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Senate voting reform – Greens plan to protect small parties, voters’ to decide preferences

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 12 Feb 2016

The Greens plan for Senate voting reform would enhance the democratic rights of voters and retain the same requirements all parties must meet to register as a party with AEC, the party’s democracy spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said today.

“We have put to the government, the opposition and the cross benchers the idea that legislation requires voters to allocate preferences Above the Line, at least up to 6,” Senator Rhiannon said. 

“A vote Above the Line of 1 – 6 rather than just 1 will ensure more voters are able to indicate their preference for parties and groups including minor parties.

“We have indicated to the government that our bottom line is that the Greens will not support any changes to party membership that makes it harder for small and emerging parties to obtain registration.

“A cornerstone of our democracy should be the right of all citizens to run for election, either individually or collectively as political parties, regardless of wealth and background, and the election should be fair. This is the basis for the Greens approach to Senate voting reform. 

“The current method of Senate voting gives political parties power over the preference choices of ordinary people who vote Above the Line. 

“The most democratic way to fix the Senate voting system is to allow voters to decide their preferences and end the backroom party deals by abolishing Group Voting Tickets. 

“The Greens reform plan to vote at least 1 to 6 Above the Line means that parties could issue How To Vote cards for the Senate containing a recommendation to voters on which parties to preference, so preferences can still flow between parties. 

“The key difference is that under the Greens plan the voter will decide the allocation of preferences not party backroom deals.

“Small parties through preference recommendations would still be in the race for a seat in the Senate, but they would need genuine voter support not just a tiny first preference vote. 

“The Greens have the runs on the board in campaigning and achieving Upper House voting reform. 

“In 1999 in NSW I introduced the Greens plan for optional preferential voting for the Upper House. It became law. We have advocated for Senate voting reform for more than a decade. In 2008 then Senator Bob Brown introduced the first Bill to achieve this.

“The Greens aim is to represent the interests of voters while not raising the bar on small and emerging parties to contest a fair election,” Senator Rhiannon said. 

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