We are still waiting here in Australia for the final outcome of the Senate election held a week ago. It is likely that we will be waiting for some time yet. The thing that has caused the greatest concern is the election of a number of minor party representatives whose primary vote was minute, but who have slipped in thanks to the “behind the scenes” preference deals. Kate Edwards has a post about this here.
There has been a great deal of comment about this in the media, with calls for Senate Voting Reform of all kinds. Some of the proposed reforms are pretty complicated.
Well, here’s what I think (it’s my blog, after all).
I am a “number all the boxes below the line” voter. I don’t want other people determining what my preferences are, especially when I have not been told what their preferences are. This can be daunting, when the Senate voting paper is over a yard long (holding the paper in my left hand, it reached right across to my right shoulder) and has 97 names on it.
Here’s my question: Why are we only given two options (a) put a 1 only in one party box above the line or (b) number all the boxes below the line?
Why can’t we simply be given a third option, namely to number all the party boxes above the line according to our own preference?
Such a change would be a minimal reform, but make a lot of difference. It would still be possible for micro-parties to register themselves, and maybe even get elected, but they would be elected on the people’s preference, not on the backroom preference deals of the parties.
I have absolutely no problem with a few “colourful” characters in the Senate. There should be room for more “Joe Blows” and independents in my opinion. Originally, back at Federation, the intention was that the Senators would represent the interests of the State they came from. I don’t know if it ever particularly worked as it was designed to do. But I do have a problem with the major parties being in control of the Senate simply to do their bidding.
I don’t know how things work out in the UK, where people are appointed to the House of Lords rather than elected. Would such a system work here? It might, but I suspect that it would not be a popular model, given that republicans in Australia tend to favour even a directly elected President.
People want to have their say. I say, let them. Let’s bring in the third option of numbering all the boxes above the line. And let the dice fly high!