Electoral fraud gets bipartisan support from Senators


Our Senators can no longer be trusted to fulfil a simple but important duty entrusted to them under Australia's constitution. From 2019 until 2022 both the Labor Party and the Coalition will get an extra seat in the federal Senate. This will affect the balance of power and will affect the ability to pass legislation. They got these extra seats by reneging on repeated promises made to the Australian public to respect the constitution and allocate 3 and 6 year senate terms according to a method agreed to before the election results are announced. This is not the first time this has happened.

This electoral fraud is enabled by public apathy and a shocking failure of the mainstream media to report basic facts. Prior to the announcement of the 2016 election results, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC all reported on bipartisan senate resolutions, passed with Labor and Coalition support in 1998 and 2010, to use a new, fairer method to allocate 3 and 6 year terms. Unfortunately, when the electoral dice were rolled, they came up in favour of the old method, which the major parties used to give 6 year terms to Deborah O'Neill (Labor, NSW) and Scott Ryan (Liberal, VIC), at the expense of Lee Rhiannon (Greens) and Derryn Hinch. When they announced that they would break their promise and give themselves the extra senators from 2019, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, and all their associated publications went silent on the bipartisan resolutions of 1998 and 2010, reporting instead the careful spin offered up by the major parties. There was no indication that they even asked the major parties about their broken promise. The ABC briefly mentioned the bipartisan senate resolutions in a single article published after the announcement.

This is, at best, lazy and incompetent journalism. At worst, our most respected journalists are actively conspiring with the major parties to help them escape public awareness of, and criticism for undermining the constitution by voting to change the election outcome. The 'victim' senators did not exactly help the matter either. Hinch concocted his own alternative scheme to give an unfair share of 6 year terms to independent and minor parties. Rhiannon complained about the outcome, but if the media reports are anything to go by did not mention the broken promises or provide any substantive basis for her complaint.

A fortnight ago I emailed all 76 sitting senators about this issue. This is what I sent:

Subject: allocation of long and short term senate seats

Dear Senator,

If you were to be re-elected in a double dissolution election, which method would you support for allocating 3 and 6 year terms to elected senators?

A) The order-elected method

B) The recount method

C) Some other method you prefer (if so, please elaborate…)

D) You will decide on the day based on which option hands your fellow party members extra 6 year terms

Also, would you support a constitutional change to close this loophole, for example requiring senate candidates for a double dissolution election to declare on their application paperwork which method they will use (and to keep their word)?

Do you think this is an important issue?

So far, two senators have responded: Dean Smith (Liberal, WA) and Claire Moore (Labor, QLD). Smith said it was an interesting question, but not one has put his mind to - despite it being his first order of business to vote on this issue after his election to the Senate in 2016. He said he would trust the decision to the wisdom and authority of the senate, apparently oblivious to the fact that he is that very authority. Likewise Claire Moore said she did not have an opinion and would need more information. This is about as close as a politician will get to admitting they are going with option D.

This is an unacceptable abuse of the Australian constitution. Our senators are so confident of public apathy that they have forgotten the carefully crafted spin of 2016 and now respond with careless disinterest, meaningless gibberish, or give us the 'grin and nod' routine. Unfortunately, they are getting away with it. This will only stop if you take action, by:

  • Letting people know about the problem.
  • Contacting Senators to let them know you expect them to put an end to this ongoing constitutional crisis.
  • Punishing the major parties in the Senate in 2019, to reduce their incentive to commit further fraud.
  • Writing to the journalists involved and letting them know you are dissatisfied with their incompetence in failing to hold the major parties publicly accountable for breaking their promises and voting to change the election outcome.

Journalists who 'covered' the 2016 senate election controversy include Fergus Hunter from The Sydney Morning Herald, Jared Owens from The Australian and Nick Harmsen from the ABC.

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