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Xenophon targets low-vote Senators with new bill

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Independent senator Nick Xenophon will move to introduce a bill that could make it harder for senators to be elected on a small percentage of the general vote.

His proposal could mean independent candidates, like himself, and minority parties could find it difficult to make it into the Senate.

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Senator Xenophon’s bill would require those who wished to vote “above the line” on the Senate ticket to choose a minimum of three potential members listed in order of preference.

Voters going “below the line” would be required to choose a minimum of six potential new members.

According to Senator Xenophon, changing that requirement to a minimum of three would reduce the potency of those agreements and end the influence of so-called “preference whisperers”.

It also stated that the current cross-benchers have raised the ire of Australia’s top chief executives, who want to see electoral reform, according to the 2015 Chanticleer CEO Outlook survey.

However political consultant and ‘preference whisperer’ Glenn Druery, who had a hand in helping some off the current crop of crossbench ­senators get elected, has hit back, telling The New Daily that the proposed bill was “ridiculous” and could create a two-party platform like the US.

Glenn Druery
‘Preference whisperer’ Glenn Druery.

Mr Druery feared that “ordinary Australians” could suffer if the minor parties and independents weren’t represented in the Senate.

“The cross-bench brings reason into the political environment and stopping these types of ridiculous moves for happening,” Mr Druery said.

“The cross-bench has become the defacto Opposition, and Nick Xenophon’s reforms would stop this.

“If we did not have a cross-bench right now, we would have a health system heading towards that of the US, we would have people without large sums of money finding it difficult to find a tertiary education.”

Mr Druery also questioned why the chief executives, or “big business”, were backing Senator Xenophon’s bill.

“If the Nick Xenophon/’big business’ reform was applicable when Nick tried to enter the political process, he would have failed,” Mr Druery said.

“This really is the case of ‘I’m in the life raft and I’m pulling up the ladder – to hell with ordinary Australians’.”

In an interview with ABC News Radio Senator Xenophon said the the bill would “hand back the power to the voters, by avoiding the dominance of back room deals by operatives”.

“And not leaving it up to the preference flow of the party to determine where the rest of the votes would fall,” Senator Xenophon said.

“It means independents and micro parties will have a fighting chance because the voter will be able to direct their mind to a small party and someone other than a majority party.

“Which I think is a fair way of having a better voting system than we do now.”

A joint committee report on Senate voting practices, released in May, proposed tougher voting reforms.

With the support of Labor, the Co­alition and the Greens, the committee recommended changes to how parties are registered, so that micro parties could not be created for the purpose of preference harvesting, the AFR reported.

The bill is an update of a previous bill Senator Xenophon introduced in December 2013.

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