Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia



Number 70                June 1993               www.prsa.org.au



The 1993 Elections for the House of Representatives


The elections for Australia's House of Representatives resulted in the ALP and the Coalition each receiving less than 45% of the first preference vote. The ALP percentage exceeded that of the Coalition by only 0.66 percentage points, yet the ALP's share of the seats exceeded that of the Coalition by 10.20 percentage points.

If the PRSA's recommended Hare-Clark system of multi-member divisions with PR had applied, the ALP would have had 74 seats and the Coalition 72 (Liberals 61, Nationals 11). The remaining seat would have been taken by an Australian Democrat in South Australia.

This would have allowed the ALP Government to continue in office with an absolute majority of seats, but would have ensured that its activities and proposals, and those of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, could receive at least the minimum possible scrutiny and questioning by interests other than just the two standard alternators in power. Details are shown on Page 4.

Compared with the report of the 1990 Federal elections in Quota Notes No. 58 the number of Novel MHRs (those not in categories in the previous House) has contracted from twenty-two MHRs in 1990 to a mere one member this year. Contrary to a common complaint made about PR it has this time elected fewer non-mainstream candidates than the present single-member system.

Significantly the one such MHR that a PR system would elect, an Australian Democrat, would be elected by virtue of a substantial quota of 66,842 votes of which 41,367 votes were first preferences for an AD. By contrast the present system has elected Ted Mack by virtue of an absolute majority of only 37,542 votes of which only 27,834 votes were a first preference for him. Likewise Phil Cleary's absolute majority was only 35,218, of which only 20,721 were first preferences for him.

The PRSA's four-page full analysis is available post free on request to the National President.


Western Australia's State Elections


This information on February's WA elections was provided by Mr John Taplin, President of the PRSA's WA Branch. Details are shown on Page 4.

Western Australia's two-zone electoral system deals with the marked unevenness of the State's population distribution by introducing deliberate malapportionment between metropolitan and country voters. The Metropolitan Zone centred on Perth comprises little over 0.25% of the area of Western Australia, yet it contains just over 73% of the enrolled voters.

The Legislative Assembly consists of 34 single member districts in the Metropolitan Zone, and 23 in the Country Zone, which is the rest of Western Australia. There is a malapportionment ratio of 1.9 between the two zones.

The Legislative Council consists of 17 members for each of the two zones, giving a malapportionment ratio of 2.8. Since 1989 the MLCs have been elected by quota-preferential PR from one 7-member and two 5-member Regions formed within each zone.

Each WA Region contains wholly and solely a prescribed number of contiguous Assembly districts, between 7 and 14. The share of the party vote is generally fairly similar for each House. By noting the reasonable correspondence between the percentages of votes and PR seats for the Upper House, it is easy to see by comparison how distorted and erratic in most Regions is the awarding of the non-PR seats for the Lower House in relation to the percentage of votes cast. Fortuitously the WA-wide result is more balanced, but that is by no means an assured outcome of the system.

It should be noted that the Liberals and Nationals exchanged preferences as did, in effect, the ALP and the Greens. The independent MLA elected is a dissident Liberal, unopposed by the ALP. The Nationals contested a large number of Assembly seats in Regions 2 and 3 only. An unusual feature of the election was the dispute between the ALP and the Electoral Commission, since subject to court action, on why a valid Senate-style Group Voting Ticket was not in force for the ALP for the North Metropolitan Council Region. The ALP has sought a fresh election for that Region.


Andrew Inglis Clark's "Rosebank" for Sale


It was most pleasing to see Andrew Inglis Clark's main claim to fame featured in the April advertisement below in The Saturday Mercury. Mr Clark was also the principal drafter of A Bill to Constitute the Commonwealth of Australia, and was Tasmania's turn of the century Attorney-General and later Chief Justice and the first Chancellor of the University of Tasmania.



(by the Executors of the Estate of

the late George Wilson)


(Circa 1870)


In Battery Point (11 Hampden Road), near Arthurs Circus, “Lenna” and Salamanca Place, this imposing building has views of the Derwent River to Droughty Point Whaling Station, Mt Wellington and Kangaroo Bluff Battery.


Once the home of Andrew Inglis Clark, co-founder of the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation, this late Georgian, substantial, two-storey, sandstone and brick residence is of considerable historic value to Tasmania. Classified by the National Trust, its features include its original unaltered façade, main rooms and cedar doors, skirting boards and mantelpieces.


Occupied as four flats, “Rosebank” lends itself to reconversion to a single residence or for use as professional premises.



Tasmania's Upper House


On 22nd May the annual elections for one sixth of the members of Tasmania's Legislative Council (details on Page 4) again maintained their standing as the only case of periodic or general elections for a House in any Australian Parliament:

a.       normally not mentioned in mainland publications (apart from Quota Notes), and

b.      where members are often elected unopposed.


A 10th Senator Elected by a Party Machine, Not the People


The list of people nominated to fill Senate casual vacancies by parties and not directly by the electors, and that have sat in the Senate for part of the half Senate term from July 1990 to June 1993 has increased:







J. Haines

M. Lees




A. Messner

J. Olsen*




J. Stone

W. O'Chee




F. Chaney

I. Campbell




A. Gietzelt

J. Faulkner




P. Baume

J. Tierney




P. McLean

K. Sowada




J. Vallentine

C. Chamarette

WA Ind



J. Olsen*

A. Ferguson




J. Button

K. Carr




·         Senator John Olsen, who was replaced by Senator Alan Ferguson, was himself not elected by the voters of South Australia.


Senator Kim Carr was elected by Victorian electors as a senator for Victoria in March for a six year term beginning on 1st July 1993, but was chosen by a delayed Joint Sitting of the Victorian Parliament to fill the casual vacancy created when Senator John Button resigned before 30th June 1993, which was the end of the term for which Senator Button was elected. This replacement is not widely advertised for the information of the Victorian electors, who elected Senator Button.

The main publicity came from the aborting of the first Joint Sitting scheduled to choose Senator Button's replacement when the Speaker of the Assembly, presiding, closed the Sitting before a new senator could be chosen, because he considered Opposition protests and demonstrations during a Ministerial Statement were unacceptably disruptive. Had the vacancy been that of a Coalition senator, could the Opposition have successfully had the choice postponed by a similar level of disruption, or would the choice have been pushed through by the Government using its numbers to override the Speaker's ruling? Deliberate delays in choosing senators have already taken place under Tasmania's Gray Liberal Government and WA's Lawrence ALP Government.

Quota Notes will keep reporting further such appointments of substitute senators to remind readers of the undemocratic nature of Section 15 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which governs casual vacancies for State senators, and of the much better system of re-examining General Election ballot-papers as applies for Tasmania's Assembly.


Scylla or Charybdis? Italy's Lurch from Indirect PR to Relative Majority (Partly)


The nations of Europe, the stronghold of the inferior Party List form of proportional representation, have in most cases used Party List PR systems continuously for most of the 20th Century. As John Cleese's entertaining video points out, only the UK and the Vatican State have never had general elections based on PR.

France and Italy have vacillated conspicuously in their use of PR. The French attitude, which has been one of cynical political expediency in which successive governments have switched between PR and single-member systems to suit their expected prospects for the next election, has persisted up to the present time, and has produced by far the most alternations in any European electoral system. Contrary to popular belief, France has used a PR electoral system only relatively rarely, and it does not do so currently.

Italy had a Party List PR system from 1919 until 1925 when Mussolini replaced it with a single-member district system when he seized power between the two World Wars. Mussolini, well known as an enthusiast for strong government, was not fond of too much democratic competition! After Italy's defeat in the Second World War a PR system was wisely chosen for the new postwar Italian republic, but sadly it was a Party List system. Party List systems are certainly much inferior to quota-preferential PR systems, but the system Italy adopted was about the worst form of Party List system also.

Its two major faults, not entirely shared with the more enduring List systems used in most European countries, were its extreme rigidity, and the large number of vacancies per electorate with a resulting very small percentage quota (about 2%) in many of them. The system was rigid in that the only influence voters had was a choice among parties - they did not have even the limited and relatively ineffectual choice among at least the candidates within their preferred party's list as is usual with most European list systems.

The PRSA's National Research Officer, Mr Bogey Musidlak, obtained information on the Italian changes by writing to the Italian Embassy, who were most helpful. Reporting, by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and certain quality State daily newspapers, of the changes underway in Italy's electoral system has been incorrect and misleading. Some reports by those sources failed to mention that the Italian Senate would still have a quarter of its members elected by the PR party list system, and thus gave the impression that minority representation would be no longer possible. Others gave the impression that the Lower House would also change, but that is to be decided later, on a separate occasion. Nowhere was it mentioned that Italy's use of PR for its Upper House was unusual for Europe, where PR is normally confined to the Lower House.

The Australian newspaper did a much better job. It included an assessment from The Economist in the UK. That rightly recognized how the Party List system lets party bosses decide absolutely the contents of the packages and lets the voters do nothing more than choose between packages.

It said,

"... first-past-the-post rules will not solve all of Italy's problems, even if they succeed in cutting the parties down to size, and they may create new ones. ... the disaster might come in the south. There, unless the ability to buy votes is broken for ever, the winner would probably be the Christian Democrats. This is the party that has dominated all 51 of Italy's post-war coalition governments and is therefore more culpable than any other for the failings of partitocrazia. ... it is already clear the most egregious crimes of Italy's politicians were committed by Christian Democrats and that their characteristic smell was of the south. The south badly needs to be modernized, both politically and economically, and to be purged of organized crime. A first-past-the-post voting system may instead entrench the very party that has proved most skilful at exploiting southern culture. If so that will show only that simple solutions do not exist to Italy's problems."


© 1993 Proportional Representation Society of Australia


National President: Geoffrey Goode, 18 Anita Street, BEAUMARIS VIC 3193

National Secretary: John Alexander, 5 Bray Street, MOSMAN NSW 2088


Tel: (03) 9589 1802; (02) 9960 2193  info@prsa.org.au


Printed by Pink Panther Instant Printing, 12 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000


                                                             ALP            AD              OTH            NAT                      LIB
1ST. PREF. VOTES                           44.9             3.7               7.1               7.2                     37.1
HARE-CLARK SEATS                    50.3             0.7               0.0               7.5                     41.5
SINGLE-MEMBER SEATS              54.4             0.0               1.4               10.9                     33.3
MONMOUTH: (South-east of Hobart metropolitan area)
Dr Mort McCarthy                             3.67           A dentist, from Oatlands
Mrs Trudi Stewart                             18.94           Aged 19, from Sorell
Mr David Traynor                             25.85           Endorsed Australian Labor Party candidate
Hon. Stephen Wilson MLC             51.54           RE-ELECTED (By an absolute majority of first preference votes).              
NEWDEGATE: (Inner northern Hobart metropolitan seat, on the right bank of the Derwent)
Mr Mel Cooper                                  33.57           Endorsed ALP.
Hon. Ross Ginn MLC                       33.00           RE-ELECTED.
Ms Karen Weldrick                            8.18           1992 Green Ind. Cand. for Denison.
Mr Marti Zucco                                 25.25           Experience as Hobart Alderman.
RUSSELL: (Far north-western area of Tasmania)
Hon. Anthony Fletcher MLC          NO POLL   RE-ELECTED unopposed.
Region                                                No. of Seats                                        ALP                      GRN.          OTH.          NAT.           LIB.
Mining & Pastoral                              5                                     Votes %     55       5                    4                                     37
                                                                                                      Seats %    60      0                    0                                    40
Agricultural                                          5                                     Votes %     24       3                    3                29                41
                                                                                                      Seats %    20      0                    0                40                40
South-West                                         7                                     Votes %     34       5                    7                10                44
                                                                                                      Seats %    43      0                    0                10                43
East Metropolitan                               5                                     Votes %     46       2                    8                  1                42
                                                                                                      Seats %    60      0                    0                  0                40
South Metropolitan                            5                                     Votes %     40       6                    9                                     45
                                                                                                      Seats %    40                    20                  0                                    40
North Metropolitan                            7                                     Votes %     29       8                  11                                     52
                                                                                                      Seats %    29      0                    0                                    57
 WESTERN AUSTRALIA               34                                    Votes %     37       5                    8                  4                46
                                                                                                      Seats %    41      3                    0                  9                44
Region                                                No. of Seats                                        ALP                      GRN.          OTH.          NAT.           LIB.
Mining & Pastoral                              7                                     Votes %     52       2                    7                  2                36
                                                                                                      Seats %    86      0                    0                  0                14
Agricultural                                          7                                     Votes %     20                           2                41                37
                                                                                                      Seats %    0                            0                57                43
South-West                                         9                                     Votes %     32       5                    4                15                44
                                                                                                      Seats %    11      0                    0                22                67
East Metropolitan                             10                                     Votes %     44       3                  10                  1                42
                                                                                                      Seats %    70                          0                11                                    47
South Metropolitan                          10                                     Votes %     37       5                    9                                     45
                                                                                                      Seats %    50      0                    0                                    50
North Metropolitan                          14                                     Votes %     38       6                  11                                     46
                                                                                                      Seats %    36      0                    7                                    57
 WESTERN AUSTRALIA               57                                    Votes %     38       4                    9                  5                43
                                                                                                      Seats %    42      0                    2                11                46



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