of the Proportional Representation
Queensland Branch made an 80-page
formal written submission to
The Commission's Chairman, Mr Tom Sherman, congratulated the PR Society's Queensland Branch on the quality of its submission, describing it as “thorough” and “well-researched”, and further declared that the PRSAQ was the only entity making a submission that the Commission had congratulated.
The submission contained the following summary of its recommendations:
(1) Of course, no electoral system is perfect However, we believe that the quota-preferential or single transferable vote (STV)
system of proportional
representation (PR) in multi-member
electorates would be best for
(2) In particular,
we recommend that such a system should
on the Hare-Clark system in
(a) 5, 7 or 9 MLAs per electorate;
(b) marking of preferences to be fully optional, at each voter's discretion;
(c) candidates' positions in each party group to be equally rotated as the ballot-papers are printed;
(d) candidates' party labels to be shown on the ballot-paper;
(e) casual vacancies to be filled by re-examining the votes that elected the original MLA, to determine which runner-up is next
preferred by those voters (a poll to be held only if such re-examination fails);
(f) no 'party-box' ticket-voting option; and
(g) the number of voters per MLA to be equal (within a margin of plus or minus10%) in every zone and every electorate
throughout the State;
(3) The Hare-Clark system we have recommended will:
(a) ensure broadly proportional results, without reducing the accountability of MLAs to their electorates or encouraging growth of
(b) allow each voter a wide choice of candidates and every constituent a wide choice of representatives; and
(c) ensure that every electorate and every region of the State has MLAs on both the government and the opposition benches.
The Branch made a separate submission to EARC on its Local Authority Election Review. It contained the following summary:
The present Local
Authority electoral system in
Proportional representation is inherently fairer and the quota-preferential system allows voters the freedom to choose between individual candidates as well as between parties or teams, while allowing coherent groups of voters the opportunity of obtaining representation on Council in accordance with their size. This observation is confirmed by the experience of Local Government in other Australian States, namely New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.
In particular we recommend:
(a) The universal use of the
quota-preferential method of
proportional representation in the
election of Councils in
(b) Wherever possible, and depending on the number of representatives, that Councils be elected "at large";
(c) Where divisions are used they should have a minimum of 5 councillors wherever possible;
(d) The number of vacancies to be filled in any ballot either at large or divisional, should be odd (5,7,9, etc);
(9) Marking of preferences to be fully optional, at each voter's discretion; and
(10) Vacancies to be filled by recounting the votes that elected the vacating Councillor.
EARC's Local Government recommendations are expected to be tabled by late September, and those on the Legislative Assembly by late October.
The above report
was provided by the PRSAQ
Vice-President, Alderman John
Campbell, who has recently become the
Leader of the Opposition in the
Brisbane City Council.
Very Severe Misrepresentation of the Will of the People
This was the title the PRSA gave to its written submission to the Inquiry into the operation of Commonwealth Electoral Legislation during the 1990 General Elections by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The Society is grateful for the preparation of the 67-page document by the PRSA's National Research Officer, Mr Bogey Musidlak, who was recently appointed to that honorary position by the National President, for the term of his office, to conduct research on national PR matters.
An abridged summary of its contents is:
House of Representatives Issues
The 1990 general election demonstrates graphically the deficiencies of the single-member-district system.
A party with some 39.5% of first Preferences and less than half the two-party preferred vote has nearly 53% of MHRS. It won majorities of seats in WA and SA despite lacking the two-party preferred support of half the voters there. Fewer than 49% of voters had an effective first preference. The result makes clear how meaninglessly "one vote, one value" applies to single-member-district systems.
A quota-preferential system would much more closely match voter support and representation, and give the overwhelming majority of Australians input in the political process. A simulated PR result is presented on the basis of the 1990 House of Representatives figures. The Tasmanian Hare-Clark system with the Robson rotation of names in party columns prevents the major parties minimizing their possible seats for a given level of support. That system reserves maximum influence to the voters, and should be adopted for future Lower House elections.
Problems arising in the casting of Senate votes
Despite the election of an even number of senators in each State, Senate vacancies were determined much more in keeping with voters' wishes. Still the NSW result again showed how larger parties can disadvantage themselves by seeking a concentration of support on just one candidate. Most of the 21,749 above-the-line Grey Power or CEC voters would not have realized that the way they marked their ballot-papers could be instrumental in electing a 3rd ALP senator instead of a 3rd Coalition senator.
The current outrageous discrimination against those not following any Group Voting Ticket should cease. As each voter has a single vote, a single first preference should be enough for a below-the-line vote to be formal. The Australian Electoral Commission should be directed more towards making voters aware of the benefits of marking all their real preferences rather than mounting costly advertising campaigns about how to register a formal vote.
If the larger parties persist in minimizing their possible representation through the use of the party box, it should be a requirement that the nature of Group Voting Tickets is widely publicized before polling day.
There is merit in officially posting to all voters that information and a short statement by each candidate, and prohibiting distribution of "how-to-vote" materials on polling day.
The PRSA was pleased to note that
some of the major points it made were
also made in a submission by Arthur
Burns, Emeritus Professor of Political
Science at the
He wrote, "in mid-campaign the kind
of publicity that I recommend might
have exposed the Greens as dependent
allies of the ALP, shifted
conservationist votes to Democrats,
and induced the Democrats to persist
in advocating last preferences for
sitting members. WA voters might even
have decided to hang the 36th
Parliament. Abhor that or not, the
public is entitled to know that such
an election result is within voters'
power. Since 1984 voting above the
line, now nearly 95% in NSW, has
preserved the full preference vote,
... In 1982 and 1983 I first
recommended the present above-line
system for the Senate, against the
tide of political scientists who
hankered after optional preference for
the Representatives, and some
variation of d'Hondt
for the Senate. It may now be
apparent that the entire above-line
system is ultimately parasitic upon
(a) that a Senate-style ballot-paper be used,
(b) that there be fewer MHAs, and
(c) that "how-to-vote" cards be allowed to be distributed outside polling booths.
The August State Council Meeting of the Liberal Party voted to refer to a Committee, for report to the next Council Meeting, a proposal that there be 10 Assembly districts each returning 3 MHAs.
Both of these moves are fairly
unsubtle responses by elements in
The PRSA will make submissions to
both of the above committees, and
hopes that the good sense and fair
play that has distinguished the
attitudes of both major parties to
One continuing development that might make Hare-Clark more secure is the progress of Mr Neil Robson's Referendums (Elector-initiated Repeals) Bill. See QN57. The Bill is supported by the Liberal Party, and has now been supported in principle in the Assembly by the Greens' Dr Bob Brown, who is negotiating details of possible changes with Mr Robson, a Liberal MHA for Bass.
Sentiment against Hare-Clark was not
a feature of a recent ABC "7:30
Report" television interview in
Death of Dr Kenneth Grigg
Dr Ken Grigg, a
longstanding member of our Victorian
Branch, and its Secretary in the early
1980s, died on 5th July 1990. He
chaired the important ALP Committee
that recommended substituting
quota-preferential voting for
voting that the ALP's
Victorian Branch had used till the
1970s. He had numerous cogent
articles and letters to editors
published on PR over many years.
writer on electoral methods and member
of the Electoral Reform Society of
was erroneously referred to as "Edith
having quoted her name correctly.
Readers noticed the error, and duly
informed the PRSA.
Review of PR Manual
Proportional Representation Manual is
being reviewed by a 3-member Drafting
Committee appointed and chaired by the
National President, with a view to
publishing a revised edition, enabling
us to replenish stocks, enhance the
layout and incorporate certain
improvements. Members' ideas are
welcomed. When the Committee has
resolved upon a draft it will
circulate it to all PRSA branches for
comment with a view to producing a
version that can be voted on by all
Branch Committees. It is expected that
the Victorian Branch will finance the
The Canberra Times editorial reproduced on Page 4 deals admirably with manoeuvres afoot by the two largest parties in the ACT Assembly (both are minority parties) to avert the referendum on the ACT electoral system recommended by a recent Federal Parliamentary Committee. See QN58.
2001 Proportional Representation
National President: Geoffrey Goode 18 Anita Street BEAUMARIS VIC 3193
National Secretary: John Alexander 5 Bray Street MOSMAN NSW 2088
Telephone: (03) 589 1802; (02) 960 2193
Printed by PRINT
D'Hondt in any form unacceptable
MODIFIED d'Hondt, demodified d'Hondt or any system that has anything to do with d'Hondt is utterly unacceptable for the ACT. The Chief Minister, Trevor Kaine, has spoken out in favour of the d'Hondt system without the modifications as a compromise. His argument is that unless there is a compromise we might be stuck with the present system or be forced to have a referendum that could cost $ 1 million.
The present system is unacceptable on several counts. First, it took months to count last time and even with fewer candidates at the next election will still take a long time. Second, it is unfair in that it favours major parties. (Last time the "major" parties got only minor party support of 23 per cent for Labor and 14 per cent for Liberals and so did not benefit). Third, the public has no confidence in it. It is essential that voters have good grounds for believing the system is fair and efficient. Modified d'Hondt is neither of those. If the modifications were taken away, the system would be more efficient, but it would not be as fair.
Essentially, under pure d'Hondt,
voters vote for a party (with no
preferences). A formula is then
applied to allocate seats. When
applied to examples covering the usual
range of voting patterns in
The system best suited to the ACT
would be the Hare-Clark system as practised in
The cost of a referendum is an issue,
but not a very strong one. Federal
Parliament could change the system
without referendum, but to change it
to pure d'Hondt
would be a cynical exercise of
big-party self-interest. If it were to
change it without a referendum it
should be to a system that is already
working somewhere in
The other advantage of the Hare-Clark system is what is called the Robson amendment. Under this arrangement the political parties do not get to select the order of candidates on the ballot paper. Rather, the order varies on different ballot papers. Some have Candidate A at the top, others have Candidate B and others Candidate C. It stops donkey-voting and slavish following of the party line.
The Hare-Clark system has a lot going for it, for the voters and independents, and less going for it for big parties. Small wonder, then, that the big parties are shying away from it. Labor is perhaps scared a referendum will reject single-member constituencies. The Liberals are scared it will accept them. So rather than risk a referendum at all, there is a danger both parties will compromise on pure d'Hondt - a system that suits the big parties and nobody else.
Electoral and political commentators
have adequately proved that on any
likely voting outcome, the pure d'Hondt system
is rigged in favour
of the major parties. It was a system
devised in continental
Any attempt by the major parties to
suggest that a referendum would be
spoiled by a destabilising
anti-self-government write-in campaign
would be nonsense. A rotten electoral
system has undermined confidence in
self-government, its continuance in
any form would further undermine it. A
referendum would be decisive, however
close, and the people would accept the
people's judgment Failing that, the
Federal Parliament should introduce a
Hare-Clark system like
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