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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2721

Senator HARRADINE(10.25) — The House is dealing cognately, as I understand it, with the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Bill and with amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill. The Government has brought back the referendum Bill and is proposing an amendment thereto which I wish to discuss briefly. As for the other Bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill, a number of amendments to that legislation are said to be tidying up, consequential and technical in nature. I suggest that at least one of the amendments is not technical in nature. It attempts to provide a substantial change in the form of the ballot paper and also attempts to provide undue regulatory power to the Commonwealth Electoral Commission for it to determine the form of ballot papers. We are all practising politicians and know the importance of the ballot paper. We all know that if the ballot paper is drawn in one form or other, it has consequences on the results. Therefore, it is important that we examine this legislation in detail. In the Committee stage I shall be asking the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) a number of questions to try to seek clarification.

In order to set the scene I refer to a letter which was forwarded to members of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform and which enclosed a Senate ballot paper prepared by the Commonwealth Electoral Commission following discussion at a previous meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform. The Electoral Commission proposes that this form will be used in a test run to be conducted by the Morgan Poll organisation-at least I assume that is the Electoral Commission's proposal, or it may be a proposal that has come from the joint committee.

Senator Elstob —The Electoral Commission.

Senator HARRADINE —If it is the Electoral Commission, I am very disturbed about the proposal. I have not seen a ballot paper for the State of Tasmania. I assume that the test run will be done in all States. I have the ballot papers that are to be run for New South Wales and Victoria. They use the names of the people who were candidates at the 1983 double dissolution election. In using those candidates, the Commission has set out the ballot paper in the form that it would have taken had the Commonwealth electoral legislation of 1983 been in force at that time. It is clear that the ballot paper has on the top the easy method of voting, and as to the second alternative listed it has the method that was adopted at the last election-namely, that the voter was to consider the candidates and the number of candidates in order of choice.

We debated these alternatives on the last occasion that this Bill was under consideration in this chamber. We considered it when the 1983 Commonwealth electoral amendment legislation was being considered. The type of ballot paper I hold in my hand is the result. Consideration was given to the various methods. I indicated at that time that I believed that the present method would assist the party system to the disadvantage of Independents and a true exercise of choice by the electors. In effect, this system will lock people into the machine decisions of the political parties so far as preferences are concerned. Therefore, inferentially, it will in effect disadvantage a true freedom of choice on the part of the electors.

It might be said, of course, that the electors can have the choice of voting right through numbers 1 to 50, or whatever it is; in my State it is 1 to 27, or something like that. On the last occasion we debated electoral legislation, I said that the way to do that would be to have optional preferential voting. What is wrong with optional preferential voting?

Senator Robert Ray —You cannot get 33 votes in this chamber.

Senator HARRADINE —Because the Government cannot get 33 votes it opts for this system which is a bodgie sort of thing. Again, optional preferential voting would have been the best method. Because the Government cannot get the best option through, what does it do? It panders to the Australian Democrats. Is that what Senator Ray is saying?

Senator Gareth Evans —It is the second best option.

Senator HARRADINE —The second best option in the important question of electoral reform is not good enough. Of course, this system will advantage the political parties. It will advantage the Democrats because they do not, as I do, have most of the booths manned. It will disadvantage Independents. I have not seen the ballot paper that has been prepared as a test run for my State by the Commonwealth Electoral Commission. I will be interested to see where I am on that paper. I point out that a single Independent cannot have a box on the top of the ballot paper.

Senator Peter Baume —But there probably will not be single Independents.

Senator HARRADINE —Just a minute. A single Independent cannot have a box at the top of the ballot paper. The Commonwealth Electoral Commission, with my money and with everybody else's money, will publicise this system of voting and urge people to vote simply; it argues that this system of voting is designed to cut out informal votes. Of course, it is not. If that was the design an optional preferential system would have been adopted. This system is designed to support the party system, to disadvantage Independents, and to deny true freedom of choice to the electors. The election campaigns of parties will be geared to publicising the simple system of voting; electors will be asked to vote one, Australian Labor Party, vote one, Liberal Party, and vote one, Australian Democrats. So we will see a situation whereby I am the last Independent ever to be elected to the Federal Parliament. Nobody will deny that. I will be the last Independent, as such.

Senator Macklin —Not to Federal Parliament; the Senate.

Senator HARRADINE —No, to the Federal Parliament.

Senator Macklin —The House of Representatives has not changed; its system has not changed.

Senator HARRADINE —When was the last Independent elected to the House of Representatives?

Senator Robert Ray —Sam Benson.

Senator HARRADINE —All right, I will correct that; I am the last Independent as such to be elected to the Senate. I think I have some right to say something about that. For me to get re-elected I have to set myself up as a political party. That has certain outside consequences but I will not state here what those consequences are. Under the Commonwealth electoral legislation I can set myself up as a party. I can write today to the Commonwealth Electoral Commission and say that I want to be the Brian Harradine Senate Party, or whatever party; I can write to the Commission and say that is what I want, put my name up there on the ballot paper.

Senator Watson —You have to.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Watson says I have to, and I agree. I will have to do it.

Senator Macklin —You ran as a group last time.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Macklin says that I ran as a group last time. The only reason I ran as a group last time-and the time before and the time before- with the consent of my running mate was to participate in the draw. Senator Macklin knows that as well as I do.

Senator Macklin —That is all this is, too.

Senator HARRADINE —What a lot of tripe.

Senator Macklin —You will be participating in the draw.

Senator HARRADINE —The honourable senator is voting for it but he does not know what he is voting for.

Senator Macklin —I don't think you know what is in the Bill; obviously you haven 't even read it.

Senator HARRADINE —Don't worry about that; I have read the Bill backwards, frontwards, sideways and upside down, and I know it off by heart. I know what I am talking about all right, because the old head is at stake. I have my head on the chopping block.

Senator Macklin —You know you haven't.

Senator HARRADINE —I will explain in terms of one syllable for Senator Macklin-

Senator Macklin —Don't be patronising.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Macklin started this blasted nonsense and, as is admitted by Senator Ray, it is all because of Senator Macklin that we are here, that we have this bodgie system. But for him we could have had the optional preferential system. So, if I do the same as I did last time, if I get some altruistic person who is anxious to assist in the campaign and to form a group, what would we have? Yes, we would have a group all right; I would not be on the un-group list along with various other people, who may of course have better qualities than I-that is one of the problems of being in the un-group-but I would have my group and would participate in the draw. However, what about the section up the top? What will happen up the top where everybody is going to vote ? What will be up there? There will be nothing. Unless I register as a party, there will be no name, nothing, up there for me.

Senator Macklin —Right. Harradine Party.

Senator HARRADINE —That is what Senator Macklin is saying. I said before that, unless I registered as a party, I would not be able to participate. My name would not be up there, nor the name of the party. There would be no name there. There would be an identification up there. It would be identification L or Group A, Group D, Group B or whatever. So, theoretically, in my election campaign I can say: 'Vote Group D. Put a vote in Group D.' but under this amendment I would be denied even that.

Senator Robert Ray —No. You are already denied that. The amendment does nothing to it.

Senator HARRADINE —But under this amendment the numbers are to be whacked out. The lettering will not be up there, that is, Group A, B, C, or D. Am I right?

Senator Robert Ray —No, you will have an A above the box.

Senator HARRADINE —No, there will not be.

Senator Macklin —Yes, you will. Only the lettering goes.

Senator HARRADINE —That is what I am saying. The lettering goes.

Senator Robert Ray —From the side; down the bottom it goes.

Senator HARRADINE —No, it goes everywhere as far as I can see.

Senator Robert Ray —No, you will still have a letter across the top box.

Senator Macklin —The letters run across the top but not down the side.

Senator HARRADINE —That is fair enough but it is small comfort to say that the lettering goes. So the lettering goes across the top instead of down the side. The point is, as Senator Robert Ray has said, that under the 1983 legislation an Independent is in fact denied the opportunity to participate in the first option group except and unless he is registered as a political party. It is quite clear that I can do that. As I have said, I can write anything to the Electoral Commission today. I will do it and make history. I can register as long as the name is no more than six words and is not obscene. Actually, at one stage in this chamber I was called obscene. I wonder, if I wrote to the Electoral Commission, using my name, whether I would get an objection from the honourable senator who called me obscene. But I hope that if I wrote to the Electoral Commission it would not rule my name out as obscene. So provided that it is no more than six words--

Senator Sir John Carrick —Harridans are obscene sometimes.

Senator HARRADINE —It is a different spelling. Can honourable senators see visible the horns of the dilemma on which I am hoisted, not by my own--

Senator Peter Baume —Is it a petard?

Senator HARRADINE —Is it a petard?

Senator Macklin —You can be impaled on the horns.

Senator HARRADINE —I am well and truly impaled and do not know what to do. But, seriously, it is no joking matter. In order for me to be re-elected-as I have said, I will be the last Independent to be elected to this chamber-I shall have to set up a political party. That is recognised. If I have to set up a political party, I may as well do it fair dinkum.

Senator Teague —What does that mean?

Senator HARRADINE —I will do it fair dinkum. I hope all honourable senators realise that I could write to the Electoral Commission -I have read the Bill-and set up a political party in Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and-where is the other place?

Senator Macklin —South Australia.

Senator HARRADINE —Yes, my home State. I have a quota of relatives in South Australia. I could form the Harradine Party there. Uncle Bob would say: 'Give him a vote'. It is very interesting for me. But what about another poor Independent who wants to run for election? The proposals in this Bill undermine his independent principles. He may believe that the Senate is a States House; it should be a non-party House. In order to get elected he will have to set up a party. What a farce! This is supposed to be a non-party States House, although we know that is a farce too. What happens if someone genuinely believes in that concept and wants to be elected to the Senate as an Independent? I refer to a man of great stature in his home State. I am not talking about myself; that is why I have to set up a party. Even if such a man wants to make a contribution and feels quite genuinely that this place is or should be a non-party House, he will never be able to get into this chamber as a senator unless he establishes himself as a member of a registered political party under the proposed Act.

Senator Peter Baume —He could still go on the ungrouped but he would not get the tick in the box.

Senator HARRADINE —Of course; that is what I am saying. If that person's name is ungrouped he will lose. He will not be elected because the Electoral Commission in its great new deal will have all the political parties advertised on the proposed ballot paper, and that will be it. So this person will not be elected. He will get a box without a name if he groups himself with someone, but if he stands alone he will not get a box. In order to get a box with a name on it he will have to dart around to get 500 people to sign into a political party. They will say to him: 'You are running as an Independent. What are you talking about? '. He will reply 'I am only trying to fix things up', and he will be told: 'That is underhand'. What a farce this has all turned out to be! It raises very serious problems for me and I am giving a great deal of consideration to it.