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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
Conduct of the 2013 federal election and matters related thereto

GOODE, Mr Geoffrey William George, President, Proportional Representation Society of Australia (Victoria-Tasmania)

MOREY, Dr Stephen Donald, National Secretary, Proportional Representation Society of Australia

CHAIR: Welcome. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Dr Morey : I was invited here because of an article that I wrote in The Conversation.

Mr Goode : I am here because Dr Morey asked me to assist him, and apparently that is permitted.

CHAIR: Would one of you like to make an opening statement—perhaps Dr Morey?

Dr Morey : Yes, I would, and my opening statement will be based on a document that I have just handed around, which I hope everybody has got, which is entitled 'Submission to Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters by Dr Stephen Morey and Mr Geoffrey Goode'. I want to start off by saying that what we stand for is basic principles of best-quality democratic systems, that each electoral district should reflect voters' choices as proportionally as possible in that district to the support those choices receive at elections. How this would be done, of course, depends on how many members each district has. If a particular district has six members, then it cannot represent all of the small minority opinions that might be there. If it has a larger number, a wider range might be supportable, might be elected, if that is what the voters want. The key point is with transferable votes ensuring that surplus votes and the votes of excluded candidates are not wasted. One of the major principles that our society stands for is that votes should not be wasted, that as high a proportion of the votes that are cast should go towards the election of candidates as possible.

Secondly, voters should be able to determine which of the individual candidates within each party group should be elected without the present stage-managed electoral system, the group voting tickets, which allows that to be effectively predetermined by others. We will return to this point, I have no doubt. To achieve this, the best system is that in proven use in Tasmania and the ACT, with candidates from parties listed in groups but their names rotated within each group. This encourages the expression of genuine preference by voters and maximises the correspondence between voters' shades of opinions about candidates within parties and the party candidates selected. It works against splintering of parties and a proliferation of very small parties, as the different outcome between Tasmania's recent Senate and assembly elections demonstrated. What we have in Tasmania in the recent assembly election, of course, is the return of a majority government, because the party concerned, the Liberal Party, got the majority support of the voters in Tasmania. We also believe that no above-the-line or group voting tickets should occur, because group voting tickets are a situation where the preferences are not decided by the voter but by some others. We should remove the unreasonable demands on voters when voting below the line. In other words, the introduction of some form of optional preferential voting.

On the topic of optional preferential voting, it seems to me that there are a number of options that the committee might, I hope, be considering. One option is full optional preferential voting, which is where you allow the single expression of a No. 1 to be a formal vote. The second option would be that you are required to number the number of candidates that are to be elected. That is the system currently in operation in Tasmania and also for below the line in Victoria. In the ACT, on the other hand, they allow the expression of a single vote, but the instruction on the ballot paper suggests that you should fill in the number of vacancies to be elected. The third possibility is to go back to the system that was used in Australia before 1934, which is that you have to vote for twice the number of candidates that are to be elected, plus one. A fourth sensible option for optional preferential voting is as Mr Malcolm Mackerras suggested to you and which he described as 'a nice round number like 15'. These are the options which will make it easier for voters to vote below the line. They can of course express as many preferences as they desire as there are candidates on the ballot paper, but we are suggesting that the current requirement to express all or virtually all of them is not reasonable. These voting systems—the ones used in Tasmania and the ACT—comply with section 7 of the Australian Constitution which requires that senators be 'directly chosen by the people'.

Much criticism of the Senate electoral system, particularly following the last Senate election in 2013, stems from the successive candidates whose quota consists almost entirely of votes transferred from candidates outside their own party, such as Senator-elect Muir from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party in Victoria. You will pardon me if I speak in some detail about the situation in Victoria, but that is where we are and that is the one I know the most about. From our perspective, the claimed problem is not that Mr Muir received too few first-preference votes. In fact, he received considerably more first preference votes than each of the re-elected senators, Collins and Ryan and the runner-up at the last count, with the greatest respect, Senator Kroger. What all four of those candidates have in common is that their final progress totals consisted almost entirely of votes transferred via the group voting ticket mechanism, but only one, Mr Muir's, consisted almost entirely of votes transferred from candidates outside his party. The number of votes, not party size, is what counts in our electoral system, which is a system for electing individuals to the Senate and also, of course, to the House of Representatives, but we are speaking here about the Senate. Had Mr Muir's quota been made up of below-the-line votes that explicitly listed him above other unsuccessful candidates of the larger parties, it would have been hard to argue that the result did not accurately reflect the will of voters. However, it seems likely that, without the stage managed group voting ticket mechanism used in above-the-line voting, he would not have been elected. This of course is a matter only for supposition, but I think we would not be having this discussion at this same level if this had not happened.

Instituting an exclusionary threshold—and we will come back to that—would be undemocratic and crudely manipulative and ultimately would not solve any problems, in our view, because an increasing percentage of voters are now not voting for candidates of the major parties. I dare say this is not something that any of you are particularly happy about, but it is the fact.

[Unidentified speaker interjects]

CHAIR: Do not let them diverge you, Dr Morey.

Dr Morey : Thank you very much. I am finding that I have relaxed myself into this.

Mr GRIFFIN: I still think too many are voting for these guys!

Dr Morey : I would not, of course, comment on that. If the voting system is amended to unfairly disadvantage smaller groups the result is likely to be, firstly, more disenchantment, which I certainly believe is not in the interests of any of us here, and, secondly, new manoeuvres arising to circumvent such distortions. If we just look at the special election in Western Australia in 2014, it showed that the votes for traditional major party candidates were, altogether—that is, Labor, Liberal and the National Party—under 60 per cent. That is the first time that has happened in Western Australia for 100 years at least.

Mr GRIFFIN: The first time we have had a Senate re-election in—

Dr Morey : Indeed, yes, and the votes for the non-major party candidates were consequently 41 per cent but the votes for the parties that did not elect any candidates at 13.1 per cent is getting close to a quota. There were in each state in the last general election approximately a quota of votes for parties that either are regarded as micro parties or the parties that did not get elected. We need to bear that in mind.

Exclusionary thresholds have led to a most unreasonable election result in Germany in 2013 where conservative parties clearly won the majority support of German voters but because of the exclusionary threshold the—in a very broad sense—left parties, the SPD Greens and the Linke, won a majority of Bundestag seats between them, and the government, which has by any argument the larger support of the population, had to contrive to form a grand coalition. This is clearly not desirable, the reason being that the smaller conservative or 'right wing' parties both just fell below the threshold level and, as a consequence, all the votes that were cast for them were simply thrown away and not taken into consideration. But the two smaller parties on the so-called 'left' side, the greens and the left party, were just above that quota and, consequently, you have the current situation. By any analysis, under any fairer electorate system, the Christian Democrat-Christian Social Union coalition in Germany should be able to form a government without needing to rely on the support of their major opposition the Social Democrats.

Finally, our recommendations: we want to see the abolition of above-the-line voting and group voting tickets. It is the group voting tickets and the way in which they can be used for setting up preference deals that send preferences in a huge range of different directions that have made it possible for so-called 'micro party' candidates to be elected in the recent Senate election. The reason most people vote above the line is that voting below the line is a daunting task and, in our view, unreasonable expectations are being placed on voters to vote for large numbers of candidates. We would like to see the institution of optional preferential voting below the line to remove this unreasonable and discriminatory task for voters wishing to cast a formal ballot not available above the line.

Finally, another point is to do with the transfer of surplus votes. We would like to see the replacement of the current crude—and I do not think that is an unreasonable appellation for it—unweighted Gregory transfer value of the transfer of surplus votes with either the weighted inclusive Gregory transfer method, which is used for the transfer of surplus votes for the Western Australian Legislative Council, or perhaps even better—but I cannot explain to you how it works—the very sophisticated computer oriented Meek method.

Mr GRIFFIN: If you cannot explain to us how it works, Dr Morey, that is going to create a difficulty with convincing us.

Dr Morey : It is, yes.

CHAIR: We are unlike to just accept your view without explanation. It might have happened on other parliamentary committees but it will not happen on ours.

Dr Morey : Yes.

Mr Goode : Chair, I think it is something that could be investigated by a field of experts.

Dr Morey : I could point out at this stage that Meek has been accepted for local government elections in New Zealand.

Mr Goode : It is an option in New Zealand and it is in the law, yes, but the whole schedule is not in the act. We are laughing a bit about Meek but Meek is highly regarded in the UK, where it was developed. I have spoken to people there in the Electoral Reform Society who are very conversant with it and it is actually not spelt out in detail in the New Zealand legislation; they just refer to an academic paper which gives the full details. That is not very common, I suppose, in legislation, but that is how it works.

Mr GRIFFIN: Extremely uncommon, I would say.

Mr Goode : Yes. We are not saying it should be applied; it is just something to think about if you are interested in going beyond what is done in clear English in Western Australia.

Mr GRIFFIN: My point stands. If we were to recommend something, we would need to understand it.

Mr Goode : I would hope so.

Mr GRIFFIN: At least I like to kid myself.

Mr Goode : We just point to the fact that that is where developments might be leading in the future.

Dr Morey : Yes. My colleague and friend Dr Lee Naish is in a better position to explain it than I if you want to go down that particular direction, but we can speak in more detail about the difference between the unweighted Gregory transfer and the weighted Gregory transfer.

Mr GRIFFIN: I think that might be good if you could just explain that.

Dr Morey : Now?


Dr Morey : Okay.

CHAIR: You are on now! It is not a footy fixture; you will not be back.

Dr Morey : That is right. I will hand out to you a document which is from a paper by Professor—

Mr Goode : David Farrell.

Dr Morey : David Farrell.

Mr Goode : In Dublin.

Dr Morey : It compares the mathematics for three different types of transfer system as examples. If you look at the table, I will explain this as best I can, but please stop and ask questions on the way, and together we will answer them, assuming we can.

The first system, which is here described as the Gregory method, is also known as the last parcel. What happens there is that in this particular election a candidate whose name is Shirley was elected and the quota was, I think, 50,000 votes.

Mr Goode : Yes.

Dr Morey : Shirley received 35,000 first preference votes and then the surplus from a candidate called Tom who had 100,000 ballots that were at the value of 0.1; for whatever reason, that is what they were. So they equal 10,000 in their value. Finally, she received 25,000 preferences from a candidate called Dick, and Dick had not been elected—this was an exclusion—so his ballots were transferred at full value. That elects her, and up to this point there is no argument that this is the best way to move. Under the system that is here described as the Gregory method or the last parcel system, it is only the preferences of the last group that go towards the quota that are then counted for the next election. That means that the people who have voted for Dick in effect get extra opportunity. Their vote gets counted more, because not only have they assisted the election of Shirley but, since only 5,000 of their votes were needed for that, the full 20,000 at 0.8 value are passed on to the next candidate.

CHAIR: Yes, because she had got to 45,000 with the 10,000 from Tom and she only needed 5,000 more.

Dr Morey : Yes, that is right. So that system was put aside in 1983 by the Australian parliament and replaced by the inclusive Gregory method, which is what you currently use for the Senate.

Mr Goode : Yes, and might I say that at that time that was contested. The PR Society national president at the time, Jack Wright, pointed out that this was a defective method. The method that is currently used in the Senate has been considered a defective method by us for 30 years. He spelt out his reasons, and the letter was, at Senator Alan Missen's request, incorporated in Hansard, so it is available for inspection. The method has persisted for 30 years. Would you like to continue?

Dr Morey : No, I am happy for you to explain the inclusive Gregory method.

Mr Goode : It was considered to be an improvement, and Senator Mal Colston had a lot to do with popularising this.

Mr GRIFFIN: He was extremely good at adding value to things, as I understand it.

Mr Goode : Yes. This was before he left the Labor Party.

Senator TILLEM: I got it, Alan!

Mr Goode : Yes. Senator Colston came up with this, and it was accepted. It meant that the voting value was spread across all ballot papers, not across all votes. So ballot papers, whether they were at full value or only a small transfer value, actually contributed. As you can see in the line there, outgoing value is one-eighth, 0.125.

Mr GRIFFIN: So, to summarise the difference between the two, under the Gregory method, with the 25,000 ballots which were the parcel of votes that elected Shirley, the total value of the 20,000 votes that were not required to elect Shirley was transferred on, divided across those 25,000 ballot papers. Therefore you get a 0.8 value for those 25,000 ballot papers and therefore following those preferences, whereas under the inclusive Gregory method, which is the current system in the Senate, the circumstances are that the value of that 20,000 votes that had come through from Dick was apportioned across the entire 160,000 ballot papers that were sitting on Shirley, being her primaries, the additional value received from the 100,000 ballot papers that elected Tom and the 25,000 ballot papers from Dick. In those circumstances, for example, with the preference flows, and you would expect they would be somewhat different in both of those other two parcels of votes, it meant the value of those votes split across into those particular tickets with respect to the allocation of the surplus.

Mr Goode : Our calculations have been done here under the inclusive Gregory method. We would prefer to more particularly call it the unweighted inclusive Gregory method to make it clearer. There is a line there 'contribution to surplus' and the lion's share of that actually comes from relatively few votes—a lot of ballot papers but relatively few votes.

Dr Morey : In terms of the value of the votes.

Mr Goode : Yes, the value.

Dr Morey : So Tom's value of the votes was 10,000 but 62.5 per cent of what gets passed on comes from Tom's votes.

Mr GRIFFIN: You get vote capped on the basis of numbers of ballot papers with no reference to the question of how they got there.

Dr Morey : Whereas the weighted inclusive Gregory method is trying to allow for that. It is saying, 'Well, actually in comparison to the inclusive Gregory method unweighted system, which is the second group of lines, in the first one in the last parcel the ballots that have come from Dick are being overweighted. In the second one the ballots that have come from Tom are being overweighted. In the third one that is being evened out so that each vote is being passed on at the value that it still had when the quota was put together. The point about this is that back in the days when we used to do these counts by hand things like weighted inclusive Gregory and the Meek system were impossible for us to do, but nowadays these are done by computer programs and it can be easily done and is being done in Western Australia for the upper house every time.

Mr Goode : I might add that my understanding is that the weighted inclusive Gregory method had not been proposed by anybody until the Proportional Representation Society of Australia did propose—

CHAIR: Your almost had an interjection, Chris, which I am led to believe by gesticulation may have been the result of some activity from Mr Van der Craats at some stage.

Mr Goode : I do not know how active Mr Van der Craats was in the early 1980s—

Mr GRIFFIN: He is very old.

Mr Goode : He is, and some of us are. But regardless of who proposed it, the point is that it would have been rather forbidding without computers but obviously the computer method now allows it. I would strongly recommend that with regard to our national president, Bogey Musidlak, who I understand has made a submission just before the deadline to this inquiry though it is not yet on your website, I would hope you might consider inviting him because I think you will find him very informative.

CHAIR: Where is he based?

Mr Goode : He is based in the ACT. You are having another session in the ACT.

Mr GRIFFIN: I am sure we will have more than one.

CHAIR: We will have a few sessions. We are focusing first on two issues in the immediate weeks and months, and that is the West Australian lost votes and the Senate voting. We will get those details from the secretariat.

Mr Goode : Bogey has written a very well produced document which I have been involved in inspecting and collaborating on. It is 31 pages long, so it is a fair bit of reading, but it is all very penetrating and useful.

Dr Morey : So that has dealt with the topic of the weighted inclusive Gregory transfer. On the subject of the Meek method, which undoubtedly has been mentioned by this committee before and in various submissions—and I am sorry that I am not in a position to go through in detail how that works, but I am reasonably convinced from what I have read that the Meek system is the most sophisticated and possibly the fairest way of doing surplus transfers—

Mr GRIFFIN: If you want to provide some additional information to the committee, then I am sure that we would be happy to receive that. I just hope that it is something simple enough for me to understand. I reckon that if I can understand it, others have half a chance.

Mr Goode : I think that it is fair to say though that some of the higher priorities we have are easier to grasp and to implement. In some cases they are simply undoing mistakes of the past. We consider above-the-line voting to be a mistake.

Mr GRIFFIN: What about the argument that simply by having Inclusive Gregory or Weighted Inclusive Gregory what you are effectively doing is allowing people two bites of the cherry in terms of the value of their vote? Their vote gets used to elect someone in the first place and then is able to capture the value of preferences coming through from other people and in those circumstances distort their preferential voting requirements or intentions.

Dr Morey : I understand the thrust of the question and certainly agree that the principle should be to make the system as fair as possible. The basic principle I go back to is that we would like to see a system where as high a proportion as possible of the number of votes cast go towards electing someone. The problem with the last-parcel method, which certainly avoids the perceived problem, for example, of Shirley's 35,000 first preferences getting counted twice, is that it gives too much importance—

Mr GRIFFIN: Or Tom's three times—

Dr Morey : Or Tom's three times. It gives too much importance to the ones that have come from Dick, because not only do they go towards counting hers, but then they go towards electing the next person, presumably or possibly.

Mr GRIFFIN: But if you argue that each vote itself has a value and each time you utilise it to elect someone then you decrease that value, then the argument is that if you have used that vote completely in its value to elect a person by its highest preference then that vote is done.

Dr Morey : Yes, I understand the argument—do you want to say something about that?

Mr Goode : No, not at this stage.

Mr GRIFFIN: Maybe you can come back to us on that point. I am genuinely confused about some of these things and I have seen a range of things happen over the years which would suggest different outcomes. The other point is in terms of options. To jump ahead now, on the issue of optional preferential voting the biggest issue which concerns me about optional preferential voting—my biggest concern—is the fact that under almost any system that I have seen the likelihood is that a position will develop where you will have large-scale exhaustions at various stages of the count. One of the problems with what is currently operating is that we are seeing on some occasions—odd occasions and there have been a couple of very odd occasions just recently—the stated preference by group voting tickets has produced an outcome which is almost certainly not the outcome for many of the people who have filled in the square above the line, on the one hand, because they have abrogated, if you like, their choice to those who have determined the tickets. So there is that aspect of it.

But the flip side of that is that under an optional preferential voting system what that almost certainly leads to is a situation of large-scale exhaustions usually in the last stages of the process, which will mean that almost without exception you will elect people significantly under quota and quite often in circumstances where there is more voter value exhausted than actually utilised to elect the last one or two candidates.

Mr Goode : In the last Tasmanian election in March, the total percentage of exhausted votes for Tasmania was just under six per cent, and that was quite high compared with the election four years previously in 2010 when it was just under four per cent. That is for the whole of Tasmania.

Mr GRIFFIN: And Tasmania has five federal electorates and entitlement under numbers for three, and is an island off the coast of Australia and you can even get t-shirts which suggest it is not part of it—but that is another story. I want to put on record: Tasmania is very much part of Australia but it is a different place—

CHAIR: You are coming tomorrow—

Mr GRIFFIN: I was until a minute ago! But one of the concerns I have is that electoral behaviour and the nature of how people exercise their right is determined by a number of factors. One is the law, which is different in many jurisdictions for different levels of democratic involvement, and also past custom and practice. In Tasmania, at the moment as I recall, something like 20 per cent of people in the Senate actually vote below the line—which is a big statement in the context of how they are used to voting—and that is different—

CHAIR: That is different from the rest of Australia.

Mr GRIFFIN: That is different from the rest of Australia, significantly. An example which relates to Tasmania, given their history with Hare-Clark, et cetera, given that experience in terms of voting below the line in terms of the upper house, although I note it I am not compelled to be convinced by it in terms of what that would mean for the rest of the country.

Mr Goode : But of course it has not been done in the rest of the country. There are no examples to point to.

CHAIR: If vote is exhausted, do you think it is the right of voters to be properly informed to vote their preferences to the extent they wish and have a right to have their votes exhausted?

Mr Goode : Thank you, Mr Chairman. The alternative is that they just make them up or do them at random, and many people tell me that that is what they do because they will not use above the line, they have to use below the line, they have to fill out 97. All they have to remember is that they are consecutive numbers. It does not matter who they go to. They might attend to their first few and then the rest is a silly task that, for some reason, they are required to perform.

Senator RHIANNON: Mr Goode and Dr Morey, could I get back to Mr Griffin's question that he just asked, where he made the assumption—I think it is fair enough to say—that we could see the last person elected on a very low quota, and with this high exhaustion rate. Is it your assumption that that is correct—that the last person elected would be on a very low quota?

Mr Goode : It would be less than a quota—

Senator RHIANNON: It would be less than a quota but do we assume that it is going to be very low? Is there anything to indicate that that is how it would play out?

Mr Goode : I am not sure that they are particularly low. They are lower than a quota, but if there is no more information forthcoming from the voters, what else are you to do? Are you to force them to put a lot of meaningless marks on—so if you have a beautiful, arithmetic result—

CHAIR: So might get a quota but it is not a genuine—

Mr Goode : It is a bit like some of these elections in some very funny countries where people get 100 per cent of the vote, because there is only one candidate.

Dr Morey : While taking Mr Griffin's point about the fact that you cannot necessarily assume that the behaviour across the nation would be the same as the behaviour within Tasmania, I think it is worth having a look at what has actually happened in Tasmania in relatively recent times on this front. I do not have the 2014 figures in front of me—

Mr GRIFFIN: They were really bad—

CHAIR: I can see the point you are making, which is that this has existed in Tasmania. But I accept Mr Griffin's point as well, and we are going there tomorrow. There are five members of the House of House of Representatives and 12 senators, as the Constitution provides. That provides a very different political environment as far as focus on the Senate. Senators really are like regional House of Reps members in a sense, aren't they?

Senator KROGER: In Tassie? Yes. They are known in their electorates—

CHAIR: And it is unique. What would be the state that comes next closest—

Senator TILLEM: New Zealand!

CHAIR: Senator Tillem, I am not sure whether you're down to come tomorrow! But Western Australia has, what, 15 reps seats and 12 senators.

Senator TILLEM: I look at several models. Putting aside the issue of thresholds, which I think has been beaten around the head a fair bit, exhausting models are also thresholds in some aspects because the votes expire. If you adjusted for quota after each exhaustion, would that resolve the problem of getting elected under a quota?

Mr Goode : In a technical sense, yes—by definition—but it is really just a cosmetic sort of thing. You are simply adjusting it and then saying, 'Oh, we've got the quotas,' but the quotas are smaller.

CHAIR: It makes you feel better.

Mr Goode : What is the difference between being elected under quota if there are only two left—

Senator TILLEM: But, if we are talking about a true representative system, the value of votes goes towards electing a candidate, and that is a quota. If the value of votes is diminished overall because of exhaustion, you are readjusting the level of votes that is required to get elected. Therefore, you are playing on an even playing field, are you not?

Mr Goode : If you are reducing it, it can be said. But the other approach, which is the present approach, is where the quota stays fixed and at the end there might be two people vying and neither of them is going to get a quota. It is a real situation. This is the only information you have, and it is a sensible thing to say that, if the only people remaining in the count receive these particular totals, even though they are less than a quota one of them is clearly it. The voters have not supplied the information. They are not forced to and have chosen not to.

Senator TILLEM: What is the view of the society on how the quota is calculated at the moment?

Mr Goode : The main view we have is that we support the Droop quota. There have been some people arguing for the Hare quota, which was the original—

Senator TILLEM: And why do you support the current Droop quota?

Mr Goode : The Droop quota—and this again requires a worked example to explain it—

Senator TILLEM: Give it a crash.

Mr Goode : A quite persuasive writer has published this in literature. Ms Enid Lakeman from the UK has written on this quite substantially, and we included this on the website. With the Hare quota, there are cases possible where a majority of voters does not elect a majority of representatives in some situations, whereas the Droop quota avoids that. The exact mechanism for why that happens is better explained with a whole lot of numbers on a board and going through a particular worked example. I do not propose to do that here, but that is the reason. The original Hare-Clark that Andrew Inglis Clark developed had the Hare quota; but, by the time 1907 arrived and the legislation went through the whole of Tasmania, the Droop quota was instituted. For the legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives in 1902 prescribing PR quota preferential for the Senate, it had the Droop quota. Professor Nanson from the University of Melbourne made sure of that; he was a great advocate for better systems. It was only the Senate that rejected that, and that is why it did not happen in 1902. It would have if the Senate had not rejected it. Incidentally, that 1902 bill provided for one preference being sufficient.

Senator TILLEM: Aside from the Australian model—we have gone through some other models that are used internationally—which is the system that the society believes is the best model in use today?

Dr Morey : Malta and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Goode : Did you say apart from Tasmania?

Dr Morey : Apart from Australia.

Senator TILLEM: Apart from the Australian model, yes.

Dr Morey : And of course we should mention the Australian Capital Territory.

Senator RHIANNON: What about New Zealand? What do you say about New Zealand?

Mr Goode : New Zealand has never used quota preferential. It has, in our view, a very unsatisfactory mixture of party list and single-member pluralities.

Senator RHIANNON: So you do not see that as a form of PR.

Mr Goode : We regard it as fairly disastrous. It is technically proportional representation. Our society questions whether it is representation. If people cannot decide which of the members are going to end up in parliament—in other words, the party just gives you a package—how is that representing anybody by individual people? I think our Constitution, in sections 7 and 24, providing for the direct election of members, is superb.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Yes, but for you to make that statement you would have to do so on the premise that we have a sophisticated electorate in the first instance.

Mr Goode : We seem to have had one in the 19th century—enough to elect a group of constitutional framers who provided that particular provision—and we have been conducting elections for over a hundred years.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It is not my experience on the street corner. The level of understanding of an ordinary voter as to how all this works is in single digits, not in double digits.

Mr Goode : I do understand the technicalities, but there was a time before group voting tickets when senators were better known; actually, it was in the interests of the parties to say who they were. They disclosed on how to vote cards the names of these people.

Mr GRIFFIN: I can recall a Labor Party senator from New South Wales whom I will not name and who basically was a legend for not being known before group voting, so I am afraid I—

Mr Goode : We do understand that even members in House of Representatives seats can be not that well known.

Mr GRIFFIN: That is right.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: My ear is tuned to try to work out with all of these systems and equations how we help our electors help themselves to achieve the full potential of their voting. In some instances we may just have to wait and balance things, accepting that they are not sophisticated with regard to what they are about to do. They should be, and you can create a perfect system. If it were to rely on that, the perfect system will not deliver us what it is we need in the circumstances.

Dr Morey : I would suggest in answer to that that not requiring the voters to fill in 97 squares below the line is exactly moving in that direction. Reducing—not forbidding people from filling in all 97—this quite unreasonable requirement to the point where it is reasonable and working in similar systems like Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory—

CHAIR: I want to focus the question in the next 10 minutes or so because we have other business to get through and members and senators have some other things to attend to through the day. Your point simply is this. Take the House of Representatives, for example. Once it was first past the post, so you got one preference. Then it went to compulsory preferential, so you had to express your preferences to the very end. Your point, philosophically, is that you should be able to express your preferences to the extent you wish.

Mr Goode : That was the case for the Senate until 1934.

CHAIR: But, without wanting to relitigate everything, that is your simple principle.

Dr Morey : Yes. I think that, if we look at some of the situations where exhaustion came about—I will spend a moment on the election for the seat of Denison in Tasmania in 2010, which I have in front of me. Basically, in Denison in 2010, two Labor, one Liberal and one Greens member were elected with full quotas after the distribution of preferences. But at the end there were the second Greens candidate, the second Liberal candidate and group A's candidate, Mr Wilkie, standing for those three positions. The second Greens candidate, Burnet, was excluded; and, had there been compulsory preferential, it is at least possible—perhaps arguable—that most of Burnet's votes would have gone to Mr Wilkie. However, what actually happened was that about one-third of the people who voted for Burnet exhausted at that point. Consequently, the second Liberal candidate, Archer, was elected slightly in front of Wilkie. I would argue that it was the intention of some of those voters that they did not wish to pass their preferences on any further. In terms of democratic theory, I think it is a good thing if we are not forced to vote for people we do not want to vote for. I must confess that, when I got to about 35 on the Senate ballot paper last September, I was having difficulty deciding how to go on.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: You didn't vote for the I Want to Marry My Cat Party people?

Dr Morey : I can't recall! From the point of view of democracy and good democratic practice, I personally think in not being required to express a preference beyond a certain distance. Then you say, 'All right, I have decided at this point I am not going to express the difference between the Liberal Candidate and Mr Wilkie; I don't have an opinion on that.'

CHAIR: 'That is as far as I want to go.'

Mr Goode : 'Other people have made the decision.'

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Help me with the base maths here. Like some of the others, I never completed grade 10. The proposition that the chair put to you would then deliver let's say six individuals to fill the six vacancies with a complete disregard for a quota?

Dr Morey : Not necessarily. In the Tasmanian election in 2010, in the other districts—I just had a quick look and do not want to be held to account for this—the candidates were mostly elected with full quotas. In Braddon and Bass, which were the other two I have had a chance to have a close look at so far this morning while we were having this discussion, all five candidates had a full quota. It is possible, but it is not a requirement.

CHAIR: I take you back to the point your colleague made before. You would also argue, wouldn't you, that, whilst you have full quotas at the moment, they are not representative quotas. It does not necessarily represent day to day.

Dr Morey : I would think that it would be difficult to argue—

CHAIR: It is all right. Take Victoria, where you started. I am not trying to be controversial. The Motoring Enthusiast Party got 0.5 per cent of the vote and ended up with a quota. No-one would argue that that quota represented the deliberate will of the people.

Dr Morey : No, I do not believe it did. The problem here, of course, is the group voting tickets and the above the line voting, which is something that we would urge you to abandon. Much as we may not be massively confident that you are going to do that, we urge you to abandon it, because I do not believe that most of the people who voted for the various small parties that built the quota for Senator-elect Muir had the intention of doing that. However, it is equally arguable, of course, that the fact that one-sixth of the voting population decided not to vote for one of the major parties, including in this case the Greens, means something. Those people actually did not want to vote.

CHAIR: Are we talking about Victoria or Western Australia?

Dr Morey : Victoria here.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: With respect: could that not have been just expression of intention that they did not want to vote for that sixth?

Dr Morey : Indeed. The point is we do not know the intention of the voters who voted for all those small parties, because their intention is assumed by the law—

Mr GRIFFIN: I am sorry to interrupt. I will put this to you. Major parties—and by that I mean all three in this context—although they may not be consistent as to what they do, genuinely have a view amongst voters about what they represent and stand for. That development of party voting has led to a situation where the majority—although it is dropping—are prepared to fill out a group voting ticket 1 on the basis of that and the choices that they made. We may not always agree with the choices that they make, whether that be on preferences or otherwise. If you go to the question of microparties, the bottom line with microparties is that overwhelmingly they have had no history of electoral success or performance which allows people to form a view about what they really stand for and, from that, may only be in a situation where there is a sense of what they might be interested in on the basis of the name that they choose.

We know that over the last few years in some state jurisdictions and certainly federally is that the gaining of preferences through the group voting ticket approach is leading to a distortion of even the philosophical basis which a party's name might suggest at that level. So what about the argument that group voting tickets ought to be banned for new parties or parties that get below three per cent or five per cent of the vote because of that very reason?

Dr Morey : This is not a suggestion I have given a great deal of thought to so I preface my comments by saying I am thinking off the top of my head. If you suggest anything that looks like you are trying to make it easier for the existing major parties, which in this case would include the Greens, to achieve something and making it harder for the minor parties, I think ultimately, will prove to be counterproductive because the number of people who are supporting these groups is on the rise.

Senator KROGER: But it would be reasonable to strengthen the conditions to establish yourself as a political party and that would be one way.

Dr Morey : There is no argument about that.

Senator KROGER: What is a political party in there for?

Dr Morey : You can increase the number of members they require; you can increase the costs. We are not making any submission about that. That is all perfectly reasonable. But to set up a system where the rules would be different for certain—

Senator RHIANNON: The conditions and how you establish a political party has just been raised. Do you have a view on that because the bar can be raised so it then becomes very hard to establish a political party. Every election usually throws up new political parties as a part of the democratic process. Do you have any views on numbers of members or on the cost of running those issues? I think you ruled out threshold earlier?

Dr Morey : Yes, threshold is to do with the way the votes are counted rather than which parties can be on the ballot so we certainly have a view against thresholds.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, what about the conditions for establishing a political party?

Mr Goode : On the conditions, I think the point Stephen has taken up is that you have got to allow for new parties. You might find that certain aspects of the Palmer United Party are not completely satisfactory. I feel that there are some aspects that do not appeal but they did get support, not through this other mechanism of channelism but in first-preference support. The most recent test of that was in WA—the first preference quota.

Senator KROGER: The issue with the political parties is whether they actually are a political party. It goes to the heart of the integrity of whether or not it is a political party, whether it has been established for a day for the purpose of running as a group ticket—

CHAIR: Whether their members know they are members.

Senator KROGER: and so is that a political party? That is the issue that should be dealt with. The question is a good one if you have got some views as to what to makes a political party.

Senator RHIANNON: At what level? We need standards but can it be so prohibitive that you need so many members or the nomination fees are so costly? The very point you are making is that there are more parties but it will become harder for those parties to actually participate.

CHAIR: Could I make a suggestion? It is a reasonable point that is being made and it is an area as important as how we vote in the Senate. Given you said you had no problem with the idea of strengthening the rules of racing for parties and that you had not given it a lot of thought, could we ask you to make a supplementary submission on this topic? I think that would be useful rather than us trying to think it all through now. If there are any other questions on any other topics, let us take them now. There have been a number of submissions already. The points Senator Kroger and Senator Rhiannon have made are worth you addressing. Without being at all critical—I do not want to risk extending the hearing by another 15 minutes—those who have had very strong views on Senate voting systems have also had quite well constructed views on party registration. I would put Malcolm Mackerras and Antony Green in that category. They have diametrically opposed views on how Senate voting should work—in fact, I think they found themselves surprised to be in agreement on that subject—but they were quite specific and we have not got that—

Mr Goode : We have been involved with both of them, so we know their views in many ways.

CHAIR: To quote an ex-Prime Minister, we have not got that level of specificity from you on that subject.

Dr Morey : It is not an area that we are as much involved in as the other things, but yes—

CHAIR: Well, have a think about it. You are very focused on that area. You can put in a supplementary submission. We had a target date for submissions but we will take submissions up until the last possible moment.

Mr Goode : Well, you have invited us to put in a supplementary.

Dr Morey : You will give us a few days to do it?

CHAIR: No, you can have a week or so.

Senator KROGER: It is not mandatory though—you can have at least two weeks!

CHAIR: No. Have a hot cross bun, have an Easter egg and then complete it! If there are no other questions—

Senator TILLEM: I might put some questions on notice if that is okay, Chair.

CHAIR: Yes, absolutely. I thank you for appearing today. It was most informative. Thank you for your information. If you think of any other material that you want to provide, please feel free to do so.

Proceedings suspended from 12:01 to 13:15