerance allowed and should comfortably meet the 5% tolerance for projected enrolments at the next election. As there had been little change in the factors considered when the boundaries were set in 2000, the boundaries should remain unchanged and the Committee should recommend to the Assembly a simplified one-stage process resulting in an early final determination when boundaries remained within statutory tolerances and there was little clamour for change.

The submission concluded, "When change is neither required nor called for, there is absolutely nothing to be gained from going through the motions with superfluous elements of an elaborate process originally designed around the extensive inter-party argy-bargy associated with federal redistributions of single-member electorates. Both Elections ACT and ACT Administration as a whole have many more pressing matters to deal with and should not be forced to waste precious resources in the circumstances described."

The submission of the Liberal Party’s ACT Division also argued for no change, while the ACT Democrats rehearsed arguments for a major recasting of boundaries that were rejected in 2000. Neither the Labor Party nor the ACT Greens made a submission.

 

 

 

Centenary Medal for Hon. Neil Robson

On 23rd December 2002, the Prime Minister, John Howard, released the list of Tasmanians who would be presented with Centenary Medals (commemorating the Centenary of Federation) in the New Year by the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Guy Green. Among the worthy recipients recognized for their contribution to Australian society or government was Hon. Neil Robson, for "service to electoral reform, especially the creation of the 'Robson Rotation' on ballot papers".

 

 

 

Copyright 2003 Proportional Representation Society of Australia

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      info@prsa.org.au

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