Transcript

Legislative Council

GREENS BILL: Optional Preferential Voting - Upper House

September 23rd, 2015

On Wednesday 23rd September 2015, Mark introduced and spoke to the Electoral (Legislative Council) (Optional Preferential Voting) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: This bill is very similar to one I introduced in 2013 and identical to the one introduced by the Hon. John Darley in 2013. In a nutshell, the bill provides for optional preferential voting for the Legislative Council. The mechanics are very simple: voters can number as many or as few squares as they like, whether above or below the line. The bill gets rid of group voting tickets, and thereby rids the system of the backroom preference deals and preference harvesting. It puts preference whisperers out of business and puts all preference allocation power back into the hands of voters, where they belong.

I have brought this bill back now because it looks as if action might finally be occurring at the national level. Members would be aware that the commonwealth parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has made a far-reaching proposal to change the Senate's electoral system. As members know, the Legislative Council system is virtually identical.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters' major recommendation is to abolish the existing system of party controlled preferences and instead allow voters to express their own optional preferences for parties above the line, and it makes the related recommendation to end full preferential voting below the line on the ballot paper.

Under the proposed system, a single first-preference vote above the line on the ballot paper would only imply preferences for the chosen party. The current ability of parties or groups to take control of above-the-line votes and direct them as preferences to other parties on the ballot paper would be ended. That is the unanimous recommendation of the multipartisan joint committee and it is precisely what I want to achieve with this bill.

I will say that I am open to negotiation with members about some of the fine detail. Whether we go for a fully optional system or whether a minimum number of votes need to be cast for a vote to be valid, I am open to those ideas. As debate at the national level progresses, I will be consulting widely in the community and I will have more to say, including the results of that consultation, before listing this bill for a vote. I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks.

For more information see a copy of this bill.

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