CSU academic: Review how senators are elected

9 SEPTEMBER 2013

A political scientist from CSU believes the likely election of micro-party candidates to the Senate demonstrates the need for a review of the electoral system.

A political scientist from Charles Sturt University (CSU) believes the likely election of micro-party candidates to the Senate demonstrates the need for a review of the electoral system.
 
Associate Professor Dominic O'SullivanAssociate Professor Dominic O’Sullivan from CSU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Bathurst said the Senate electoral system has once again shown a capacity to elect senators who demonstrably do not enjoy the support of a significant body of voters.
 
“The Coalition’s election victory on the weekend was convincing but the incoming government will have to negotiate with a bizarrely balanced Senate to legislate its policy agenda,” he said.
 
“Labor and the Greens will lose their combined majority in the 76 seat Upper House and the balance of power will shift to a likely cross bench of eight, including two members of the Palmer United Party, one from the little-known Liberal Democrats, and one each from parties who campaigned on no policies.
 
“The Australian Sports Party, which on the latest count secured 0.22 per cent of first preference votes, will take a seat in Western Australia.
 
“In Victoria it appears that the sitting Liberal Senator, Ms Helen Kroger, will lose, on preferences, to the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, whose candidate polled 0.53 per cent of first preference votes to Kroger’s 10.52 per cent.”
 
Professor O’Sullivan believes this may challenge voters’ confidence in how senators are elected.
 
“This outcome, especially if the result is obstruction of the Coalition’s mandate, should lead to a comprehensive review of the Senate’s purpose so that an electoral system better equipped to reflect voters’ preferences can be designed,” he said.
 
“The strength and legitimacy of any political system is its capacity to reflect the will of the people and while some voters certainly cast protest votes in favour of the Sports and Motoring and Enthusiasts’ parties, they were surely not of sufficient number to satisfy those who voted for other parties that their representation is legitimate.”

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