Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia



Number 74                June 1994               www.prsa.org.au


Hare-Clark Electoral Law Now for Two of Australia's Lower Houses!


The adoption, by the Australian Capital Territory, of Tasmania's excellent Hare-Clark electoral system, which was approved by a 65% vote at the Territory's 1992 plebiscite, overcame its last major hurdle on 21st April when the Territory's Legislative Assembly passed the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1994.

The Territory's minority ALP Government introduced a Bill for that Act in December, purportedly to implement the plebiscite decision. However, it proposed to use misleading Senate-style above-the-line party boxes, which would have suffocated the straightforward Tasmanian model the people had specifically endorsed. Public and political reaction was swift and furious. The Referendum Options Booklet that the Australian Electoral Commission had sent to all voters before the poll had depicted the proposed ballot-paper format, so television cameras had striking visual proof that very effectively exposed the deceit of the Government's party box ploy.

The Liberals and two independent MLAs, Mr Michael Moore and Ms Helen Szuty, immediately denounced the adulterations. Those two independent MLAs warned the Chief Minister, Ms Rosemary Follett, that they would support a no-confidence motion in her if she persisted with the boxes. The remaining independent, Mr Dennis Stevenson, kept his own counsel. On 23rd December Ms Follett announced the demise of the party box clauses.

The PRSA's Australian Capital Territory Branch held a televised, well-attended public meeting in February at which useful suggestions arose. Former Tasmanian MHA and Senator, of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Terry Aulich, argued powerfully there that the Territory should adopt Tasmania's campaigning laws, which prohibit certain election-day mischiefs, and prevent intimidation of candidates over how-to-vote tickets.

The PRSA National President, Mr Bogey Musidlak, was among those advising the Liberal spokesman on electoral matters, Mr Gary Humphries, on possible amendments. He was accessible to MLAs, in the public gallery throughout the debate, over three sitting days in April.

Major Liberal and ALP amendments were:

         All references to ticket voting were omitted.

         A ballot-paper instruction will state that at least as many preferences are to be marked as there are candidates, but votes will not be discounted if that is not followed. Advocating action contrary to that instruction is prohibited.

         The transfer value has been defined to minimize the level of exhausted votes by placing non-transferable ballot-papers completely within the quotas of elected candidates if possible, as in Eire, Malta and the PRSA's Proportional Representation Manual.

         Groups, whether registered parties or not, can require that they appear in their own column on the ballot-paper, and participate in the draw for column positions from the left of the ballot-paper. Ungrouped candidates take the rightmost column or columns.

         Deposits are refunded to candidates, provided they are elected or have 20% of a quota when excluded, as for Tasmania's Assembly.

The Government Bill had accepted that casual vacancies be filled by re-examination of an exact quota of votes. It also limited the number of candidates per column to 12 to prevent groups gaining attention or advantage by rendering the ballot-paper layout grossly lop-sided. A group exceeding 12 candidates would fill one or more full columns of 12 candidates plus a column for any remainder beyond the full columns.

In Tasmania, newspaper advertisements are prohibited on election day, nor may electoral matter be distributed. Canvassing for votes cannot occur within 100 metres of a polling place, nor may vehicles with posters be parked within that distance. Attempts to move the polling day canvassing and distribution of electoral matter to at least 100 metres from a polling place (It is 100 metres in Eire, 50 yards in Malta) were defeated, as Mr Stevenson voted with the Australian Labor Party.

That leaves the unfortunate prospect of many voters being confused by the last-moment receipt of material that will almost certainly have an order of names different from that appearing on their ballot-paper. Certain misleading how-to-vote cards could be subject to election-day Supreme Court injunctions. The PRSA's ACT Branch will be active in ensuring that blame about confusion is directed where it belongs, and is not used cynically to attack the legitimacy of the Hare-Clark system.

Despite Hare-Clark being used opportunistically as part of the name of a group at the last ACT election, the ALP and Mr Stevenson voted alike so the Assembly did not emulate the Commonwealth in prohibiting ACT registration of party names on grounds of frivolity, vexatiousness, or their being calculated to or likely to mislead voters.

Eight of the 17 MLAs indicated support for entrenching the key aspects of Hare-Clark: measures to prevent an opportunistic majority of MLAs succeeding in tampering with the number of seats per electorate or the defiling of the Robson Rotation, and proper countback to fill casual vacancies. A Private Member's Bill may well be brought in to seek that later in 1994. If it were passed, the matter would be put to referendum in conjunction with the Territory's first Hare-Clark election, in February 1995. The great protection resulting, if such a referendum were carried, is that the legislature would thenceforth need approval by a future referendum before any attempt to alter the entrenched aspects could become law.


"Half by 2000" is Not a Fair Way to Represent Men or Women

The catchy phrase "Half by 2000" is being used by a group of female members of the Australian Labor Party who are promoting the idea that half of the people elected to Federal Parliament should be women, and that such a composition ought to be achieved by the year 2000.

The only two women to have ever become State Premiers in Australia, the Hon. Dr Carmen Lawrence MHR from Western Australia and the Hon. Joan Kirner from Victoria, are prominent leaders of that group. The group's approach differs from that of the former Liberal MHR for Mackellar, Mr Jim Carlton. He proposed (QN71) changes to the Constitution and the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Unlike Mr Carlton it is not asking for a law to limit voters' choices. Instead it concentrates on Australian Labor Party preselection practices. Apparently it wants a minimum fixed percentage of seats that have been assessed as being winnable to have females preselected for them. The ALP's Victorian Branch has resolved that a percentage of at least 35% will apply. The hope underpinning such a requirement would be that Labor MPs would, by 2000 AD, consist of about equal numbers of men and women. It may be hoped that this will inspire, shame or frighten other parties to follow suit. Resistance to the rigidity of the approach has appeared in some areas of the ALP, such as its Queensland Branch - the only Branch where the ALP forms a State Government.

The Group and Mr Carlton both ignore the point that representation by women does not necessarily mean representation of women. Women can be freely preferred and elected by men, and vice-versa. Voters do not necessarily want to be represented by a candidate of their own sex when they have the choice of a candidate they prefer that is of the same party and views, but of the opposite sex. Neither the Group nor Mr Carlton warns of the unfair restriction single-member districts impose and how Hare-Clark multi-member districts can overcome it.

The "Half by 2000" Group's approach relies on the fact that about 50% of Australia's voters are women yet typically only about 10% of mainland Lower House MPs are women. If that difference in proportions is unsatisfactory to the voters it is wrong, and should be corrected by the choice of the voters - not by people that think they know what is best for the voters trying to limit the voters' choices. If that difference were to be the outcome of a wide choice by voters, where a large majority could have their earliest available preferences elected, it would not be wrong, but simply be the result of the voters' choices being given effect properly.

Single-member districts will always provide a defective means of letting the voters implement wide choices, and those claiming they want to see the composition of Parliament more closely follow the views of voters should oppose them. Australia's PR Houses, and nations using PR, have substantially higher proportions of women MPs than Australia's single-member Houses and nations lacking PR. The Group's solution of further restricting party pre-selections to tailor the outcome is blatant discrimination on the grounds of sex. A fairer approach for the party, while single-member electoral districts persist, and one that should gain it support, would have it standing a male and a female candidate in each district, and issuing half of its how-to-vote cards for each district with its candidates in one order and half in the opposite order. The party voters wishing to choose would decide, rather than party dogma alone producing the decision.

Hare-Clark multi-member electoral districts would allow each of the significant parts of the political spectrum to be represented by a male MP and a female MP if voters want that. PR will produce that if enough voters want it. It will and should not happen if they do not. Why allow an arbitrary imposition such as the predetermination of the sex ratio within a Parliament? Voters may have higher priorities in casting their votes. They should be allowed to give them effect.

The beauty of Hare-Clark is that, at a given election, the voters of both sexes can rank candidates of a particular sex highly, or not, without reducing the number of MPs of their party elected. That safeguard would not apply to single-member districts where, if other parties continued to chiefly stand male candidates, a general bias towards voting for males would badly harm "Half by 2000" parties.


South Africa's Two Most Pivotal General Elections

While the PRSA's immediate past president, Geoffrey Goode, was watching televised results of South Africa's 1994 first popular elections, with his 11 year-old son, Simon, he remembered hearing, when he was that age, shocked radio reports about the 1948 South African elections. The leader of the National Party, Dr Daniel Malan, to widespread surprise, defeated the moderate United Party Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Jan Smuts. General Smuts was a renowned Commonwealth statesman, who had earlier, by crossing the floor to join the Opposition, committed South Africa to the Allied cause in the war against Hitler, rather than to the Government's preferred neutrality. In 1948 the National Party wanted to introduce apartheid and to leave the Commonwealth. The world soon saw how ruthlessly it would strengthen and entrench South Africa's existing de facto racial discrimination.

In their book, Voting in Democracies, Enid Lakeman and James Lambert give details of the 1948 election that first brought the pro-apartheid National Party to Government. It is a classic example of how easily a single-member electorate system can distort voters' wishes. It allowed that 51% of the voters (an absolute majority), that voted for Smuts's party, the United Party, and its ally, the much smaller Labour Party, to jointly receive only 43% of the seats - substantially fewer seats than were won by the 42% vote achieved jointly by the only other parties to gain seats, the National Party and the Afrikaner Party, which were together rewarded with 57% of the seats and, as the new Government, could implement apartheid.

The analysis showed that the plurality counting rules and the malapportionment present were not enough to explain the distortion. Whether counting was plurality or preferential was irrelevant - nearly all seats were won by absolute majorities. The problem was the use of single-member electoral districts, with so many of the Nationals' seats being marginal, and so many of the United Party's seats having large, wasted surpluses of votes.

The 1994 election used a party list electoral system (QN72) with a single electorate for the National Assembly and each unicameral Provincial Assembly. The new Senate is not elected by popular vote. Each voter was given one ballot-paper for the National Assembly and one for the relevant Provincial Assembly. Each Assembly has a maximum term of 5 years. The elections were concurrent, but future elections are not required to be.

The only indication any voter could give was to make a single prescribed mark against the party list chosen, which was identifiable by the party name, the party logo and a photograph of the party leader. No preferences could be indicated among the various parties or among the many candidates within the parties. Such a system is understandable given the overwhelming illiteracy and inexperience of the vast preponderance of citizens voting for the first time in their lives, many at a great age.

Within the party they voted for, no South African voter, by their indirect vote, could affect the ranking order of the likelihood of a candidate's being elected relative to other candidates of that party - that had been rigidly pre-ordained by the party machines.

The figures below show that the party list procedure gave good proportionality in party terms. Parties received one seat for each Droop quota, and any remaining seats were allocated according to the largest fractional remainders. Voters could not choose individual MPs without having to elect also large numbers of others they may not have wanted. It is to be hoped that the system will evolve towards a quota-preferential form, which is both direct and proportional.







African National Congress (ANC)*



National Party (NP)



Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)



Freedom Front (FF)



Democratic Party (DP)



Pan Africanist Congress



African Christian Democratic Party














Eastern Cape







56 seats







Eastern Transvaal







30 seats














81 seats







Northern Cape







30 seats







North Transvaal







40 seats














30 seats







Orange Free State







30 seats







Pretoria etc.







86 seats







Western Cape







42 seats








"O" signifies "Other parties".        * indicates likely governing party.


Filling Casual Vacancies after PR

It is interesting that the Prime Minister's recent diatribes against the Senate and its method of direct democratic election have not, even slightly, hinted at concern over the indirect and undemocratic Section 15 method by which casual vacancies have been filled since 1977. A referendum to entrench Tasmanian and ACT-style countback is needed, but not a single MP raises the issue. The convenience to parties, shown below, is no doubt a major cause of that silence. The present indirectly elected senators, now 7.9% of the Senate, are:







J. Vallentine

C. Chamarette




M. Tate

K. Denman




B. Archer

E. Abetz




K. Sibraa

B. Neal




B. Bishop

R. Woods




G. Richardson

M. Forshaw





Deane Crabb of the Society's SA Branch noted the SA Parliament's Joint Sitting in February. It appointed the ADs' Michael Elliott to an Upper House vacancy after he had earlier resigned a seat there to contest a Lower House seat, which he failed to win. In a quasi-republican touch, the Premier, Mr Dean Brown - not the customary Council President, Speaker or a Deputy - chaired the Sitting.

Casual vacancies in half of Australia's PR Houses (the Senate, SA and NSW) are filled by a Joint Sitting of both Houses of a Parliament, and are not filled directly by the voters. Vacating MPs, if otherwise eligible, are eligible to fill the vacancy they caused or any other vacancy.

The other half (Tasmania, WA and soon the ACT) require casual vacancies to be filled directly by the voters, by a re-examination of ballot-papers cast at the public poll that had elected the vacating MP. MPs that were elected at a particular public poll are ineligible to fill a casual vacancy arising afterwards if the vacancy can be filled by one of the candidates that were not elected at the public poll. That has the benefit of encouraging parties to stand a larger number of candidates than they expect will gain seats at the public poll. It also gives MPs an incentive to see their term through and only resign if necessary, as resignation is not easily followed by a return to Parliament before the next public poll. There are no snakes and ladders, or chasing greener fields!

SA's Opposition Leader, Mr Lynn Arnold, might not have been aware of those direct elections when he said at the Joint Sitting,

"... it is the tradition of this Parliament that the opportunity is given to the Party from whom the vacancy came to fill that vacancy. It is a tradition based on reactions to historical circumstances in Australia, particularly in 1975. There is another very important reason that must be borne in mind as to why that is a very sound tradition and correctly followed by this Parliament, namely, that any other method of filling such a vacancy would be to dispute the public will."

 The Inquiry into the Composition of the Parliament of Tasmania

The PRSA's 18-page submission to the 4-member Board of Inquiry, headed by Mr Trevor Morling QC, Chairman of the Australian Electoral Commission, and set up to report on possible new formats for Tasmania's Parliament, including its electoral systems (QN73), was one of 140 submissions lodged by the 6th May deadline.

The ALP and others sought an Assembly with 5 MHAs per district rather than the present 7, or the unfortunate even number of 6, which was an aim of the Groom Government's attempted legislation that caused the Upper House to seek the present Inquiry. The PRSA asked the Board to rule out, as unsatisfactory options, an even number of members from any individual electoral district, Assembly districts with fewer than seven seats, and any artificial combination of two chambers that would consist of different classes of MP. If the Board were to propose a unicameral Parliament the PRSA would prefer 5 districts each with 9 MPs, but safeguards would need to include entrenchment, in the Constitution Act, of the key Hare-Clark principles, and a right of voters to initiate referendums. If a bicameral Parliament were proposed, the key Hare-Clark principles should still be entrenched. The PRSA said Legislative Council polls should be required to be timed not to coincide with Assembly polls, and that the Council would best be elected at large from the State, using Hare-Clark.

A separate submission by the PRSA's SA Branch described electoral outcomes in South Australia, the least populous Australian State apart from Tasmania, where chronic disparities between the number of votes cast and seats won at successive general elections have persisted despite intensive but futile attempts to make single-member electorate systems work fairly. Attempts have included tight tolerances on the equality of enrolment among the electoral districts, and more recently (QN60, QN61), a referendum to amend the SA Constitution to provide for a redistribution of seats after every election.

 News of Long-standing Members

The only Honorary Life Member ever (QN58) of the PRSA's Victorian Branch, Sir Ronald East, died on 16th March. A former Chairman of Victoria's State Rivers and Waters Commission, he had long been a Branch member and PR advocate. He moved for Federal PR elections at the 1931 Conference of the Nationalist (sic) Party.

A NSW Branch Life Member, Mrs Katie Wright, the widow of the PRSA's first National President, Mr Jack Wright, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6th January as being, at 80, Macquarie University's oldest undergraduate and having just qualified for a Bachelor of Arts degree where one of her major interests was electoral systems. It was said that she might go on to a postgraduate course.


1994 Proportional Representation Society of Australia


National President: Bogey Musidlak, 14 Strzelecki Cr, NARRABUNDAH 2604

Tel: (02) 6295 8137  info@prsa.org.au

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