Title: MMP versus STV? Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 4th July 2016 - 12:48pm1467593280 Article: 18491 Rights
Which electoral system best keeps unrepresentative sectional microparties out of national parliaments? As Australia's federal election approaches, this represents an opportunity to compare Australia's single transferable vote electoral system with New Zealand's MMP. In Australia, federalism complicates the picture somewhat. However, the situation is broadly this at the level of state and territorial governments, except for Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania. In Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, there are two houses of state parliament, a legislative assembly and a Legislative Council. The two are selected through two different electoral systems- the barely proportional preferential voting system elects their legislative assembly lower houses, as well as Queensland's single state parliamentary chamber, and Tasmania's Legislative Council upper house and the federal Australian House of Representatives. The more proportional Single Transferable Vote electoral system is used to elect upper houses in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, as well as Tasmania's Lower House Legislative Assembly and the Australian Capital Territory's single-chamber territorial legislative assembly. It is also used to elect the Australian federal Senate. As to how it works, the Single Transferable Vote electoral system provides a voter with a single vote which is initially given to their chief preferred candidate, and as the count proceeds and successive candidates are eliminated or elected, their vote is redistributed to others according to the voters stated preferences on the ballot paper in proportion to surplus or discarded votes. It's a complex process and takes somewhat longer to accomplish than MMP. Our own system relies on a fifty-fifty split of electorate results and party list allocation according to total voter share. As a result, STV election procedures may not deliver a result for several days. In 1992 and 2011, two of New Zealand's three electoral reform referenda offered the Single Transferable Vote as an option for New Zealand voters. Indeed, in 1992, the first electoral reform referendum actually had the single transferable vote in second place compared to MMP. At 194,746 votes, STV was more popular than first past the post, our former electoral system, which trailed with 186,027 votes. Unfortunately, the second referendum was between MMP (790,648 votes) and the third place getter, First Past the Post, effectively disenfranchising the almost 200,000 referendum voters who had backed STV in second place. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if MMP and STV had been the options on offer in the second referendum in 1993. In 2011, the Key administration held a third referendum to try to get rid of MMP, stating that it supported the Supplementary Member electoral system (again, barely proportional) as an option. This artificially inflated SM's level of support and slipped it into third place behind First Past the Post in second place at twenty four percent of referendum voters. STV trailed at sixteen percent. As well as the aforementioned Australian states and territories, STV is supported by the Proportional Representation Society of Australia, Electoral Reform Society of Britain and Fair Vote in the United States, and is also the national electoral system within the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand council elections in Wellington, Palmerston North and Dunedin, as well as New Zealand District Health Board elections. There is an option for local body electoral systems to switch from First Past the Post to STV, except in the case of Auckland due to ACT's supercity establishment bill. In the case of Australia, STV was established as the Australian federal Senate electoral system in 1900, and became Tasmania's legislative assembly electoral system in 1907, while the Australian Capital Territory adopted it in 1992 for its single-chamber electoral system. As for MMP, Germany, New Zealand, Lesotho and Roumania have all adopted that particular option. It was the recommendation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral System and New Zealand's Electoral Reform Association, leading to its pride of place within pragmatic electoral reform politics and two consecutive victories in the first (1992) and second (1993) New Zealand electoral reform referenda, as well as the third (2011). New Zealand has now had MMP for the last seven national general elections. How good are STV and MMP at screening out unrepresentative sectional microparties from parliamentary representation? MMP offers a five percent party list only threshold for electoral representation, except in cases where sub-threshold parties have a bolthole constituency seat, in which case they are represented with top-up seats according to their share of the total party vote. This means that New Zealand First (1999-2002), ACT (2005-2008, 2011- ) and United Future (2005-2008) have been able to avail themselves of additional MPs. As well as this, breakaway list and constituency parties can represent themselves within Parliament, albeit for short term periods. The New Zealand First schism (1998-9) unleashed several such microparties, while the collapse of the Alliance (1996-2002) resulted in the genesis and abrupt extinction of several similar parties. They weren't directly, they had no real mandate and suffered the consequences. In terms of keeping extremists out, no communist or neofascist party has won representation within the post-MMP New Zealand Parliament. United Future (2002-2008) foisted its contingent of militant fundamentalists on the unaware electorate due to lack of critical scrutiny. Once the electorate was aware of its mistake, they were then decimated in 2005 and 2008. The breakaway Kiwi Party also failed to prosper after ejection from Parliament in 2005 and 2008, ultimately merging with Colin Craig's Conservative Party. Still, at least the New Zealand National Front is never likely to win representation within our parliament. What about Australia? Clearly, there is the question of Pauline Hanson and her neofascist One Nation Party, but that was elected through the non-proportional preferential voting system in Queensland's single parliamentary chamber, not the Single Transferable Vote, although it did pop up in New South Wales' Legislative Council due to its STV electoral system. And unfortunately, Fred Nile and his Christian Democratic Party (New South Wales) and the Family First Party (South Australia and Victoria) are what happens if a particular sectional interest (such as fundamentalist Christian religious social conservatives) have enough density of population and sufficient numbers to win representation in specific states and territories. While STV has meant the Australian Greens have become the third largest Australian federal party, much as they are in New Zealand under MMP, the demographic glitch has meant some weird and wonderful confections are, or were, available across the Tasman within their Senate and state Legislative Councils. Some state and federal Australian microparties advance particular philosophical positions, such as the one-time Protectionist and Free Trade Parties in New South Wales, the Revenue Tarriff Party in Tasmania, or the federal Nuclear Disarmament Party of the eighties and nineties. Others advance particular sectional interests, such as the Shooters Party in New South Wales, Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party and No Pokies Party (South Australia), which have various positions on gun ownership, motor vehicles and opposition to gambling that reflect particular large social interests or leisure activities. Some are personality-driven parties that centre on particular individuals and are prone to disagreements amongst their members, such as the Palmers United Party- which hasn't been, during the last Australian federal parliamentary term. Then there are the more organised and coherent political philosophies, such as the Liberal Democratic Party, which is classical liberal/libertarian. Apart from the Australian Greens, who cannot be called a microparty at all anymore, given their growing level of support and consequent electoral representation at ten Senate seats, the above usually only secure about one or two Senate or Legislative Council seats, and the dominant party bloc- whether the Australian Labor Party or Liberal/National Coalition- within the lower House of Representatives has to conduct continued negotiations to satisfy these interest groups and insure stability of government. Occassionally, independents are also elected to the Senate or various state legislatures. If a particular government decides that the Senate is proving too truculent or intractable, it can trigger a 'double dissolution' election to insure that the Senate composition changes and it can get its own way, as Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition have done in the current context. At present, the Australian Senate consists of large ALP and Coalition contingents, the Australian Greens,a South Australian/Victorian fundamentalist Family First Party representative, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, former Palmers United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon (Victoria) and three other Independents. Neither the ALP or the Coalition have a majority. Depending on the direction of preferences to particular candidates and parties, one or more of the above may not be in the Senate after the July 2nd election. The Palmers United Party (sic) looks set to exit, given its instability during the current term, as microparties with tiny primary votes tend to do. However, the objective of double dissolution elections is to try to stabilise central government and insure a consistent legislative programme. Unfortunately for the Coalition, it seems that Malcolm Turnbull may not secure the latter objective, and the Australian Senate will continue to be more proportional, more democratic and also more liable to represent diverse contending social interests than the non-proportional House of Representatives. On election eve, a considerable protest vote meant that it was too close to call. Furthermore, it seemed as if microparties would still hold the balance of power in the Australian Senate. Sadly, one of them may be Family First, although that may be balanced out by the Greens and Nick Xenophon, as well as the Liberal Democratic Party on the political right. Postscript:03.07.2016: It seems as if the Australian electorate has delivered a hung parliament, at least for the time being. Neither the ALP or the Liberal/National Coalition has enough seats to govern on their own at present, although postal votes and recounts may change that picture within the House of Representatives. A vengeful electorate clearly punished the Coalition for the antics of the Tony Abbott era, and the result can also be seen as a personal victory for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Whatever happens, he has become a considerably strengthened Leader of the Opposition and might even become federal Prime Minister if he can either win an outright if narrow majority, or can persuade House of Representatives Independents to back an ALP minority government. However, it would be vulnerable to the vagaries of the Senate, local seat scandals or by-election swings. At present, having failed to regain control of the federal Senate, and already facing threatening remarks from truculent religious social conservative hardliners like Andrew Bolt and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, it may be the case that even if the Liberal/National Coalition does survive to a second term, Malcolm Turnbull's leadership may have been terminally crippled, and there will be obstruction of the Abbott/Turnbull plebiscite proposal in the Upper House. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Australians for Marriage Equality are celebrating the defeat of several anti-equality MPs. However, whether or not those celebrations are justified depends on the final result, now expected on Tuesday 5 July. As matters stand, according to the Melbourne Age, the current result is this. The ALP has 72 seats in the House of Representatives, while the Liberal/National Coalition has 66. Five seats have currently been allocated to Independents and minor parties. According to the Fairfax media chain, the Coalition may end up with 74, but the number needed for a majority government is 76. Unfortunately, far right One Nation leader Pauline Hanson won a Queensland Senate seat. The final result is not going to be known for several more days or weeks. In the absence of detailed exit polling of voter intentions, it is uncertain how much of a role rejection of the Coalition marriage equality plebiscite or endorsement of a free parliamentary marriage equality vote affected the final outcome- or indeed, what the final outcome is. Results: Jacob Saulwick and Latika Bourke: "Federal Election 2016: Day Two, Live Coverage: Cliffhanger Result for Coalition, Labor"The Age: 03.07.2016:http://www.theage. federal-election-2016/federal- election-2016-day-two-live- coverage-cliffhanger-result- for-coalition-labor-20160702- gpx83h.html James Massola, Mark Kenny and Josh Dye: "Election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull faces backlash as blame game begins"The Age:03.07.2016:http://www.theage. federal-election-2016/ election-2016-malcolm- turnbull-faces-backlash-as- blame-game-begins-20160703- gpxcr9.html Michael Koziol: "Election 2016: Same-sex marriage plebiscite hanging by a thread"The Age:03.07.2016:http://www.theage. federal-election-2016/ election-2016-samesex- marriage-plebiscite-hanging- by-a-thread-20160703-gpxb4q. html Recommended: Jeff Kenny: "Fairfax Ipsos poll: Dead heat on election eve"The Age: 01.07.2016:http://www.theage. federal-election-2016/ fairfaxipsos-poll-dead-heat- on-election-eve-20160630- gpvmom.html Nick O'Malley: "Election 2016: Fringe-Dwellers vie for their Place in the Senate"The Age:26.06.2016:http://www.theage. federal-election-2016/ election-2016-fringedwellers- vie-for-their-place-in-the- senate-20160623-gpqc6n.html Wikipedia/Australian Senate: Australian_Senate Wikipedia/Single Transferable Vote:Single transferable vote - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia   Craig Young - 4th July 2016    
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