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The Wilderness Society seeks to entrench a Multiple First-past-the-post

electoral system for its Management Committee


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A major dispute within one of Australia's most prominent conservation organizations, The Wilderness Society, was to have been aired at a General Meeting in Canberra on 2010-05-02.


A group within TWS, called Save The Wilderness Society, refers to the Supreme Court of Tasmania declaration that a number of recent meetings and decisions of TWS have been invalid. That group also held its own meeting in Canberra on that date, and elected a Committee that it seeks to substitute for the existing TWS Committee before the TWS Annual General Meeting due on 2010-06-30.





The TWS General Meeting was to have been asked to make certain changes to the existing TWS Constitution, but the above Court judgement meant that those proposed changes, which were the only listed business, could not be dealt with. The proposals included a new requirement for a postal ballot, for which was to be specified a multiple first-past-the-post vote, albeit with plumping allowed, as the electoral system. See the proposed new Clause 22, particularly Sub-clauses 22.11(c) and 22.17. The existing Constitution appears to be silent about the electoral system, so the common law multiple first-past-the-post system would apply by default.


TWS even suggests overlapping terms (see its Point 3) for its Committee. It claims that would give more stability, but neglects to admit that TWS’s winner-take-all electoral system is the reason for wild swings in and clean sweeps of Committee membership, which a proportional representation system would avoid. Its suggested scenario is closer to Tasmania’s Legislative Council than its House of Assembly. The Assembly is more inclusive because of its general rather than periodic elections, and its Hare-Clark system. That is why Greens MHAs have been able to be elected, whereas there are no Greens in Tasmania’s Upper House.


A system requiring voters to mark no more than 8 candidates' names could render many more votes informal where voters overlook that limit, or miscount their 8 crosses, and mark 9 or more, than would PRSA’s recommended PR formality rules where voters are encouraged to vote for as many candidates as they can, but where a unique first preference is all that is needed for a formal vote.





It is regrettable that such an influential organization, particularly one that started in Tasmania – the home of the superb Hare-Clark electoral system – plans to persist with such a crude, unfair and unrepresentative electoral system as the notorious multiple first-past-the-post procedure, which frequently results in the election of cliques that have, in their organization, minority support only.


Australia’s Greens Party leader, Senator Bob Brown, a former Director of The Wilderness Society, has long stressed the importance of proportional representation for the election of senators and the Greens members of Tasmania’s House of Assembly – some now being in Tasmania’s cabinet. See why the Australian Conservation Foundation changed to proportional representation in 1974.


PRSAV-T Inc. has advised some significant Australian organizations on the inclusion of a specific quota-preferential counting system in their constitutions as a much more inclusive system than exclusive winner-take-all systems. It is pleased to conduct quota-preferential counting as the electoral system chosen and defended by some of those organizations and other smaller groups.


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