In yet another attempt to delay reform on Victoria’s upper house group voting system, today the Andrews Government announced that the Electoral Matters committee would undertake an inquiry into the influence of social media instead of tackling the urgent issue of group voting reform.
This is despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of submissions to the committee after both the 2014 and 2018 state elections have called for the urgent abolition of group voting tickets.
Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, said that while an inquiry into social media campaigning was important, it was clear that the community wanted to see urgent action on the state’s flawed and undemocratic voting system.
Victoria is currently one of only two jurisdictions in Australia with a group voting system, which results in political parties deciding where votes go rather than voters deciding themselves.
The system leaves most voters completely unaware of where their votes will end up in the upper house on election day due to back-room preference deals brokered by consultants.
The 2018 state election saw candidates pay tens of thousands of dollars to enter a preference deal arrangement in order to game the system and effectively buy a seat in parliament.
The committee’s report into the 2014 state election stated it would wait until the Federal Senate had abolished group voting tickets before taking action. However the Senate completed this in 2016 and still no action has been taken here in Victoria.
The Government’s continued stalling resulted in farcical scenes late last year, when expert witnesses appearing before the committee were warned prior to giving evidence they were not to mention group voting tickets.
As stated by Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC:
“Victoria needs to have this debate about cleaning up our voting system and yet the Government seems content to keep delaying it in the hopes that nothing ever changes.
“The 2018 election result was gamed by those who paid for votes through backroom preference deals rather than voters deciding for themselves who they wanted elected.
“Most other states and the Federal Parliament recognise how group voting systems distort election outcomes, so they have acted to clean up their voting systems.
“Victoria is now behind the rest of the country and is leaving the system open for rorting.”