Voting system in Victoria’s upper house is broken, must be overhauled

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have welcomed the introduction of a bill that would make it illegal to pay an expert to ‘preference harvest’ during elections, but say that it only treats the symptom and not the cause.

They say the bill, which would outlaw parties and candidates paying “preference whisperers” like Glenn Druery to coordinate group voting tickets, is a small step towards reform but that it won’t stop backroom deals determining where people’s votes go.

Victoria is currently one of only two jurisdictions in Australia with a group voting system which leaves many voters completely unaware of who they will elect in the upper house.

The 2018 state election saw candidates from micro-parties pay tens of thousands of dollars to game the system and effectively buy a seat in parliament.

This led to the election of a number of candidates with very small primary votes to the Legislative Council, at the expense of others who had received ten times as many votes.

Victorian Greens spokesperson for integrity, Dr Tim Read, said that during the pandemic, all MPs had been interacting with their constituents at unprecedented levels, making it clear that they were answerable to them.

They put the MPs there and they could remove them. But not in the upper house.

Six to eight members would not have been elected without the help of Mr Druery and group voting tickets. They do not answer to the people. Their parties, the parties they deal with and even Mr Druery have more power to demand accountability and to remove them, than do the people of Victoria.

The Greens want Parliament to take it even further by scrapping group voting tickets altogether, in order to bring Victoria in line with nearly every other state and the Federal Senate.

As stated by Victorian Greens spokesperson for integrity, Dr Tim Read:

“The outdated voting system in Victoria’s upper house means people can get elected based on backroom deals, when they only get less than one per cent of the vote.

“This bill is good, but unless we go one step further and actually fix the broken voting system, backroom preference deals will still decide who sits in our Parliament.

“Victorians should determine where their votes go on election day – not backroom party operatives.”

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