Australia: Hijacking of preferences by electoral sharpies will be countered by law changes

Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir was elected to the Senate with 0.51 per cent of the vote.

Congratulations. Your Senate vote has just been liberated.


It has been freed from manipulation by electoral sharpies who effectively have been hijacking your ballots and sending the preferences to candidates you have never heard of.


Or if you have heard of them, you might not want them representing anyone in the Upper House.


A vote in the Senate today saw the Government, the Greens and independent Nick Xenophon push through long overdue changes in how we elect our Upper House.

Here are some of the consequences of that legislation passing:


This means the Government could call a July 2 election under the new scheme. The chances have climbed of a double-dissolution election, in which all senators and all MPs are up for election. It is easier for a micro party to win a slot in a DD because the vote quota is halved. This legislation makes that calculation less likely.


You will be able to do more than merely vote above the line or below the line, with optional preferential ballots now available. You can mark six boxes above the line or 12 below, or go the lot if you want.

If you vote below the line, you won’t have to give a preference to candidates you wouldn’t want anywhere near a Parliament. For example in South Australia, Labor‘s Penny Wong wouldn’t have to vote for Liberal Cory Bernardi who wouldn’t have to vote for the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young, who wouldn’t etc etc.


They will have to compete directly for votes rather than depend on contrived channelling of preferences through front organisations to candidates known by few in the electorate.

They realise the charges aren’t best for their long-term future with Motoring Enthusiasts’ Party senator Ricky Muir claiming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had “threatened someone with their job”.

The Government has picked a fight with seven of the eight cross bench senators who are unlikely to support legislation such as revival of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which Mr Turnbull has nominated as a possible double dissolution trigger.


Voters will be able to see where their votes go in the new system. They will be able to guide their own personalised preference flow, wrecking the decades-old business model of backroom preference wranglers.


As the Parliamentary Library reports: “Under the current system only a small number of voters vote below the line, and at the 2013 federal election over 8,000 of those votes were informal. The proposed amendments should make below the line voting a lot easier, and may lead to an increase in voters allocating their own preferences to candidates below the line.”


While voters will be winner, the hostility of the cross bench will not abate if they calculate they have nothing to lose.

One of Ricky Muir’s advisers has written fresh lyrics to the old Bo Diddley song, “Before You Accuse Me (Take a Look at Yourself)”.

It goes: “You say I’ve been blocking all your legislation,

But some of your bills are no good.”

And also: “If they do a double D,

“Just remember, don’t blame me.”

However, changes to electoral law were recommended by a nonpartisan committee in April last year and implementation of changes to the 32-year-old preference system have been long overdue.


Earlier on linksunten: Reform announced for insane Australian electoral system - but will it happen?

Other coverage:

Senate reforms pass after marathon sitting   -   Electoral laws passed   -  

Congratulations. Your Senate vote has just been liberated   -   The loophole that let Ricky Muir enter the Senate on less than 1%   -   Voting law changes   -   Malcolm Turnbull hails changes   -   Explore in depth (172 more articles)