There were mixed messages from Bob Brown adviser Ben Oquist in his letter to The Australian yesterday. Oquist – whose letter didn’t mention his job – talked about the inequities of proportional representation in the 2004 Senate vote, citing the fourth seat going to the Coalition in the Senate in Queensland with “the Government winning 44.9% of the vote but 66% of the seats”.

At the same time, however, his boss has been off talking about the virtues of proportional representation in Canada. Is it because PR is so much more democratic? No. It’s because the right sort of PR gives the Greens seats – like multi-member electorates and PR is the only electoral system that regularly puts Greens into parliament.

Oquist leaves out the co-relative ratios of the two Greens Senators elected in October 2004. In Western Australia, the Greens won 16.5% of the Senate seats with only 8.06% of the first preference votes – see Australian Electoral Commission Newsfile 122, February 2005. That is a malapportionment of over 100%. In Tasmania, the Greens won 16.5% of the Senate seats but only 13.29% of first preference votes.

So some inequalities are more equal than others, hey Ben?

Peter Fray

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