Reform announced for insane Australian electoral system - but will it happen?

Metre-long Senate ballot paper


It happened! Easy to understand explanation by video   -   Senate reforms pass after marathon sitting   -   Electoral laws passed   -   Congratulations. Your Senate vote has just been liberated   -   The loophole that let Ricky Muir enter the Senate on less than 1%   -   Voting law changes   -   Malcolm Turnbull hails changes   -   Explore in depth (172 more articles)

In Australia’s insane electoral system someone who gets half a percent of the vote wins a seat in The Senate, the chamber of parliament which is supposed to act


as a check and balance on the government. It happened in 2013 when Ricky Muir was elected a Senator for the miniscule Motorists Enthusiasts Party. His pivotal vote secured the passage of a law that made life even harsher for refugees trying to enter Australia. He professed to have anguished about it. In that same election the Australian Sports Party, which campaigned "for every Australian to be involved in sport and recreation to assist in living a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle”, put Wayne Dropulich into the Senate with 0.2% (less than 3,000 votes out of more than a million). The count was later declared void.


The crux of this madness involves what Australians call “preferences”. When you vote, you have to include parties you don’t actually want.


Say that on the ballot paper are Conservatives, Social Democrats, Greens, Satan, Jesus, Putin and Bush, you have to number them all in order of your preferences, say 1. Greens, 2. Social Democrats, 3. Conservatives, 4. Putin, 5. Bush, 6. Jesus, 7. Satan. Leave just one name unnumbered and your vote is scrap paper.


It gets especially crazy with the ballot paper for the Senate. First of all it’s about a metre long and can alphabetically list hundreds of candidates, hardly any of whom you as the voter have even heard about.


You’ve got to number them all, correctly, for your vote to count. Make a mistake and it’s scrap. The option is to “vote above the line”, as it’s called, and there it’s not names but parties you vote for, with the same “preferences” trap explained above. Because it's the parties that decide where your preferences flow to, not you, the voter.


This leaves the system open to blatant corruption by minor parties, through socalled “Group Voting Tickets”; some micro-parties are set up for that very purpose.


Micro-parties have become very good at swapping preferences amongst themselves to allow them to “leapfrog” over candidates who have won a much bigger vote than theirs. In the 2013 election one man who touts himself as a specialist for this, Glenn Druery, was exposed being paid to fix such backroom deals.


Druery helped several micro-parties win seats in the Senate in 2013. Dubbed variously by the media “vote whisperer", "preference whisperer", even “the vote broker who made the new Senate”, Druery is now threatening to help angry micro parties run a marginal seat campaign against the federal government if it goes ahead with Senate voting reforms. (Marginal seats are those which are so closely contested by the two major parties, Conservatives and Labor, that they could go either way in elections.)

He has already written the list of seats he says the micro parties want to target, which he keeps on a piece of paper in his pocket.

Why do Australians put up with this perversion of democracy, you may wonder. I wondered, too, when I lived there, and my only generalising explanation is that they are the most politically apathetic people I have come to know. “Leave me alone with politics,” you’ll hear often.

Another factor is the vast power of ultra-conservative media oligarch Rupert Murdoch, Australian-turned-American, who owns 70% of the print media and a large collection of broadcasting assets. And the major public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is funded from tax revenue and because of that fact vulnerable to being heavily leaned on by whatever party is in poower - he who pays the piper, calls the tune.


Now the Conservative prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced that his government will introduce legislation to reform Senate voting. He is backed by The Greens, who started a drive for such reform more than 10 years ago.

The Greens say they have ensured that the vital role small parties play in democracy is protected, but that the corruption of the system will be made impossible.

For the past two years a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has worked across the political spectrum to build consensus, and The Greens, Turnbull’s Liberal Party and the opposition Labor Party all agreed to the committee’s recommendations.

And now, suddenly, Labor’s factional leaders, the faceless backroom power brokers, are scaremongering in a last-ditch attempt to stall these democratic changes. I think they will succeed.

For a more detailed explanation of how broken the Australian electoral system is go to


See also



Senate voting reform stirs up hornet's nest between likely winners and losers   -   Australian elections are rigged   -   Glenn Druery: 'Preference whisperer' threatens war on Coalition marginals to stave off voting reform   -   Who are you really voting for in the Senate?   -   The preference deals behind the strange election of Ricky Muir and Wayne Dropulich    -   Five crazy preference deals that show how broken the voting system is   -   Senate voting explainer: what could change when Australians go to the polls?



Zeige Kommentare: ausgeklappt | moderiert

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has begun robo-calling workers around the country to scare them into believing that the Greens are going to help the Liberal Party win control of the Senate.


No-one could be more determined to get rid of the Liberals from government than us. And with your help – we can.


But scaring people is not the way to win, and is frankly irresponsible. Can you help us get the facts out there so that we can get on with campaigning on the issues that matter, like creating clean, 21st century jobs and shutting down offshore detention?


You know that we always put people ahead of big business profits. We will always stand up for workers, and we will always stand up to the Liberals. And to be perfectly honest we cannot say the same for the Labor Party.


We will always stand up for penalty rates.


We will stand up for job security for all workers.


We will stand up for the unions who defend workers’ rights.


We support increasing the minimum wage to reduce the number of working poor.


… and we moved legislation to abolish the ABCC in 2008 and will fight any attempt to reintroduce it.


It is a myth that a more democratic Senate voting system will hand power to the Liberals. It won’t. The only thing that will do that is if all of us on the progressive side of politics fail to do our job.


The Greens are a real opposition in Parliament and If the Greens and Labor work together we can defeat the Turnbull Government in workplaces and in the Parliament. We intend to keep fighting for workers, for refugees, for action on global warming and for our future. But we need you to help us get the facts straight about Senate voting reform.


We are writing to you today because we are disappointed that people are being told lies.


Help us spread the facts.




Richard Di Natale & Lee Rhiannon


P.S. - If you’re a union member and are disappointed to find out that the ACTU is spending members’ annual fees running misleading campaigns against us and this important reform, feel free to let them know: 1300 362 223