Do the voting systems for the House of Representatives and the Senate accurately reflect the will of the people?
The purpose of an electoral system is to translate the will of the electorate, as expressed through the ballot box into members of a legislative body. Australia is one of the oldest continuous democracies in the world, the Commonwealth of Australia was created in 1901 when the former British colonies, now the six states agreed to federate. The Australian colonies had inherited an electoral tradition from Britan that included limited franchise and public and plural voting. In order to implement and underpin the electoral system, Victoria introduced the secret ballot in 1855, which became known throughout the world as ‘the Australian ballot’. Heywood (2007) suggests that the secret ballot is considered as the guarantee of a fair election, which avoids the danger of bribery and intimidation (Heywood 2007, p. 254). In 1856, South Australia eliminated professional and property qualifications and gave the vote to all adult men, and in 1892 gave adult women the vote. In the 1890s the colonies adopted the principle of one vote per person, stopping the practice of plural voting.
The Australian political system was established in 1901, and it was modeled on the Westminister parliament. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia is made up of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Australia uses a voting system called Majority Preferential voting for electing the lower House of Representatives, the Proportional voting system is used for electing the Senators. Although Australia is an independent nation, Queen Elizabeth ll of Great Britain is also formally Queen of Australia. The Queen appoints a Governor-General to represent her, the Governor-General has a wide range of powers, but by convention, acts only on the advice of ministers on virtually all matters. In practice, general elections are held when the Governor-General agrees to a request from the Prime Minister, who selects the date of the election. Due to the low turnout of voluntary voters, compulsory voting was introduced in Australia in 1924, in which all citizens over the age of eighteen are required to vote at elections. Although the Australian voting systems is considered relatively fair and democratic, the role or function of elections is always difficult. The complex nature of the voting systems does not accurately reflect the will of people. In addition, the voting systems inherently under-represent the will of racial minorities and Aboriginals.
Majority Preferential Voting – House of Representatives
Bennet (1996) discusses that the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, proposed the majority preferential vote (MPV) for the House of Representatives in 1918 (Bennet 1996, p. 24). Voters are required to rank candidates in order of preference, thereby potentially having a say in the election of all the successful candidates. In order for the vote to be counted, the ballot papers must be marked according to the rules of voting, so that they do not create informal votes. For instance, firstly, voters must number each of the candidates according to their preference. If a voter’s most preferred candidate does not attract sufficient votes to be elected, the voter may still have an opportunity to determine the fate of the other candidates in the race. Bennet states that MPV is a majoritarian electoral system operating with single-seat constituencies (Bennet 1996, p. 25). In order to be elected, a candidate requires at least 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate achieves an overall majority of first preference votes, then the candidate with the lowest first preference vote is eliminated. The votes of the eliminated candidate will be distributed to the remaining candidates on the basis of the second preferences. Candidates are eliminated in this way until one candidate reaches a majority.
Advantage of the Majority...
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