Giving power back to the voters

All citizens should have the right, and the opportunity, to participate in political decisions.

The Greens are committed to democracy. All citizens should have the right, and the opportunity, to participate in political decisions. One of the most fundamental ways we can do that is by voting.

That’s why we’re so proud to have delivered the Senate voting reforms that we’ve been working towards for more than a decade.

Bob Brown introduced legislation as early as 2004 to reform Senate voting, and Christine Milne, Lee Rhiannon and Richard Di Natale have all continued to campaign for a more transparent, democratic system. 

Now, the next time you vote, you – not backroom political deals – will determine where your vote ends up. 

What will these reforms do?

The reforms that we secured in the Senate will give power back to the voters and get rid of back room preference deals.

Australia has a preferential voting system. That means that instead of your vote being extinguished when you vote for someone who does not receive enough support to get elected, your vote can then flow on to the next party you prefer. 

Until now, when you choose to vote above the line in the Senate (as 97% of people do), your preferences are distributed according to complex, secretive preference deals, known as group voting tickets, decided by political operators. This can result in your preferences flowing to a party you may not know or who to a party which has policies you do not agree with.

Now, after Senate voting reform, group voting tickets have been abolished so you can number at least [1] – [6] above the line or at least [1] – [12] below the line.  That way, you can ensure your vote goes where you want. 

Voting above the line

97% of voters vote above the line on the Senate ballot paper.

Rather than numbering one box, and allowing backroom preference deals to determine where their vote ends up, now voters have complete control. They will be asked to number at least [1] to [6] above the line, and can number as many boxes as they wish after that. 

When the vote is counted, preferences will be distributed based on the voter’s choices. It also contains provisions to ensure your vote will be counted if you make an error, like missing out a number.

Voting below the line

At the moment, only 3% of people vote below the line.

Voters opting to vote below the link will be asked to number at least [1] to [12], and as many boxes as they wish after that. The votes will then be distributed according to their choices.

The Senate voting reform legislation makes sure that your vote will count even if you make mistakes in filling out your ballot including accidentally only numbering one box

Clearer Ballot Papers

These reforms remove confusion between parties with similar names, (such as the Liberal Party and Liberal Democrats, or the Labor Party and Democratic Labour Party) by including party logos on the ballot paper.

Diversity is good for democracy

The Greens believe in diversity in our Senate. We believe that diversity makes our Senate, and our democracy, stronger. But, diversity still must be achieved through the democratic election of individuals and small parties - not the secret, stitched up deals done by political parties. 

Senate voting reform will not stop people from voting for small parties and independents. Smaller parties and independents can and will still be elected, but nobody will be allowed to game the system.

The Greens have ensured that small parties are protected by retaining the current party membership requirements and nomination fees. In fact the Greens have a Bill to halve nomination fees to make it easier for small parties to run. It protects the rights of small parties to run and get elected if they have genuine voter support, but removes the incentive for micro-parties to set up “front parties” to funnel preferences through secretive and convoluted backroom deals. 

Claims that this reform gives one party, such as the Coalition, control of the Senate have been widely rebuked. The only way for a party to gain control of the Senate is to have a significant primary vote in a number of states, and that is not the case for any party at this time.These reforms help ensure that the parties with the most support hold the appropriate number of seats in Parliament. That’s how democracy should work.

Acting on expert advice

Last year, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommended that Group Voting Tickets be abolished. This recommendation was supported by the Greens, the Labor Party and the Liberal party and now we're seeing an opportunity to put those recommendations into practice and improve a currently broken system. Unfortunately, some within the Labor Party put politics and self interest ahead of a fairer outcome for voters and recently changed their position. 

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