This is the text of my speech to the Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland Chapter, in the Queensland Parliament House on 15 April 2013. I’m publishing the text for anyone who may be interested in reading it.
Tweedledee, Tweedledum – Not all electoral systems are created equal
Speech to the Australasian Study of Parliament Group, Queensland Chapter, 15 April 2013
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Jagera and Turrbal people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present, and future.
Electoral reform is in the air in Queensland. The Department of Justice and Attorney General published a discussion paper on the topic in January this year which has engendered much discussion.
Electoral reform has been a topic of interest for many Queenslanders and Australians over the last few decades. Across the country, there have been moves towards one-vote one-value voting systems (most recently in WA), regular redistributions, party registration and placement on ballot papers, and increasing the number of ways in which people can cast their vote (e.g. introduction of electronic voting in the last NSW election).
There have also been reforms to make it easier for people to enrol and for automatic enrolment in NSW elections, in addition to electoral funding and disclosure reforms. In my state of NSW, the Government recently gave redistribution commissioners more flexibility in drawing boundaries, which they may use in the current State redistribution.
In short, experience tells us that electoral reform is never a done and dusted business. And nor should it be – we should always learn from experience, and electoral systems should change in line with societal attitudes. In 1905, laws were changed to enfranchise women in Queensland elections and in 1974 the voting age was dropped from 21 to 18. Some people are now proposing the voting age be dropped to 16.