Senate debates

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Bills

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; In Committee

10:53 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I will be very brief—

Senator Conroy interjecting—

What sarcasm from my friend Senator Conroy!

Senator Conroy interjecting—

Hang on a second—no, no, no. I need to respond to that interjection about me 'ducking the debate'. I made a contribution on this bill. Senator Conroy knows that we worked almost like a tag team in Senate estimates talking about submarines and future shipbuilding and arguing about a fair deal for Australian shipbuilding, so do not say I was ducking the debate. We were on a unity ticket on that, so please do not say I was ducking the debate.

In relation to this issue, I just want to make this contribution: in respect of my additional comments to the inquiry report, I made reference to Dr Kevin Bonham, who in his submission to the inquiry, in terms of the savings provisions and publicity, said:

A common issue surrounding the use of savings provisions is the potential for parties or commentators to advocate 'just vote 1' style voting, which is contrary to the instructions on the ballot paper but formal as a result of the savings provision.

Dr Bonham made a suggestion that there be banned:

        Dr Bonham suggested in his submission—and he referred to it in his evidence—that:

        While there has been some suggestion that even discussing the existence of the savings provision should be banned, I am strongly opposed to going that far. It is necessary that people be able to discuss a voting system and its operation for the purposes of research, analysis and debate.

        Senator Collins made the point that there has been some commentary about whether we should do anything about that. That was initially my view but, after further discussion with Dr Bonham and Antony Green, I think it would be overkill. I think that the safeguards in the legislation for misleading voters are sufficient. If someone is advocating 'Just vote 1 above the line,' I think they are actually doing themselves in the eye. It is almost self-regulating in respect of that. So I think that the existing safeguards are there and the matters Dr Bonham raises are important. However, to go any further we are going to end up in a Langer-type situation, and I do not think we want to go back to that. I think the behaviour will be moderated by the fact that for those who do advocate 'Just vote 1 above the line,' it will be quite counterproductive for them. There are provisions in terms of penalties.

        Briefly, on the issue—and I think Senator Conroy made reference to—of the New South Wales system, about 80 per cent of voters in the legislative council just vote 1 and only about 20 per cent vote more than 1. The counterpoint to that is that in the ACT my understanding is that it is 1 to 7 above the line and most voters—I think 75 to 80 per cent of voters—actually do that, and the other 20 or 25 per cent vote below the line in the requisite number of boxes. So there is only a very small proportion of voters that actually—

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