Senate

The following text has been adopted as PRSA policy:

Summary: Senators should continue to be directly elected from each State using a single multi-member electoral district and the single transferable vote form of proportional representation, with no exclusionary threshold applying. The voting and counting systems should closely resemble the Hare-Clark systems used in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, but with the transfer values described below. Above-the-line voting should be discontinued.

Senate structure: The President should continue to have a deliberative vote only. Where the voting is equal the question should be determined in the negative.

Multi-member electoral districts: Senators should continue to be elected as a group from the whole State or Territory voting as one electorate. 

Neutral ballot-paper format: Voters should be provided with as clear and simple a ballot paper format as practicable, and it should be similar to the format presently used for elections to Tasmania’s House of Assembly. No Group Voting Ticket, or associated above-the-line voting option should be provided for, and voters should be required to explicitly mark a preference for each candidate they vote for. A ballot paper statement should advise voters to mark at least as many preferences as there are vacancies, and encourage them to mark as many further preferences as they see fit, but a ballot should be formal if it is marked with a unique first preference. Candidates should continue to be listed in columns, with the names of candidates rotated in different positions within each column, using Robson Rotation. Ideally, Robson Rotation should also apply to the order of the columns from left to right across the ballot paper.

One vote, one value: In the rules for counting votes, transfer values should be determined using the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer method presently used for the transfer of surplus votes for Western Australia’s Legislative Council; or the Meek method prescribed in Schedule 1A of New Zealand’s Local Electoral Regulations 2001.

Direct election of all Senators: Casual vacancies should be filled using the countback system, with Tasmania’s contingency provision for a by-election poll if necessary.

This PRSA Policy (PRSA-001) was adopted at a postal ballot of PRSA members on 17th September 2019.

Discussion

Compared with the existing Senate electoral system, the above policy proposes the following changes:

  • Discontinue above-the-line voting, to ensure that preference flows between candidates are determined by voters
  • Use countback to fill casual vacancies, to ensure all representatives are elected by the preferences of voters
  • Use fully optional preferential voting, to provide maximum flexibility to voters to indicate their preferences
  • Use Robson Rotation within columns and for the order of columns, to offer each candidate an equal opportunity to attract votes
  • Improve the method of counting votes and determining transfer values, to ensure ‘one vote, one value’
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