Worse than MMP

13/09/2013

MMP is far from perfect as electoral systems go but the composition of the Australian senate is evidence that their convoluted preferential system is even worse.

Six little-known candidates from assorted ‘micro-parties’ hold the balance of power in Australia’s senate – or upper house – after Saturday’s election.

The result has led to calls to change the electoral rules, which allow parties to win the seats with as little as 0.2 per cent of the vote – or 1,908 votes – in the case of the Australian Sports Party. Another small party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, is likely to win with just 0.5 per cent of the vote.

Parties running for the 76-member state-based Senate can “harvest” their votes and do numerous deals with other parties to swap unused votes. The complex system has even led to the emergence of a consultant, Glenn Druery, a skilled mathematician and political operative, who works for small parties to cobble together backroom vote swap deals. . .

Vote harvesting, deals to swap unused votes, a seat with as little as .2% of the vote?  That doesn’t seem to be the best way to determine the make-up of the senate.

Among the new senators who will take their seats next July are:

Ricky Muir, Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party

Muir, 32, supports four-wheel “bush bashing” – or driving off-road in the outback. He posted an online video, which he has now removed, of himself throwing “kangaroo poo” in a garden. “What’s the big deal?” said his spokesman. He also suggested on twitter that George W Bush was responsible for the September 11 attacks.

David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrats

A pro-gun libertarian, Leyonhjelm appears to have won in part because his party appeared first on the lengthy 3.3-foot Senate ticket and because some voters may have thought he represented Tony Abbott’s Liberal party. “Looks like I’m going to be the senator for the donkeys,” he said, referring to the throwaway votes – or donkey votes – which are likely to get him elected. . .

         Wayne Dropulich, Australian Sports Party

A former member of Australia’s gridiron – or American football – team, Dropulich, a civil engineer, said he and some friends came up with the idea for the party several months ago. His party’s slogan was: “Are you more interested in sports than politics?”

Glenn Lazarus, Palmer United Party

A former Australian rugby league forward, he is known throughout the nation as “the brick with eyes”. He once posed naked with a brick to promote a brick company. . .

If this is what a preferential electoral system and compulsory voting deliver then thank goodness we don’t have either.

To stand or not to stand

21/07/2011

National and Act are being criticised for a possible deal under which Act wouldn’t stand candidates in marginal seats.

MMP allows such deals and it’s not very different from parties telling supporters how to rank their preferences under Preferential Voting systems.

While there might not have been an overt deal before, minor parties have made it clear they aren’t seeking electorate votes in previous elections.

I’ve attended meet-the-candidates meeting in Waitaki, and before that Otago every election since MMP was introduced and every Green candidate has told supporters s/he’s only interested in the party vote and they should give their electorate vote to Labour.

Minor parties are unlikely to win electorate seats and when it’s the party vote that determines the make-up of parliament, not winning seats doesn’t affect how many MPs they get. But standing or not standing candidates in electorates can influence the outcome for those seats.

In 1999 the Green Party candidate for Otago got 1,872 votes. In the 2002 election the party didn’t stand a candidate in the electorate and Gavan Herlihy, the sitting National MP lost to Labour’s David Parker by 684 votes. Act’s candidate Gerry Eckhoff got 1,294 votes and while not all those votes would have gone to National, enough probably would have to have enabled him to hold the seat.

Not putting up electorate candidates can come at a cost. Regardless of whether or not they’re seeking electorate votes, having a candidate contesting a seat can help boost list votes.

However, standing in every electorate is expensive and it also requires a party to have enough potential candidates, of sufficient calibre, to ensure they don’t do more harm than good.

If a party doesn’t have enough resources – human and financial – to contest all seats properly, it’s  better putting its efforts into the party vote alone.


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