In what can only be described as an unusual alliance, the Federal Government has teamed up with Greens in order to overhaul the Senate voting system, however the long-term consequences will be profound.
SAS Group Director Larry Anthony explains.
The argument for the alliance is that it will improve the democratic process by preventing micro parties and independents to ‘game’ the system on a fraction of the vote – a problem that garnered huge attention in the 2013 election after ‘preference whispering’ deals enabled parties like the Motoring Enthusiast to win a Victorian spot with around half a per cent of the vote, and Family First’s Bob Day to rise to victory in South Australia with just 3.76 per cent of the primary vote.
But the chaos and unresponsiveness of the independents has been serving the ALP’s agenda quite well, as the situation has continued to stymie the Coalition Government’s legislative process and as such, prevent them from getting on with the job.
However, the long-term consequences of this alliance are profound. The Greens, under their urbane and charismatic leader Richard Di Natale, would for the first time, not be required to direct preferences to the ALP in the House of Representatives in order to guarantee the ALP’s preferences in the Senate – and the ALP know that would put them in a precarious position, and in very real danger of losing valuable Senate spots to the Greens.
This de-coupling of the dependency arrangement to get Green Senators elected from surplus ALP votes means that the Greens could enact a far more autonomous and strategic role in marginal coalition seats and traditional Labor strongholds.
In times of old, the Greens were born out of a left wing ideology and strong environmental protest vote at its core constituency, but this new-found independence would make them a powerful force in determining seats in the next Federal Election.
So it stands to reason that both the ALP and the independent Senators are in fear of their own extinctions, and are mounting a massive response action.
The ALP are right to fear this new-found independence of the Greens and their new pragmatic leader, who’s shown that he’s prepared to cut deals on a case-by-case basis.
The strategists in the Coalition are by no means blind to this danger, but are prepared to take the risk with the Greens in order to get Senate reform – and prevent a rerun of the 2013 circus.
And so the question needs to be asked, “Will the prize of securing legislative reform though the new Senate with the Greens be worth the price of more Greens in the Senate?”.
Time will tell.