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Byron Shire
June 14, 2021

How the Senate system is gamed

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David Lovejoy has a final say on the Senate preferencing issue. senate ballot paper

My online article last week  met with some harsh criticism, some of it trivial (yes, there were a couple of typos) and some wrong-headed (I did not misrepresent the HEMP party’s preferences).

However, the facts in the article are accurate, and the conclusions drawn from those facts are unassailable.

The gist is that HEMP, Stop CSG and WikiLeaks have, by preferencing far-right minor parties, made it more likely that on the final count one of those parties (the Shooters and Fishers, Family First or Pauline Hanson) will snatch the last senate seat from the Greens. Not definite, just more likely.

Please note that I did not state that HEMP and Stop CSG have actually preferenced the Shooters and Fishers above the Greens (that piece of stupidity belongs to WikiLeaks alone). What I said was that votes for them could get placed on the Shooters and Fishers’ pile by way of one of the other right-wing groups they have preferred to the Greens.

All that needs to happen is for just one of those groups to still be in play when, for example, a HEMP candidate is eliminated. His votes will be transferred to the highest preferenced group still live on HEMP’s list. If this is a right-wing mob, those votes can then travel to the Shooters and Fishers party (or some other unsavoury destination) when the group is eliminated in its turn. Merely preferencing Greens above Shooters and Fishers without considering what appears on the rest of your preference card will not prevent your vote going in an undesirable direction.

It’s not as if we haven’t seen voting disasters before. If you think 110 candidates and 44 parties makes this senate ballot difficult, remember the 1999 NSW Upper House had 264 candidates and 81 parties. Glenn Druery, the infamous ‘preference whisperer’, organised the harvesting of minor party preferences so effectively in that election that Malcolm Jones of the Outdoor Recreation Party won a seat with a primary vote of just 0.2 per cent.

The problem is that given enough small parties in the ballot the preferential voting system can be ‘gamed’ and Mr Druery woke up to this earlier than others. His baleful presence can be discerned in the WikiLeaks debacle, and in the Stop CSG preference list. Another gamer is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats, David Leyonhjelm, who has set up a couple of right-wing micro parties and has close links with several others.

The complexity of preferences in the senate is a good reason for playing it safe and voting above the line for the Greens. They are sympathetic to the causes of HEMP, WikiLeaks and Stop CSG whereas Shooters and Fishers are sympathetic only to slaughter. The point is that exchanging preferences with the enemy is a dangerous strategy in which right-wing parties have a better track record than progressives.

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  1. The way to vote for Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice party and Gordon Fraser of Stop CSG Party is below the line and not above the line – then voters can make sure their votes go to the like-minded Greens Cate Faehrmann if their first choice is not elected and not to the so-called Liberal Democrats or Pauline. Voting above the line for a small party could be disastrous

  2. David Lovejoy seems to completely misunderstand how the Senate preference method works. When a party
    is excluded their ‘above the line’ votes are transferred to next party listed on their Group Voting Ticket (GVT) which is still in the count. That next party then holds those transferred votes until it is either elected or is excluded. When excluded all of the parcels of transferred votes it held then flow to parties as directed by the original party’s GVT. The receiving party has no say in where any parcels of votes it holds for a while are subsequently transferred. For example if the Greens are excluded, the ALP second preference votes it held would be released to flow to the Shooters and Fishers (assuming SFP is still in the count), and not to the Liberals where the Greens own votes are directed. HEMP’s (and Stop CSG) preferences cannot possibly flow to the Shooters, no matter which party may temporarily hold them, unless both the Greens and the ALP have already been excluded themselves.
    Graham Askey
    HEMP Party


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