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Electoral (Legislative Council Voting) (Voter Choice) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading

(Continued from 6 December 2016)

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 16:20 ): The government's bill will change the manner in which above the line voting is conducted for the Legislative Council. At the moment, voters have the choice of either vote '1' above the line or to number all below the line. Preferences from above the line votes are allocated according to a voting ticket submitted by a party, group or Independent. This has led to skewed results, whereby candidates who have received a very small number of primary votes have been elected off the back of preference deals.

The government's bill aims to eliminate these backroom deals by having preferences extinguished after all the candidates from the particular party or group have been exhausted rather than flowing on to another party, group or Independent. The Nick Xenophon Team is supportive of having a more transparent system. In fact, I introduced a bill for optional preferential voting in 2013. However, we believe that the government's proposal is skewed to favour the major parties and make it more difficult for smaller parties or Independents to become elected. Voters should have the ability to choose where their preferences go if they want to see preferences flow to other parties, groups or Independents without filling in all the boxes below the line.

As such, I have filed amendments which will allow for voters to put their own preferences above the line. Voters will have the choice of numbering up to six boxes above the line. Preferences will extinguish after all the candidates of all the boxes they have completed have exhausted. That is, if they choose to only fill in one box, the preferences will extinguish after all the candidates from the group or party have been exhausted. It will be the same as what the government is proposing. If, however, the voter chooses to fill in three boxes above the line, the preferences will flow from all the candidates from group or party one on through all the candidates from group or party two and then through party three. At this stage, the preferences expire, as there are no more candidates.

The aim of this bill is to give voters more choice. I believe my amendments will give voters more choice than what the government is proposing, rather than limiting them to only one party, group or Independent, or making them face the alternative of filling out all the boxes below the line.