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Thursday, 6 October 2005
Page: 100

Senator JOYCE (4:55 PM) —I have a strong interest in the process of voting and, much to the derision of many of my colleagues in here, have made my intentions clear from platforms such as my maiden speech. I have also tried to get the parliament to encompass new forms of technology as methods of voting. Australia unfortunately sees voting as something that is to be squeezed in between doing the shopping and taking the kids to netball. We are a moderate society, and politics tracks pretty closely between the certain cap and collar of right and left views. Step outside that paradigm and, Latham-like or Whitlam-like, the result is a political recoil, represented by the majority that is now held in both houses by the coalition. Labor would understand from the problems it currently has in raising union membership that people have other things to do and other places to go. In Australia, it could well be the gardening. One could call attention to the state of this house on so many occasions and see that people often have other things to do.

In my tour of the US with the young political leaders in 2002, I saw that non-compulsory voting means that the biggest motivator is aimed at pitching a message to get people out to vote. The problem is not so much one of coming up with a strident motivator to shake people out of their complacency or out of bed but one of fulfilling the policy objective that is set down as a reason to get people out of bed.

We in this country pitch to the middle ground. We pitch to that 10 per cent who change their views and who affect power in our country. In 105 years this has given us unbridled freedom. We have never had to worry about a revolution or a civil war. It has been an effective mechanism of government. ‘Ex sapienta modus’ was the motto of my university. It means ‘out of wisdom comes moderation’. If we get rid of compulsory voting, we are proposing a move from wisdom to foolishness as we inspire the vitriolic edges to start holding sway in our parliament. Are we happy to put our nation on a political see-saw with wide and varied oscillations between the far right and the far left?

In the US, 52 per cent of people voted at the last congressional election. I would say that we would have a more relaxed attitude in Australia. I heard what was said before by my colleague from the Democrats, but I have in front of me information showing that at the last election in Switzerland 42.3 per cent of the people turn out to vote. I would suggest that Australians would have a much lower level of voting involvement than other countries.

Now let us think about the Senate. It is on the record that, with the right preference flows from the Machiavellian source of undisclosed above-the-line preference deals, you can attain a Senate position with as little as 1.9 per cent of the vote. Let us take our good friends in Tasmania in this instance. Tasmania has 342,809 people on the electoral roll. With 45 per cent participation, that would mean that there would be 154,264 voters. With only 1.9 per cent needed, that would mean that a senator could be elected to the parliament with the princely number of 2,931 votes. I can find all sorts of interesting groups who could muster up those numbers and who could thus be involved in our federal parliament.

I believe this motion could well be supported by the Citizens Electoral Council, the League of Rights or any community of belligerent marginal union groups. The Free Marijuana Party in Queensland attained 17,485 votes. So we could be welcoming to our parliament Mr Nigel Freemarijuana to deliberate over the affairs of our nation. But let us not leave out my state of Queensland, where Labor Premier Red Ned Hanlon installed the gerrymander or malapportionment system in the late 1940s—which, to all intents and purposes, is still there and possibly worse. Premier Beattie attained power in the last state election, in a unicameral system, winning 63 out of 89 seats with just 47 per cent of the vote.

Because of that situation, we now have in Queensland a Pythonesque parade of ministers losing portfolios, being sacked from portfolios or not realising they have portfolios. We had a minister who was sacked from the health portfolio and then picked up the primary industry portfolio and then picked up the backbench—because that is where they have sent him. Forty-seven per cent of the vote and 70 per cent of the seats brought into power the health disaster, the power crisis, the water crisis and the infrastructure crisis. The Labor government in Queensland is a euphemism for a management crisis. Maybe if there were a greater reflection of seats to the percentage of the vote they muster, the Labor government in Queensland just may be a little bit more on their game.

Why would Labor want Mr Nigel Freemarijuana as a new senator? Maybe the best thing to do is to refer to Mr Graham Richardson, who, in his book Whatever it takes, discussed changes to the Electoral Act. About the manipulation of the Electoral Act, he said:

... that Labor could embrace power as a right and make the task of anyone trying to take it from us as difficult as we could.

So Labor’s form is well and truly on the books. I would applaud the Labor Party if they approved compulsory preferential voting but, if they want to install a Queensland Labor fiasco over the whole of our nation and endorse first past the post, they are not being fair dinkum. On this issue, Labor must be dismissed as not being fair dinkum. They need to get out of their box and say, ‘We believe in compulsory preferential voting,’ but they will not. I acknowledge that they express different views on the other side of the chamber but today we have seen that we can have different views. That is why we have a Liberal-National coalition. That is why we are in government.

Senator Carr —That’s why you are the doormats.

Senator JOYCE —It is good to see that we have stirred them out of their box. They are out of their box now. They do not like the words ‘compulsory preferential voting’. They do not like that phrase because it is the key to their demise. That shows how weak their argument is and how little is encompassed in it. This morning I abstained from the vote on ethanol. So your argument in the first instance is wrong as well. Where was the Labor Party? They were all together in their box. When was the last time the Labor Party actually broke and voted along state lines? They do not have the guts. It is not there. It is all a sham. It is a fiasco—and it goes on. I would like to see the day when Mr Faulkner and Mr Carr are on separate sides of the room, but that is not going to happen. The union thugs will get in there and screw them down and make sure that they toe the line.

So, if you want to advocate compulsory preferential voting, I will be voting with you. If you endorse it in Queensland and bring it in tomorrow, we will have a fairer system for all and you will give back to Queensland their right of representation.