Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia



     Number 65                                March 1992                    www.prsa.org.au



·         ACT Voters Choose Hare Clark, Resoundingly!

·         Tasmanian Election Shows Hare Clark's Strength

·         Hon. Neil Robson Retires

·         Victoria Tries Again for PR in Local Government

·         Another Indirectly Elected Senator

·         New Zealand May Yet Have a Poll that Includes Direct PR

·         Back issues of Quota Notes

·         Message from the Premier of Tasmania to the people of Canberra



                            ACT Voters choose Hare-Clark, Resoundingly!

The percentages of formal votes cast at February's Advisory Poll, held in conjunction with the Assembly election, under Commonwealth legislation to determine which of two electoral systems the ACT voters preferred for their House of Assembly were as follows:


Single-member electorates    34.7%
Hare-Clark                             65.3%

The informal vote was 5.57% of the 165,304 ballot-papers cast. That turnout was 90.19% of those eligible.

The decisive vote by the citizens of the ACT was a clear preference for Hare-Clark by a ratio of almost 2 to 1.

The hard work of convincing many of the 101,936 voters that chose Hare-Clark (only 54,165 voters chose single-member electorates) was done by the Hare-Clark Campaign Committee. It was formed from the various groups advocating a vote for Hare-Clark and included the Liberal Party, the Australian Democrats, other ACT parties, and the PRSA's ACT Branch. With prominent campaigners like the Liberals' Lyle Dunn and the PRSA's ACT Branch Convenor Bogey Musidlak and a hardworking team, the public opinion polls in the weeks before the Advisory Poll gradually swung from a majority favouring the single-member electorates option to one favouring Hare-Clark.

The PRSA as a whole pulled its weight by donating over $2,600 through its ACT Campaign Appeal, and by the attendance in the ACT, as volunteer campaign workers, of stalwarts from the NSW, SA and Victorian Branches for many days up to the poll.

The amusing letterhead Lyle Dunn successfully suggested that the Committee should use is shown at the foot of Page 4. Also shown is a very helpful supportive message from the newly-elected Ray Groom in Tasmania, helpfully initiated by the Hon. Neil Robson, who had just retired as one of the Liberal MHAs for Bass. There is no doubt that the result of the Tasmanian election on 1st February 1992 giving a single party a substantial majority of seats in the House of Assembly produced a well-timed rebuttal of the ALP's scare tactic of claiming that Hare-Clark produces unstable government.

The campaign showed that Hare-Clark was particularly palatable because many voters realized that without it they could be left with a House of Assembly where all 17 members belonged to the same party, which would almost certainly have been the ALP. The ACT-based electoral commentator, Malcolm Mackerras, re-inforced this when he was quoted in The Australian newspaper as saying that the Tasmanian election would have produced an Assembly entirely of Liberal MHAs if single-member electorates had applied there. A further popular attraction of Hare-Clark was the role that Robson Rotation, in conjunction with the filling of casual vacancies by re-examination of the general election ballot-papers, gives the voters in making effective choices between candidates of the same party.

The relatively threadbare nature of the single-member electorate campaign, which was run by the ALP alone, was shown in the official information booklet that contained the case for each of the two options and was published by the Australian Electoral Commission and distributed to all electors well before the poll. The case for Hare-Clark was thorough and used 6 pages of the booklet, but the single-member case only bothered to use 2 pages so that the remaining 3 pages that case was allocated were issued blank. They may have considered that the less said about the single-member case the better! An ALP Media Release preferred to denigrate Hare-Clark and the PR Society. Its first sentence read,

"The ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party has attacked the leaflet distributed by the Proportional Representation Society supporting Hare-Clark as grossly misleading."

The 34.7% of the voters that preferred single-member electorates is a distinctly smaller percentage than the 39.9% of voters that gave their first preference vote to the ALP, which was the only party that advocated a vote for single-member electorates. If even small numbers of the voters that gave their first preference vote to non-ALP candidates had voted for single-member electorates, the percentage of ALP voters that declined to accept their party's view would have been significantly higher than the 13% minimum desertion already apparent. The ALP will be able to govern as it has the declared support of the Michael Moore Group.

The Hare-Clark campaign involved large numbers of pamphlets being letter-boxed throughout the ACT and handed to voters on polling day, and the production of a gigantic Berrymander Wheel named after the unhelpful deputy ALP leader in the outgoing Assembly, which showed how the non-government candidates would get buried no matter where the single-member boundaries were placed. The PRSA's ACT Branch, with publicity being given by The Canberra Times, co-sponsored with the legal firm of O'Connor Harris & Co. an essay competition for under-18 year olds with prizes for the best and second-best essays in two categories, for Hare-Clark and for single-member electorates. Total prize money was $500. Mr Malcolm Mackerras judged and presented prizes for the Hare-Clark essays.

The pace-setting campaign was the most intensive and successful campaign for proportional representation ever mounted for a public poll in Australia. Soon Australia should have two of its Lower Houses elected by Australia's (no longer just Tasmania's) unique and world-beating Hare-Clark form of proportional representation, which boasts

'Modified D'Hondt' is dead, but Hare-Clark still needs to be entrenched in ACT or Commonwealth law so that it cannot be weakened or abandoned without a referendum (i.e. a binding plebiscite).



Tasmanian Election Shows Hare-Clark's Strength

The General Election for the Tasmanian House of Assembly on 1st February 1992 was the first Assembly election since the previous General Election in May 1989, as casual vacancies in the Assembly are not filled by by-election polls. The election utterly silenced those critics of the Hare-Clark system that drone on about its alleged tendency to prevent stable government by a single party. The election result delivered the perfect answer to those people. It showed that an absolute majority of seats is won by a single party provided the voters, by casting a corresponding majority of votes, indicate that they want such an arrangement. A record number of candidates, 135, stood for the 35 seats.

The results are summarized below:
























* The figures here are based on M. Mackerras's estimate (See P.1).



Hon. Neil Robson Retires

The popular and long-serving
Neil Robson has retired as one of the Liberal MHAs for Bass in Tasmania's House of Assembly. He is a former Minister of the Crown administering the Tasmanian Electoral Act who, before the Gray Liberal Government came to power, successfully moved a Private Members' Bill during the premiership of Doug Lowe to amend the Electoral Act 1907 to incorporate what is now known as Robson Rotation. He has been a firm champion of the Hare-Clark system
. His most recent endeavour for it was to visit Canberra and actively and effectively participate in the PRSA's successful campaign there.

The title the Honourable is retained as a matter of course by former ministers in Victoria and the Commonwealth only. In Tasmania it is not a matter of course. Neil Robson was held in such high regard across the parliamentary spectrum that last year a recommendation by Tasmania's then ALP Premier, the Hon. Michael Field MHA, to the Governor of Tasmania, that Mr Robson should be allowed to continue to use the title for life, was approved. Since leaving parliament, the Hon. Neil Robson has accepted an invitation to become a member of the PRSA, and brings to the Society invaluable experience, which is greatly welcomed.


Victoria Tries Again for PR in Local Government

The Victorian Government's earlier attempts to legislate to allow municipalities to hold elections under the quota-preferential system of PR (QN 43) foundered in the Upper House. A new bill currently before the Parliament, the Local Government (Elections) Bill 1991, was introduced because the Government received indications that a majority within the parliamentary Liberal Party may have come to accept the proposal that PR be an option, which may be overturned by a referendum initiated by electors. Whether there are enough of them to prevail at a Coalition Meeting in the face of possibly unanimous opposition by their National Party colleagues remains to be seen.



Another Indirectly Elected Senator

The 36th Commonwealth Parliament acquired its 8th indirectly elected senator after Western Australian Senator Josephine Vallentine, of the WA Greens, resigned early in 1992. She is the first long-term senator to resign from the 36th Parliament. Her replacement, Senator Christobel Chamarette, was decided by the WA Greens organization, and not by the people of Western Australia, and her term lasts till 1996. Just over 10% of present Australian senators have never been directly elected by the people in the States where they purportedly represent electors.

This appointment showed a further weakness in Section 15 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which deals with Senate casual vacancies. Instead of the replacement senator being determined by the Electoral Commission promptly re-examining the votes cast at the preceding general or periodic election, as happens with both WA Upper House vacancies and Tasmanian Lower House vacancies, he or she is nominated by the State Parliament in question, unless it is not in session, in which case the Governor may appoint a senator pro tempore. Unfortunately the WA Parliament was technically in session, as it had not been prorogued, but it was not sitting and was not scheduled to sit until some time after the Senate began sitting.

This delay left the WA Senate representation incomplete during the new Prime Minister's maiden foray in parliament. Some critics of the ALP claimed that it was very convenient for the ALP State Government to not have the WA Parliament sit to endorse the nomination, as that ensured that there would be one fewer embarrassing non-government voice in the Senate at an inconvenient time. The long-term lesson however is the need to remove the absurdity of a State Parliament being required to endorse a replacement senator when such a decision should be entirely a matter for an Electoral Commission to resolve by consulting the preferences indicated by the voters when they last voted.



 New Zealand May Yet Have a Poll that Includes Direct PR

The former Labour Government in New Zealand promised to hold a referendum to allow voters to choose between the present first-past-the-post single-member electorate system and a shoddy hybrid, formed from that system and an indirect party list system of the type greatly beloved of the manipulative controllers of party machines, and called Mixed Member Proportional.

Fortunately that Government reneged on its promise. Its successor, a National Party Government, has now proposed an advisory poll that would include other options one of which is direct elections by quota-preferential proportional representation. Although that is an enormous improvement on the former choice between two evils, all is not yet well as it appears that the non-binding poll will be in two parts, firstly a question as to whether voters want to retain the present system or not, and secondly they are to be asked, in a non-preferential poll, which one of some three or more options they would prefer if there is to be a change from the present system.

There would be no trouble if that second poll were preferential, but New Zealanders are not used to such polls, so it is possible it will not be. It is not clear yet just what arrangements may be made to respond if the first question results in a majority for a change, but the second does not give an absolute majority of voters selecting a particular option.



© 1992 Proportional Representation Society of Australia

National President: Geoffrey Goode 18 Anita Street BEAUMARIS 3193

National Secretary: John Alexander 5 Bray Street MOSMAN 2088

Tel: (0) 9589 1802 info@prsa.org.au

Printed by Pink Panther Instant Printing 12 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000


Page 4


Liberal MEDIA



4 February 1992


To the People of Canberra


Hare-Clark served Tasmanians well at the elections held on February 1.


There were more than 130 candidates for the 35-seat Parliament.


Tasmanians chose a stable Liberal Government but at the same time exercised their

right to make a judgment about the performance of sitting members from all sides.


While the cut-up will not be completed for some time, it is likely there will be a

number of new members.


Under Hare-Clark the people and not party pre-selection committees make the choice

about Parliamentary representation.


There can be no question of the system being tailored to suit an incumbent government.


Hare-Clark’s guarantee of proportional representation ensures the strong opposition

which is necessary for good Government, while at the same time providing

Parliamentary representation for significant minorities.


Good luck on February 15.


* * * * * *