Libs can deal with fringe Senate

In The Australian today

“Elections should be the storm before the calm. But 2007 and 2010 broke that pattern. Now, pundits say, Tony Abbott’s hopes of orderly government will be spoiled by a fractious Senate. And though the final result remains uncertain, there is a clamour for changes that would make it more difficult for small parties to win Senate seats through preference deals.”

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas AO is a columnist for The Australian. From 2009 to 2015 he was Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia and from 2009 to 2017 was Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. He joined SMART and Deloitte after working as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Prior to that, he was an economist at the OECD in Paris from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. At the OECD, he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment (1984-1987), which concentrated on improving the efficiency of government policies in a wide range of areas, and was subsequently Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department. He has taught at a range of universities, undertaken a number of government inquiries and served as a Lay Member of the New Zealand High Court. In 2016, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.
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42 Responses to Libs can deal with fringe Senate

  1. I suspect the pundits are going to be in for quite the surprise.

  2. Mr Skeletor

    The big surprise is going to be the fact the government won’t be in the media every night.
    The circus has gone on for so long people got use to it. Look at how shell-shocked the media are this week with the lack of news regarding the upcoming government. Lucky for them Labor is providing the entertainment, but that wont last because it is damaging Labor.
    Government slipping into the background is going to be looked at favorably by the populance, who are sick of hearing about politics. It will just be ‘heads down, jobs done” and the new Senate will reflect that since no one act as a blustering blocker since they don’t have the numbers. It will be either quiet negotiations or senetors dealing voting on legislation based on their principals, which is how it is meant to work.

  3. Popular Front

    A Cat on another thread sums it up by saying ‘just get out of my life, government’ which I think is the view of quite a lot of us. Collect my taxes by all means but allow me a much greater say in where those funds go.

  4. Token

    This is a good article as it actually constructs a case for not tinkering with the base senate election process in a way so many have failed to do.

    It highlights the election of the micro-parties by the gaming is a way of addressing the dis-proportional representation of the major franchises, and warns “reforms” like the 4% rule will benefit the organisations already over represented (especially the Greens).

    I still stand by the fact the process needs to be tweaked to reduce the effect of the gaming and give more choice to the voters as history has shown all rules that may be gamed and reduce transparency become a means for statists and insiders to take away democratic freedoms.

  5. Badjack

    Mr Skeletor, you are correct about the Govt shying away from the 24hr news cycle.
    Sky Agenda with Spears and his team will find themselves scraping the barrel to fill their 24 hr political news cycle. Van Onsolen will be put out to pasture along with Richo. PM Live has the capacity to survive on other subjects besides politics. ABC 24hr news will just make things up like they have since their inception.

  6. Tel

    I’m very happy with many small parties in the Senate. It is intended as a house of review, not as a rubber stamp for the lower house. It is very deliberate that the Senate should use a different system of representation to ensure such minority views are heard.

    The lower house controls the budget, which is the thing most desperately out of control right now. So if there are cuts to the useless departments, the Senate won’t be obstructing those cuts.

  7. Oh come on

    The Abbott government will be able to cut reasonable deals with four or fivr microparties. The coalition would be unable to cut any kind of acceptable deal with the Greens.

    There can be some carrot, but there would be a lot more stick. A DD would be the end of m0st of the micros, and they would surely know it.

  8. Jazza

    And those wise Labor pundits are calling for the party to unite with the greens to stop Abbott from passing most of his policies taken to the electorate. They say they do not recognise any mandate!
    Of course with the HUGE MANDATE–aka a BIG election WIN in the HOR, they will be able to wield any power only in the Senate and only until July 2014.
    All noise and no movement guys or is that lots of smoke but no action under the cloud of smoke. I feel confident that Abbott will prevail in the Senate and they will have to suck up the changes to union activities and thuggish construction sites–which is the point of them trying to act like their bully boy union counterparts in the community.
    After all exactly what can the Opposition offer the Senators without ALP or Green affiliations that government couldn’t top?

  9. Jim Rose

    will a deal mean we have to do 30 minutes PT every morning?

  10. crocodile

    There can be some carrot, but there would be a lot more stick. A DD would be the end of m0st of the micros, and they would surely know it.

    Possibly so, but there is also the situation that if all 76 senate spots are up for grabs, the quota size is also diminished by half. Could possibly lead to even more micro parties.

  11. handjive

    As neither party offered me the option NOT to vote for green carbon(sic) action, my only option was to vote for what I didn’t want. I didn’t want anything green.
    With the aid of technology & the latest voting tools like clueyvoter & belowtheline, I assessed the preference vote so that any party preferencing the greens was numbered last.
    23% voted this way. It is not a mistake. Get the hint, Mr Abbott.
    With the pause stop in global warming, hopefully reality can dawn on the conservatives enthralled in the progressive climate fraud, and the senate will be ready to move.
    Also, the people complaining about the democratic process are extremely quiet about the un-democratic process of parachuting unelected, unrepresentative swill into the senate.

  12. Pyrmonter

    @ Crocodile – but the chances that the particular micro party senators get back is low – the micro party preference deals work like a lottery. Being generous to them, they’ll say that the opportunity for influence is greater if they work from within the tent; being more critical, how likely are they to voluntarily part with a salary, staff and expenses for matters of principle?

  13. Ant

    Still, I’d like to see Tassie lose 10 of its federal senators. Make it a territory. They don’t deserve to be a state, just as Pluto doesn’t deserve to be a planet. Too insignificant.

    They’ve got about 500,000 people or 1 senator for every 41,666 people.

    NSW has 1 senator for every 603,250 people. Therefore, a Tasmanian effectively has 14.5 times more senatorial oomph compared to a New South Welshman, or 4.2 times more than a West Australian.

    And look what they did with that oomph. Bob Bloody Brown and Christine Ugh Milne!

    And, tell me, what’s the downside for all concerned? Does the NT or ACT suffer because they’ve only got 2 senators? Hardly.

    So, sorry, Tasmanians, but you blew it. Time you got on board and made amends.

  14. pseudonym

    I’m not as optimistic as Henry is on this issue.

    True, it’s a relief that the Watermelons (ie, green on the outside, red on the inside) may not hold the balance as from 1 July next year.

    However, even if the minor parties and independents are sympathetic towards the new government, that doesn’t mean that we will have easy sailing. Each of them will have their own agenda and they probably won’t negotiate as a block. So, we will have to do lots of horsetrading, which will force us into compromises we would prefer not to make and to shift our focus away from the main game.

    At best, it’s going to be like herding cats. At worst, we would have massive misallocations of resources, along the lines of what Harradine was able to extort when he held the deciding vote.

    Just look at some of the things that BOF has had to put up with in the NSW Legislative Council as an indication of what we may have in store for us with the new Senate.

  15. Oh come on

    Possibly so, but there is also the situation that if all 76 senate spots are up for grabs, the quota size is also diminished by half. Could possibly lead to even more micro parties.

    Doubt it. Thanks to Gillard’s 8 month long election campaign, the micros were able to profligate and coordinate. Hence the number of parties with names like “The Moreish Appetiser Party” or VOTE ME I’M WITH YOU ON YOUR PET ISSUE AND/OR YOU THINK I’M FUNNY SO VOTE FOR ME INSTEAD OF DONKEY VOTING LIKE YOU PLANNED Party. They get a few thousand votes, funnel their preferences towards the mothership, soon those numbers start adding up.

    No way this could have been organised in the space of your standard 4-6 week election campaign.

  16. Tel

    Each of them will have their own agenda and they probably won’t negotiate as a block.

    That is correct operation of a Parliamentary Democracy.

  17. Token

    will a deal mean we have to do 30 minutes PT every morning?

    I’m guessing this was meant to be a joke, but unfortunately it comes off as an elitist view from the establishment.

    One would expect such statements from the twits on twitter (though I acknowledge it is not as bad as those Paul Sheehan refers to).

  18. Token

    Hence the number of parties with names like “The Moreish Appetiser Party” or VOTE ME I’M WITH YOU ON YOUR PET ISSUE AND/OR YOU THINK I’M FUNNY SO VOTE FOR ME INSTEAD OF DONKEY VOTING LIKE YOU PLANNED Party. They get a few thousand votes, funnel their preferences towards the mothership, soon those numbers start adding up.

    The big parties saw this gaming is not being regulated.

    Next election you can bet the “whatever it takes” professional organisations with experienced negotiators will game this in a way that blows the quaint amateurs out of the water and out of the Senate.

  19. Andrew

    At least this Senate will kick some fiscal discipline into the Liberals.

  20. Makka

    Good point Andrew. The Libs need to be held accountable in the Senate because they will have the run of the House. At the very least, I hope the micro’s get stuck in to any pork they see being floated about.

  21. Mr Skeletor

    When push comes to shove Labor will not block the Carbon Tax repel, especially after the ‘leaders’ go on thier listening tour.

  22. .

    The result we want is:

    1. A royal commission into the Unions, ALP and Greens, and Ian Callinan as Governor-General.
    2. The passing and assent 2007-2014 Legislation and Executive Order Omnibus Repeal Act
    3. Institute Fuigthback in full, repealing in part the above.
    4. Institue LDP policy wholesale, repealing in part the above.
    5. Set it in stone in the constitution.

    Then we can concentrate on reassembling Federation with more States and inviting our client States into our sucessful economy and governance. A republic can be a pretext for clipping the wings of each branch of Government. Maybe Callinan can be President.

    Then we can actually stop caring, which is our goal.

  23. Bons

    Lets do a little survey on the quality of candidates proffered by the major and micro parties.
    A bloke who likes 4WD and is described as “an honest bloke”.
    OR
    A young professional with an interest in affording kids a healthy lifestyle.
    OR
    A card carrying Martian terrorist who wishes to destroy Whyalla and who was involved in the corruption of an ombudsman.
    OR
    A Marxist formerly funded by the Soviet dictatorship who remains “proud of her past”.
    Yep we gotta sideline these micro parties.

  24. Borisgodunov

    Change the Constitution,make it one senator for every1,000,000voters ,on a part time basis ,one day a week for four hours ,payment of $20per hour,pay your own fares and accommodation! Wonder how many alp green aparatchiks would nominate for the job,in a spirit of Pure. altruism?

  25. Gab

    payment of $20per hour

    I think you’re getting a bit soft on them, Boris.

  26. Token

    Yep we gotta sideline these micro parties.

    Sidelined no.

    Watch out for the bevvy of “Get Up” funded saccharine sounding micro parties next election.

    Much more insidious than the personality disorders of individual ranters and stalkers, the army of trolls, are the organisations that function like trolls, hiding their true agendas as they manufacture dissent. A classic example is GetUp!, which operates on behalf of big unions, the Greens and the hard-left while presenting itself as a community-based organisation.

    Some trolls create trolling movements, with the aim of not just engaging in debate but in destroying the careers of chosen targets. The most famous were the two social media campaigns aimed at the broadcaster Alan Jones by targeting his advertisers.

    A supposedly impartial organisation, Change.org (another American import like GetUp!), actively courted Jones’ obliteration, sending out media releases about the number of companies which had joined the boycott. At its peak, the boycott petition gained 103,000 supporters. The organiser turned out to be a Greens supporter. At the height of the frenzy, the retail magnate Gerry Harvey, after ordering his company, Harvey Norman, to pull its advertising from the Jones show, put the question: ”You have to ask are you part of a lynch mob?”

    Look at what they did with the Greens. Look what they did in Indi.

  27. jupes

    Posted this link before but this is what we have to look forward to after a few deals with the Sports Party.

  28. Leo G

    I don’t think much of Henry’s position in his column in today’s Australian.
    He implies that voters who trust a party to represent them in the Senate should be allowed to trust it to allocate their preferences and that we should therefor support that type of indirect voting in Senate elections.
    The argument is easily countered by simple observations about voters behaviour. Some voters nominate a group which has little or no chance to get their candidate elected and which may have multiple preference deals that work to the interest of a number of groups. The net effect of those deals may not be transparent- to understand the effect, the voter would need to examine the preference allocations used by a number of party groups.
    He also implies that indirect voting was introduced to reduce informal votes by offering a simpler alternative to exhaustive individual candidate preferencing.
    But if that were the case, the same end could have been achieved by maintaining the direct voting required by the Constitution and allowing combined party group and/or individual preferential nomination- either with or without optional preferencing.
    Which brings me to my main concern. When did we have the referendum to extinguish the force of that Constitutional requirement that ALL senators be directly elected?

  29. boy on a bike

    Being a Senator was a part time job until the 1970s. When parliament wasn’t sitting, unless you were a minister, there was nothing for you to do. Many held down a job or ran a business.

  30. Ubique

    … will a deal mean we have to do 30 minutes PT every morning?

    If it’s Moari PT, it’ll be popular!

  31. Tel

    Leo, proxy votes have always been considered full strength direct votes in Australia (in all sorts of situations). When you vote above the line you are just filling in all the boxes below the line with the party-approved numbers, which are published before the election (i.e. a proxy vote of known value). Voters can choose to just trust their party, or they can check the preferences by looking at the AEC website, or a number of other websites, or they can vote below the line (i.e. not a proxy vote). In all situations, the party can recommend preferences, but only the voter can allocate preferences.

    I do think that optional preferencing is better, you should only have to fill in as many boxes as you care to, because having your vote declared informal when you misprinted some number around 100 is just ridiculous.

  32. Driftforge

    I’d suggest (in terms of minimum change from existing process that deals with the problem) to provide optional above the line with the remainder filled out according to the GVT of your first preference.

    The minimum cutoff is not a bad idea, but only works if the cut off is quite low – say around 0.1 quota.

    Other than that, a minimum membership requirement by state would help enormously.

  33. Leo G

    “Leo, proxy votes have always been considered full strength direct votes in Australia …” – Tel

    An indirect vote is not the entity as a proxy vote. A proxy vote is a vote using a ballot cast by one person on behalf of another and which could be direct or indirect. A direct vote requires the voter unambiguously to nominate the candidate on the ballot paper.
    I definitely agree that optional preferencing would be better that the current system. It would thereby be possible to simplify the ballot to eliminate the individual candidate boxes for party groups. The candidate names would still be need to be listed. Provided the party box nomination represents votes in order for each of the party group candidates shown on the ballot that still should be a direct vote.
    Groups could opt to retain the individual boxes ( with or without the group box). If a voter nominates a party group AND a candidate from the group then the assigned preference order would determine how the preferences were assigned- if the Group had the higher preference then the individual preference would be redundant.

  34. Leo G

    An indirect vote is not the same entity as a proxy vote.

  35. TerjeP

    being more critical, how likely are they to voluntarily part with a salary, staff and expenses for matters of principle?

    David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrats) is on public record saying a senators salary is a pay cut for him. I doubt anybody relishes a pay cut. I think he’ll stick to his principles because the principles mean far more to him than the job of senator.

  36. TerjeP

    The money quote from the Henry Ergas article is this:-

    At least on current projections of outcomes, the Coalition’s likely problems in the Senate are being overstated. Family First’s Bob Day and the Liberal Democratic Party’s David Leyonhjelm are market-oriented reformers.

    Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party have few excuses when it comes to economic reform. The next three years will be a good indication of their true colours.

  37. I’d be happy if a vote above the line was a vote for those in the column below the box and only them. I voted below the line as if I’d had preferential voting above it; i.e. the Libs/Nats all got numbered from one on down, then the LDP, then the Shooters/Fishers. Then downstream to number the Greens candidates last, the Labor Party just above them and so on up, which meant that some of the single-issue micro-parties had to be given higher numbers than I might otherwise have given them, but it was worth it to bury the Grunreich cretins as far down as I could.

    At the end of the day, I’d have been quite content to stop numbering after the shooters/fishers if not for my desire to send a clear message regarding Labor and the Greens.

  38. I posted this on the guest post last week but it was pretty late and some may have missed it.

    I think you are all missing the point.

    The reason the majors and Mr X have started bitching and missed out on preferences is because they haven’t duchessed the minors in the same way that other minors have. When a Leon Ashby spends time building a relationship with other small parties and explaining his position on one of the greatest moral hazards of our time, isn’t he therefore entitled to ask and maybe receive their preferences? And when Bob Day does likewise and other micros look at his resume and realise that he is a seriously talented individual, is there anything wrong with them doing preference deals?
    The major parties have to get off their arses in good time and build bridges to the micros and small parties, because their preferences are as valuable as gold dust. If they don’t and they miss out, Oh dear, how sad, Never Mind!!

  39. Jim Rose

    australian sex party is now leading for the last senate seat in tassie on green preferences. see http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/results/senate/tas/

    may not last long because the australian sex party is ahead of labor by one vote in count 21!

  40. Jim Rose

    australian sex party is now leading for the last senate seat in tassie 148 votes see http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/results/senate/tas/

    the sex party candidate for tassie in the senate lives in canberra!! no living away from home allowance for him.

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