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High Court to hear Senate voting challenge

The High Court building in Canberra.

The High Court building in Canberra.

New laws changing the way Australians elect senators will face a High Court challenge.

The first directions hearing will be held in Sydney via video link from Perth before Chief Justice Robert French at 11am (AEDT) on Thursday, two days after Family First senator Bob Day filed an application challenging the changes.

It comes less than a week after the changes cleared parliament, following a marathon 40-hour debate.

‘Political parties have seized control of the states’ house, the Senate, and I look forward to hearing what the High Court has to say about that,’ Senator Day says.

The federal government has insisted the changes are constitutionally sound and will withstand any challenge.

It argues the changes will hand power back to the people, allowing voters to choose their own preferences rather than having them directed via backroom deals.

At the next federal election, voters will allocate their own preferences by numbering at least six boxes above the line on a Senate ballot paper.

Below the line they need only number 12 boxes.

Senator Day and other crossbenchers argue these changes will prevent minor parties and independents from getting elected, ignoring the will of the three million voters who voted for them at the last federal election.

The seriousness of the matter is demonstrated by the High Court bringing it on urgently, he says.

Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey, from Sydney University, believes the changes are likely to be upheld by the High Court.


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