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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2469


Senator AULICH(10.47) —I rise, again, to speak against the proposal put forward by Senator Vigor. I do so as someone who has had some experience of the system about which Senator Vigor spoke and which he proposes as a model. I have been both a beneficiary, in terms of luck and positioning, and a victim of that system. There are a couple of issues which we should consider very closely before we look at that model as a model for responsible government anywhere in this country, let alone in a chamber in which a government is about to be formed. I am a very strong proponent of the principle of ministerial and governmental responsibility. I believe that the main aim of an electoral system is to ensure that a Minister does his or her job and that a government does its job and that, if it does not do so, it gets kicked out at the end of its term. I am a believer in long terms and certainly in who is in government. I do not believe in coalitions and I do not believe in minority parties dictating to a government of the day. The responsibility for who runs the country or a State should be clearly in the hands of one party so that people can choose, at the end of its time in government, whom they want and there can be no diffusion of responsibility.

The Hare-Clark system has been proposed by Senator Vigor as an ideal model which should be used around the world. That gives me a feeling of deja vu, of cobwebs and of a viewpoint that seemed to exist in the 1930s. It is the sort of thing in which George Bernard Shaw would have been involved-the person who convinced himself he was a rationalist but could go to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and believe that Stalin was doing the right thing, who could not see the realities that existed under the so-called `PR'-in that case public relations rather than proportional representation-who believed that Mussolini could make trains run on time and, therefore, accepted that dictator's loathsome approach to life and politics.

Senator Vigor is being similarly naive in terms of understanding how an electoral system works. He is saying that the Hare-Clark system is very good because, mathematically, it represents voter intentions in the most accurate way compared with any other system. That is true; voter intention is mathematically reflected in the Hare-Clark system-more so than in any other system of proportional representation. However, the facts of life are that Tasmanian politics have been bastardised by that very system. The idiocies that come out of Tasmania in the policies of its Premier are very much a part and a direct result of the system that has prevailed in that State.

My colleague Senator Robert Ray mentioned the two major weaknesses in that system. The first is that there is no clear ministerial accountability in that State. He mentioned, for example, that there is a very significant tendency amongst Ministers in the Hare-Clark system to ensure that they get re-elected, as in other systems, but of course the pressures against them being re-elected in the Hare-Clark system are quite great. There are, for example, six other people who have the status and the salary of members of parliament moving around in the Minister's electorate. They are there more often than the Minister is, although in some other cases they may also be Ministers. The choice many Ministers have to make is either political survival or ministerial responsibility, fairness and equity.

I can assure honourable senators that what Senator Ray says about spending, for example, on budgetary items by Ministers within their portfolios is true. I have done studies of the patterns of expenditures on the part of various departments in Tasmania and I have found that particular Ministers have ensured their re-election by spending the money allocated to their portfolios primarily or significantly in their own electorates at the expense of the other electorates. Suppose the Minister for Sport represented Denison. I am using a theoretical example here. The total sporting vote allocated by Parliament may be divided something like 40 per cent to Denison and 60 per cent to the rest. In fact, some of the percentages for expenditure from various government departments going to Ministers' electorates have been even higher, particularly where the Minister has had a discretionary vote. Where hospitals get placed, where schools get built or upgraded, where roads get constructed tends to follow the interests of the Minister holding the portfolio.

There is in fact no equity between electorates because the tendency is for Ministers to parish pump their own electorate, because if they do not there are six other people in his electorate with, as I said, the status and the salary of sitting members, not candidates, working away while the Minister is visiting other electorates, for example.


Senator Tate —And they may be members of your own party.


Senator AULICH —They may be members of the same party. They are not bagging the Minister, as Opposition members would, but they are bagging him from the prestigious and, in theory, sympathetic position of being the Minister's comrades in the same party.


Senator Sanders —But you get the publicity. As Minister, you get the personal publicity.


Senator AULICH —Publicity is no good if a Minister is acting fairly across the board. Unless publicity is generated within his own electorate and he is seen as a Minister who brings home the bacon for his own electorate, using his ministerial portfolio to allocate appropriate finance, he is generally regarded in that system as not being an appropriate Minister or member. So the turnover of Ministers, for example, in the Hare-Clark system is extremely high. In 1982 it was one-third of the Cabinet and about the same in 1986, and on other occasions there has been a similar pattern. In other words, Ministers are certainly not safe.

Who could understand and tolerate a system under which, for example, the Treasurer of this country was in a multi-member electorate, had to go back to his electorate on frequent occasions, attend all the functions-the baby shows and the dog shows-and do all the parish pum-ping that seems to be important to getting re-elected, and still do his job as Treasurer of this country? I could not see any Minister in a Federal government operating effectively in a system that placed his seat in jeopardy.

The second point I wish to make is that in a multi-member electorate, where there is not party discipline in terms of putting out a how-to-vote card which organises voters to vote in a parti-cular tight pattern, the spoils go to the person who spends significant amounts of money, or alternatively generates enormous populist support. Senator Sanders is a fairly good example of an extremely good actor. When he was in Parliament in Tasmania, people used to say that there were two shows in town. There was the Theatre Royal, and one had to pay to get in there and it was generally fairly empty, and there was the House of Parliament. That was usually pretty empty too, but the theatre there was a lot better. I remember Senator Sanders turning up for his first day at Parliament on his motorbike and wearing his leather jacket, so he was front page news. He turned up here on his motorbike and wearing his leather jacket and, of course, the Press fell for it a second time-which goes to show that as with the Mousetrap, or any other good show, the performance can be repeated until the audience gets sick of it. But I give Senator Sanders his due. He is a good actor and a populist. He was someone who rode penny-farthings around the town and got himself elected, whereas boring people like me who wear grey suits and so on have to try to survive on other attributes.

Let us look at the other people who get elected to parliament, and leave the populist and good actor, such as Senator Sanders, who can run on one particular issue. The people who were elected, for example, in the most competitive electorates in 1986 were the people with money. Everyone in this chamber who has looked at the Tasmanian situation knows that seats in Denison were being bought for close to $25,000 per person. That was not party expenditure; it was paid by individuals. So a person could actually sit down and say: `I am a presentable person. I have $25,000 and I am running in a multi-member electorate. I will get endorsed because basically endorsement is not hard to get in Tasmania under the Hare-Clark system'.


Senator Sanders —Anybody who can read can get endorsement.


Senator AULICH —If anyone can read and count, he can get in. Those sorts of people were winning seats in the last election.


Senator Archer —Who?


Senator AULICH —I am not going to name them because they come from both sides of the House. Of course if a person wanted endorsement he or she could donate a house. There are all sorts of ways of making sure that one gets endorsement. The point I am making is that winning in the Hare-Clark system is quite different from winning in any other system that I have seen. The most important weakness of that system, and the reason why I would oppose any of the proposals put forward in this case by Senator Vigor, is that it diffuses ministerial responsibility and it diffuses government responsibility. I know that every voter has to have that right, at the end of three or four years, to say clearly in his or her own mind ``That party, and that party alone, has done a good job in government', or `It has done a bad job, and I will make my decision accordingly'. Any diffusion of the clarity of that particular issue is a weakening of any electoral system.

On these grounds, and on those grounds alone, as a person experienced in two electoral systems, I would oppose virtually everything that Senator Vigor has said. Like Senator Ray and like George Bernard Shaw, who said that some things ought to be consigned to the dustbin, I would say that Senator Vigor's judgments ought to be put in the dustbin.