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PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA

www.prsa.org.au

18 Anita Street

 BEAUMARIS VIC 3193

info@prsa.org.au

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                      2014-09-15



The Growth and Success of Quota-Preferential Proportional Representation (STV)

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INTRODUCTION: The proportional representation movement in Australia began; most strongly in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria; in the late 1800s, which was the era when the Australian colonies one-by-one finally abolished the hustings (the first was South Australia in 1856 and the last was Western Australia in 1895). Vote counting in public elections then, and up until 1919, was, except for Tasmania, by highly unsatisfactory relative majority (first-past-the-post, or plurality) procedures in single member, two-member or multi-member electoral districts. From 1919 plurality systems were replaced by majority-preferential systems, but Queensland's Legislative Assembly had had a contingent vote system since 1892 until it was replaced with a plurality system in 1942, and plurality systems still apply in some municipalities there. Western Australia has, most unfortunately, revived plurality counting for municipal polls. In the 1930s, South Australia became the last mainland State to discontinue multi-member Assembly districts.

Where there was plurality counting with more than one vacancy per electoral district, plumping (not voting for all vacancies), allowed, in a haphazard way, some minority voice, as it still does in some electorates of the world's oldest continuously operating legislative assembly, the House of Keys on the Isle of Man. Plumping was, however, often arbitrarily prohibited in Australian electoral systems, and it was not allowed at pre-1919 Senate elections. Hoag and Hallett's classic 1926 U.S. book "Proportional Representation" has a good account of the foundation of early PR history in Australia. The earliest precursor date mentioned is the year after Governor Phillip's landing at Sydney Cove. See electoral system categories, and a summary of current systems for public elections in Australia. Australia's electoral history has been generally progressive despite regressive tendencies in ballot-paper design. Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have been the most progressive and, as shown below, have resisted those regressive tendencies. Australia's advances and setbacks in electoral legislation have been instigated by both major parties. See the National Library of Australia's list of early PR references.

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UNITED KINGDOM - PARLIAMENT: Our fellow society in the UK, under its original name of the Proportional Representation Society of Great Britain and Ireland, was founded in 1884. It promoted the ideas of John Stuart Mill, and of Thomas Wright Hill, whose "schoolboy election" in the 1820s is a classic simple demonstration of the principles of the Single Transferable Vote or quota-preferential proportional representation, as it is known in Australia to distinguish it from Australia's use of STV with majority-preferential counting, in both single-member districts, and also multi-member districts as unfortunately used for the Senate from 1919-46, and for a few years after the Liberal Party Government of Victoria revived it in the early 1990s for municipal elections.

It was the PRSGB&I that was the first society in the world to promote the earliest forms of the quota-preferential system of proportional representation allowing direct election of individual candidates, which does not take place under the inferior proportional systems known as party list systems, which have become the predominant electoral systems for lower houses in continental Europe. The first two words in its title changed to 'Electoral Reform' in 1958. It published its history 'The Best System' [1], in 1984. Its distinguished presidents have included the fourth and the fifth Earls Grey (see its 1922 Council), and in the 1980s the Hon. Dr Garret FitzGerald while Prime Minister of Eire. Its president was, until his death in October 2004, Professor the Earl Russell, a great-grandson of the former Whig Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, whose 1832 Reform Bill set the foundation for representation of the general public in the House of Commons and, by example, in other parliaments in the then British Empire. The shameful conduct of UK elections in the century prior to that reform is strikingly depicted in William Hogarth's four provocative engravings "Chairing the Members", which was alluded to by a Federal Minister when introducing major Australian electoral changes in 1983.

The UK Parliament had more multi-member constituencies than single-member ones as late as 1880 (London was a four-member constituency). The number of multi-member constituencies was greatly reduced in 1885. Some were university constituencies, for which proportional representation applied from 1918. Multi-member constituencies were discontinued in 1945. A crude modicum of proportionality was achievable in the large number of non-university constituencies, in which PR never applied, by voters plumping; by not voting for two candidates, but only one. Winston Churchill (not a convert to PR) first became an MP in 1900 in Oldham, one of the 23 two-member constituencies then. See the distribution of district magnitudes in various years below:

 

UK House of Commons: Distribution of District Magnitudes over 130 years

 

 

Year

No. of MPs from constituencies with the number of members per constituency shown

 

1-member

 

 

2-member

 

3-member

 

4-member

1880

195

398

30

1

1885

616

27

-

-

1945

601

36

3

-

1950

625

-

-

-

2010

650

-

-

-

 

The PRSGB&I (later the ERSGB&I) and its members influenced the founding of Australian PR societies and helped them by sending its Secretary, John Humphreys, to Tasmania during World War I where his evidence [1] to a Select Committee of Tasmania's Parliament helped defeat a proposed change from the Hare-Clark system of quota-preferential proportional representation to a party list system, and also led to Tasmania's Electoral Act 1918, which prescribed countback - the filling of casual vacancies in the House of Assembly by the Electoral Office by re-examination of the ballot-papers that formed the vacating member's quota. It ensures that all MPs are directly elected. In 1948 the PRSGB&I advised Australia's Attorney-General on his Bill for proportional representation for elections for the Australian Senate, which began the Senate's still-prevailing PR system. In 1995 a prominent ERS member assisted the PRSA campaign for entrenching Hare-Clark for the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory.

The UK's ERS works for, as does the PRSA, quota-preferential PR, which they call the Single Transferable Vote. STV now applies in Northern Ireland for its Assembly and for elections to the European Parliament, although sadly, despite strong opposition in the House of Lords, elections in the rest of the United Kingdom to the European Parliament are by a closed party list system. In the mid-1980s, the UK's Social Democrat Party produced an inspirational 10-minute VHS video of John Cleese advocating proportional representation for electing the House of Commons. An unsuccessful referendum to change the House of Commons electoral system from using a plurality vote to an Alternative Vote was held as an outcome of the 2010 UK General Election.

United Kingdom - Local Government: From the first establishment of local government in England, when William the Conqueror granted a charter to the City of London in 1075 until the passage of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, which introduced widespread election by ratepayers, English municipal councils were not elected by the citizens, but were self-perpetuating oligarchies with vacancies filled by the council itself. Quota-preferential PR is still not used for local government elections in England and Wales, but is now used in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

 

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For the sections below, see the table here that lists instigators of electoral advances and setbacks in Australia.

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:  Catherine Helen Spence's 1861 booklet, 'A Plea for Pure Democracy' [2] helped her to form, in 1895, a proportional representation group called the 'Effective Voting League of South Australia'. Miss Catherine Spence, whose father was appointed as the first Town Clerk of the City of Adelaide, witnessed, as a young girl, in front of the Beehive Building in King William Street, the first election for Adelaide City Council, in 1840, which was the first public election in Australia, and the first public election in the world to provide for and to use the quota system of proportional representation. Miss Spence was the first female candidate at a public election in the then British Empire when she stood unsuccessfully at the 1897 election (under the unfair first-past-the-post multiple vote) for the 1897Australasian Federal Convention. A paper by Dr Dean Jaensch describes SA's parliamentary electoral history from 1850.

 

There is a statue in Light Square in Adelaide, unveiled on 10th March 1986 by Her Majesty the Queen, that commemorates Miss Spence. The PRSA later launched its reprint of her booklet there. She is remembered by her Autobiography, and was depicted on the Australian $5 banknote issued for the Centenary of Federation, in 2001. Another influential member of the Effective Voting League was its Honorary Secretary, Mrs Jeanne Forster Young O.B.E, who stood as an independent candidate at the 1937 Senate election, winning 6.5% of the first preference vote, but that gave her no hope of election under the since-discredited multiple majority-preferential electoral system then in force.


The PRSA's SA Branch (the League's successor, the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia) worked to influence the replacement of the first party list system, which is an indirect system of election, used for Australian parliamentary elections. It was introduced by the Dunstan Labor Government in a 1973 Act, and used while that Government held office, until it was superseded by the direct election system using the present quota-preferential form of proportional representation that the Tonkin Liberal Government wisely introduced in 1981, and that the SA Electoral Act 1985 now prescribes for elections for SA's Legislative Council. That 1973 Act also introduced the first system in Australia for filling Upper House casual vacancies by appointment at a Joint Sitting of Parliament rather than the impartial, long-proven countback system of direct election. The SA Constitution Act 1934 requires a referendum before either House can be abolished, but it does not specify or entrench the electoral system, and that oversight should be remedied.

South Australia - Local Government: Catherine Spence recorded, in Chapter III of her Autobiography, her witnessing, by an early form of PR in 1840, Adelaide City Council's first election, as her father was the Town Clerk. It was the world's first public election conducted by PR, and Australia's first public election, and was preceded by the enactment, for the first time in the world, of a law for a PR electoral system, a South Australian Act entitled an Act to Institute a Municipal Corporation for the City of Adelaide. That Act resulted from a recommendation in the Third Annual Report of the Colonization Commissioners for South Australia, 1839 that the election of the soon-to-be-created Adelaide City Council should be by a proportional electoral system. That report was signed by all nine commissioners, but was drafted by the Secretary of the Commission, Rowland Hill. The Commission's Fourth Annual Report elaborated on the advantages of that system.

The PRSA's SA Branch successfully helped persuade the Olsen Liberal Government, when it enacted the Local Government (Elections) Act 1999, to make quota-preferential proportional representation the only electoral system to be used in elections for local government in South Australia, by discontinuing the "bottoms up"system, which fortunately appears to have never been used for public elections outside South Australia. Regrettably, municipalities can still be divided into single-councillor wards, as in Victoria, in which case the prescribed counting method still applies, but there can be no surplus votes and no proportional representation with only one position to be filled, so the system used in that way gives only a winner-take-all outcome. As at 2010, only six councils in the State had any single-councillor wards.

Unlike arrangements in New South Wales, there is unfortunately no prohibition of different wards in a given municipality having different numbers of councillors. Stalemate wards, which have an even number of councillors per ward, are permitted. As in Victoria, and more recently in NSW, elections in two-councillor wards are counted by PR. Two-councillor wards are rather common, although small rural councils are usually not divided into wards.

Casual vacancies are filled by-election polls (not countback). The same unweighted inclusive Gregory transfer method used for transferring votes, by averaging, as is used in Senate scrutinies, applies. With partial optional preferential voting applying, voters must mark, for a valid vote, as many preferences as there are vacancies - it is optional after that number. General elections are held every four years, with polls being conducted by postal ballot.

For South Australian municipal elections:

·         All regular elections are general elections, held by postal ballot in November every four years after the first such election in 2006.
There is no requirement for all wards in a particular municipality to have the same number of councillors, so unfortunately election quotas can differ for different wards. The number of councillors in a council, which presently ranges from 7 to 20, is fixed by vice-regal proclamation.

·         There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to many councils’ unfortunately lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.

·         There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils can unfortunately have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, as 6 councils had in 2010. In those wards, the quota-preferential PR counting system prescribed for all SA council elections reduces to a bare majority-preferential winner-take-all system.

·         Partial optional preferential voting applies, so a valid ballot-paper needs as many marked preferences as there are vacancies.

·         Casual vacancies are unfortunately filled by a winner-take-all by-election poll, rather than by the fairer countback system.

·         Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates names being set by lot, with direct election free of Group Voting Tickets.

·         Under Section 51 of the Local Government Act 1999, nearly all councils with a Mayor elect him or her at a separate, but concurrent popular election, but unfortunately without Tasmania's requirement for the separately-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors, thus diminishing overall proportionality because of the increase in all councillors' quotas, and depriving electors of the chance to elect a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate as a councillor, as mayoral candidates cannot, as they can in Tasmania, stand for both concurrent elections. For councils with a Chairperson rather than a Mayor, the Chairperson is a councillor elected by all councillors.

·         Under Section 86 of the Local Government Act 1999, the Mayor, or a councillor substituting for the Mayor as the presiding officer at meetings of a council, has a casting vote only and, where the presiding officer is termed a Chairperson rather than a Mayor, the Chairperson, or a councillor substituting for the Chairperson, has a deliberative vote only. In both cases, tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are lost, and are not overridden by that officer's being able to undemocratically have a second, or casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote, which would be contrary to the Westminster parliamentary usage, and to common law. SA's position on that reduces democratic concerns - which arise in jurisdictions where an additional casting vote is prescribed - about having councils with an even number of members.

·         The unfortunate deficiencies mentioned in the above arrangements result in South Australia's 63 councils having 33 different and idiosyncratic electoral combinations, leading to unnecessary institutionalized electoral inequities and injustice. South Australia's Local Government (Elections) Regulations 2010 do not, unlike Victoria's practice, require the inclusion with ballot papers posted to electors statements of recommended preference voting orders supplied by each candidate. Accordingly, it does not experience the proliferation of 'dummy candidates' that Victoria's practice has engendered.


 

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TASMANIA - PARLIAMENT: Tasmania's Attorney-General, in the 1890s, Hon. Andrew Inglis Clark, who sat on the four-member committee of the 1891 National Australasian Convention (see P. 588 of debates) [3] that, on the Queensland Government Paddle Steamer, S.S. Lucinda, cruising on the Hawkesbury River, NSW, drafted a Bill to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia, which was adopted by that Convention, spoke about proportional representation (PR) then. Mr Clark did not stand for election to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention, but a Tasmanian Delegate, Matthew Clarke MHA, spoke there in support of the Hare system, which Tasmania's Hare-Clark electoral system is based on. Tasmanian proportionalists were members of Tasmania’s former Municipal Reform Group, which was informally associated with the PRSA before the PRSA adopted its constitution in 1982. PRSA members in Tasmania joined with Victorian members in 2000. In 2006 they became members of Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania) Inc.

 

Start of Hare-Clark:  Andrew Clark achieved legislation for PR elections, with Hare-Clark's Single Transferable Vote, for part of Tasmania's House of Assembly in 1896. Under the Electoral Act 1907 (7 Edw. VII No. 6), Tasmania became Australia's first parliament to use quota-preferential proportional representation to fill all seats in one of its houses, and it has used it continuously since then. See the official report of the first state-wide Hare-Clark election in 1909. That Act also substituted majority-preferential voting for the first-past-the-post voting used until then for the single-member electorates that have always been used for the Legislative Council. Tasmania thus also has the longest record, among Australian parliaments, of continuous use of preferential voting in single-member electorates. Tasmania's Liberal Government in 1985 enacted the first consolidation of Tasmania's electoral laws since the Electoral Act 1907 in the Electoral Act 1985 (No. 46 of 1985) with unanimous parliamentary support. That Act, administered by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, was replaced, again with unanimous support, by the Electoral Act 2004 (No. 51 of 2004). Section 231 of the Act specifies countback. The centenary of the first Tasmania-wide Hare-Clark election occurred on 2009-04-30. The Commission's excellent website gives access to full reports of that first Hare-Clark election, and to every countback and to every election in both houses from 1909 onwards.

Countback: Hare-Clark, improved by requiring direct election by countback in 1918, for the filling of casual vacancies, after the evidence given by John Humphreys in successfully opposing a retrograde Labor Party proposal to replace Hare-Clark with a party list system, (see "UNITED KINGDOM" section above), is Australia's longest-established electoral system. The first result of a countback in Tasmania's official election reports from 1909 was the 1942 by-election using countback, which was occasioned by the death of a sitting member.

Hare-Clark impressed the Maltese-born Sir Gerald (later Lord) Strickland while he was the Governor of Tasmania from 1904-09, so that when he became Prime Minister of Malta from 1927-32 he had a prior acquaintance with its successful operation in Tasmania, and could continue to support its already well-established use for the election of Malta's MPs. 

Recognizing that Number of Vacancies to Fill Should be an Odd Number: In 1958, a Tasmanian political scientist, Dr George Howatt, wrote his classic PR paper "Democratic Representation under the Hare-Clark System - The Need for Seven-Member Electorates", which the Government tabled in the House of Assembly in support of its Bill that succeeded in correcting the flaw in the original Hare-Clark system of having an even number of seats per electorate, rather than an uneven number, to ensure a majority outcome in any electorate where a party gained a majority vote, by changing the number of MHAs per electorate from the original number, six, to the recommended uneven number, seven.

Avoiding Regimentation of Voters: Dr Howatt's 1979 report, similarly tabled, "Voting - By Party Direction or Free Choice" was another PR classic. Fortunately, Tasmania's Parliament heeded its warning against the regimented ballot-paper style that has developed for Senate elections. Tasmania has never had that legislatively-enabled regimentation, and the results of its freedom from that imposition can be seen by comparing the relatively even concentration of first preference votes on individual candidates in Tasmania's Hare-Clark with the stage-managed skewed concentration on a tiny few evident with Senate outcomes. Tasmania's unskewed spread ensures that the larger parties do not unfairly reduce their own electoral prospects, as can be seen for elections, like those for each of Australia's six mainland Upper Houses, where Group Voting Tickets facilitate voters' regimentation.

Partial Optional Preferential Voting: Unlike the Senate system, where full (or almost full) marking of preferences has been required, since 1934, for a ballot to be formal, Tasmania's Hare-Clark system has never required voters to mark more preferences than the number of vacancies and, as Dame Enid Lyons pointed out in the 1948 debates on PR for the Senate, that has not resulted in a high or unacceptable incidence of exhausted votes. The minimum number of consecutive preferences, beginning with a unique first preference, was set at three until Act No. 19 of 1973 increased that number to be equal to the number of vacancies to be filled, which was seven at that time, but that number was reduced to five by the Parliamentary Reform Act 1998. The Group Voting Ticket device was imposed for Senate polls ostensibly to reduce the incidence of informal ballots, but a much more reasonable way to reduce it would be to adopt partial optional preferential voting, as Tasmania's record shows. Partial optional preferential voting and Robson Rotation also apply for elections to the Legislative Council and to all municipal councils.

Tasmania has avoided adopting the Group Voting Tickets that are now used for elections to the Senate, and the SA, NSW, and WA Legislative Councils. That system has managed to persuade a large majority of voters for those houses to take the relatively easy course of abandoning individual consideration of the relative merits of a party's candidates, and instead accepting the preference order for their party's candidates, and all other candidates, decided by their party, which is generally not made very evident to voters, and register an above-the-line vote.

Robson Rotation: A key part of Tasmania's Electoral Act 2004, Robson Rotation, is specified in Sections 97 and 98 and Schedule 3. It requires ballot-papers to be printed in different batches, of equal size, so that candidates' names have an equal incidence of appearance in prescribed positions down the columns. Applying also to polls in all municipal elections, and the single-member Upper House electorates, it disarms organized 'tickets', and neutralizes the unintended effects of 'donkey voting'. A former Tasmanian MHA, the late Hon. Neil Robson AM, who was a PRSA Honorary Life Member, was its initiator in by means of his successful private member's bill, which resulted in the Electoral Amendment Act 1979. The 1992 Tasmanian book "Hare-Clark in Tasmania", by Terry Newman, describes Robson Rotation well.

Prior to the 1976 Assembly election, the order of candidates' surnames in party columns on the ballot-paper was alphabetical. Tasmania's high incidence of election, and re-election, of MPs with surnames like Abbott, Adams, Agnew, Amos, Anderson, Batt etc. had started to remind some Tasmanians of the ALP's notorious four A's ploy in the 1937 Senate election in NSW, which led to the Menzies Government retaliating, in 1940, by introducing the present listing of Senate candidates' names by mutual consent (effectively by party decision). Tasmania's first change from an alphabetical list of candidates' names in the party columns was fortunately not to adopt that party machine concession, but instead the Electoral Act 1973 made the order set by lot, but that was in force for the 1976 and 1979 elections only, as circumstances happily resulted in the adoption of Robson Rotation in 1979.

Unlike the mainland States, where electors in State lower house elections had only one candidate from each party to choose from, the existence of multi-member electorates, with casual vacancies filled by countback since 1918, meant that parties normally stood more candidates than the number of seats they expected to win, thus giving Tasmania's voters a wide choice of candidates within each party. How-to-vote cards that list a party's candidates in a particular recommended order were not used in Tasmanian Assembly elections, and attempts to introduce them were nullified by the introduction of Robson Rotation.

Constitutional Entrenchment by Referendum Needed: Tasmania's Constitution Act 1934 does not prescribe a method for counting votes, or require a referendum or special majority to alter it, or the electoral system; or even to abolish either House, except for alterations to the term of the House of Assembly. Hare-Clark, although very popular, could be abolished by ordinary legislation. Tasmania's Constitution Act 1934 ought to specify key Hare-Clark features and entrench them, so that they can only be removed after a referendum. In contrast, Malta [66(2)], Eire (Article 16.2), and the A.C.T, have each protected their PR system by constitutional entrenchment.

The number of members in each house of the Parliament has varied over the years. The number of members in each of the five House of Assembly electoral districts was increased from six to seven following the 1958 Howatt Report above. A 1984 Report reviewed that increase and considered that it had been appropriate. The Morling Board of Inquiry in 1994 agreed with that view, but in 1998 an ALP private member's bill was passed that reduced the size of the Legislative Council from 19 to 15, and the size of the House of Assembly from 35 to 25, which increased the quota for election as an MHA from 12.5% to 16.7%. PRSA and many Tasmanians opposed that reduction in size, which has come to be seen as a mistake, as is evidenced by a 2012 House of Assembly resolution that supported a return to a 35-member House.

Tasmania - Local Government: The Groom Liberal Government's Local Government Act 1993 introduced Hare-Clark proportional representation (Section 299 invokes Part 3 of Schedule 7) for all Tasmanian municipalities (PR had previously applied just to Hobart City Council), with Section 25 invoking Schedule 3, which specifies the number of councillors in each of Tasmania's 29 municipalities, and the number of subdivisions in each municipality if there are to be any (Schedule 3 has to date shown no municipalities as being subdivided, but its details may be varied by the Governor on the Minister's recommendation), and with vacancies filled (Section 307), Assembly-style, by countback, for all municipal polls. The Act provided that councillors' terms be for four years, with the term of as near to practicable half the councillors ending every two years. The Tasmanian Electoral Commission website commendably shows the complete and detailed results of municipal elections and countbacks since 1994, when Hare-Clark first applied to all elections of municipal councillors.

For Tasmanian State and municipal polls, partial optional preferential voting applies. As a result of requests from MHAs that had been municipal councillors, ballot-papers for election of councillors have, since 2002, been required to be printed using Robson Rotation by Section 288(2) of the Act, which refers to a prescribed order, and that appears in Schedule 1 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2005.

For Tasmanian municipal elections:

·         All councillors are regularly elected, by quota-preferential proportional representation, for four-year terms at general elections, by postal ballot, with the total number of councillors in some municipalities at the 2014 elections being reduced, and with no wards in any municipality - as governed by Schedule 3 above, which is alterable by vice-regal proclamation. Ballot material posted to electors does not include photographs of candidates, nor does it follow the practice - peculiar to Victoria - of including statements by the candidates of their recommended preference voting order, so the proliferation of 'dummy candidates' that occurs in Victoria is not a problem in Tasmania. The printing of ballot papers using Robson Rotation also ensures that voters do not easily copy slavishly onto ballot papers such voting orders.

·         Partial optional preferential voting applies, so a valid ballot-paper needs only as many marked preferences as there are vacancies.

·         Casual vacancies are filled by the very fair and direct countback system.

·         Robson Rotation applies for ballot-papers, which fortunately forestalls "donkey votes" and organized "how-to-vote" cards.

·         The presiding officer at meetings of Tasmania's 29 councils or their committees has a deliberative vote only, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are lost, and are not overridden by that officer's being able to undemocratically have, contrary to the Westminster parliamentary usage, and to common law, a second, or casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote. Tasmania's position on that reduces democratic concerns about having councils with an even number of members.

·         In all Tasmanian municipalities, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected separately for a four-year term, at each quadrennial general election of councillors, by direct, popular election, but there is an important requirement - unfortunately not yet found elsewhere in Australia for other elections of the Mayor or Deputy Mayor by popular vote - for the separately-elected Mayor and Deputy to also stand and succeed at the concurrent election of councillors. A report in April 2000 by Tasmania's Local Government Board provides a good analysis of Tasmanians' views on the method of election of Mayors and Deputy Mayors.

·         A 2011 election for a Deputy Mayor, who might have thought he would be continuing as Deputy Mayor unopposed, shows how that provision properly denies election to candidates for such offices if they do not also win a Council seat in competition with all other candidates for Council, and can rightly transfer the power to the Council as a whole to fill such offices from among the councillors, all of whom must have been first elected councillors as such by the electors. Candidates for those offices cannot stand for both offices concurrently, and they must have been a councillor in Tasmania for at least 12 months.

·         That superior approach gives maximum flexibility and choice to both candidates and voters. It fully maintains overall proportionality. It gives electors the chance to elect, as a councillor, a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor or Deputy ahead of a less preferred candidate standing for a councillor's position only. If a candidate at an election for Mayor or Deputy fails to win a quota in the concurrent election of councillors, each voter's vote for that candidate at the election for Mayor or Deputy is transferred to the voter's next preference.

 

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VICTORIA - PARLIAMENT: As named on an early letterhead, the Proportional Representation League of Victoria's Secretary, from the late 1800s, was Edward Nanson, the University of Melbourne's Professor of Mathematics from 1875 to 1922. He persuaded the university to adopt quota-preferential proportional representation for polls for its Senate, of which he was a member. Quota-preferential proportional representation was used for that body, later renamed the Committee of Convocation, until it was replaced in 2011 by an Alumni Council, where Clause 3(d) of Regulation 3.1.R1 regrettably requires its elected members to be elected using the crude and unfair plurality system. Also named is that league's President, Sir James Barrett, who was Vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1931-34 and Chancellor from 1935-39.

The League's successor, in 1943, was the Proportional Representation Society of Victoria, which campaigned then for PR for Senate elections. The PRSV became the PRSA's Victorian Branch in 1981, and was renamed Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania) in 2000, and incorporated as Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania) Inc. in 2006. It has successfully promoted proportional representation for elections for Victoria's Legislative Council, municipal councils, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, the ALP Victorian Branch and other bodies. See details here of some of PRSAV-T Inc's present and former members, and here for some AGM Guest Speakers.

150 Years of Winner-take-all Periodic Upper House Polls Ended in 2006:
Alfred Deakin, a Victorian MP, later Australia's second Prime Minister, worked for PR in Victoria's Colonial Parliament, but failed. The PRSA Election Analysis of the last, in 2002, of Victoria's winner-take-all periodic polls for the retiring half of its Legislative Council shows the unsatisfactory nature of that system. Victoria led the world when it introduced the secret ballot in 1856, which was also the year its Legislative Assembly, which has always been a fully-elected House, was established, and the year its Legislative Council:

  • first became a fully-elected House,
  • first occupied its present meeting chamber,
  • first became the Upper House of the present bicameral legislature, and
  • had its first - and until 25th November 2006 - only general election.

The count for that first general election used a multiple, or bloc, first-past-the-post method, with subsequent elections being the filling of single vacancies by a first-past-the-post (plurality) method until that was changed to a preferential method in 1921. Victoria's was the last Australian bicameral parliament to have neither House elected by proportional representation. The ornate Legislative Council chamber was used by the Senate from 1901 until the Federal Parliament was relocated to Canberra in 1927.

Efforts for Hare-Clark in Victoria: The PRSAV held a public meeting in 1999 to draw attention to the Victorian Government's plan to apply PR to Upper House polls. The Constitution (Proportional Representation) Bill 2000 was improved after countback amendments by Independent Gippsland East MLA, Craig Ingram, for direct election of all MPs, were accepted by the Bracks ALP Government, but it still lacked proper Hare-Clark features such as Robson Rotation and absence of Group Voting Tickets. That apparent acceptance of countback then appeared to be a deceptive feint, as the eventual amendment of the Constitution Act 1975 now in force provides, in its Section 27A, for filling of casual vacancies by a joint sitting of the Parliament by a candidate that is a member of the vacating member's party. Except for special provisions for replacing independent MLCs - if any ever get elected - that amounts to party appointment, as Section 27A(4) states that the joint sitting "must choose a member of the registered political party referred to in subsection (3) nominated by that registered political party if the registered political party nominates a member of the registered political party for the vacancy who would otherwise be qualified to be elected a member of the Council." The Section 27A(4) words "must choose" are an obvious oxymoron, given that parties only ever nominate one person. Mr Ingram, consistently with his position above, succeeded in having his dissent recorded in relation to the process for filling the vacancy at the first such joint sitting, in 2009 (See P. 70). See also the problems with the Senate casual vacancy provision that the Victorian system has followed rather than adopting countback.

Victoria's Constitutional Commission: The PRSAV-T made a submission to the Constitution Commission of Victoria set up to report on the Bill. In 2001 the PRSAV-T brought Hon. Neil Robson, a former Tasmanian minister administering Tasmania's Electoral Act, and also the instigator of Tasmania's excellent Robson Rotation system, to Melbourne for a meeting the three Commissioners agreed to have with him, and for a public meeting. Section 11 of the Commission's Report foreshadowed future benefit in instituting Robson Rotation for Legislative Council elections and also for dispensing with above-the-line voting. In 2002 the Bracks ALP Government constructively transferred legislative detail on its electoral systems from the obscurely-named The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958 to the new Electoral Act 2002.

Institution of PR for the Legislative Council: Proclamation of the Royal Assent to the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, which enabled alteration of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 and its Electoral Act 2002 to require quota-preferential proportional representation elections for the Legislative Council, appeared in Special Government Gazette S57 of 8th April 2003. Victoria's PR system has impressively reversed a retrograde trend in Australia, which the Commonwealth began in 1919, to move towards a requirement that a preference must be indicated for every candidate in a multi-member electorate in order for a vote to be deemed valid. Tasmania's Hare-Clark system has always had partial optional preferential voting. On the day the Legislative Assembly that was elected in 2002 was dissolved, Part 3 of Division 2 of the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003 became operative and implemented other provisions needed for the change to PR that also became operative then and have amended the Constitution Act 1975 and the Electoral Act 2002 to institute PR for the Legislative Council.

Section 36 of the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, operated to insert, on that day, a Section 93A into the Electoral Act 2002, which reversed the retrograde trend mentioned above, and to cause Victoria's rule on below-the-line voting to differ markedly from the Senate below-the-line rule, by deeming a ballot-paper to be valid provided that the number of preferences indicated is at least equal to the number of candidates to be elected. Likewise, Section 42 of that Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003, on that day, operated to insert Schedules 1A and 1B into the Electoral Act 2002, which provides for the new form of ballot-paper and introduces, in its Section 74(3B)(b), a novel aspect to the Legislative Council ballot-papers that was specifically recommended by the Constitution Commission above, viz. the printing - to the right of each candidate's name on the ballot-paper - after the name of that candidate's party (if any), the name of the suburb or locality at which that candidate is enrolled.

Three major changes made by the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003 were:

·         the insertion of a Section 114A into Victoria's Electoral Act 2002, which provided for quota-preferential proportional representation counting for Legislative Council polls,

·         changes to Section 27 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 to provide for 8 electoral regions each electing 5 MLCs, and

·         changes to Section 28 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 to provide for the dissolution of the Legislative Council at the same time as the Legislative Assembly.

Most importantly, changes to Section 18 of Victoria's Constitution Act 1975 entrenched the above Sections 27 and 28 (in Subdivision 1 of Division 5 of Part II of that Act) by requiring any alteration to them, or other sections in that Subdivision, or to Section 18 itself, to be approved by a referendum before they can take effect. This was the first time a requirement for a referendum appeared in Victoria's Constitution.

The PRSAV-T wrote to all MLAs and MLCs advocating countback, the Robson Rotation, and the omission of the unfortunate Group Voting Tickets provision, but those aspects did not form part of the Act. The Minister that introduced the Act into the Upper House, the Hon. John Lenders MLC, had met a deputation from the PRSAV-T to discuss those aspects, and the Upper House Opposition Leader acknowledged the PRSAV-T's advocacy to him in his speech (Hansard Page 437) in the House. The first Legislative Council casual vacancy, that of Evan Thornley, who had been directly elected by a quota of votes in Victoria's Southern Metropolitan Region, was filled in 2009 by a Joint Sitting of Victoria's Parliament, using the undemocratic party appointment method, by a person nominated by the Australian Labor Party's National Executive.

Other PRSAV-T Inc. Work: Evidence of PRSA permission to incorporate the Rules for conducting elections by the quota-preferential method from the Society's PR Manual in Schedule 1 of the Health Services (Community Health Centre Elections ) Regulations 2001 appeared as Endnote 1 to those regulations, until those PRSA rules were superseded by a reference to the proportional representation rules in Victoria's Local Government Act 1989.

The PRSAV-T Inc. provides a vote-counting service for organizations, which particularly assists those that conduct proportional representation polls.

Victoria - Local Government: The then Victorian Branch of the PRSA put the case for PR in a 1978 submission to a Victorian Government Board of Review. As proportional representation elections had not been prescribed for public elections in Victoria even a decade later, the forerunners of the Victorian Electoral Commission had no experience with counting quota-preferential proportional representation elections then, so the PRSA's Victorian Branch assisted the officials counting Victoria 's fortuitous (no explicit statute) first PR municipal elections for the then City of Richmond in 1988. When the ALP Government introduced the consolidated Local Government Act 1989, it continued the traditional 3-year term for all councillors, but added the option of triennial general elections to the only option that had previously existed in Victoria, which was periodic elections, where the longest-serving third of the councillors retired annually.

Unfortunately, owing to Coalition amendment in the Legislative Council, the ALP's PR option was omitted, so where a municipality used the general election model, with all three seats in each ward being filled as a group, they were filled by the winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential method that had previously been used only by certain municipalities that had chosen not to be divided into wards. That method had been discredited and superseded for Senate elections in 1948 by quota-preferential proportional representation. That method used to apply in some municipal elections in both New South Wales and the Northern Territory, but it has not applied in either of those places since 2012.

Victorian Liberal MPs have been slower to support PR than their counterparts in other States and the ACT, but in 1995 the Kennett Liberal Government amended the Local Government Act 1989 to prescribe quota-preferential PR election at large for 5 of the 9 seats on Melbourne City Council, which were filled in 1996. PR in the City of Melbourne has since regressed, as the Bracks Labor Government introduced Senate-style Group Voting Tickets there, although PR casual vacancies are now filled by countback. The Kennett Government amended Victoria's Local Government Act 1989 in 1997 to allow some or all councillors in a declared municipality to be elected by PR. The Minister for Local Government was empowered to apply the Melbourne model, or PR for all vacancies, to any other Council. For a time that model was used for the Greater Geelong and Nillumbik Councils.

The PRSAV-T wrote to all of Victoria's Councils in August 2003 advocating Hare-Clark features for the PR system that is now mandatory for all multi-vacancy polls, in place of the previous winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential method. By the Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act 2003, which received Royal Assent in December 2003, the Bracks Labor Government amended the Local Government Act 1989 resulting in its Section 42. That section invokes Schedule 3, Clause 11B of which provides - for any poll where more than one councillor is to be elected for a ward or electorate - that quota-preferential proportional representation shall apply, thus fortunately discontinuing that previous multiple majority-preferential method (identical to the 1919-46 Senate system), which had lingered until its last use at the March 2003 municipal elections, for the 21 municipalities still encumbered with it.

See the example of the 2000 Strathbogie Shire elections in the last year in which that now discredited multiple majority-preferential method was used there, where the candidate with the second highest number of first preference votes was not one of the five candidates elected, but where the candidate with the fewest first preference votes - who would have lost his deposit for failing to obtain at least 4% of first preference votes had he not been elected - was the last candidate elected from the nine standing. By the 2003 elections, Strathbogie Shire had been reconfigured to consist of seven single-councillor wards, but by the 2005 elections two of those wards had been joined to form a sole two-councillor ward, which gave some local indication of the benefits of PR. At the electoral representation review of Strathbogie Shire in 2011, the former Deputy Premier and Nationals leader when the now-abolished former system had been left as the only alternative to a single-councillor ward system made a submission advocating proportional representation in a single undivided electoral district for the Shire, and criticizing the single-councillor ward system.

Countback provisions arise from Section 37A of the Local Government Act 1989, which invokes Schedule 3A, under which countback is to be used to fill casual vacancies following PR polls. Unlike the Tasmanian Electoral Commission website, that for the Victorian Electoral Commission regrettably failed to give more than first preference and final total votes for general elections until the 2012 polls, but since PRSAV-T Inc. asked for the July 2011countback for Melbourne City Council to be detailed on its website, the VEC remedied that oversight and now gives hyperlinks to both its general election and its countback distribution reports.

Single-councillor wards, which can only give winner-take-all results, have not applied in any Australian jurisdiction, except Queensland, until the Kennett Government introduced them for Victoria. Their use in a given municipality is now decided by an utterly ad hoc and rather opaque periodic Representation Review conducted under Sections 219A-219G of the Local Government Act 1989, and requires formal ratification by the Minister for Local Government before it can take effect, but a system like the NSW Constitutional Referendum would be much sounder. The Act regrettably does not require such elementary conditions for electoral parity as each ward being required to have an odd number of councillors, and each ward being required to have the same number of councillors.

The PRSAV-T Inc. has made submissions to most of those reviews. Of Victoria's 79 councils, 18 still have winner-take-all single-councillor wards only, but 40 councils (51%) now use PR in all polls, and the remaining 21 councils have some PR wards. It would be far sounder if a system, for each municipality, of multi-councillor electoral districts, each with an uneven number of councillors, to avoid "stalemate" wards, and the same number of councillors per electoral district (for parity of the quota throughout the municipality), were made standard, without the implausible hotchpotch of inequitable, confusing and shifting arrangements for municipal elections that are now allowed. See the 2010 PRSAV-T Inc. submission to Local Government Victoria on Victoria's present system of Representation Reviews, and its 2013 submission to the Local Government Electoral Review Panel.

A PRSAV-T submission, concerned about the 'dummy candidates' problem peculiar to Victorian municipal elections since postal voting was introduced late last century, supported a draft of what are now Victoria's Local Government (Electoral) Regulations 2005 which - had it been adopted - would have discontinued the circulation, with postal ballot-papers, of indications of candidates' preferences. Unfortunately, that circulation was not discontinued, so a distinctive weakness of Victorian municipal electoral arrangements, which are the provisions in Section 37 and Section 39 of the continuing form of those regulations, that Returning Officers rely upon for their practice of circulating to electors in postal ballots voting preference orders lodged by candidates, remains. It is this practice that seems to have created Victoria's 'dummy candidate' problem. That circulation, at public expense, encourages in Victoria's municipal elections a confusing proliferation of 'dummy candidates', who are people nominated at the behest of more serious candidates, simply to appeal superficially, on account of certain characteristics, such as their appearance or particular hobby horses, to different relatively small groups of uninformed voters, with the intention that they collect a low enough vote to be excluded reasonably early in the count, with the result that their ballots are then transferred to the intended principal beneficiaries, who are those listed later in the preference order that they have lodged, and that has been circulated to voters with their ballot-papers.

Victoria's 'dummy candidates' problem became the subject of press reports in the March 2003 municipal polls when nearly all municipalities' postal ballots were still for single-councillor wards, as the then alternative multiple majority-preferential system for multi-councillor wards was confined to a minority of municipalities, before proportional representation became Victoria's standard system for multi-councillor electoral districts in December 2003, leading to most municipalities using proportional representation by the 2008 elections.

The use of 'dummy candidates' is far less effective in PR polls as, in those polls, ballot papers are first transferred for surpluses of elected candidates, who are usually the highest-polling candidates, whereas if only a single position is being filled, all transfers are from the lowest-polling candidates, who are more likely to be 'dummy candidates'.

Victoria, unlike its three neighbouring States - which have had much longer experience with proportional representation at the State and municipal level - lacks even partial optional preferential voting as Section 20 of the regulations above requires that ballot-papers are not valid unless all consecutive preferences, or all but the last such preference, are marked. The combination of a facility for candidates to have their recommended preference orders circulated for them at public expense, and the statutory requirement that ballots that do not have all preferences marked are invalid, provides a lure that ethical candidates - however reluctant they might be to stand 'dummy candidates' themselves - cannot ignore if they are not to be beaten by opponents that can be counted upon to stand 'dummy candidates' to assist their electoral prospects.

For the City of Melbourne, the City of Melbourne Act 2001 regrettably provides for popular, but indirect, election of the Lord Mayor and of the Deputy Lord Mayor, and segregates candidates for that election from those standing for the remaining Council positions, which are filled with the undesirable Group Voting Ticket system. See the PRSAV-T Inc. submission to a 2007 Elections Process Forum.

The use by Victoria in the 19th Century, and up till 1920, of multiple plurality counting for municipal elections is illustrated by an 1888 report of the results of an election for the Moorabbin Shire, as is its use 124 years later, of quota-preferential proportional representation for the 2012 elections for Bayside City Council, which is a municipality within the area of that former shire, where many of the old councillors' names are commemorated by street names.

For Victorian municipalities other than Melbourne:

·         All regular elections are general elections, on the fourth Saturday in October in every leap year, with nearly all municipalities using postal ballots, except for a small number that have chosen to use attendance voting.

·         There is no requirement for all wards in a particular municipality to have the same number of councillors, so unfortunately election quotas can differ for different wards. Section 5B(1) of the Local Government Act 1989 fixes the number of councillors in a council in Australia's narrowest range, from 5 to 12.

·         There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to many councils lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.

·         There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils can unfortunately have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, as 29 of Victoria's 79 councils (37%) had in 2008.

·     Unlike any other Australian State's municipal elections, an unnecessary, and often onerous, full marking of all preferences is required for a ballot-paper to be valid. The absence of optional preferential voting, or partial optional preferntial voting, encourages the problem, peculiar to Victoria, of the nomination of many "dummy candidates" in single-councillor wards, and leaves the percentage of informal votes higher than it need be. The notorious proliferation of "dummy candidates" is also greatly facilitated by Victoria's unique practice of inclusion of candidates' recommended preference orders with the ballot-paper posted to voters for each candidate that submits such a list. The combination of these two features, which is unique to Victoria, creates an arrangement where some serious candidates procure "dummy candidates", who are not seriously trying to be elected, to appeal to a certain section of the electorate that would not normally vote for the serious candidate in question, but could be expected to vote for the "dummy", and be likely, as many voters are, to slavishly follow the "dummy's" recommended order of preferences. The result of the exercise is that the "dummy" is excluded early in the count, thus giving his or her procurer votes transferred at that exclusion. Once the practice begins, the pressure to be elected convinces most serious candidates that they, too, need to procure a "dummy", even though they would rather not. The recommended preference orders circulated with the ballot papers have something of the same corrupting effect as the Group Voting Ticket device imposed for Senate elections.

·         Casual vacancies are filled by countback, except for single-councillor wards, or where there are no continuing candidates, in which by-election polls are held.

·        Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling donkey votes or organized how-to-vote cards. Instead, the order of candidates' names is set by lot, together with - except for the City of Melbourne - direct election free of Group Voting Tickets.

·     The Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected by the Council, except for the City of Melbourne and the City of Greater Geelong. In the City of Melbourne, they are popularly elected, but indirectly as a team, but that Melbourne arrangement unfortunately lacks Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor and Deputy to not only be popularly elected by separate concurrent ballots, but to also succeed at the election of councillors if they are not to be excluded in the counts of the elections for Mayor and Deputy, which are, in the Tasmanian system, undertaken after the count for the election of councillors has been concluded. That important democratic provision avoids diminishing overall proportionality in the election of all those that will ultimately sit on the Council, and depriving electors of the chance to elect as a councillor a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor or Deputy ahead of a less preferred candidate that is standing for a councillor position only. Candidates for Melbourne's Lord Mayor and Deputy cannot, as in Tasmania, stand for the concurrent election for councillors. In the City of Greater Geelong, the Mayor is directly elected by the voters, but cannot, as in Tasmania, stand for the concurrent election for councillors; and an elected councillor is elected as Deputy Mayor by the Council.

·      Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of Victorian councils or their committees has, by statute, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his or her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors, as well as distorting the representation of voters.

·         Deficiencies in the above arrangements result in a miscellaneous collection of electoral combinations with little overall rationale, where 50 of Victoria's 79 municipalities in 2008 used PR in multi-councillor electoral districts exclusively, with only 37 of those avoiding districts with an even number of councillors to be elected, but 14 other municipalities used a mixture of multi-councillor and single-councillor districts, and 15 others used exclusively single-councillor districts, leading to unnecessary institutionalized electoral inequities and injustice.

 

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NEW SOUTH WALES - PARLIAMENT: A New South Wales Proportional Representation Society began in 1913, following the replacement of plurality counting in NSW Assembly polls in single-member electoral districts by a second ballot system for the 1910, 1913 and 1917 polls. Proportional representation, promoted by that forerunner of the present NSW Branch of the PRSA, and introduced by a 1918 Act, was used for Legislative Assembly polls in 1920 (won by Labor), 1922 (won by a non-Labor Coalition), and 1925 (won by Labor, under Jack Lang). The first Lang Labor Government repealed the proportional representation provisions in its first term (1925-27), but lost the ensuing 1927 election, which was held on the system of single-member electoral districts with fully optional preferential voting that it had introduced in Section 8(10) of a 1926 Act. Criticisms of that particular proportional representation system included its failure to make satisfactory provision, such as countback, for filling casual vacancies, and the high percentage of exhausted votes that occurred and were attributed to the initial provision for fully optional marking of preferences, which was later changed to partial marking of preferences, with a resulting marked lowering of the percentage of exhausted votes.

A requirement that all preferences be marked for a valid vote was first introduced by a non-Labor Coalition by Section 28 of a 1928 Act. That took effect for the 1930 Assembly elections, and remained until Labor re-introduced fully optional preferential voting for the 1981 elections.

Legislative Council of NSW elected by PR: The first NSW Legislative Council had all of its members appointed by the Governor-in-Council. It became part of a bicameral NSW Parliament, from 1856 to 1933, which was reconstituted, by a 1933 referendum, to be indirectly elected by an electoral college of MPs, whereby the third of that Council's seats that became vacant at each Assembly election were elected by PR by an electoral college of all MLAs and the continuing MLCs. The Heffron ALP Government's attempt to abolish the Legislative Council, and prohibit its restoration, was defeated at a 1961 referendum.

The PRSA's NSW Branch influenced the Wran Government away from [4] a party list system of PR towards the present direct election by a quota-preferential system (albeit marred by the imposition of a Group Voting Tickets device) when that Government introduced a Bill for direct popular voting for the Legislative Council, which was approved at a 1978 referendum. The NSW Parliamentary Elections and Electorates Act 1912 governs NSW State elections. The NSW Constitution Act 1902 entrenches a referendum requirement before a bill or bills that the Legislative Council fails to pass can, notwithstanding such a failure to pass the bill or bills, become law; and also before prescribed changes to either or both of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, including abolition, can become law, although there is no express entrenchment of the sections that prescribe such referendums.

Changes in the NSW Legislative Council electoral system: Exploitation of the weaknesses of the Group Voting Tickets device referred to above reached such a level at the 1999 election that an enormous 720 x 1010 mm "tablecloth" ballot-paper was used for the State-wide electoral district. Retrograde changes to supposedly overcome those weaknesses, including the imposition of a "threshold" of the type being proposed for Senate elections by a NSW Liberal senator, were proposed by the then NSW Treasurer, but fortunately neither of those ill-considered proposals went any further. Legislative changes made another "tablecloth" ballot-paper less likely at the 2003 elections, and included modifying Group Voting Tickets so that they could only relate to the candidates of the party lodging them, and allowing voters to mark preferences in the boxes above-the-line to enable transfers to take effect in that way.

Other PRSA(NSW) Work: Since 1984, the Branch has assisted in the incorporation of quota-preferential PR (the Single Transferable Vote) in Schedule 2 to the Constitution of the University of Sydney Students' Representative Council. As a result of the Branch's advice a By-law of Macquarie University (See Clause 9(7) of Schedule 1 of By-law 2005 of Macquarie University) specifies the use of the Society's PR Manual for PR elections to the Council of that University.

PRSA(NSW) Vice-Presidents, Andrew Gunter and Edwin Haber, were 2 of the 20 candidates elected for NSW at a national postal ballot, to Australia's 1998 Constitutional Convention. Entrenching proportional representation in the Australian Constitution was raised by Ted Mack (Page 44 on 1998-02-02) and by Edwin Haber (Pages 252-254 on 1998-02-04 and Pages 368-369 on 1998-02-05) at that forum, but without success.

New South Wales - Local Government: In 1928 the Council of the then City of Armidale in north-eastern NSW became the first municipal council in NSW to be elected by quota-preferential proportional representation as a result of a local referendum to adopt it. What is now the PRSA's NSW Branch helped NSW to become the first State in Australia to have PR as its predominant electoral system for local government, which the Cahill ALP Government began in 1953. In 1968, the Askin Liberal Government had reverted to a "winner-take-all" system for all councils, but the PR option was restored by the Wran ALP Government in 1976.

PR is one of the two electoral systems in Section 285 of the Local Government Act 1993. The detail of the PR used appears in Schedule 5 of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2009, which shows that the transfer of surpluses still takes place by the primitive random sampling method that was discontinued for Senate elections in 1983. Quota-preferential PR used to apply only where more than 2 councillors are to be elected from an electoral district but, since April 2012, an amendment by the O'Farrell Liberal Government has extended it to all cases except single-councillor wards. The official term for the alternative system is "optional preferential", but that is a confusing term, as the other option of quota-preferential PR is also an optional preferential system. That system, where only one, and formerly two, councillors are to be elected from a ward or district, is a preferential winner-take-all system.

In 2008, 139 councils used PR, compared with only 13 councils using the then available multiple majority-preferential winner-take-all system for any polls they had, as they had wards with fewer than 3 councillors. When 2 councillors were to be elected in a ward, that system - which is the same system that the Chifley ALP Government, with the support of the Opposition led by Robert Menzies, discontinued for Senate elections in favour of the present quota-preferential PR system in 1948 - usually results in both vacancies being filled by the same bare majority of voters, even where the second candidate elected gains a much lower first preference vote than the strongest-polling unelected candidate. For more details, see the third dot point below.

The systems, neither of which uses Robson Rotation, appear in NSW Local Government (General) Regulation 2005, Schedule 4 [majority-preferential winner-take-all] and Schedule 5 [quota-preferential PR]. The first of those systems is termed "optional preferential" in the regulation, which is confusing, because the PR option is also an "optional preferential" voting system. The PR option unfortunately does not fill casual vacancies by countback. It is good that partial optional preferential voting applies, but NSW regressed when it introduced Group Voting Tickets into local government in Australia. Unlike the lopsided ward representations allowed in Victoria and SA, the number of councillors per ward must be identical for a given council, but there is unfortunately no requirement for the number of councillors in the electoral districts to be an odd number.

A flexible and reasonably democratic feature in NSW is the requirement for a council to hold a municipal Constitutional Referendum, under Sections 15, 16 and 17 of the Act, to enable certain aspects of a municipality, such as the number of councillors or wards, and hence the electoral system, to be changed, but the electors have no ability to initiate such a referendum, so a council that is one of the few councils to have a winner-take-all rather than a PR electoral system is unlikely to move for a change to its status. If electors wish to initiate a change, they have to elect a majority of councillors supporting such a change, which is possible if there is enough support for a change. View the worksheet here that shows the details and results of the Constitutional Referendums held in 16 municipalities in 2008.

For New South Wales municipal elections:

·         All regular elections are general elections, on the second Saturday in October in every leap year. Attendance voting is the standard procedure, but electors may apply for a postal ballot instead.

·         Section 210 of the Local Government Act 1993 requires that for all wards in a given municipality divided into wards the number of electors per ward must not differ by more than 10 per cent, so for a given municipality all wards must have the same number of councillors. Fortunately election quotas are thus essentially equal for all its councillors. Section 224 of the Act fixes the number of councillors in a council in a range from 5 to 15.

·         All but 13 of the 152 municipalities in NSW had 3 or more councillors per electoral district for the 2008 polls, in which case PR elections applied, but those remaining thirteen municipalities each had provision for only two councillors per district - in which case the multiple majority-preferential winner-take-all electoral system, which could easily result in one-party, group, or school of thought gaining all, or nearly all, of the available seats - applied, examples being Wollongong Council, where corruption led to the councillors being replaced by administrators, and Botany Bay Council, whose Mayor and all six other councillors belonged to the same political party in 2008, the Australian Labor Party, which had all seven councillors elected unopposed. As at 2012, six of Botany Bay Council's seven councillors had first been elected 15 or more years ago, with the Mayor having been first elected 31 years ago. Botany Bay Council's exclusionary winner-take-all regime has been defensively protected by the Council's changing from its previous two-councillor ward system, which would, since April 2012, be counted by PR, to a single-councillor ward system. In 2008, only 8 of the 138 PR councils in NSW that held elections (just 6%) had some unopposed elections, whereas eight of the eleven non-PR councils that held elections (73%) had some unopposed elections. Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils will hold elections again in 2012, but they will use proportional representation instead of the previous winner-take-all system, as will all councils, except those such as Botany Bay Council, which expediently reconfigured its electoral arrangements ahead of the 2012 elections.

·         There is no requirement for the number of positions being filled as a group to be an odd number, which leads to some councils lacking the maximizing of the fairness of PR systems that use of an odd number entails.

·         There is no minimum number of councillors per ward, so councils could have one or more winner-take-all single-councillor wards, although few are used at present, and it would appear to be an option that would win little support at a referendum.

·         Partial optional preferential voting applies, where the number of preferences to be marked must not be less than the number of candidates to be elected.

·         Casual vacancies are unfortunately not filled by countback, but by by-election polls.

·         Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates' names being set by lot, together with - for all proportional representation polls - the use of a Group Voting Tickets option, which detracts from the ideal of direct election of candidates.

·         The Mayor can either be elected by the Council, as in most councils, or by a separate, but concurrent popular election. A person can stand for the position of Mayor and also for that of a councillor, and if elected Mayor, his or her votes in the election for councillors pass on to the next available preference of those that voted for him or her. Unfortunately Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors does not apply, thus diminishing overall proportionality, as the Mayor's seat on the council does not depend, as it does in Tasmania, on his or her receiving the same quota of votes, on the same basis, as every other councillor.

·         Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of NSW councils or their committees has, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors.

·         Deficiencies in the above arrangements, including the use of electoral districts unfortunately returning an even number of candidates, result in a less than ideal pattern overall, but nearly all councils are elected with PR, with the main deficiency being that, instead of Robson Rotation applying to enhance electors' role in themselves participating in the choice of which of a party's candidates become elected, all PR municipal elections in NSW have imposed on them a Group Voting Ticket option, which is the aspect that greatly facilitates the domination of political party organizations in the decision of who is ultimately elected from a party.

 

 

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WESTERN AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:  A  “Proportional Representation Society of Western Australia” was formed in 1913, with Hon. Douglas Gawler MLC as its President, and Mr Frederick J Esmond as its Hon. Secretary, but it would appear that the onset of the First World War led to its early demise. The PRSA's WA Branch (Electoral Reform Society of Western Australia Inc.) was established in the latter part of the 20th Century. It promoted the 1987 law for Senate-style PR for the Legislative Council. An ERSWA member, Hon. Ed Dermer MLC, spoke of its work, and that of one of its founders, the late Roland Stephens, in his inaugural speech on 12th March 1997 to the WA Legislative Council. The paper, Proportional Representation in Western Australia, details much of WA's PR history.

Fortunately now, Section 156 of Western Australia's Electoral Act 1907 provides, to fill casual vacancies, that a recount of the ballot papers at the original election is conducted, with a savings provision that continuing MLCs are not to be displaced. This is the result of an excellent alteration of Western Australia's Constitution Act 1889 by the Government of Sir Charles Court in 1978. Its Part VII Section 73(2)(c), alterable only by referendum, requires all WA MPs to be directly chosen by the people. Australia's other States and Territories lack such a provision and, unlike Sections 7 and 24 of the Commonwealth Constitution, it also applies to the filling of casual vacancies.

Mr Jack Wright, PRSA National President, was keynote speaker at the WA Government's 1984 Parliament Week seminar. The unfortunate Unweighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer provision for the Legislative Council, which replicated the present Senate system, was after Dr Narelle Miragliotta's 2002 monograph commissioned by the WA Electoral Commission, replaced in 2006 with the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Transfer provision in Schedule 1 of Western Australia's Electoral Act 1907.

Western Australia - Local Government: Richard Court's Coalition Government replaced the preferential system used for local government with the primitive plurality procedure, in both its single and multiple form, which ran counter to enlightened electoral systems for Australian local government that began in South Australia in 1840. The 1995 Act, whose Schedule 4.1 provides for plurality counting, did not prohibit "plumping", nor did the Regulation 35 of Part 7 of the then Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.

The PRSA's WA Branch campaigned for the replacement of this anomalous plurality throwback by a quota-preferential proportional representation system. In 2006 the then WA Government introduced a Bill for that purpose. A hostile and negative campaign by the Western Australian Local Government Association resulted in that bill being referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny, but the bill was enacted in 2007. Regulation 35 of WA's Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997 then required the full marking of preferences for a vote to be valid.

The WA Local Government Association continued its campaign against that excellent new quota-preferential proportional representation system then provided for in Schedule 4.1 of WA's Local Government Act 1995. The WA Liberal Government announced that it would legislate to revert to the previous crude plurality procedure to take effect for the October 2009 municipal polls, and it did so via a 2009 Act.

For Western Australian municipal elections:

·         WA holds municipal elections for as nearly as practicable half the councillors on the third Saturday in October in every odd-numbered year. Some councils use attendance voting, whereas others use postal voting.

 

·         The number of councillors in a council is fixed by vice-regal proclamation.

 

·         Schedule 4.1 of the Local Government Act 1995 now unfortunately prescribes a plurality procedure for the filling of both single and multiple positions on councils in WA, but plumping by voters is permitted.

 

·         Municipalities in WA may be undivided or may be divided into wards.

 

·         Mayors and presiding officers at a meeting have both a deliberative and a casting vote, under Section 5.21 of WA's Local Government Act 1995.

 

·         The system to elect the Mayor or President of a municipality may be either by councillors, or by electors. The latter may requisition a referendum on that.

 

 

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QUEENSLAND - PARLIAMENT:  Queensland - the first State to change from the defective plurality procedure in its single-member electoral districts, (in 1892 it adopted a system called "contingent voting") - reverted to that procedure from 1942 until 1962, when the majority-preferential method (alternative vote), with a requirement for full marking of all preferences began. In the late 1980s, a major judicial inquiry (FitzGerald), led to malapportionment of electoral districts being greatly reduced, but the PRSA's former Queensland Branch had steadfastly warned that equal enrolments will, by definition, stop malapportionment, but will not prevent gerrymanders, either accidental or intentional. Marking of preferences became fully optional in 1992.

Electoral Legislation: The electoral provisions for Queensland's unicameral Parliament are in Queensland's Electoral Act 1992. The former PRSA Branch sought the re-introduction of an Upper House, elected by PR. The former Upper House was abolished by the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1922. It was not until twelve years later that the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1934 amended the Constitution Act 1867 (which still operates concurrently with the Constitution of Queensland 2001) to entrench that abolition, so that approval at a referendum is required before any Bill to restore an Upper House, or to extend the term of the Legislative Assembly beyond three years, could take effect.

 

Queensland - Local Government:  The Local Government Electoral Act 2011 provides two methods for voting and counting, depending on whether the municipality is divided into separate electoral districts, or is undivided. In single-councillor electoral districts, known as wards, which are usually found in urban or near-urban areas, fully optional preferential counting applies. Attendance voting is the standard procedure, but electors may apply for a postal ballot instead.

For multi-member electoral districts, which are found typically in rural areas, the highly unsatisfactory multiple first-past-the-post procedure that was abandoned for Senate elections in 1919 applies, except that plumping is allowed, and that Section 87(5) of the Act, as detailed below, makes rather unusual and deceptive provisions that require the voter's marks in ballot-paper squares to include sequential numbers, which can give voters the false impression that their ballots might be counted using one of Australia's normal preferential counting systems. The Act requires that voters mark a number of squares equal to the number of vacancies to be filled, but it also provides that any numbers marked beyond the sequence required will be disregarded, without that rendering the ballot informal. Certain unions also use this surreptitious variant.

There is no provision for PR in Queensland municipal elections. Parliament in 2010 resolved to refer its possible introduction to a parliamentary inquiry, but the Inquiry did not recommend PR.

For Queensland municipal elections:

·         All regular elections are general elections, on the last Saturday in March in every leap year. Access details and results here.

·         Section 285 of the Local Government Act 1993 requires that for all wards in a given municipality divided into wards the number of electors per ward must not differ by more than a defined percentage, so for a given municipality all wards must have the same number of councillors, and fortunately election quotas are thus relatively equal for all its councillors.

·         The number of councillors for a municipality is five unless a regulation requires otherwise for that municipality. Wards are winner-take-all single-councillor wards.

·         Section 65 of the Local Government Elections Act 2011 prescribes the two different counting methods used. Fully optional preferential voting applies for polls in municipalities with single-councillor wards, where a single, unique first preference constitutes a valid ballot-paper. For municipalities with multi-councillor electoral districts, the unsatisfactory multiple first-past-the-post system applies.

·         Plumping is allowed, but the law requires, unlike nearly all plurality systems, that all preferences after the first, which can be marked with a tick, a cross or the number 1, must be marked as consecutive numbers 2, 3, etc. The law provides that if the number of marks exceeds the number of positions to be filled, the preference numbers marked beyond the number of vacancies to be filled are disregarded. Despite an order of preference having to be marked, as in normal public polls in Australia, which have used preferential voting and counting since the 1920s, that order as such is disregarded in the count, as the highest number marked and recognized, up to the number of vacancies to be filled, counts equally with the lowest number marked and recognized.

·         Allowing voters to mark preference numbers when the counting system treats a defined number of those markings as each carrying equal weight and significance, with preferences marked beyond the number of vacancies to be filled being disregarded, appears to be deceiving voters into believing that the counting is preferential, when it is not. That apparent subterfuge succeeds in overcoming what has always been a major difficulty with the multiple first-past-the-post system, namely avoiding the tendency for many voters to vote for more than the number of candidates to be elected, and thus to cast invalid votes.

·         Casual vacancies are filled by by-election polls.

·          Robson Rotation in ballot-paper layout is not provided for where preferential voting applies, thus unfortunately not forestalling "donkey votes" or organized "how-to-vote" cards, with the order of candidates' names being set by lot, but fortunately a Group Voting Tickets option, which detracts from the ideal of direct election of candidates, does not apply.

·         The Mayor is elected by a separate, but concurrent popular election. Unfortunately Tasmania's requirement for the popularly-elected Mayor to also succeed at the election of councillors does not apply thus depriving electors of the chance to elect a good, but unsuccessful, candidate for Mayor ahead of a less preferred candidate as a councillor, as candidates for Mayor cannot, as they can in Tasmania, stand for both concurrent elections.

·         Unlike South Australia and Tasmania, and common law and Westminster parliamentary usage, the presiding officer at meetings of Queensland councils or their committees has, if there is a tied vote, a casting vote in addition to his her deliberative vote, so tied votes, which are more likely if the total number of councillors is even, are overridden by that officer undemocratically having that additional vote, which he or she may use as he or she sees fit. Tied votes should be simply lost, but the double vote device places an unnecessary constraint on having an even number of councillors.

 

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AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY - LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY:  The electoral system used for the first self-government election, in 1989, instituted by the then Labor Federal Government, was a modified party list form of proportional representation called the Modified d'Hondt system.

The modified d'Hondt system was a highly unsatisfactory system that was widely ridiculed and regarded as unfair. Its last use was at the 1992 election, as the Hawke Federal Government had acknowledged its failure, and had decided, as its preference for 17 single-member electorates was blocked by the Senate's preference for Hare-Clark, to have the matter resolved by holding a plebiscite in conjunction with the election to enable ACT electors to indicate which of two alternative replacement systems they preferred for future ACT polls.

That 1992 Australian Capital Territory plebiscite (the informative brochure all electors received is accessible from that hyperlink), which was officially, but misleadingly, described as a referendum, had 65% of voters favouring a Hare-Clark form of PR over the alternative of 17 single-member electorates. The Labor Party, which regularly receives a majority of ACT votes at Federal elections, campaigned for 17 single-member electorates, but the Liberal Party and the Australian Democrats Party campaigned for Hare-Clark.

A 16-1 Assembly vote in December then passed the Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Bill 1994. Approved by 65% of ACT voters at a 1995 referendum (the informative brochure all electors received is accessible from that hyperlink) where the PRSA(ACT) campaigned strongly, the resulting Act prohibits the Assembly making changes to the major Hare-Clark aspects of the electoral law without a two-thirds Assembly majority or a referendum.

ACT - Local Government: As there is no separate system of local government in the ACT, the functions of local government are carried out by the ACT Assembly and the ACT Government.

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NORTHERN TERRITORY OF AUSTRALIA - LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY: The Electoral Act of the Northern Territory specifies preferential voting in the single-member districts prescribed by Section 13(4) of the Commonwealth's Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (which is effectively the Territory's Constitution), and also specifies a requirement for voters to indicate all preferences. The ballot-papers have, for Australia, the novel requirement that a photograph of the candidate must be printed against the name of each candidate, and a requirement, superseded elsewhere in Australia, that names be listed in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper. At the first election of the Northern Territory’s Legislative Assembly, in 1974, before self-government, the Australian Labor Party won none of the 17 seats available, despite – over the NT as a whole – having gained more than 30% of the first preference vote. As NT Electoral Commission figures show, a huge imbalance between seats and votes still occurred at the 2005 NT elections.

Northern Territory - Local Government: Local government elections in the Northern Territory are held under Schedule 1 of the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations. Until 2011, these prescribed a winner-take-all majority-preferential system if there was only one seat per electorate, but where there was more than one seat per electoral district, it prescribed a winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential system, of the type that became discredited, and was abandoned for Senate elections in 1948. Fortunately that multiple system has now been replaced by a quota-preferential proportional representation electoral system, which was first used in the municipal elections held in March 2012.

View the 2008 count for Alice Springs Town Council aldermen to see how, with that now superseded system, the successive re-use of the same ballots that elected the early winners allowed the last candidate elected to win despite stronger support for other, unelected candidates. Compare that with the very much fairer 2012 count using quota-preferential proportional representation.


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TERRITORY OF NORFOLK ISLAND - LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY:  Section 20 of the Legislative Assembly Act 1979 of Norfolk Island now prescribes, for the election of the Territory's 9-member Legislative Assembly by a single Territory-wide electoral district, cumulative voting, which is a crude, inferior procedure that was used in Cape Colony (South Africa) in the 19th Century, and by the U.S. State of Illinois from 1870 to 1980, until Illinois's only constitutional change ever effected by a citizen-initiated referendum replaced it in 1980 with the even worse 'first-past-the-post' system that all the other U.S. States use. Unfortunately a 1982 Norfolk Island referendum substituted cumulative voting for the earlier Hare-Clark PR used for the first two elections under that Act. Each voter must mark 9 crosses on the ballot-paper, each of equal value, and can mark an arbitrarily prescribed maximum of 4 for any one candidate.

As it uses non-preferential, non-transferable ballots, votes are wasted by some candidates receiving more than a Single Transferable Vote PR quota, and others receiving less, with no procedure for transferring such votes to contribute to a quota. The Government's website sometimes shows voting figures, such as the 2001 results, which showed that at that poll (at others it could be worse), 36.5% of the 9,243 votes on the 1,027 valid ballot-papers completed by the Territory's voters made no contribution to electing anybody, but with STV (quota-preferential) PR, in this case of 9 vacancies being filled by the votes of one electorate, the wasted fraction of the votes would be only 9.9%, and never more.

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Introduction.

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA - PARLIAMENT:


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Tom Roberts's painting
of the Opening of the First Parliament hangs in the Federal Parliament building in Canberra on permanent loan from HM the Queen.

 

Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament: Members in both Houses of the first Commonwealth Parliament (1901-03), which is shown above at its opening on the 19th May 1901 by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V), had been elected by the systems for the Lower Houses of the Parliament in their State (see Sections 9, 10 & 31 of the Australian Constitution). Quick and Garran's "Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth" gives background on the Constitution.

Thus Tasmania's first 5 MHRs and 6 senators were elected by Hare-Clark from a single state-wide electoral district. Queensland used its contingent voting, which was a limited form of preferential voting, in single-member electoral districts. All other States used plurality (relative majority) voting; MHRs from single-member electoral districts, with boundaries fixed by the State Governments, except South Australia, which used a single State-wide electorate to elect its 7 MHRs as a group.

Each mainland State elected its 6 original senators as a group with the whole State as one electorate, using a multiple first-past-the-post voting system where plumping was not allowed. A complete list of all the people ever elected to the Commonwealth Parliament, and all Federal Ministers that have held office, appears in the latest Parliamentary Handbook.

Tasmania's first federal by-election, in 1902 - to replace an MHR that had died - had the whole State voting as a single electorate, despite that method of filling a casual vacancy being inconsistent with the Hare-Clark principle used in the 1901 General Election, as the Federal Parliament had not yet used Section 31 of the Constitution to pass an Electoral Act.

First attempt at proportional representation for the Senate: The House of Representatives passed the Barton Government's Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1902, which specified preferential voting in single-member electoral districts for the House of Representatives, and quota-preferential PR for Senate elections with each State as one electorate, with fully optional preference marking applying for both houses, but the Senate replaced its proposals for preferential voting with plurality voting for both houses. Citizens of internal territories did not vote in Senate elections until 1975, after the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 was amended to allow that.

That intended form of PR was the only form that would satisfy the requirement of Section 7 of the Constitution that senators "be directly chosen by the people", but the Senate, which had, except for the senators for Tasmania, been elected by a first past the post (plurality) multiple vote, amended the Bill (see the Hansard debate on that 1902 Bill) to substitute that system, with plumping being made unavailable. See the Australian Electoral Commission's summary of the history of the federal electoral system. See a summary of all federal elections up until 2010.

1. Full Marking of All Preferences, Partial Optional Preference Marking, or Fully Optional Preference Marking:
The 1901 election of the six senators for NSW gave a dramatic early warning about the need to make ballot-papers and their use comfortably manageable by a wide range of voters, as 38,674 voters (up to 17.5% of the ballots cast) cast informal (invalid) ballots because, with 50 candidates, and with only 6 senators to be elected, many voters failed to strike out exactly 44 names of the candidates they did not want, as was the law for NSW colonial polls in small single-member electorates, which law (see Section 85 of the NSW Parliamentary Elections and Electorates Act 1893), as a consequence of Section 10 of the Commonwealth Constitution, applied for the first NSW Senate poll. That law did not apply to later polls, where voters had the much easier, and far less error-prone, task of indicating the candidates - equal in number to the number of places to be filled - that they were voting for. That unavailability of plumping, which nevertheless continued under Section 150 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902, required that a voter still had to indicate a vote for the same number of candidates as there were vacancies, in order for the completed ballot-paper to be accepted as valid.

The use of plumping, in which voters in multi-member electorates could, under earlier first past the post multiple votes systems, which are still the common law voting system, vote for fewer candidates than there were vacancies, and hence concentrate their vote on fewer candidates, even just one, had in certain earlier colonial and, as has been reverted to on the Isle of Man, allowed some rudimentary proportionality, as did the 1925-94 Japanese Lower House system of multi-member districts with a Single Non-transferable Vote. The method of indicating an Australian Senate vote from 1902-17 was, unlike the 1901 poll, the placing of a cross (X) against the name of each candidate voted for. The 1917 periodic Senate election, in which W.M. Hughes's Nationalist Party won all Senate seats in all States, was the last time the first past the post multiple vote was used for Senate elections.

NSW Senator Hon. Albert Gardiner was an advocate of proportional representation for Senate elections. As the prevailing winner-take-all plurality electoral system had resulted in the Nationalist Party gaining in 1917 all the 18 Senate seats to be filled and, in 1919 under its replacement - the new winner-take-all multiple majority-preferential system - 17 of the 18 seats (Albert Gardiner was the only Labor candidate elected), to be filled for the whole of Australia, he was the only Labor senator in the 36-member Senate from 01 July 1920 until 30 June 1923. He held the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, even though he had no party colleagues to lead. His solitary position, despite Labor's having gained 43.7% of the national Senate vote in 1917, and 42.8% in 1919, was a stark testament for the need for proportional representation.

Senator Hon. Albert Gardiner made a 12 hour speech in the Senate on 13 November 1918 in protest at W.M.Hughes's Nationalist Government's seeking to suspend standing orders - after the Governor-General had issued his writ for the impending Corangamite by-election - in order to have passed before the poll the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, which replaced the plurality counting in House of Representatives elections with preferential counting. It remains the longest speech ever made in Australia's Senate, as time limits that fixed a time limit for speeches were imposed in 1919. It resulted in the seat of Corangamite being won by a Victorian Farmers Union candidate instead of by the ALP's James Scullin, who had won only 42.5% of the vote, and who had been the incumbent for 1910-13, with 54.7% of the vote.

That important Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 , which, in its current amended and consolidated form, is still the Principal Act for federal elections, changed the electoral system for MHRs from a first past the post system to its present majority-preferential system, but the Senate system was not changed until the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1919 replaced the previous multiple first past the post system (see 1917 NSW example) with a multiple majority-preferential system (see 1919 NSW example). It also provided that, to cast a valid vote, voters had to indicate preferences for a number of candidates equal to one more than twice the number of vacancies to be filled.

The Lyons United Australia Party Government introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1934, whose Sections 8-10 and 13 began what many now see to be an oppressive and ridiculously unnecessary requirement that, to cast a valid vote, a voter in an election in a multi-member electorate must indicate a preference for each of the candidates, regardless of how many there might be. When the Chifley ALP Government introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948 to change the Senate electoral system from a multiple majority-preferential system to a quota-preferential system, it insisted on continuing that provision despite it being imposed on a PR system, which is a very different system from the multiple majority-preferential system to which the provision was originally applied, and despite the proven success of Hare-Clark's partial optional preferential voting Tasmania-wide since 1907.

The Menzies Coalition Opposition unsuccessfully moved to amend the 1948 Bill to provide instead for partial optional marking of preferences, but the Chifley ALP Government insisted that a voter must mark all preferences on a ballot-paper for it to be valid. The Whitlam ALP Government proposed partial optional marking of preferences in its Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 1974, which the Senate twice rejected, and later in its Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1975, but its lack of a Senate majority prevented it legislating for that, as the Coalition had, since 1948, changed its view on the matter. It is ironic that the PR system in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1902 introduced by the Barton Government, and rejected by the 1902 Senate, had provided for fully optional marking of preferences. The statutory requirement to mark all preferences for a valid vote, which has never applied in Tasmanian State elections, has given rise, in mainland Australia, to the widespread use by political parties of how-to-vote cards.

The 2013 Senate election, for which there were a record 110 candidates in New South Wales, and in which all States had a quota of votes (16.7%) where voters placed candidates of the parties represented in the Parliament below other candidates, led to calls for changing the virtually full preferential voting system used for Senate elections to a system of optional preferential voting, as discussed in a paper by Michael Maley.

2. Senate's 2 former Winner-take-all Electoral Systems (1903-17 & 1919-46) & Proportional Representation (1949- ):

  • From 1903-17 the multiple, or bloc, first past the post (also known as plurality or relative majority) vote, was the Senate system, as the Senate in 1902 had, as stated at the end of the previous section, rejected the Barton Government's proposal for proportional representation for the Senate, and had provided instead for that multiple plurality (first-past-the post) system with plumping prohibited.

  • In 1919, the Senate's multiple first-past-the-post system gave way to a multiple, or bloc, majority-preferential system after William Hughes's Nationalist Government had introduced, in 1918, preferential voting for the House of Representatives, to avoid splitting of the conservative vote by the newly-formed Country Party, which supported the Nationalists in a Coalition government. Since then, the Coalition, in its various forms, has been the only governing group, other than the Australian Labor Party, in the Federal Parliament, and it has been the Government for most of that time. The 1929 Royal Commission on the Constitution [5], whose members were appointed on the advice of S.M.Bruce's Nationalist Government, recommended an experimental inclusion of PR in the Constitution, but that was not implemented.

  • By 1948, the decades of operation of those two systems showed that they filled Senate seats so grossly disproportionately to votes that Parliament in that year replaced the Senate's multiple preferential system with the present quota-preferential proportional representation (PR) system. The Opposition supported the change.

The Proportional Representation Society of Victoria held a Melbourne Town Hall meeting in October 1943 (see Uhr, J Page 18), which resolved to urge the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. John Curtin MHR, to introduce PR for the Senate. That Society sent a letter to the Prime Minister and received his reply.

A volume of the 1948 Hansard [6] records on 16, and 29 April 1948 the Attorney-General, Rt. Hon. H V Evatt KC, introducing his Bill that was passed as the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1948, which amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to provide for PR for the Senate, and acknowledging the help of 'the Proportional Representation Society of England'. The second reading of the Bill in the Senate was on 30 April 1948. A 1948 letter from the Proportional Representation Society of Victoria congratulated the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. J B Chifley, on the Bill that introduced PR. The Bill was not opposed by the Opposition, led by the Rt. Hon. R G Menzies KC, except that they did, unsuccessfully, move that the Bill's continuation of the existing requirement for full marking of all preferences other than the last preference in order for a ballot-paper to be valid be altered to provide for partial optional preferential voting.

Since then, the PRSA has monitored the Senate system - the world's largest scale quota-preferential PR election. PR is the longest operating electoral system used for Senate elections. The PRSA has monitored other Australian elections also. Regrettably there is no constitutional or other entrenchment requiring approval at a referendum, or even an absolute majority vote in both houses of Parliament, before the Senate's PR system can be weakened or abolished.

3. Casual Vacancies Setback: Senator Peter Rae, and some other Tasmanian senators that had a good understanding of the Hare-Clark system and its countback procedure for filling casual vacancies in a PR system, agreed with the PRSA that the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill 1977, in ostensibly seeking to improve the original form of Section 15 of the Constitution, which provided for the filling of Senate casual vacancies, should have, to make it consistent with the PR system used since 1949, used countback, rather than the system of appointment on the nomination of the party organization that replaced that original 1901 provision. They urged that replacement senators should be elected by the people via countback and not, as proposed in the Bill, by the Constitution requiring State Parliaments to endorse the nominees of political parties.

The Minister's second reading speech on the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill 1977, was not read, but just taken as read. It can be read here. In the Bill's rushed, hushed, very cursory passage, a Call of the Senate was denied. Eight senators, seven of whom were Government senators; Sir Magnus Cormack, Ian Wood, Kathryn Martin, Peter Sim, including four Tasmanian senators - Brian Harradine, Michael Townley, Peter Rae and Reginald Wright - voted against it. Senator Wright, as he then was, stressed, in the 90 seconds he was allowed to speak, the need for a recount system of the original votes rather than party appointment.

Use of countback would have ensured direct election of all replacement senators, but those senators' advocacy failed to change the Bill, so senators filling casual vacancies now have been, regrettably, indirectly elected since approval of the Bill at a 1977 referendum by over 53% of voters in each State produced an alteration resulting in the present form of Section 15 of the Constitution. From the adoption of the original 1901 Constitution until that change in 1977, Section 15 had prescribed that casual vacancies had to be filled - until the next periodic or general federal election - by a person appointed as the relevant State Parliament, or until it sat, the State Governor, saw fit. That temporary appointment provision was abused in 1975 for partisan gain. Its replacement was well justified, but not by an indirect system of party appointment, when a provision for countback would have given direct election by the voters, and also party continuity in all significant cases.

With the 1948 adoption of PR for Senate elections, the occasional extra place to be filled reduced the quota and could have the disadvantage of causing the number of places to be an even number rather than the odd number that was provided for before the number of senators per State was increased to12, which leaves an even number to be elected at each periodic election of senators.
 
Since then, the operation of the loose, poorly thought-out, present form of Section 15 of the Constitution, which the Hawke ALP Government rushed through the Senate with Australian Democrats support, but without sufficient time for exposure of its defects, has exposed subsequently-recognized weaknesses, such as:

  • senators directly elected by the people, such as Senator Michael Tate (ALP, Tas) and Senator John Herron (Liberal, Qld), resigning after serving only a month or so of their 6-year term, and their places being filled for nearly 6 years by persons unelected by the people. That behaviour was easily surpassed on 23 October 2013, when Senator Bob Carr (ALP, NSW) resigned. He was never elected by NSW voters to the Senate position he held then, but he had been appointed to fill a casual vacancy till 30 June 2014. At the periodic Senate election on 7 September 2013, he had been elected by NSW voters as a senator from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2020, but he revealed when he resigned his appointed position that he also intended to resign his not-yet-occupied elected position, which would let it be filled by an unelected person. This practice could reduce many Senate seats - in a house supposedly elected democratically - to a recurrent series of party appointees;

  • the unprecedented failure of the then Liberal-dominated Tasmanian Parliament to replace Senator Donald Grimes (ALP, Tas) in 1987 by the nominee of the ALP, John Devereux, which was possible because Section 15 places no restriction on a State failing to appoint a replacement senator, thus distorting the Senate's balance;
  • available manipulative loopholes that were publicly revealed in a statement by Senator Brian Harradine (Independent, Tas) in 1996, when he honorably chose not to exploit them, that could have let him cut short his 6-year term by resigning in the middle of it just before nominations closed for the periodic election then, nominating a member of his group to be appointed to fill his Senate seat for 3 years, and then standing at the periodic election, when his support was likely to see him join that appointee in a bonus extra seat for a 6-year term; and

  • the disturbingly facile and shameless circumvention of the disqualification provision of Section 44(iv) of the Australian Constitution as evidenced in the appointment of Senator Jeannie Ferris (Liberal, SA) by the then Liberal-dominated South Australian Parliament to fill a Senate casual vacancy she had just caused by her own resignation, which resulted in an expensive, very disputatious 70-minute 1996 Joint Sitting to appoint her to fill the vacancy that her candidature at the periodic election of senators while being disqualified had created.

  • most senators were members of parties with a nation-wide organization when they were elected, and it is that organization that has the power to decide which person is to be nominated to fill a casual vacancy in the representation of a State or Territory's voters in the Senate, but Section 15 does not require that the body controlling that national organization - which could be dominated by interests in the three largest States - has to delegate the choice of the replacement to its branch in the State or Territory in question rather than making the decision itself, as neither State Governors, Parliaments, nor State voters have any longer, since Section 15 was altered in 1977, their former control over that decision, thus effectively undermining a fundamental principle of the composition of the Senate - designed to protect the interests of the smaller Original States - that each Original State has equal representation in it;

snakes and
                                    ladders

Nearly always, the so-called 'choosing' of a replacement senator by a State Parliament involves the acceptance of a single nomination, as that 1996 South Australian example showed, but there was an exception in Tasmania in 1994 when the Groom Liberal Government required the Parliament, in acrimonious circumstances, to actually choose between two Liberal Party members as candidates to replace Senator Brian Archer.

The 2013 periodic election of State senators was accompanied by a failure of the Rudd Government to win enough lower house seats to remain in power. Speculation that quickly began about the possible intention of the outgoing Foreign Minister, NSW Senator Hon. Bob Carr - who had never been elected to the Senate by electors before that election, but who had been elected at it - to resign highlighted certain possible extra problems from the looseness of Section 15 of the Constitution that were well explained by the psephologist, Mr Antony Green.


In 1997 the Senate consisted of senators over 20% of whom had not been elected by the people of Australia!