Newsletter of the
As the last two issues of Quota Notes have reported, the Commonwealth Government is to conduct, in February 1992, concurrently with the scheduled ACT Assembly election, an Advisory Poll of all electors in the Australian Capital Territory to determine whether a majority prefers a single-member electorate system or a Hare-Clark PR system as the electoral system for future elections of the Assembly. It is intended that the Assembly will have the power to enact its own electoral laws, but the Federal Minister expects it to implement the system chosen by ACT electors at the Poll.
The ACT Branch of the PRSA has been magnificently active, and has greatly appreciated the funds it has received to date from our National Appeal.
A key part of the
Branch's campaign is its involvement
in the ACT's Hare-Clark
Campaign Committee, which
includes the local Liberal Party,
Australian Democrats, several
parties in the ACT Assembly, and the
PRSA's ACT Branch. The ACT-based
psephologist, Malcolm Mackerras, is
also advocating the Hare-Clark
The H-CCC has produced and distributed large numbers of three excellent leaflets:
a. Hare-Clark The Fair Voting System for the ACT, which asks, What are the differences? It answers: Hare-Clark
o Fair outcomes in line with voters' wishes
o All significant groups in the Assembly
o A full choice of candidates to vote for
o Control by voters, not party machines
o Choice of at least 5 local members to consult
o Stable boundaries
o Distorted outcomes favouring the largest party
o A probable one-party Assembly elected
o "Choice" of only 1 candidate per party (most with no chance!)
o Party-machine domination of the system
o Only one representative to consult
o Costly, destabilizing by-elections
o Frequent boundary changes
o Safe seats for party hacks
Rotation puts you in charge, which
explains that system, mainly by a
question and answer approach.
c. ALP VOTERS Why You Should Support Hare-Clark, which seeks support from those that intend to vote for ALP candidates, but may prefer Hare-Clark. It quotes Mr Ken Fry, ALP MHR for Fraser (ACT) 1974-84, from a debate where he said,
"When I was active in the ALP in the ACT Branch ... nearly all of my colleagues strongly supported proportional representation. There was no question about it ...
Under Hare-Clark with the Robson Rotation, they would not be there for life. They would have to perform or they would be rejected, whereas under the other system we all know once you're elected and the party continues to support you, you've nearly got to commit murder or something before you would be rejected. It really is a job for life ...
I think the Follett government here is performing very well. I think they would win under Hare-Clark. They don't have to get the power-hungry single-member electorates to secure government."
H-CCC and the PRSA's ACT Branch
organized a very successful and
well-timed visit to
At a second press
conference the next day that again
was well reported on the electronic
media, Mr Robson authoritatively
demolished the claims of a leaflet,
The Case for Local Members,
that was issued by the Australian
Labor Party, and that tried to give
the impression that only
single-member electorates could
produce so-called local
members. On that evening he
was the very informative guest of
honour at a dinner attended by over
50 people, which raised enough to
pay the costs of his travel from
On Friday he was
interviewed on ABC radio at
the peak audience time of 8:30 to
8:40 a.m. An abridged transcript of
that interview is given
below. Later Mr Robson joined
the PR side in a debate on the ACT
Poll choices held at the
Efforts are being made to amend the Commonwealth legislation that governs the February 1992 elections for the ACT Assembly so that the discredited Consolidated d'Hondt would be replaced, for that last election directly under Commonwealth law, by a Senate-style system, as has been recommended by the Australian Electoral Commission. The PRSA's ACT Branch has also lodged formal objections with the Commission to MHA Craig Duby's registration of the Hare-Clark Independence Party, pointing to that Party apparently lacking any members other than himself, and to his recent testimony to a parliamentary committee in which he strongly supported Consolidated d'Hondt.
ABC Morning Show reporter Matthew Abraham's interview with the Tasmanian MHA, Mr Neil Robson, greatly helped in putting the PR case before ACT voters:
would you think that
Well, I must say, what is the purpose of an election? It is to put someone there to represent you, and you are there to represent the people. And so if you're put there with a highly accurate system that is so fair that everybody in the world admits its fairness, and it's so easy to run in the actual electorate process, then everybody knows that their vote will count. In the single-member electorates, when you get to the polling booth your vote's most probably going to be wasted - whereas, in the Hare-Clark system, everybody's vote counts. And the next thing is that under Hare-Clark you're given a choice of candidates. And the party itself puts up a choice, particularly to amass a bigger vote.
But you also reduce representation, direct representation because you don't know who your local member is.
Oh, get out.
... the local members - if there's five, or as we have here, 17 - can really dodge accountability because they could say: well, you know, it's not me; it's the other four, or the other 16.
You come to Launceston and walk down the streets, and you ask the people there who their local member is - just who their local member is.
Well, they'll say: there's one of five of them - there's Neil Robson. There's one of five.
No, but they'd pick one out. They know who their member is.
So they adopt one?
Yes, they adopt one. And you watch them go into the polling booths - little old ladies and little old gentlemen - they pick up the thing; they put on their glasses, and you'll see them hunt up and down the column to find their favourite, then they look for their second favourite, then they go to their third. And then, since the electorate officer tells them to vote for 7, or the party tells them to vote for 7 for their valid vote, they fill out the lot. An anyway, many of them go to 16 and 17 to make their vote really count.
You say that the primary purpose of elections is for people to get the government they want.
I didn't say that. I said to get a representative.
... a primary purpose of having an election system is to get stable government, surely.
... is to get a government and to be representative of the people. ... it's the people's election, not the government's election, not the party's election. The election is for the people, and it's for them to choose who their representative is.
But you can do that with single-member electorates. You get the choice of however many candidates there are in your electorate, in your single electorate.
You don't get to choose, in a single-member electorate, who your candidate's going to be to fight the next election, you only get one stuck up in front of you. And with this stupid Senate system and other systems around, you could have a labrador dog in the box, and the parties dominate too much, too much.
argument by the pro-Hare-Clark
This is the last opportunity for Quota Notes to call for donations to the PRSA's National Appeal for Campaign Funds for the February 1992 ACT Advisory Poll (letting all ACT voters choose between Hare-Clark and single-member electorates for the ACT) before that poll is held.
Treasurer, Mr Len Higgs,
Incomprehensibly, for a Government that owes its very existence to the NSW electoral authorities' proper insistence on strict marking of preferences at the last elections, rather than allowing ticks and crosses to be accepted as indications of first preference votes, and the successful defence of that position in the Supreme Court of NSW, the Greiner Liberal Government has a local government Legislative Review Unit producing a Discussion Paper on the Reform of Local Government in NSW that actually proposes replacing the existing quota-preferential PR electoral system with the archaic first-past-the-post block vote (multiple X voting) procedure!
The Discussion Paper has clothed the wolf of multiple X voting in the sheep's clothing of the euphemism equal value voting. The PRSA's NSW Branch, in a forceful submission in response to the Review Unit's invitation for public comment, wrote,
"While the term equal-value voting might imply a new system, the proposal amounts to a reversion to nineteenth and early twentieth century electoral practices. The block vote form of first-past-the-post voting was comprehensively abandoned for all Senate elections in 1918, and for all NSW local government elections in 1953. There were numerous inconsistencies in its operation at both levels which, together with what became an intense clamour from the public and politicians, ultimately saw both the Senate and NSW local government change to quota-preferential PR."
The Branch went beyond merely defending PR, and suggested some improvements to existing arrangements.
In ironic contrast, the
PRSA's NSW Branch has also been
asking a different Review Committee,
The Returning Officer for the recent elections of PRSA National Office-bearers, Mr Norman Cox, has declared the candidates below elected unopposed to the following positions within the Society from 1st January 1992 to 31st December 1993:
National President: Mr Geoffrey Goode
National Vice-President: Mr David Higbed
National Secretary: Mr John Alexander
National Treasurer: Mr Leonard Higgs
The session of the Melbourne Anglican Synod reported in Quota Notes No. 62 to have adjourned in May, and to have referred a Bill on a proportional representation electoral system for examination by a Committee appointed by the Archbishop in Council, resumed in October.
The Committee, which included the PRSA National President, was chaired by the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, Bishop James Grant. It submitted a modified Bill, which met concerns that had been expressed over drafting matters. This Bill left the details of the method of counting to be prescribed by regulations, which the Committee is expected to draft. The Bill had the following features:
"Votes will be counted according to the quota-preferential method of proportional representation prescribed by Regulations under the Regulations of Elections Act 1980."
PRSA members should always make a point of advocating that the rules governing elections require that the name of the method of vote counting (whether it is PR or not) be stated on each ballot-paper, as it is usually the only dependable way that all voters will have the method drawn to their attention, at each future election.
Unfortunately the Tasmanian Assembly method of filling casual vacancies, which was envisaged by the May Bill, was replaced by the English General Synod method (which is also WA's Upper House method) of recounting all the ballot-papers at the previous election, disregarding preferences marked for the vacating candidate.
At its second reading, which was carried on the voices with hardly any noes, the Bill was supported by a member of the Committee, the Hon. Robert Fordham, who reminded Synod members of the electoral system that the Bill would remove and its recognized deficiencies, and indicated his approval of the change from the May Bill in the method of filling casual vacancies, and the provision for a periodic review and report to Synod of the operation of the new system.
After minor amendments in the Committee of the Whole Synod, two members of the Committee appointed by the Archbishop in Council, Mr Rick Brown and Professor John Scott, moved and seconded respectively that the Bill now pass. In both the House of Clergy and the House of Laity the Bill was passed on the voices, with no voices against. The Archbishop, Dr Keith Rayner, then announced that he expected he would give his assent to the Bill in due course.
The PRSA's South Australian Branch has congratulated SA's Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission on its recent report in which it did not attempt to hide the fact that single-member systems cannot guarantee a fair result, as recent Canute-like legislation has called for, and it admitted that it was unable to confirm that, if the Liberals receive 51% of the popular vote, they would obtain an absolute majority of seats. At least one electorate will be larger than the 10% statutory tolerance.
As Liberal MP Graham Gunn said prophetically in the SA Parliament on 21st November 1991, "It is obvious that, the way we are going, the single-member electoral system has just about run its race."
PRSA's National Research
Officer, Mr Bogey Musidlak, has
obtained interesting information
from the Japanese Embassy on
September's electoral reform
bill, which unsuccessfully tried
to institute a German style mixed
member electoral system
for the Japanese Lower House.
Such an indirect and arbitrary
procedure is attractive to party
machines, but not to voters.
also obtained information on the
UN-sponsored peace plan for
© 1991 Proportional
Representation Society of
National President: Geoffrey Goode 18 Anita Street BEAUMARIS 3193
National Secretary: John Alexander 5 Bray Street MOSMAN 2088
Tel: (03) 9589 1802 (02) 99602123 firstname.lastname@example.org
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