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Turnbull should be a team player on Senate voting reform

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 12 Mar 2015

Responding to Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on Senate voting reform, Greens democracy spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said:

“Mr Turnbull would be wise to be a team player on Senate voting reform and back the plan adopted by all MPs, including government representatives on the Electoral Matters Committee, and support the abolition of Senate group voting tickets so voters can determine their own preferences.

“There is a serious flaw in Mr Turnbull’s suggestion that could penalise minor parties.

“The Turnbull plan to limit success in the Senate to candidates that gain over five per cent of the vote could rule out minor party representatives that gain legitimate support through voter allocated preferences and therefore deserve to be elected.

“This suggestion from Mr Turnbull muddies the waters after we finally secured multi-party support to roll this system out for the next federal election.  The report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters  on this matter was unanimous.

“The Greens are long term backers of reforms to strengthen the democratic process and restore voters’ confidence in their Senate vote.

“As a state MP, I introduced a plan for Optional Preferential Above-The-Line Voting that was adopted by the NSW parliament in 1999 to clean up similar problems that we now face in the Senate.

“Optional Preferential Voting protects the democratic right of minor parties to stand for election, while ensuring that preferences only flow in the direction the voter chooses.

“In NSW, this system hasn’t locked out small parties. They build up their support in the community rather than relying on front parties and labyrinthine backroom preference deals.

“Without action on Senate voting reform Senators could continue to be elected with less than one per cent of the vote, which in many cases comes about by voters’ preferences allocated to parties that the voter does not support.

“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to fix the Senate’s ‘credibility issue,’ he and his colleagues would be wise to introduce legislation for Senate Optional Preferential Voting.

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