of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia
Number 69 March 1993 www.prsa.org.au
New Zealand Legislates for the 1993 Referendum on its Electoral System
Voting Information for the 1993 Federal Elections
City of Melbourne Report Urges PR
General Elections with Robson Rotation
issues of Quota Notes
New Zealand Legislates for the 1993 Referendum
on its Electoral System
the 1992 poll on possible changes to the New Zealand electoral system, the
NZ Government has brought into the NZ Parliament draft legislation for the
operation of a referendum on the possible introduction of the Mixed
Member Proportional electoral system to replace NZ's long-standing first-past-the-post
the 1992 poll, the referendum will have binding force and will thus, if
carried, introduce MMP whether the Government or the Parliament likes it or
not. A choice between the present electoral system and MMP will be one of two
questions at the referendum.
other question to be put at the referendum will ask the voters whether they
favour - in the event that MMP is rejected - the creation of a Senate. The
weak upper house proposed would be elected by the superior STV
PR, and be added to the present Parliament, which consists of the
Queen and House of Representatives only.
Voting Information for the 1993 Federal
year's Federal elections are producing their own examples of how voters are
given insight into our electoral systems and how their votes are put into
effect (if at all, in the case of winner-take-all systems).
positive innovative side is the use by the Australian Democrats of the term
Voters' Choice Guide for what the other parties label How to Vote cards. No further comment is needed on the
difference between the mentalities behind each of those descriptions.
Electoral Commission has also distributed, in the week before the polls, a
brochure entitled Your federal election guide. Under the heading How the votes are counted it provides
a page on the House of Representatives elections and a page on the Senate
elections. The description of the counting of votes for House of
Representatives elections is understandably relatively simple, as it is quite
a crude electoral system.
comparable description for the Senate would be expected to be less simple, but
it does seem unfortunate that an unnecessarily offputting
sentence appears as the second sentence in the Senate article – The system is very complex.
thirds of the page is used to give an example of a count, which is possibly
admirable in its intent, but is not executed as effectively as it could be
because it becomes too literal, technical and detailed for widespread public
involvement. Thus a quotient with 10 decimal places (0.4128273118) is
initially quoted as the outcome of a division to calculate a transfer value,
and the reader is then told that the quotient is taken to the 8th decimal
point (sic), without rounding, and
that this gives a transfer value of 0.41282731. (Do they expect the reader to
be grateful for the reduction from 10 places to only 8?)
the registered parties in the Senate elections was so concerned about the
presentation that it sent a serious letter of complaint to the Electoral
better approach for the AEC to have used (we do not want to pique the AEC,
and have it abandon voter education!) was that adopted by the West Australian
Electoral Commission in a newspaper advertisement in 1989 (See QN 53 for the praise we gave it) when
a Senate-style electoral system was introduced for WA State Upper House elections.
City of Melbourne
Report Urges PR
City of Melbourne has, since changes in legislation in the early 1980s, had
triennial elections with three vacancies per ward, but the vacancies have
been filled by a majority-preferential multiple vote rather than by
quota-preferential PR. Melbourne City Council, after a well-received
submission from our Victorian Branch, has published recommendations to
government for change in the legislation that include proposals for all its
elections to be counted using quota-preferential proportional representation.
General Elections with Robson Rotation
year marked the tenth anniversary of Tasmania's
(and the world's) first general election using Robson Rotation.
This is a system for the printing of ballot-papers, within defined practical
limits, in different batches of equal size so each candidate's name has an
equal turn appearing in prescribed positions on the ballot-papers.
Bill that successfully amended Tasmania's
Electoral Act 1907 to implement the
system was moved as a private member's Bill by Opposition Liberal
frontbencher Neil Robson MHA and received Royal Assent in 1979. During its
introduction into the House of Assembly the then ALP Premier, Hon. Doug Lowe
MHA, was heard to call out Hear, hear!
in support of it. At the time Mr Lowe and a majority
of the elected Government MHAs were under pressure from the ALP's Party
machine, which was keen to exert more influence than had traditionally been
the case over which of the Party's candidates would be likely to be elected
to Parliament from each of Tasmania's 5 seven-member electorates. The machine
intended to achieve its influence by advertising in newspapers a recommended
How to Vote ticket that would specify an order in which voters would be urged
to mark the preferences on their ballot-papers.
readers have long been used to such newspaper advertisements and to having How to Vote cards thrust at them as they approach polling
booths. They might be surprised that, by tacit agreement between the parties
and a concern about adverse public reaction to attempts to dictate a voting order among the, typically seven, candidates of the same
party in each electorate, such an approach had never been used in Tasmanian State elections. This was despite
(perhaps it was because of) Tasmania's
starting to use preferential voting a quarter of a century before the rest of
Instead of a prescriptive How to Vote card order, the parties issued cards
that listed the names of the party's candidates and advised voters to vote 1 to 7 in your order of choice. [Only seven preferences
need to be marked for a vote to be valid in Tasmanian Assembly elections.]
was little doubt in 1979 that the order the machine operators had in mind was
different from the order that the party's voters had been choosing for some
time, in the traditional absence of Party guidance on the ranking of the
Robson Rotation system was first used in a unique seven-vacancy by-election
poll in 1980. This had been necessitated by a special Act of Parliament that
caused all seven seats in the electorate of Denison to be vacated following a Supreme
Court decision, over some irregularities in campaign spending, that had
declared void the previous election of three of the existing Labor MHAs. The outcome, and its demonstration of how
Robson Rotation protected voters from a Senate type poll - stage-managed by
the Party Machine - is detailed in Quota Notes No. 60.
first of the four General Elections at which Robson Rotation has been used was
held on 15th May 1982. At the previous two General Elections (1976 and 1979)
a 1973 amendment to the Electoral Act
1907 had required that all ballot-papers for an electorate be identical,
with the order of candidates' names within groups being determined by lot.
to that the order of candidates' names within groups had been alphabetical.
The Commonwealth (in 1984) and other States have since followed that first
move of Tasmania's to change from alphabetical order to order by lot, but they
have as yet moved no further, despite the fact that Robson Rotation has also
successfully operated in Tasmania's Upper House, where votes are counted
using the same single-member preferential vote counting system that applies
in Australia's Federal and mainland State lower houses.
Rotation was part of the Hare-Clark option that was approved by ACT voters
last year and it is expected to be included in a new ACT Electoral Act to
shows an analysis of two consecutive polls in a Tasmanian electorate, Braddon
- one just before and one after Robson Rotation had become law. It
demonstrates the ability of voters, even though the polls are three years
apart, to identify and select the candidates they want whether, as applied
until late 1979, they are in a fixed order or, as applied from then, in the
varied order Robson Rotation provides. Robson Rotation has in no way
distorted the wishes of that electorate. Rather it has forestalled those
party machine operators that seek to achieve excessive influence for their
views at the expense of the influence of voters generally. It has done that
by making any attempt to foist rigid prescribed voting tickets on voters
impractical, and transparently manipulative.
illustration of how Robson Rotation operates is given on Page 4, which shows
the ten different ballot-paper patterns that were used for the seven-member
electorate of Denison
in the most recent Assembly election, in 1992.
TWO SUCCESSIVE TASMANIAN
ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS IN THE SEVEN-MEMBER ELECTORATE OF BRADDON - BEFORE AND
AFTER ROBSON ROTATION APPLIED
each group below, the elected* candidates are, at right, listed in the order
of their election, and the unelected candidates in the reverse order of their
© 1993 Proportional Representation Society of Australia
President: Geoffrey Goode 18 Anita Street BEAUMARIS VIC 3193
Secretary: John Alexander 5 Bray Street MOSMAN NSW 2088
(03) 9589 1802, 0429176725 email@example.com
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