Senate debates

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Bills

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; In Committee

11:48 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | Hansard source

I can very happily confirm that the government has not done any testing, as Senator Collins is suggesting. Any such testing would be quite ludicrous because you cannot actually predict future voter behaviour at future elections because there are obviously a whole range of factors that go into the decision making of voters at an election, not least of which is the information provided by various political parties and candidates about what they intend to do on being elected and the information they can provide about their track record. It is not actually possible to conduct the sort of testing that Senator Collins is talking about for the purposes of this exercise. Obviously, at the next election the Australian people will have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to determine what happens not just to their primary vote when voting above the line but also to their preferences.

I understand Senator Collins, Senator Conroy and Senator Dastyari—the backroom operators in the Labor Party—prefer to be able to control those preferences. They prefer to prevent people from voting above the line, from expressing their preferences, because people in the Labor Party want to trade people's preferences away. They want to direct them to maximum tactical advantage for the Labor Party.

We want to empower voters. Our message to voters is: 'This is your vote. You determine how you vote when voting in the Senate above the line. You determine who you support with your No. 1 preference. You determine who you support with your subsequent preferences.' It should not be up to a complicated, opaque, non-transparent group voting ticket arrangement that could send voter preferences in three different directions.

Nothing Senator Collins has said tonight in any of her questions or any of her contributions actually detracts from this core proposition that what we are doing here is a significant improvement to the way the Senate electoral system would be working. Instead of forcing people to just vote 1 above the line, and then take their preferences away from them and direct them according to political party preferences, we are saying to the voter that these are your preferences and you determine what to do with them. That is what we believe is appropriate, because that will help to ensure that the result of the next election is a true reflection of the will of the Australian people, and surely that is something all of us are interested in.

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