Upgrading to the gold standard would deliver:
- a group of representatives (the parliament) that better reflects the views of voters;
- a higher proportion of voters with a representative in their district that they actually voted for;
- more stability for the major parties (a small swing won’t result in a large change in their number of seats); and
- a simple way for the major parties to be non-discriminatory (parties can pre-select both male and female candidates);
- a simple way for the major parties to manage transitions (parties can pre-select both a sitting member and a renewal candidate).
These benefits are described in more detail below.
Representatives that better reflect the views of voters
Better represents the electorate: 1-member districts shut out any cohort of electors that can’t collate 50% of the vote, whereas 5-member districts would only shut out a cohort that can’t secure 17% of the vote.
Majority of votes returns a majority of seats: systems using 1-member districts risk delivering power to a party that wins less than 50% of the total vote. In contrast, systems with 5-member districts are more likely to deliver a majority to the party that wins a majority of votes (across all districts).
Prevents parties suffering a major loss of seats: in Queensland (with 1-member districts), minor negative swings have caused governing parties to suffer major losses of seats, including to cabinet ministers. In contrast, with 5-member districts, a minor negative swing would only result in a small loss of seats.
Better reflects support for major parties: when multi-member districts are used in conjunction with Robson Rotation, the outcome better reflects the usual high support for major parties; because votes are spread more equally between the major party candidates which helps them stay in the count for longer. Of course, if a candidate from a minor party secures a quota they will be elected. The benefit of Robson Rotation for major parties occurs in the competition for the last seat, as several candidates seek to secure the final few transfers.
Voters have a representative in their district that they actually voted for
More voters have a representative that they voted for: in 1-member districts, the winning candidate often attracts with 51-60% of the vote, meaning that 40-49% of the voters don’t have a representative that they voted for. The single elected member doesn’t ‘represent’ these ‘opposition’ voters. In contrast, in 5-member districts more than 83% of voters contribute to electing representatives, with only 17% remaining ‘unrepresented’.
Voters can choose between candidates from the same party
Multi-member districts enable voters to choose between a sitting member or a new candidate; Faction A or Faction B candidates; or between male or female candidates; all from the same party.
Reduces factional in-fighting within parties: multi-member districts allow major parties to offer candidates from both (or multiple) factions. This reduces the impetus for factional in-fighting.
Flexibility to support renewal within parties: with 1-member districts it is very uncommon for a sitting member to lose pre-selection from their party. In contrast, with a 5-member district it is easy for a party to pre-select both the sitting member and a new candidate.
Ease of offering equal opportunity within parties: with 1-member districts it is unheard of for parties to pre-select both a male or a female candidate. In contrast, with 5-member districts it is easy for parties to offer equal numbers of male and female candidates, or at least one candidate from each gender, which is good for democracy.