of the Proportional Representation Society
QN54 June 1989 www.prsa.org.au
Just over 2 weeks after polling day (the A.C.T. shemozzle took 2 months to count) the final results of May's Tasmanian Assembly elections were officially declared. In 2 electorates Liberals won twice as many seats as the ALP, but in the other 3 electorates their number of seats was equal. The only other group to win seats - the Green "Independents" - won one seat in each electorate.
system there are
no "safe seats", so the loss of their
seats by the Education Minister, Peter
Rae, and the former Opposition Leader,
Neil Batt, was simply a result of voters
preferring other candidates within their
own party. In the general election of
February 1986, Peter Rae's total of
first preference votes was the highest
in Bass at 1.66 quotas, and Neil Batt's
reached 0.55 quotas in
Senate's minimalist version of PR,
Tasmanian voters have a large choice of
candidates within each party. This is to
enable voters at the general election to
also decide, by the later preferences
they mark on their ballot-papers, which
of the candidates will fill any casual
vacancies that may arise. In unfortunate
and unnecessary contrast, in Australia's
other parliamentary and municipal PR
elections so far, electors are not
consulted, in that way or in any other
way, in the filling of casual vacancies.
Whereas Senate teams normally have only
one more candidate than the number
expected to be elected,
Because the Liberals won one less than an absolute majority of Assembly seats, and the second largest party, the ALP, won five less than an absolute majority, dire forebodings are being heard in some quarters. These are not justified on present indications, as the apparently cohesive Green "Independents" seem just as capable of working constructively in an ALP-Green alliance as the various factions (parties within a party) are capable of co-operating to run outwardly single party ALP governments, or the two distinct and competing Coalition parties in NSW are capable of co-operating to run their Coalition Government. 0f course the Tasmanian Liberals have not been decimated. They have the largest Opposition possible and cannot lose numbers by capricious by-election polls. The ALP-Green alliance also has that protection against haphazard depletion.
PR ignore the long periods of single
the single member electorate system
guaranteed stability for the UK House of
Commons. This was demonstrated
dramatically in February 1974 when
Labour, with a smaller vote than the
Conservatives, won four more seats than
they did, but not an absolute majority
of the seats, as indicated in the graph
below. Labour took office, but the
ingrained habits of parties not attuned
to coalition governments led to an
election 8 months later. Note the
system's attack on the Liberals compared
with all the others! Single member
electorates, not just the
election in October 1974 gave Labour an
absolute majority of 4 seats in the
635-member House, with only 39% of the
vote. Never before, in a fully-contested
election, had a party with less than 40%
Exactly two months after polling day, the results of the A.C.T. Assembly election became widely known - ironically on the day of a well-attended Public Forum on what to do about the electoral system, chaired by Mr Justice Else-Mitchell. The opening address at the Forum was given by Mr Bogey Musidlak, a PRSA member living in the A.C.T. He reports below on the A.C.T. results:
The Australian Electoral Commission has suffered much uninformed abuse from MPs and others unwilling to contemplate the organization needed to cope with the Byzantine processes instituted under the Machiavellian d'Hondt procedure. The Commissioner, Dr Colin Hughes, was reported as having written to the Government describing the procedure as "bizarre" and "absurd". He said, "that any plausible justification there may be for it in terms of underlying principles is now invisible behind the veil of compromises and trade-offs", and, "Finally I wish to make it clear that if there is any suggestion made publicly that consolidated d'Hondt has the Commission's approval, we will be obliged to repudiate it."
The percentages of first preferences (and votes after the initial exclusions) are shown in the graph below. The informal vote was 5.7%. The Fair Elections Coalition fell 117 votes short of the arbitrary exclusion quota and hence failed to participate in the distribution of seats. Just over one third of all formal votes were re-examined to determine whether they could be re-allocated to a party excluded. Over 25% of those votes had to be set aside as exhausted.
The provisional distribution of seats was based on the highest average process, and a Senate-style scrutiny within each list to determine which of the 6 ALP, 4 Liberal, 3 RR, 3 NSG and 1 ASG candidates would be provisionally elected.
Then came the distribution of preferences from candidates not provisionally elected. Billed as an enhancement allowing some effective cross-party voting, this process revealed its true purpose, namely to make it virtually impossible for candidates to be elected otherwise than in the order of the party lists.
For some unexplained reason, if the next available preference was for the same party, the paper was transferred away from the candidate that the voter most preferred in the list. In fact that candidate would be deemed last in the order of the voter's preference if all squares in the party list were numbered, and would in any case be deemed to be preferred less than any other candidate with a numbered square. Only those papers without further available preferences would be allowed to reflect the voter's real intentions.
The individual tallies attributed to three candidates fell by over 2000 votes as a result of this process, which noticeably augmented the proportion of votes held to be for the candidate at the top of the party list.
The final percentages of votes attributed to parties (and of seats allocated under the d'Hondt highest average procedure) were as shown below. As expected, Machiavellian d'Hondt then succeeded in securing the election of individual candidates in the order of appearance of names in each list on the ballot-paper.
The average number of votes per seat for the different parties varied from 6734 to 12433. So much for one vote, one value. Only quota-preferential methods, starting from the most appropriate principles for securing maximum vote effectiveness, provide results that accord with voters' expressed wishes.
In April, Senator Jenkins (Australian Democrat, WA) gave notice of motion:
"That the Senate refer the A. C. T. modified d'Hondt procedure to be examined by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters; and in the light of the procedure's unsatisfactory performance in the A.C.T. election of 4 March 1989, seek the views of' the Committee as to whether a Hare-Clark electoral procedure similar to that used for Senate elections (and recommended by the Australian Democrats and the Proportional Representation Society of Australia) would have served the A.C.T. electorate better than the d'Hondt procedure."
Are you surprised, gentle reader, that her motion was supported by neither Government nor Opposition?
publicity has attended the efforts of
the Hon. Ian McPhee, Liberal MHR for
The answer is the Hare-Clark system where a panel of candidates, nearly double the number of likely winners, is offered. Not only can a real choice be made, but the major shades of opinion within the party can be represented in proportion to their support. The parties do not even have to be compelled to offer candidates of various shades of opinion, because, if they do not, they will soon realize that their share of the vote may easily go to their competitors. Votes they lose however do not necessarily have to go to their opposite number, but, because of the much wider effective choice offered, electors may well vote for the closest acceptable candidate of a similar party.
Mr McPhee, in his campaign for Goldstein, emphasized his support from the electors of Goldstein. Instead of simply leaving politics altogether, he could well provide at least one last service to his country by standing for Goldstein as an independent and demonstrating the strength of his following. The high vote he would surely gain could usefully show what Goldstein's electors really want. He would not threaten the Coalition's chances of government, and would help Australians understand their electoral systems better.
The National Office-Bearers
Lord Kitchener told us he was working to encourage his Society to strive for the development and promotion of cheap, reliable software as a potent and necessary means of making the use of quota-preferential counting more convenient, rapid and widespread. Before his retirement he had worked with ICI in the field of mathematics and computing. We told him of the Victorian Government's trial of PR and computers in the 1988 Richmond Council elections.
Having had little observation
of preferential systems being used in
elections for parliament, he was
enlightened by our accounts of the
self-serving rules that Australian
politicians have built into our electoral
laws, such as the stage-managed
order of candidates on all
our PR ballot-papers except for the
Tasmanian Assembly. He was pleased to hear
In the context of the role of
the Parliament, of which he is a member,
in making provision for electoral systems
in Hong Kong before it leaves
The Secretary of our South
Australian Branch, Deane Crabb, on a
recent trip to
© 1989 Proportional
Representation Society of
National President: Geoffrey Goode 18 Anita Street BEAUMARIS VIC 3193
National Secretary: Andrew Gunter 5 Wheatland Road MALVERN VIC 3144
Tel: (03) 9589 1802, (03) 9509 1514 email@example.com