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Don't play Russian Roulette with your vote

As children we are warned by our parents of the dangers involved in playing Russian Roulette. It is a game of chance with winners surviving to tell their tales and losers well, we know what happens to them.

As children we are warned by our parents of the dangers involved in playing Russian Roulette.

It is a game of chance with winners surviving to tell their tales and losers well, we know what happens to them.

Australia's Senate voting system has become a game of Russian Roulette with micro parties gaming the system to favour their cause in spite of the low number of votes directly cast in their favour.

Not only that - a lot of the micro parties don't even realise who they're doing preferences with, because it's frequently organised by people who might have paid roles with other political parties.

We are all aware that the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (AMEP) Senator, Ricky Muir, won his highly prized seat with a record low primary vote of just 0.51 per cent of the vote.

His eventual position in Parliament resulted from the distribution of preferences from 23 other single issue groups just as obscure as the Motorist Enthusiast Party.

The AMEP was part of a group voting ticket comprised of parties such as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party, the Bank Reform Party, the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics Party and Australian Voice Party.

These parties swapped preferences between themselves, meaning that someone who thought they were voting for the HEMP Party, could have perversely been sending a preference to the Climate Sceptics Party. Imagine the outrage around Nimbin!

This group voting ticket approach was formulated in secret, behind closed doors by a master manipulator. Although it's never been confirmed, there are plenty of reports that some of the people involved were possibly in the pay of other political parties, helping direct votes their way.

It elected a candidate that very few voters had heard of or supported. It elected a candidate that very few voters knew they were even voting for. And in turn, it created a perverse outcome and undermined the Senate's role as a house of review.

Forget about a democratically elected government with a mandate supported by the majority of voters when you have an obstructionist Senate made up of a host of micro party members.

Instead you have the tail wagging the dog.

A group of minor players threatening to derail the government's authority to implement its policies, its platform and its ability to govern as it was elected to do.

This is a problem not for a Coalition Government - it's a problem for whichever government gets elected.

The Turnbull Government is now seeking to right this miscarriage of voters' intentions and halt the favouring of micro parties over genuine contestable candidates.

The introduction of legislation to allow for "optional, above-the-line preferential voting" - where a minimum of six squares have to be numbered - is a significant move to ensure that our voting system truly reflects the intent of the individual casting that vote.

This is backed up by the removal of the group voting tickets discussed above. If you want to vote for the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, or the HEMP Party, or the Climate Sceptics Party, you'll have to actually vote for them.

The change makes the Australian Senate vote more transparent, democratic and demonstrates leadership by the government to directly challenge the beneficiaries of the current corrupted system.

Following the inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Electorate Matters which unanimously supported a number of recommendations to improve the Senate voting system, one could be confused by the response of the Australian Labor Party.

For some reason known only amongst themselves, the Labor Party will oppose the proposed changes to the system.

It has picked up the loaded gun.

Even the Australian Greens are not so foolish to ignore the dangers of allowing the current situation to continue. Not so the likes of ALP Senator Sam Dastyari and his factional mates.

Dastyari has thrown a red herring into the debate claiming that the reforms are rushed and the voting community will not have sufficient time to absorb the changes.

Dastyari knows that his party's electoral nemesis, the Australian Greens, will be the ones to benefit from the changes as Labor has grown more reliant on Greens preferences to get its candidates elected.

We saw this last year in the New South Wales state election in some closely fought contests.

Labor is at a philosophical cross roads.

The question is whether the party will become more Green in its attitude and policy development or will the Greens become more like the Labor of old and engage in negotiation, compromise and a mainstream approach to governing.

If it is the latter, the Greens will achieve what former Greens leader Senator Bob Brown set out to do - replace the Labor Party as Australia's other major political force.

And as for the future of the micro parties...?

While they may threaten to run candidates against the Coalition and hold a gun to the head of the Government, that gun is likely to be as effective as a pop gun.

 

Feb 23, 2016