08 September 2013

The Australian election under proportional representation

As a momentary diversion from the news across the Tasman about the new Australian government to be led by Liberal leader Tony Abbott, it's worth remembering that the electoral system has a major impact on the outcome of elections. Australia's outdated and peculiar preferential voting system favours the big parties over the smaller ones, and the intentionally complicated process of voting 'below the line', requiring electors to rank every single one of the competing parties or else their vote is invalidated, has been rendered almost impossible by a profusion of joke and spoiler single-issue parties.

It's worth remembering that there is an easier and fairer way to conduct a general election, and that's the proportional representation system in use in New Zealand since 1996. Certainly it's not perfect, but it gives parties their fair share of Parliament, as opposed to the current Australian system. So instead of the current substantial majority for the Coalition, what would a New Zealand-style MMP election have looked like in Australia? Using the current first-preference results (n.b. counting is still underway) with a five percent threshold and an electorate-seat exemption, here's how it might have looked for Australia:

Party
% vote
Seats
Labor
33.85
54
Liberal
31.70
50
Liberal-National
8.72
14
National
4.58
[9]
Country Liberals
0.35
1
Green
8.42
13
Palmer United
5.59
9
Katter’s Australian
1.00
1
Independent
-
1

The Nationals' total of nine electorate seats is actually more than the seven seats they are entitled to from their share of the overall vote, so there would have to be two 'overhang' seats, taking the size of the Lower House to 152. A result like this would put the nine members of the Palmer United Party (which was only formed in April) in a prime position to choose the next government of Australia. The result would likely generate a victory for the Coalition, but it would require the support of the Liberals, Liberal-Nationals, the Nationals, the Country Liberals' one member and the Palmer United Party to form a majority government.

See also:
Results: AEC Virtual Tally Room
Politics: Political Compass - Australia 2013
Comedy: Clarke & Dawe - A Pollster?, 5 September 2013
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