Opinion Former Article

ERS response to Australian Election

The Electoral Reform Society has released its initial findings on the latest Australian Federal Election.

Australias House of Representatives is elected by the Alternative Vote (AV) system, which will be offered to the British public in a referendum next May.

Following the tightest election in decades both Labor and the Liberal-Nationals are still short of the 76 seats required for an overall majority. Polls are now pointing towards a hung parliament, the first in Australias post war history. The Society has pointed to the decisive results produced in every Australian seat which stands in stark contrast to the feeble mandates enjoyed by British MPs.

Ashley D from the Electoral Reform Society said:

While two thirds of British MPs rest on feeble mandates, AV has delivered decisive results in each and every Australian seat. This election illustrates the simple choice facing the public next May. Do the public want MPs supported by the many or the few? Australia is now bracing itself for its first hung parliament in seventy years. First-Past-the-Post has not given Britain any special immunity to hung parliaments. Australias long experience with AV has shown it is no more susceptible. Australian voters have spoken in the tightest contest in living memory. The system has responded.

Summary

The 2011 Election has resulted in a hung parliament. With four seats still doubtful, both sides are currently five seats short of a majority. The Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National Coalition each picked up 71 seats. The national two-party preferred figure shows the Labor Party narrowly leading the Coalition 50.69% - 49.31%.

Alternative Vote

Australia uses the Alternative Vote, where voters number candidates in order of preference. AV is being put to British voters in a referendum next May.
The Australian version, where voters are obliged to rank every single candidate on the ballot paper, differs from the proposed UK version, in which all preferences are optional.
The Alternative Vote produces decisive results in each constituency, with every single candidate enjoying over 50% support in his or her community. In contrast, at the last British general election, our present system of First Past the Post meant only a third of British MPs (216/650) have majority support in their communities, the lowest proportion in British political history.

Hung Parliaments

The last Australian election to deliver a hung parliament was in 1940. Shorter term lengths mean that Australia has since had 27 federal elections, with only this years resulting in a hung parliament. In comparison, three of the last 28 British general elections have delivered a hung parliament (in 1929, February 1974, and 2010).

This indicates that, over time, the Alternative Vote is no more likely to deliver hung parliaments than First Past the Post.
Green Party

The Australian Green Party also made an historic breakthrough, picking up their first seat in parliament. This gave them a 0.66% seat share in the House of Representatives, as opposed to the 0.15% of seats the Greens hold in Westminster.
Extremist Candidates

No extremist candidate won a seat in this years Australian election. The Alternative Vote makes it hard for extreme parties to win seats, because candidates need broad support across communities.

The BNP have been critical of the proposed shift to AV. The BNP owe their current presence in local government to First-Past-the-Posts ability to return winners the majority of voters dont want. YouGovs Peter Kellner recently offered a Modest Proposal in last months Prospect Magazine: Lets drive the BNP right out of British politics by introducing AV for local elections.

Contacts

For more information, comment or interviews please contact the Societys Director of Communications Ashley D on 07968791684

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