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Australian Electoral Commission

CASE FOR AN ELECTORAL OMBUDSMAN
(In Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office with special powers)

 

DO WE HAVE FAIR ELECTIONS?

by Bruce Hannaford

Australian Freedom Foundation

Most who have taken the trouble to think about election rules, procedure and voting systems are horrified at the unfairness clearly evident. Equally horrifying is the ease with which frauds can and are being used. Following the 1998 Federal election I studied the alarming situation. I obtained from my local Electoral Office all the information I could get.

WAKE UP AND ACT

I am sadly aware that most ‘freedom groups’ are neglecting the vitally important necessity of reforming the election systems. What is the use of working your guts out to get ‘freedom people’ elected if a crooked system then robs you of a victory.

I submitted a number of suggestions for a better electoral system to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and received a good reply from them. Part of their reply stated, “Thank you for your letter dated 6 April 2000 it has been considered carefully by the committee and included in the committee’s correspondence for the 1998 federal election inquiry.” The word “carefully” sounded very good to me.
I implore other ‘freedom’ minded people to likewise forward suggestions and/or complaints to the Electoral Committee.

Their address is: ­Parliament of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600. - Email JSCEM@aph.gov.au

A FAULTY SYSTEM

I have been saying how bad the system is - what proof and complaints do I have? Election victories are mainly for the rich; those with little money can’t afford to compete with the brain- washing big spenders.

The media often looks after its big spenders and will at times suppress publication of anything they hate. I suggested that election publicity be limited by law to a maximum of $2000 per candidate so minor parties and Independents get a fair go.

THE VOTING SYSTEMS

The present voting systems must be modified, the main problem being the Lower House one member per electorate preferential system. This system almost guarantees a major party person will win. Greatly to be preferred is a system of large Lower House electorates 3 to 5 members per electorate and these elected by proportional representation. If we must have one member per Lower House electorate the preferential system must be changed.

For a start it must not be essential to give preferences to all candidates.

The present system usually means one of the major parties finish up getting a full value vote even when it is passed on through several defeated candidates.

In a democracy you must not be compelled to vote for people or parties you dislike or even hate. It all seems very much like the voting system of the failed Soviet USSR and should have no place in a true democracy.

MORE SUGGESTIONS

I submitted a suggestion to the Electoral Committee where the voter could optionally fill in whatever number of preferences they liked, even not fill in any if they wanted to only vote for one person.

This would mean the rule that ‘a winner must get a majority of votes’ would need to be abandoned; many votes could be lost due to not being passed on by losing candidates.

However the usual elimination of the lowest scoring candidate and the passing on of their preferences (if any) would proceed as usual until only two remained and then the highest scoring one would win.

I added much greater detail than I present here and, if you would like to see the complete suggestion, contact me or look at it on my Internet www page. You can contact me on email at: brucehan@senet.com.au

UPPER HOUSE SYSTEM

The Senate or State Upper House voting systems are much fairer than the Lower House one-member-per- electorate -system that favours major parties.

Without going into many details, it is approximately true to say of the Upper House that if say one fifth of voters want a Democrat one fifth of those elected will be Democrats.

But in the Lower House if one fifth of the voters want a Democrat there is no chance of winning when both major parties are contesting the electorate.

The Upper House system is carrying out the voters wishes, the Lower House system is largely limiting the voters choice to one of the two major parties.

ABOVE THE LINE VOTING

Although the Upper House system is good there is an unfair obstacle for some minor parties and independents. This is due to the ‘above the line’ voting system now allowed.

To qualify for an above the line box you need to be a party or political group, so independents miss out. This is a tremendous disadvantage as usually more than 90% of voters use above the line voting. This system is a cunning move by major parties to make the election of troublesome independents almost impossible. Who is going to bother filling out about fifty numbers below the line when one figure above the line will suffice?

PREDICTIONS COME TRUE

I have for years been predicting the major parties will try to either abolish the Upper House, limit its powers, or change the voting system, to make life difficult for minor parties or independents.

As I write this article there are moves afoot in SA to basically do most of what I predicted.

There is a suggestion that the numbers in the Upper House be reduced. Now if this is done a higher quota of votes will be needed to win a seat and low scoring minor parties and independents will have less chance of winning.

There is also a suggestion to change the present whole-State as one electorate and instead, form a number of multi- member Upper House electorates with a few members each. Low numbers per electorate, will of course, disadvantage minor parties and independents.

It is only when there is a large number of places to be filled that minor parties and independents get a fair go. The major parties know this and so deliberately plan to benefit themselves by these changes.

VOTING LEAFLETS

Another problem with the present system is ‘how to vote’ leaflets and the handing out of same at polling places. What a colossal waste of paper and manpower it all is.

It favours the major parties as they are usually the only ones that can afford the cost of printing enough leaflets, to serve all polling places and then have enough helpers to hand them out.

pI trust I have stirred your thoughts into action and you will pursue this subject in more depth. Remember, while knowledge is a fine thing, it is only actions that achieve results.

 

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Photocopy the following petition, get it filled with signatures and send to:

The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives,

Parliament House Canberra, ACT

Petition

To The Honourable The Speaker and Members of

The House of Representatives Assembled in Parliament

This petition of certain citizens of Australia draws the attention of the House to the fact that whereas there have been many recent demonstrated irregularities in the conduct of elections by the Australian Electoral Commission including:

·       ·   An Australian Electoral Commission 1988 audit of the 1987 federal election results in 6 non-marginal seats, found an average loss of 445 votes due to irregularities, which, if allowed, could affect results in marginal seats;

·       ·   an electoral roll house check by Jim Lloyd MP for Robertson before the 1998 election identified some 4,000 objectionable names of people on the roll. The Australian Electoral Commission, at first dismissive, removed them;

·       ·   415 absentee votes were declared informal, because absentee voters were misdirected to vote for the wrong seat in the 1993 election for the federal seat of Macquarie, which its sitting member lost by 164 votes.

·       ·   votes for the House of Representatives were 53,000 less than for the Senate in the 1993 federal election, when usually they are more, due to simplicity of the ballot paper. Votes may have been misdirected, mislaid or ruled informal;

·       ·   an Enterprise Council audit of multiple different surnames enrolled at a single street address on the electoral roll for the 1993 Dickson by-election found 813 had more than 5 listed there. Many had moved. 49 were on vacant caravan lots;

·       Your petitioners therefore pray that the House amends the current Ombudsman Act 1976 (Commonwealth) to provide for the appointment of an ombudsman with special powers under separate legislation to investigate Parliamentary elections and referenda, including

(a)   complaints made by any elector about the conduct of elections and referenda

(b)  irregularities in the preparation of the electoral roll, polling and counting and to charge such an ombudsman with a positive obligation to investigate and recommend appropriate action to the Parliament.

amends the current Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

(a)   to empower courts of disputed returns to challenge the electoral roil,

(b)   to extend the time for disputing an election before courts of disputed returns.

NAME                                   

SIGNATURE                                       ADDRESS

© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159