The “political insider” who put the boot into Andrew Robb in
yesterday’s Crikey referred to Robb’s proposal to abolish proportional
representation in the Senate, describing it as an “absurd and totally
improbable proposal” that “would never receive the support of the
majority of Australians.” Absurd and improbable it may be, but the
government is unlikely to worry about lack of majority support.

“Political insider” may be under the impression that such a drastic
change to the Senate would require a constitutional change to be made
by referendum. Not so: proportional representation was introduced by
ordinary legislation in 1948, and could be abolished the same way. If
the government’s Senate majority holds firm, there would be no obstacle
to changing the electoral system in such a way as would substantially
banish minor parties from the Senate.

The reason this is unlikely to happen is that in the long term it would
work in Labor’s favour just as much as the Coalition’s. Wiser heads
than Robb’s will realise that while the present system makes it
difficult for the Coalition to win a Senate majority, it makes it all
but impossible for Labor, and the Coalition will think twice before
changing it.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey