PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA
Tel +613 9589 1802
Direct Election of Candidates
in an election have the maximum opportunity to
ensure that their vote is reflected in the
outcome of the election - for a given system of
counting votes - when, along with the use of
proportional representation, all the
representatives to be elected are directly
elected by the voters.
Electoral systems that use, in whole or part, a Party List form of proportional representation, such as all the PR systems for popular elections in Africa, Asia, Latin America and mainland Europe, and the recently adopted "Mixed Member Proportional" system in New Zealand, are not fully direct systems of election, whereas most countries, such as Australia, UK, Eire, Malta, Canada, USA, and India, with single-member districts, or multi-member electoral districts with the Single Transferable Vote (quota-preferential) have at least a fully direct system of election.
has limited constitutional protection for
direct election. Section 7 of
the Australian Constitution requires that
State senators be "directly chosen by the
people of the State", but Section 122,
which empowers the Federal Parliament to
provide for senators for the territories, has
no requirement for direct election.
which provides for the filling of Senate
casual vacancies, has required, since a 1977
referendum, that Senate casual vacancies
be filled, not by the choice of the people,
but by the appointment, by the relevant State
Parliament, or Governor, if the Parliament is
not in session, of a member of the same party
as that of the vacating senator. Section 24
requires that Members of the House of
Representatives "be directly chosen by the
people", and Section
33 provides for a poll to fill a casual
significant extra word appears in both of the
following two sections of the Australian
Constitution, compared to the wording of the
United States Constitution that they were modelled
on, whereby members of both houses of our Federal
Parliament are required not just to be "chosen by
the people" - as in the U.S. - but to be "directly chosen by the
The Australian Constitution's Section 7, which refers to choosing senators for the Australian States, was modelled on the U.S. Constitution's corresponding wording at the time, but with a prescient anticipation, by 13 years, of Clause 1 of its 17th Amendment.
The Australian Constitution's Section 24, which refers to choosing members of Australia's House of Representatives, was modelled on the corresponding wording of the U.S. Constitution's Article1 Section 2.
That extra word, "directly", appeared in Section 9 of the draft Constitution adopted by the 1891 National Australasian Convention, based largely on the draft by the one person that took the trouble to circulate a suggested draft constitution, one of its Tasmanian members, Andrew Inglis Clark, who was also the instigator of Tasmania's celebrated Hare-Clark electoral system, which is a quota-preferential (Single Transferable Vote) form of proportional representation. Its continuation in Section 7 and extension to Section 24 of our present Constitution has fortunately prevented our Federal Parliament from being empowered to adopt a party list form of PR for either of its houses, but it has not prevented the use of Group Voting Tickets, which corrupt the Senate's PR system, nor has it required the use of countback to fill casual vacancies, as that is controlled by a different section of the Constitution, Section 15.
Nevertheless, only one State, Western Australia, has a similar constitutional prohibition. Party list systems have been proposed, and have operated briefly, in some of our States and Territories, but such systems are fortunately no longer operating in Australia.
Voting Tickets: Australia's
unfortunate introduction in 1983 of Group Voting Tickets
for its Senate elections greatly increased
the tendency for voters to follow their
party's recommended order of preference for
candidates, as it made it as easy as
possible to vote "above-the-line",
while still maintaining unjustifiably
onerous requirements for a valid vote for
independently-minded voters voting "below-the-line"
to mark preferences for nearly all of what
is often scores of candidates. A below-the-line
option has so far been continued as it is
the only option that can be used by ALL
voters and, given the direct election
provisions in the constitutions of the
Commonwealth and Western Australia, it is
the only option that gives ALL
voters the ability to vote directly.
Fortunately, with the discontinuance of
Group Voting Tickets, and the change to
partial optional preferential voting below-the-line,
in 2016, there is far more incentive for
voters to vote below-the-line.
The single judge, the then Chief Justice, Sir Harry Gibbs, wrote in his determination, "In my opinion, it cannot be said that any disadvantage caused by the sections of the Act now in question to candidates who are not members of parties or groups so offends democratic principles as to render the sections beyond the power of the Parliament to enact." He thus determined that whether any perceived discrimination, or discrepancy between the effort, and risk of error and invalidation of a person's vote involved in those two different procedures was to be dealt with was a matter for the Federal Parliament, rather than the High Court.
Entrenchment of Direct Elections: In addition to the limited entrenchment of direct election in the Australian Constitution, Western Australia is the only State with a requirement for direct election of its members of Parliament entrenched in its constitution, so that the requirement cannot be repealed without a referendum. See this 1978 provision in Section 73 of Western Australia's Constitution Act 1889 [Section 73(2)(c)].
List Systems All Rejected To Date:
Australia has, fortunately, rejected the four major
attempts at introducing or maintaining
a Party List form of proportional
representation, as opposed to STV, ever to
emerge here, which were:
Filling Casual Vacancies by Direct Election: It should be noted that the only direct way of proportionally filling casual vacancies after a PR election is by a re-examination of the ballots cast at that election. The countback system used in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, which preserves the intention of the majority of voters who contributed to the quota that elected the vacating candidate, and minimizes the work involved in a manual count, is recommended for this purpose.