Electoral reform Archive

15

Queensland moves to compulsory preferences

In October 2015, I wrote about an attempt by the Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australian Party to pass legislation through the Queensland Parliament which would have increased malapportionment amongst Queensland electorates.

This legislation had a chance of passing despite Labor being in power due to Labor being a minority government. The LNP and KAP were hoping to win over ex-Labor independent Billy Gordon, whose seat of Cook was one of the large rural seats which would be allowed to have a smaller population under the changed rules.

The October legislation also included some changes to the redistribution committee and a proposal to add up to five more seats to the Parliament. Earlier this month, the LNP and KAP proposed another law which made the same changes to the committee, and increased the size of the Parliament from 89 seats to 93.

Labor still strongly opposed the proposed legislation – personally it seems a lot less objectionable than the original proposal. It’s hard for me to assess who would benefit more from adding four seats – it seems likely that the new seats will be distributed around between both major parties.

It became clear that Rob Pyne (another ex-Labor independent) would vote for the opposition legislation. When the legislation came up tonight, Labor wrong-footed the LNP by amending the legislation to change the voting system from optional preferential voting (OPV) to compulsory preferential voting. The legislation was passed with this dramatic change to the voting system included. KAP and the independents voted with the government, while the LNP were left voting against their own legislation.

While the winners and losers of OPV change over time (the Liberals and Nationals were hurt by OPV in the late 1990s), at the moment OPV hurts Labor, as many Greens votes exhaust rather than flowing to Labor. Antony Green estimates that Labor would have won nine more seats in 2015 if preferences were compulsory.

While the original legislation may have had some slight benefits for the LNP, the Labor amendment will have dramatic consequences, hurting the LNP in a bunch of marginal seats, at least until there is some major shift in partisan voting patterns.

The pros and cons of OPV and CPV, and how they effect how campaigns are run, is a story for another day.

I wanted to just sum up what the current enrolment figures suggest about the next redistribution.

Region # of seats Quota / 89 Quota / 93
Brisbane North 16 15.85 16.57
Brisbane South 20 19.23 20.09
Central QLD 11 10.81 11.30
Gold Coast 10 10.55 11.03
North QLD 11 10.91 11.40
South-East QLD 10 10.40 10.87
Sunshine Coast 8 8.45 8.83
Western QLD 3 2.78 2.91

The Gold Coast gains an entire new seat, with rural parts of south-east QLD and Sunshine Coast almost gaining enough population to each gain their own seats. In southern Brisbane, the increased seat number prevents the region from losing a seat, while northern Brisbane has a half-quota more than its current seats. Overall, the south-east QLD region should gain three of the four new seats – one definitely on the Gold Coast, and the other two likely on the outskirts of Brisbane and in the Sunshine Coast.

Seats on the north and central coast of Queensland are slightly over-quota, so expect to see the fourth new seat on the coast, with seats along the coast nudged along to absorb the extra population.

I’m finding it hard to see an overall trend towards the ALP or LNP in the redistribution changes. LNP seats are already half a quota over before the changes to the quota, with ALP seats collectively 0.4 quotas under. With the reduced quota adjusted for 93 seats, the 42 LNP seats are 2.46 quotas over, while the 44 ALP seats are 1.55 quotas over.

One final thing which remains unclear to me is how this affects the timing of the redistribution. The redistribution was due in this term of Parliament, and expected to commence shortly. Queensland’s Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath, has claimed that passage of the legislation would delay the redistribution into the next term – I can’t find any confirmation of this claim, or an explanation of why a redistribution could not be completed in time for an election due in early 2018.

If you want to see more details, the following map shows seats in relation to the new quota (for 93 seats) passed tonight.

3

QLD referendum results map

Queenslanders yesterday voted in a referendum on whether the state Parliamentary terms should be extended from three to four years, and that election dates should be fixed on a date in October.

The result was close, but the referendum passed. At the time of writing, Yes has 53.15% of the vote.

Yes is currently winning a majority of the vote in 72 out of 89 districts, and has won in every region of Queensland.

The following clickable map shows the vote in each of the 89 state electoral districts:

42

The anti-democratic alternatives to Senate reform

Until Labor’s recent cynical turn against reforming the Senate, there was general agreement amongst the main political parties and electoral experts that something needed to be done to deal with the Senate. The number of candidates running for the Senate has skyrocketed, which has made it significantly harder for voters to vote (by making ballots bigger and making it harder to find who you want to vote for) and made it significantly harder for the ballots to be counted (as seen in the 2013 WA Senate count). It has also allowed minor parties on tiny votes to pile up votes and become viable candidates for election.

These aren’t the only reasons why Senate voting reform should happen, but they are the reasons why it’s so urgent and part of the reason why this issue has finally gained support from a major party after decades of major party indifference.

Apart from the current proposal, there have been a number of other “solutions” to these problems which, unlike the current proposal, do nothing to reduce the power and control of the major parties while making life harder for all minor parties, and would genuinely be bad for Australian democracy.

They should give fans of minor parties pause: there are alternative reforms which would make life much harder for small parties, and could be back on the table if the current proposal fails.

Read the rest of this entry »

27

Senate voting reform looks set to go ahead

According to a report in this morning’s Guardian, the Coalition, the Greens and Nick Xenophon appear close to an agreement on Senate voting reform. There’s also an accompanying media release from Lee Rhiannon.

The proposed plan, put to the government by the Greens, would abolish group voting tickets (the mechanism whereby preferences flow according to pre-lodged party preference decisions when voters vote ‘1’ above the line for a party), and would allow voters to number their own preferences for parties above the line or for candidates below the line.

This proposal is very similar to that proposed unanimously by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM), with a few exceptions:

  • Voters would be expected to number at least six boxes above the line or twelve boxes below the line. As I understand it, there would be a savings provision so votes that don’t number enough boxes would still count.
  • The Greens don’t propose any changes to party registration rules, whereas JSCEM had proposed raising the threshold for party registration from 500 members to 1500 members.

While the article is written as if agreement has been reached, it’s unclear whether the Coalition has agreed to the Greens’ demand that party registration be taken out of the package. It’s also unclear where Labor stands on the proposal – while some senior Labor senators are opposed, there are others in the party who support Senate reform.

Read the rest of this entry »

11

Increase to Queensland malapportionment on the cards?

I’ve missed a story which has been quietly bubbling along for the last few months which could see a bill introduced by the opposition Liberal National Party passed, increasing the electoral bias in favour of large rural seats in the Queensland parliament. There are stories today suggesting the legislation could be passed as soon as tonight.

Queensland (along with most states) has a history of malapportionment in the 20th century. Malapportionment (often incorrectly termed a ‘gerrymander’) is where some electorates are drawn with a larger population than others, usually putting more voters in each urban seat and less in each rural seat. This has the effect of making the votes cast in more populous seats less valuable. For most of the twentieth century, this imbalance has favoured the conservative parties, with urban Labor voters packed into a smaller number of seats.

Most of these imbalances have been removed from Australia’s electoral system, with the Western Australian Legislative Assembly moving to ‘one-vote-one-value’ last decade, but a few parts remain.

There are a series of large electorates in northern and western Queensland which have a substantially lower enrolment than the rest of the state, thanks to a policy which grants “phantom electors” to large seats in proportion to their landmass.

All seats are required to fit within 10% of the quota, but seats that are larger than 100,000 square kilometres are allowed to count 2% of their square kilometres towards the quota. So for a seat which covers 200,000 square kilometres, they are allowed to have 4,000 less voters than the average. Robbie Katter’s seat of Mount Isa covers over 570,000 square kilometres, and has less than 20,000 voters, while most seats have between 30,000 and 40,000 voters.

I previously discussed the theory behind this approach back in June, when the NSW Nationals were lobbying for smaller seats in western NSW. While it is reasonable to provide greater resourcing for MPs covering large geographic areas, and it is a good argument for adding additional seats to the Parliament, malapportionment has clear party-political impacts which cannot be justified.

While Labor is in government in Queensland, the party does not have a majority. The opposition LNP has proposed a bill which would double the “phantom voter” allowance to 4% of the square kilometres in a seat, and add up to five more seats to the Parliament. The effect of this change would be to add a sixth seat to the area covered by the five large remote seats (Mount Isa, Dalrymple, Cook, Gregory and Warrego), and add four seats in the rest of Queensland, which covers over 95% of the state’s population.

It appears that the bill has the support of the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs, both of whom represent districts which benefit from the current malapportionment. With KAP and LNP supporting the legislation, the vote comes down to Billy Gordon, the member for Cook in Far North Queensland. Gordon was elected as a Labor MP but was expelled from the party earlier this year, and also represents a very large seat.

It’s unclear where Gordon stands on the issue, but there are reports that he is considering supporting the legislation, and it could be voted on as soon as this evening.

I normally try to avoid campaigning on this website but considering this issue I’m willing to make an exception. GetUp has set up a campaign to ask Queenslanders to email Billy Gordon or call his office to ask him to vote against the legislation. If you live in Queensland or care about fair electoral boundaries, give him a call now.

31

NSW redistribution, council amalgamations and SA reform

There’s been a lot of electoral news this morning! I’ll try to run through it all really quickly. I’ll be putting together the new NSW electoral map over the next week and I’ll try to find some time to cover the other issues.

NSW redistribution

The Australian Electoral Commission has released the draft map of the new New South Wales federal electoral boundaries.

The federal seats of Hunter and Charlton in the Hunter region have effectively been merged. The seat takes in more voters from Charlton, but has maintained the federation seat name of Hunter.

The seat of Throsby (covering the Southern Highlands and southern Illawarra) has been renamed Whitlam after the former prime minister. The seat of Parkes has taken in Broken Hill, while Farrer and Riverina have consolidated into southern NSW.

In inner Sydney, Grayndler has shifted north, losing Labor areas in southern Marrickville and Ashfield and gaining Balmain, Annandale and Drummoyne. The seat of Barton (currently held by the Liberal Party on a slim margin) has shifted into that gap, and presumably will become a notional Labor seat. The seat of Cook, which covers Cronulla, has jumped the Georges River to take in parts of the St George region.

I’ll be working on my map of the boundaries, which is likely to take most of the next week.

We would normally expect Antony Green to calculate the seat margins for the redistribution, but he’s currently in Canada for Monday’s Canadian federal election. I’m not currently equipped to do the calculations for such a large state but will look into it if we haven’t heard from Antony by the end of next week.

NSW local government amalgamations

We’re still waiting to hear from the NSW government about it’s plans for council amalgamations across Sydney but we’ve gotten a seemingly well-placed report in today’s Daily Telegraph with some details about the proposal, although they are in part contradictory.

In one part, it suggests that Sydney’s councils will be cut from the current 42 to about 20, and that about one third of the state’s 152 councils will be cut. But in the article and on the map there are seven council mergers proposed, which would cut the number of councils by eight – a long way short of cutting 22 councils from Sydney.

It also talks about “as many as 30 rural and regional councils” being abolished, but also suggests a reluctance to touch rural councils – 30 rural councils being abolished is a lot.

The mergers proposed are:

  • Manly and Warringah
  • Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield
  • North Sydney and Mosman
  • Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai
  • Bankstown and Canterbury
  • Randwick and Waverley
  • Auburn, Holroyd and southern parts of Parramatta (Granville mostly)

There’s an interesting mix here. Some very small councils such as Mosman, Burwood and Strathfield are on the chopping block, but other small councils such as Hunters Hill and Woollahra appear to be saved. Large councils like Warringah, Randwick, Bankstown and Hornsby are also set to merge, sometimes with reasonably large neighbours.

Considering these discrepancies, it appears these might only be some of the mergers planned.

The report also suggests a delay in council elections until March 2017, although it’s unclear if this would only be for affected councils, or the whole state.

Watch this space.

South Australian electoral reform

The South Australian government has announced plans for a raft of electoral changes, including introducing the possibility of double dissolution elections to resolve deadlocks.

Interestingly, it also involves the abolition of preference voting for the Legislative Council, moving instead to a party list system using the Saint-Lague counting method. This is very similar to how most proportional systems work in Europe.

There won’t be any preferences, with only primary votes used to distribute seats, according to a method which involves dividing the number of votes by a party by the number of seats they have won.

It’s quite a good system to use for list elections, as it is much much simpler than the way we elect our proportional houses in Australia, but it is problematic if it’s used in elections where not that many candidates are to be elected. It would work much better in SA if they also moved to four-year terms for the upper house, and thus elected 22 candidates instead of 11, but I can’t work out if that’s part of the package.

The reforms will be put to a referendum in 2018.

52

Yes, rules matter, and they need to be fixed

On Saturday, Fairfax newspapers published an op-ed from Richard Denniss, chief economist at The Australia Institute, arguing against the proposed reforms to abolish group voting tickets (GVT) and introduce optional preferential voting (OPV) for Senate elections.

Unfortunately the article gets quite a lot wrong about the current arrangements, why there is a need for change, and who is supporting the change. I have written about group voting ticket reform a number of times recently (see this and this).

I wanted to specifically address a number of the claims Denniss makes in his op-ed. I’m going to respond to a number of the things he says, below the fold. There’s a lot to say. If you want a high-level summary of why reform is necessary, check out my two links above, or this piece from Antony Green.

Denniss correctly states that the process of deciding on our voting system is very serious, and it’s for this reason that reform is desperately needed. The current Senate voting rules are broken, and if we care about public faith in democracy and fair election results, change is needed.

Read the rest of this entry »

6

NSW government pushing for council mergers

Local councils across Sydney are currently going through a process of making submissions to the state government’s ‘Fit For The Future’ program, which is aimed at judging councils on a bunch of criteria, seemingly with the goal of consolidating the number of local councils, producing a smaller number of more populous councils.

In practice, the criteria are largely arbitrary, based on some vague concept of “big is better”, and attitudes of local councils towards amalgamation seem based on base politics, with various councils effectively promoting hostile takeovers of their neighbours in ways that will help their political party solidify its hold.

Through the course of this month, each council in the Sydney region is making a submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) about how their council meets the criteria set by the NSW government as to whether they are ‘fit for the future’. This process has involved many councils undertaking consultation, and coming to decisions about their recommendations, which have focused on whether councils support amalgamating with their neighbours.

The criteria cover the capability of the council, along with its efficiency, financial sustainability and management of infrastructure. The other criteria, ‘scale’, seems to be particularly arbitrary – the government has set a presumption that councils should have a substantially larger population than they have now, which necessitates significant amalgamations regardless of how a council performs on the other criteria. No number has been set for this criteria, with various figures suggesting different figures throughout the process.

While the process is requiring councils to produce public submissions, there is no such requirement for the state government to be transparent in their decisions – the IPART decisions will remain secret, and we won’t know whether any decisions by the state government to recommend amalgamations was made based on an IPART recommendation, or despite IPART’s recommendations.

There are undoubtedly some parts of Sydney which could do with local council amalgamations (hello, Burwood and Hunters Hill), but it is very unclear how much Sydney councils would be improved through amalgamations. While there may be some efficiencies, these in part could come from reductions in duplicated services, which may not be appreciated by their residents, and there will be a substantial cost to amalgamate different councils. Different councils provide different levels of service, and it remains unclear whether amalgamated councils would raise all parts of the council area to the highest standard, or lower services to the minimum.

Many councils are already benefiting from efficiencies created by cooperation between councils, sharing procurement and other parts of a council’s work, through the existence of regional organisations.

Looking at the list of councils who have expressed an openness to amalgamation, it has little to do with which councils are in most need of amalgamation, but more to do with politics – larger councils attempting to take over their smaller neighbours, and councils finding ways to design new boundaries that benefit the politically-dominant faction. In some cases, councils which are not considered to be in any need of merger have launched attempts to take over their neighbours.

In most of these cases, these councils are run by Liberals or Liberal-aligned independents.

Warringah Council, which is already well above the average population, has launched a bid to merge with its neighbours in Manly and Pittwater, neither of which support amalgamation.

In the north-west, The Hills, another large conservative council, is seeking to take over Hawkesbury Shire, which has about one third of the population but covers a large swathe of north-western Sydney. Hawkesbury, despite its small population, was not targeted for amalgamation because it covers such a large area. Hornsby Shire has also proposed a merger with Ku-ring-gai, who have refused the overtures.

In the inner west, most councils have opposed amalgamation, but in some cases councils have adopted ‘back-up options’. Leichhardt Council has proposed an amalgamation with Canada Bay and Ashfield councils, which would produce a strange Y-shaped area, but would conveniently weaken the Greens, who topped the poll in Leichhardt in 2012.

Further out in the inner west, Auburn and Burwood councils both agreed to a merger with Canada Bay council, but Canada Bay rejected the proposal. The three-council merger proposal was already strange, as it would leave Strathfield council alone (one of the smallest with a population of 37,000) surrounded by a new council on three sides which would include a population of over 190,000. It’s even more ridiculous without Canada Bay, because Burwood and Auburn do not share a boundary. Auburn intends to still push for the merger despite Canada Bay’s objections.

While Auburn is eager to merge with councils to its east, it has been resistant to joining an enlarged City of Parramatta with Holroyd (which is also anti-amalgamation) and Parramatta, which is generally supportive. One wonders whether this is linked to the political make-up of the councils, and where the centre of gravity would lie in an Auburn-Burwood-Canada Bay council compared to a City of Greater Parramatta.

The most ridiculous case comes in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. The original proposal from the independent panel was to merge the councils of Botany Bay, Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra into the City of Sydney, so that Sydney would cover the entire eastern peninsula. The other four councils all oppose this option, but their tactics to prevent it have varied.

Waverley and Randwick councils, which both have substantial numbers of Labor and Greens councillors but are currently dominated by conservatives, have both supported mergers with Woollahra and Botany Bay councils respectively, and possibly as a merger of all four councils. In Randwick, the Greens have come on board with the Liberal plans to launch a hostile takeover of Botany Bay council, which is dominated by Labor and strongly opposed to a merger.

Woollahra council, which is also dominated by the Liberal Party, also rejects amalgamation – unlike its neighbours to the south, the Liberal Party has a solid hold on Woollahra which is unlikely to change. It seems like those ‘marginal Liberal’ councils may see amalgamation as a way to solidify their hold on the east.

Of course, we have no idea how seriously these local council positions will be taken. Apart from Randwick and Waverley, no two other neighbouring councils support merging with each other. So any mergers will require the overriding of councils, at which point it seems far more rational to draw new boundaries where the government sees the most need, rather than drawing them according to the short-term political interests of sitting councillors.

We also don’t know what other reforms could come along – the independent review panel also recommended direct election of mayors, and possibly other structural reforms. I would personally like to see larger councils (including those large councils that already exist) given a larger number of councils than the current limit of 15 – but the trend seems to be in the other direction, treating councils as ‘boards of directors’ which are easier to manage with less representation.

While local government in New South Wales isn’t perfect, triggering a frenzy of amalgamation pushes across Sydney won’t do much to improve it – so much of the problems local councils have relate to the costs that have been imposed on them by other levels of government, and the ways in which they are restricted in finding funds to cover their work. Consolidating local councils into larger units won’t do much at all to fix that fundamental problem, but that’s a story for another day.

The deadline for local council submissions is next Tuesday, 30 June, so we may well see solid proposals for council amalgamations, likely forced, later this year, in time for council elections in 2016.

9

NSW Nationals want smaller seats – how?

Last month, Nationals MLC Ben Franklin announced that he would seek a parliamentary inquiry into the size of the western NSW electorates of Barwon and Murray, which cover a majority of the New South Wales land mass. Today, according to a tweet from the party’s account, the NSW Nationals passed a motion calling for smaller electorates in regional NSW.

It’s true that these electorates are huge, and are a challenge to represent, but this simply reflects the low populations living in these areas. While there are some variations in electoral boundaries which could make Barwon at the least slightly smaller, any legislative changes would likely require increasing the population contained within seats in Sydney and along the coast, unless the Nationals are considering a proposal to increase the size of the Legislative Assembly.

The proposal also ignores the fact that the Nationals actually benefit from our electoral system. In 2015, the Nationals polled about the same as the Greens, but won 17 seats to the Greens’ 3, due to their vote being concentrated in particular parts of the state.

Franklin ignores all the other conditions that can make it harder to represent an electorate, such as having a large number of residents who don’t speak English, many residents with problems needing support from their local MP, such as public housing issues. It’s a lot easier to measure the landmass a seat covers, but it doesn’t mean it is the only problem faced by MPs in representing their electorate. Yet we don’t discuss weighting electoral power based on any other type of disadvantage – it’s one person, one vote.

There is a long and ugly history in Australia of electoral laws being used to increase the voting power of rural voters at the expense of urban voters – in effect MPs represented land, not just people. In New South Wales at a state level, and in most other jurisdictions, different quotas were set in rural and urban areas, meaning that there were much smaller numbers of voters in a rural seat than in an urban seat. Read the rest of this entry »

20

Senate reform – questions that need answering

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece for the Guardian putting the case for reform to the system of Senate group voting tickets, in response to a number of pieces arguing against reform on the basis of who is for the reform, or who supposedly will be favoured.

Today I want to write about a few points I didn’t get to cover in my post, and respond to stories about politicians (primarily in Labor and the Greens) expressing hesitation about supporting the reform seemingly due to concerns about the partisan impact on their parties, and the proposal of a (very bad) idea to keep group voting tickets but impose a minimum vote threshold of 4% for any candidate to be elected.

Antony Green has previously conducted an analysis of how the proposed system of above-the-line preferencing and optional preferential voting would likely change the make-up of the Senate, assuming no major change in voter behaviour. His predictions would have seen Labor and Coalition each hold two additional seats in the current Senate. The Greens would hold one less seat, with a number of other crossbenchers missing out. Nick Xenophon would have likely been joined by his #2 candidate under the proposed system.

It seems some people in Labor and the Greens seem to think that their respective party could be disadvantaged by these reforms. The problem with making predictions about how the system would work (as acknowledged by Antony Green) is that a change in system will change the behaviour of parties, candidates and voters. The changed system would likely result in fewer parties running, and over time this could see different voting blocks developing. A smaller ballot paper would likely have hurt the Liberal Democratic Party, who won in NSW on the back of substantial confusion over their name.

While it looks like the Coalition would have been the chief beneficiary of no group voting tickets in 2013, at other times the reforms would have more likely benefited Labor. This has been explained by Kevin Bonham.

Others have opposed these reforms because they have been pleased with the impact of Ricky Muir and others on the Senate crossbench. Like with any lottery, it’s possible for it to produce a positive result, but that doesn’t mean it is fair or that it can be predicted to produce another result you like in the future.

Ultimately, you need to make your judgement about Senate reform on its impact on the system as a whole, and whether it is fair, not whether it advantages your side, or politicians that you like. That may seem naive, but in the medium term it’s the only sensible approach to electoral reform.

We have seen the impact of short-term thinking in New South Wales and Queensland, where past Labor governments introduced optional preferential voting, in part to benefit from division between Liberal and National candidates (and Queensland Labor went further in benefiting from vote-splitting between the Coalition and One Nation in 1998, encouraging voters to ‘Just Vote 1’).

Since then, the Liberal and National parties have merged in Queensland and gotten better at avoiding three-cornered-contests in other states, and One Nation has disappeared, while the Greens now take a much larger part of the left vote, and those same ‘Just Vote 1’ messages first used by Peter Beattie were used by Campbell Newman for the opposite effect earlier this year.

In addition to us not being able to make any certain or long-term predictions about the partisan impact of a reform, there are deeper issues with the current Senate system, beyond which candidates might win.

The group voting ticket system, with full preferences and almost-complete control of those preferences by parties, tends to produce results where the exact order of elimination of candidates is critical to the result, and small changes in the order can produce dramatically different results. We saw this in Western Australia in 2013, when a gap of 14 votes (or was it 12 votes?) changing who won two Senate seats.

This problem hasn’t gone away, and if we continue down the current trend of increasing numbers of parties and candidates, it will continue to get worse. We may well see another very close contest at the next election, resulting in another recount and more pressure on the AEC to go above and beyond its normal responsibilities.

So this isn’t just about who wins and who loses, this is about having a democratic process which is understood, respected, and not seen as producing arbitrary results which have little to no relationship to the votes cast.

Finally, a number of media outlets have reported that some in the Greens including new leader Richard Di Natale are open to an alternative reform, which would keep the current system but exclude from election any candidate from a party that polled less than 4%.

This is a terrible idea, and would be worthy of the criticism that minor parties have directed at the reform process so far. It would be a bald-faced case of the major parties using their position to entrench their power at the expense of small parties, and would not fix the problem.

Preferences are not only abused by small parties – they can be abused by larger parties. In 1984, the major parties effectively used the new group voting ticket system to starve Peter Garrett (then of the Nuclear Disarmament Party) of preferences, and have often directed preferences away from the Greens.

A threshold system would be particularly bad for the Greens, who would still be vulnerable to losing Labor preferences.

Using thresholds would also completely fail to deal with the lack of transparency in the current system, and allow backroom deals to continue to be made, with results that are very hard to predict.

While the above-the-line voting system is unlikely to elect anyone with less than 4% of the vote, it keeps the option open, as down the track parties get better at encouraging their voters to mark preferences. It’s also completely out of keeping with the Australian system to impose an arbitrary threshold, where 4.1% makes you eligible to win and 3.9% means you can’t win.