Senate debates

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Bills

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; In Committee

8:44 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Was it? I am sorry—well, under three per cent. Shall we agree with under three? Now she comes in here to give us a lecture about how people like that should not have the chance to be elected. If we want to talk about hypocrisy, I think we have seen a fair bit tonight.

This is quite interesting—I am answering more questions than Senator Cormann is, but I am going to come back to him! Senator Rhiannon also asked, 'Where is the source of the 3.3 million voters?' like this was some made-up thing. The Australian Electoral Commission is the source of the 3.3 million votes that we have calculated were first preference votes in the 2013 federal election—ex-WA, plus the 24 Western Australian re-election.

The next point I would make is that she asserted that somehow exhausted votes are a new argument. That is not true. In fact, I have said that before on radio and I will reference a study that I am going to get my staff to bring in—oh, here it is! There you go—it was only released on Tuesday, so I guess I could not have quoted it before. But it is actually possible to have a number of arguments and have them all be legitimate, Senator Rhiannon.

I will finally just make this point: the Greens political party want us to believe that this is a matter of high principle. I do not believe it is. I think it is a matter of them seeing the merit of a set of changes for them as a political party. I would make the point, as I did in the second reading speech debate, that I actually do think that Labor is likely to get more senators out of this. I do.

Senator Simms interjecting—

We all make assumptions! But we actually have to look at what the national interest is. What is the national interest and what is a democratic system? I have said on a number of occasions—

Senator Simms interjecting—

Senator Simms, I know you are feeling wounded by today but, really, you do not need to continue to interject—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Senator Wong I would remind you to address your remarks to the chair.

I am happy to address you, because you know I like talking to you, but he keeps interjecting so I have to respond. What do you want me to do, Chair?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Ignore the interjections, including those from over on my left.

Well, maybe you could stop him interjecting! I have lost my train of thought now! Oh, my point was about the Australian Greens and political benefit. As I said, I do think it is quite likely that Labor will get more senators out of this system than it would out of the existing system, but we ought not to be driven by political advantage—as Senator Rhiannon is. We ought to understand what a system will mean and we ought to think through the various ways in which democratic objectives can be balanced.

I have said on a number of occasions, and I say so again: I agree that there are issues with the current preferencing arrangements and the preference whisperer phenomenon that we have seen. But I do not share Senator Cormann's view, which is essentially a view that first-past-the-post—

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