Newsletter of the
QN2004D December 2004 www.prsa.org.au
elections and referendum will be
The unicameral Parliament set up the Assembly on a quite novel and convincing basis in order to remove the decision-making from the established party political sphere entirely. Its Chair, Dr Jack Blaney, in delivering the final report of the Citizens’ Assembly to the BC Cabinet, stressed how unprecedented it was for a parliament to transfer to a group of ordinary electors, none of them named by the parliament or the executive, and exclusive of MPs, to decide whether the referendum was needed and, if it was, what replacement electoral system would be the subject of the referendum.
The Assembly was formed by a scrupulously fair process of invitation at random from each parliamentary electorate of people of both sexes from a range of ages to select from the acceptances, again at random, a man and a woman from each of the 79 electorates. To the 158-member Assembly so formed was added a similarly selected male and a female indigenous Canadian, as the electorate process had not produced any indigenous representation. Compensation of $150 per day plus meals and hotel accommodation was provided for all delegates. The details of the selection and deliberative processes, and of the final recommendation, appear in the excellent Technical Report at www.citizensassembly.bc.ca
long and thorough study and
debate including public
submissions and meetings
throughout 2004, the Assembly
voted on three key questions it
had formulated. Firstly, if a
replacement system was to be
recommended, should it be a
Single Transferable Vote system,
Features of the PR-STV model recommended include:
· casual vacancies filled by Tasmanian-style countback,
· Robson Rotation of candidates’ names and groups,
· between 2 and 7 seats per electoral district,
· fully optional preferential voting.
· explicit prohibition of an ‘above-the-line’ option, and
· weighted inclusive Gregory transfer of surpluses that reflects the different values at which ballot-papers were received by the elected candidate.
Society of Australia will make a
donation to the campaign of the
STV for BC group
(www.stvforbc.com). Branches and
their members wishing to assist
should forward contributions to
the President, Bogey Musidlak,
notable aspect of
SENATE SURPRISES: The last federal government to have an absolute majority of senators was the Fraser Coalition Government between December 1975 and June 1981 inclusive. The increase in the number of senators to be elected per State at each periodic Senate election from five to six, from 1984, made it very much harder for a party to gain a Senate majority, as four quotas, or just over 57% of the vote, is needed to take four of six places. With any odd number to be elected in each State a party can have an absolute majority of senators in a State with just over 50% of the vote, but with an even number of places such a vote only guarantees half the places.
was a useful demonstration of
the fairness of the PR-STV
system when sufficient voters in
ensured that four of the six
senators elected for
The second surprise was the election, for the first time, of a candidate from the Family First Party. Steve Fielding, who was first on that party’s Group Voting Ticket in Victoria, received only 1.85% of the first preference vote there - 1.77% as the first preference vote his party’s Group Voting Ticket attracted, and 0.08% as below-the-line first preference votes for him. The other candidates of his party gained 0.03% of the first preference vote. The quota of 14.29% of the vote that he eventually gained from surplus and exclusion transfers, and that entitled him to be elected, thus included at least 12.41% of the vote from elsewhere.
other disparate groups, one of
which was the Australian
Democrats, each gained a total
of first preference votes in the
range 1.80-1.94%. The Australian
Greens fared much better,
receiving 8.80% of
was speculation, on early
figures released, that a similar
fate awaited the Greens in
PRSA website above
displays PR-STV Analyses of the
2004 polls and the preceding
three polls for the House of
Representatives. The Society’s 2004
is also included as an insert in
this issue of Quota Notes.
As stated on the Results Australia-Wide page, the Coalition would have gained an absolute majority of seats under a PR-STV system, and those seats would be far less likely to change hands if a casual vacancy arose. At 46.5%, the Howard Government’s first preference vote in 2004 was only 0.3 percentage points lower than at the 1996 elections, which began its period of government.
share of the seats under the
present winner-take-all system,
which exaggerates majorities of
seats in relation to majorities
of votes, fell by 5.6 percentage
points. Nevertheless, the
Coalition won 75% of the seats
Major amendments to the original 1907 Act introduced countback in 1918 and Robson Rotation in 1979. The 1907 Act was the principal act until the Electoral Act 1985, - now just superseded - completely overhauled and replaced it, while Hon Neil Robson was the minister.
The Legislative Council will consist of 40 members. Each of the 8 regions will consist of 11 lower house districts and elect 5 members. The Commission is expected to invite submissions on proposed grouping of those districts, the main statutory condition for which is that the enrolment in each region must be within 10% of the average enrolment for all 8 regions.
The new system of Upper House general elections by PR replaces the system used at every election since the first Council elections in 1856. The old system used single-vacancy periodic polls in each two-member province, to elect its MLCs for overlapping terms. The deadline for public submissions, and copies of those submitted, are expected to be available at http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/
Over five weeks covering August 2004, the University of the Third Age and the State Library of South Australia held a fascinating series of lectures about Catherine Helen Spence. It covered a Life Overview, Her Role as a Political Activist and as a Writer, Spence and Unitarianism, and Finding out about Spence. At times nearly 100 people attended.
Spence was born at
The second lecture attracted the most interest from members of the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia. A former Premier of South Australia, Hon John Bannon, spoke about “Federation” and Miss Spence’s involvement as the first female candidate, in 1897. Deane Crabb, Secretary of the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia, and National Vice-President of the PRSA, spoke about “Proportional Representation”, outlining Catherine Spence’s life-long campaign for “effective voting”, and explaining what she was trying to achieve. This lecture then finished with a presentation from Dr Helen Jones on “Social Reform and Education”, outlining all the other various activities of this remarkable woman.
unfamiliar with the story of
Miss Spence might nevertheless
have seen her picture
on the reverse side of
electorates are typically
defended with the argument that
they ensure a healthy two-party
system. Unpacked, that assertion
implies that both a stable
Government (with an absolute
majority of seats on election
night) and a sizeable Opposition
(strong enough to challenge the
Government both on the floor of
the Legislative Assembly, and at
the ballot box) are good.
Unfortunately the Legislative
Assembly of Queensland’s
unicameral Parliament rarely
achieves that result. The same
problem now plagues Brisbane
City Council - the world’s most
populous local government unit -
with the fifth-largest budget of
any government in
The Queensland election on 7th February 2004 followed the pattern set for the 2001 poll, with Peter Beattie's Labor Party retaining its landslide majority (63 seats out of 89, compared with 66 three years earlier), with only 47% of the first preference vote. Within the Opposition, there was also a great disproportionality - the Nationals, with 17% of the first preference vote, concentrated in rural areas, won 15 seats while the Liberals gained more of the first preference vote (18.5%), but only won 5 seats.
Of the eight polls since the Liberal-National Coalition ended in 1983, those of 1983, 1995-96, and 1998 gave "hung Parliaments", where no one party or pre-election group won an absolute majority of seats on election night.
1983, the Premier, Mr
Bjelke-Petersen, induced two
Liberals MLAs to transfer to the
Nationals; and in 1995-96 and
1998, a single Independent held
the balance of power. The
In the other five elections (1986, 1989, 1992, 2001 and 2004), the government won a large majority, and in all but 1986 it counted as a "landslide". The danger of a "landslide" is that it makes the Government arrogant. Its majority on the floor is immune from the threat of a few backbenchers rebelling against the whip, and its majority at the next poll is safe because of the advantages of incumbency for MPs with access to the Premier's largesse.
polls were held only seven weeks
later, on 27th March 2004. The
Campbell Newman became Lord Mayor with over 52% of the vote after preferences were distributed. Of the 26 wards - each electing a single councillor to make up the rest of the Council - Labor won 17 and Liberals won 9, even though those parties’ overall first preference vote tied at 47% each. In one ward the Greens candidate gained just over 25% of first preference votes.
National President: Bogey Musidlak 14 Strzelecki Cr. NARRABUNDAH 2604
Secretary: Dr Stephen Morey 4
Tel: (02) 6295 8137, (03) 9598 1122 firstname.lastname@example.org
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