What Happened In The Senate?

It was my intention to write a post reviewing the outcome of the Senate election once it was finalised, and I may still post about some particular features if they are under discussion, especially if Labor keeps up their ridiculous opposition to the new voting system and continue to blame it for everything (before the election it was going to lock out minor parties and after the election it is responsible for them getting elected!), but otherwise I don’t see much point because Dr Kevin Bonham has written an absolutely superb review of the results of the new senate voting system, covering everything I wanted to say and a whole lot more, and a lot better than I would have, so I just want to point interested people in that direction.

Part 1: http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/senate-reform-performance-review-part-1.html

Part 2: http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/senate-reform-performance-review-part-2.html

New Senate Terms

It’s really too early to be talking about this, but there has been a bit of talk about it and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion so I wanted to try and clarify the current situation.

Firstly, there is already a great post on this by Antony Green, however being written a while ago it doesn’t cover the actual results of the election. It is here http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/04/how-long-and-short-terms-are-allocated-after-a-double-dissolution.html

We are still well short of having the full results of the Senate. So far we just have counts of number 1 votes, and even these are well short of being complete, many are around 60% of the electorate. This is enough for us to know which candidates have a guaranteed quota but we know very little about preferences, especially as this is the first election under this system. Kevin Bonham has an informative post on the state of the count here http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/2016-senate-postcount-very-long-way.html

There is interest for a couple of main reasons

  • Derryn Hinch has raised the issue
  • Many are wondering whether Pauline Hanson will have a 3 or 6 year term.

Unfortunately an article on the ABC website to answer questions on this actually made some misleading statements and incorrectly claimed that a certain method was advantageous to the major parties – a claim which is demonstrably untrue.

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The Major Parties Do Not Win Because Of Preferences

The purpose of this post is to explain why a common misconception about voting is actually false. The heading is rather general, and by certain interpretations not necessarily true, so I will start by clarifying what I mean precisely. Firstly by “major party” in this post I mean Labor or the Coalition. When I say they don’t win on preferences, I mean that collectively, in the sense that most seats are won by one or the other of them. It happens quite often that preferences will decide which of them will win, but I am saying that preferences are not making it inevitable that one of Labor or the Coalition will win.

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How to vote in the Senate in 2016

Some people are confused about the new senate voting rules, this post gives a simple summary of how to vote – it’s actually easier than ever – and then follows up with much more behind the scenes detail on how it actually works for those who are interested.
While I personally advocate a vote for the Greens, the information in this post is neutral in that it equally applies regardless of who you want to vote for.

1. Basic Voting Instructions

The ballot paper will say to number at least 1 to 6 groups (essentially parties) above the line, or at least 1 to 12 candidates below the line. This is the very simplest description of what to do, either write in number 1,2,3,4,5,6 in boxes above the line, or 1,2,…,11,12 in boxes below the line, or more if you like.

You can see what the paper looks like here, along with the electoral commission’s instructions


These are just the technical requirements, but how should you actually vote based on what you think of the candidates or parties?

The first thing is do you want to vote for parties or candidates. If your choices are purely along party lines (which is perfectly reasonable) in the following ways:

  • You want to vote for party A, then B, then C and so on.
  • You are happy with the order of candidates within each party group

then voting above the line is the best options for you.

On the other hand if you want to order your preferences across party lines, for example you like one candidate from party A best, but your second favourite is from party B, or else you want to rearrange the order within a party group, for example you prefer the third candidate for party A to the first one and want to put them first, then you should vote below the line where you directly select candidates.

The next thing to consider is that you are selecting preferences. This is different to selecting which candidates you like, you may have preferences amongst candidates you don’t like that much but it can be important to express them. The best way to vote is to order as many parties or candidates as possible in such a way that you would always prefer a particular candidate to everyone else below them in your list.

Thus your list may include people you don’t particularly want to be elected, but who you would prefer to some other candidate. This is what your vote should be, you should number every one of these preferences on your ballot. The more candidates you can meaningfully give a preference for, in the sense that you know enough about them to know you prefer them to some other candidate, the better. This ensures that your vote counts as much as possible. It is quite likely that most of these preferences will never be counted, but by voting in this way, you’re not talking any risks, whatever happens in the count your vote will still be counting in a way that supports your genuine preferences.

Update: Immediately after posting this, I found that Antony Green has just posted a guide on Senate voting http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/06/how-should-you-vote-in-the-senate.html

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Preference Deal Reality Check

Repost of a comment I made at the Guardian re the press repeating Labor claims of a preference deal without evidence. I don’t know anything of what’s going on within the parties, but I’d like some actual evidence of a preference deal before I start considering the implications of it, many in the press don’t really feel this way though:

So what do we actually know? Kroger has talked about preferencing the Greens ahead of Labor. This is because every election the Liberals hand out how to votes with a full preference ticket, so they need to decide who is last between Labor and Greens. It was an easy choice for them when Labor were the only realistic chance of winning the seat but since Greens started winning seats it has been a vexed issue for the Liberals, particularly in Victoria, and in the past they have gone either way. None of this has anything to do with deals, they are going to put one before the other anyway, and they put Greens above Labor without a deal in 2010 and Labor above Greens without a deal in 2013.

Labor have used this to claim that the Liberals and Greens have done a deal, seemingly a continuation of their strategy of claiming the Greens are close to the Liberals for voting with them occasionally even though the Greens vote with them far less than anybody else in parliament. It’s a win-win strategy for Labor though, either Liberals preference them above Greens and they get the preferences, or Liberals preference Greens above Labor and they claim that they were right there was a deal and try to win votes off that. All of this can happen in the absence of anyone doing any deals at all, especially when the press plays along.

And the press do appear to be reporting this without question. The Greens have said there is no deal. As far as I know nobody in the Liberals has said there is a deal, they have just talked about who they will preference. Has anybody asked Labor for evidence of this deal? If Kroger is supposedly dealing with someone has anyone asked who he is dealing with?

In addition, it is worth remembering that the only preferences that now count are those written on the ballot by the voter themselves anyway.