September 9

A Correction: TheTwo Party Preferred Vote

Malcolm Mackerras is the nation’s leading psephologist and a prominent commentator on Australian and American elections. His opinions must be accorded considerable weight.

He has written to ACM on one aspect of this column on the formation of the new government. For the purpose of the understanding the context, the surrounding sentences were:  

It is of course our tried and tested constitutional system which has long assured that governments come to power constitutionally and peacefully. No wonder then that she (the Prime Minister) is in no hurry to put a referendum for change to some unknown form of politicians' republic. Coalition supporters will be upset that they led on the primary vote and the two party preferred vote.

But the voting system is for the Parliament, and it should be recalled by conservatives that the preferential system was introduced by a conservative government in 1918. No voting system is perfect, and it remains open to Parliament to review these matters.

Malcolm Mackerras takes issue with my observation: “Coalition supporters will be upset that they led on the primary vote and the two-party preferred vote.”

He says:  

You are right about the primary vote. For the two-party preferred vote it is true the Coalition is, at present, slightly ahead, as shown by the AEC website. However, if you look for details on that you will notice that no votes (literally, no votes) are included for the divisions of Batman, Denison, Grayndler, Kennedy, Lyne, Melbourne, New England and O’Connor. When these are counted (in about a month) they will, I estimate, add a net 30,000 votes to the Labor column which will then round to 50.1 per cent to 49.9 per cent for the Coalition.

Since Labor won 52.7 last time it means that its 50.1 this time means a swing to the right of 2.6 per cent. For the Senate, by contrast,  there has been a swing to the left. The reason is that the 2010 Senate vote must be compared with that of 2004, not 2007.

The message from all of this is that Julia Gillard is clearly the legitimate Prime Minister as well as now being the so-called “elected Prime Minister”.However, the more important message is that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with any aspect of the system. 


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