Read together, sections 7, 9 and 51(xxxix) of the Constitution gives the
Parliament the power to prescribe the method of voting for members of the
Senate, provided that method permits voters a free choice among the candidates
The result of the Senate election in 2013 has sparked debate about how
representative the current system is because the distribution of preferences
delivered Senate seats to parties with a very low primary vote. Proposals for
reforming the senate voting method have focused on the introduction of an
optional preferential system of voting for the Senate to replace the current
system where voting by the majority of voters ‘above the line’ largely restricts
the distribution of preferences to the choices and deals made by the candidates.
a. Discuss and compare the current system of electing the members of the Senate
with an optional preferential system and critically analyse the difference(s) and
b. Which voting method for the Senate best advances the objective of
representative government contained in the Constitution and how?
c. While a right to vote has been found to be entrenched in the Constitution
through the use of the words ‘chosen by the people’,
Do you think the method of voting for the Senate should also be constitutionally
entrenched, limiting the power of the Parliament to determine and change the
method of electing the Senate and require a constitutional amendment approved
by the people under the terms of s.128?
In completing the essay you should consider the 1. historical purpose of the
2. who has the power to determine the electoral system and its design and
2. what constitutional problems can be identified as arising from the Senate
election in 2013, particularly the success of ‘micro-parties’.
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