After the last election the cross-party Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquired at length into the Senate voting system. The Committee reported unanimously and made a number of recommendations to improve the Senate voting system.
The Government has carefully considered those recommendations and will introduce legislation today which will ensure that voters clearly and transparently determine where their Senate vote and preferences go.
These reforms will bring to an end the days of political parties determining preference flows. Individual voters will now decide how their preferences are allocated.
The following reforms to Senate voting arrangements will be proposed for the consideration of the Parliament today:
- The introduction of optional preferential above the line voting, with advice to the voter on the ballot paper to vote above the line by numbering at least 6 of the boxes in the order of the voter’s choice (with the number 1 as the voter’s first choice);
- The introduction of a related savings provision to ensure that a ballot is still formal where the voter has numbered 1 or fewer than 6 boxes above the line;
- In relation to voting below the line, a proposal to reduce the number of informal votes by increasing the number of allowable ‘mistakes’ from 3 to 5, as long as 90% of the Ballot paper below the line is filled in correctly;
- The abolition of group and individual voting tickets;
- The introduction of a restriction to prevent individuals holding relevant official positions in multiple parties;
- To reduce voter confusion between parties with similar party names, a proposal to allow political parties (at their discretion) to have their logo included on the ballot paper.
The AEC, as part of its usual pre-election awareness raising campaigns, will conduct a voter education campaign to ensure the changed arrangements are well understood.
Australians are entitled to expect that, when they vote for the Senate, the outcomes will reflect faithfully what each and every voter intends as they exercise their democratic choice.