Three major parties agree to overhaul Senate elections

THE three major federal political parties have unanimously agreed to overhaul the way federal Senators are elected.

The proposed changes will stop a repeat of the farcical scenes witnessed at last year's federal election which saw some candidates secure a Senate seat despite only registering less than 1000 votes nationwide.

It will spell the end for low-profile candidates who benefit from a bizarre preference deal system which is easily manipulated.

Currently, voters must either put a '1' in only one box above the line or fill in every box below the line on a ballot paper.

Voting above the line hands the flow of preferences over to the parties who lodge 'group voting tickets' with the Australian Electoral Commission.

The parliamentary joint standing committee on electoral matters handed down its report on Friday offering six recommendations to ensure voters know who they are actually voting for at future elections.

Committee chair Tony Smith said last year's federal election will long be remembered as a time when our system of Senate voting let voters down.

"Combined with pliable and porous party registration rules, the system of voting for a single party above the line and delegating the distribution of preferences to that party, delivered, in some cases, outcomes that distorted the will of the voter," he said.

"The system of voting above the line has encouraged the creation of micro parties in order to funnel preferences to each other, from voters who have no practical way of knowing where their vote will ultimately land once they had forfeited it to the parties' group voting tickets."

Mr Smith said the current rules for party registration provided the means and unacceptable ease to create the parties in the first place to garner primary votes above the line and then harvest the preferences in a whirlpool of exchanges.

"This has resulted in voters being required to contemplate and complete a difficult to manage ballot paper a metre long," he said.

"Many voters were confused.

"If they voted above the line, the choice of where their vote would go was effectively unknown, and accordingly in many cases their electoral will distorted.

"If they voted below the line they needed to complete preferences for each and every candidate - in many states, a very complex and time consuming exercise.

"The gaming of the voting system by many micro-parties created a lottery, where, provided the parties stuck together in preferencing each other (some of whom have polar opposite policies and philosophies) the likelihood of one succeeding was maximised."

The report will be handed to Federal Parliament for its consideration.

Topics:  greens labor liberal senate

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