Somewhere between the desire of the major parties for a tightly locked-down Senate election process that makes it difficult for anyone else to break into the club, and the ludicrous outcome of Saturday’s election that threatens to see donkey vote candidates and candidates with less than 1% of the vote elected to the Senate, lies sensible reform. Reform that would reduce the now almost absurd complexity of voting for the Senate (magnifying glasses?!), reforms that would reduce the impact of good luck in ballot ordering (rotation on ballot papers would be a start), reforms that would require a basic threshold of popular support for parties to meet before they can have a chance of being preferenced into the Senate.

There’s also the bizarre and discriminatory circumstance that sees 128,000 Northern Territorians and 265,000 Canberrans electing two senators each, while 362,000 Tasmanian voters elect twelve senators.

There is a clear disconnection between the expectation that the will of the voters of each state should be reflected in the composition of the Senate, and the reality that micro-parties can ride their luck and preference deals into a nearly $200,000-a-year job and the balance of power.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, as part of its normal post-election inquiry, must look closely at Senate election processes before voters’ confidence in the process is eroded further.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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