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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14941

Electoral System

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your letter dated 18 February 2019, referring petition number EN0760 to me as the Minister responsible for electoral matters. The petition requests that Australia's preferential system of voting be replaced by a first-past-the-post model. I do not support the petition's request for the reasons outlined below.

Australia's system of preferential voting is designed to ensure the successful House of Representatives candidate receives the most votes and that votes for minor parties count towards the final result. Introduced in 1918, full preferential voting requires a candidate to build an absolute majority of support in an electorate rather than a simple majority as required by the first past-the-post method. In voting systems that do not allow preference allocation, a winning candidate needs to secure only the highest number of votes cast as compared to the other candidates, but this could be a small percentage of the overall votes cast, with no indication of majority support in the community.

In 2016 the Government made changes to Senate preferences through the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Act 2016, which simplified the Senate voting system by improving the ability for voters to express their voting intent. The legislation introduced partial optional preferential voting, with voters being instructed to number at least six squares above the line or at least 12 squares below the line.

These changes returned the control of preferences to voters. The previous system of Senate voting encouraged above the line voting, with voter preferences distributed through a complex and opaque system of group and individual voting tickets. It also required individuals choosing to vote below the line to number every square, even though their genuine preferences may have been exhausted.

For these reasons, and taking account of the Government's existing priorities for electoral reform, I do not support the petition's request. Thank you for bringing the concerns referred to in the petition to my attention.

Alex Hawke

from the Special Minister of State, Mr Hawke(Petition No. EN0760)