The government has announced its plans to drastically overhaul Senate voting, meaning the way fill out your ballot at the next election could look completely different.
If successful, the changes will make it harder for minor parties and independents to arrange preferences and ultimately get elected. The proposal is expected to pass thanks to the support of the Greens who challenged the Labor Party to get onboard too.
The new plan will be put to a vote in Parliament today after the Coalition reached a deal with the Greens to introduce six new measures to change Senate voting at election time.
While the voting reform will mean we could avoid some of the messy politics we have seen since the last federal election, like legislation not being passed in Parliament, it could also mean we will see less independent members sitting in Parliament.
Since being elected, the Government has continuously faced gridlock on a number of proposals and reforms thanks to the large number of independent members who were able to block proposals put forward by the Coalition.
Without a solid majority, it has been difficult for the government to make good on many of its election promises. It’s thought that the new reforms will stop this happening in the future.
Speaking about the voting reform earlier, Mr Turnbull said the current system had been “taken advantage of”, pointing out independent Ricky Muir who was elected with only 0.5 per cent of the overall vote, report SMH.
“We all know that so-called ‘preference whisperers’ have been very adept, very genius in working out how to game the system,” Mr Turnbull said.
“So the system has been gamed and it is simply not transparent.
“I mean, we believe fervently, passionately, in a transparent democracy.
“The only person, people that will be better off are the voters because their wish will be clearly translated into a parliamentary outcome and surely that’s what this whole mechanism, this great edifice here is designed to translate the will of the Australian people into senators and members of the House.”
Mr Turnbull says his party is only introducing the reforms to create a fairer and more accurate system, though some have suggested that there are ulterior motives to the plan.
With talk of a double dissolution still circulating, the reforms could not have come at a better time. In the event of a double dissolution, independent candidates only need half of the usual amount of votes required to be elected to the Senate.
This would mean an even higher amount of independent Senators than normal could be elected – a scenario the government is trying to avoid.
The six changes proposed for Senate reform are:
- Optional preferential voting “above the line” on the Senate ballot paper which will allow up to six boxes to be numbered, rather than just one
- A change that will mean a ballot is still valid where the voter has numbered one or fewer than six boxes above the line
- An increase in the number of allowable mistakes from three to five when a person casts their vote below the line, as long as 90 per cent of the ballot is correctly filled in
- The abolition of group and individual voting tickets
- Restrictions on the unique registered officers for a particular party
- Logos on ballot papers to reduce confusion about parties with similar names