Proportional Representation Society of Australia
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The Proportional Representation Society of Australia is one of the main electoral reform organisations in Australia. It has branches in South Australia, Victoria-Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Its membership includes a number of people that have successfully promoted electoral reform (both past and present).
The Society regularly reviews and makes submissions on electoral reform within Australia with a focus on multi-member single transferable vote - proportional representation voting systems. It has also made numerous submissions to various international organizations including the United Nations and the New Zealand Parliament.
The Society's origin dates back to before the commencement of Australia as a Federation with Catherine Helen Spence as one of its founding members.
Catherine Helen Spence's 1861 booklet, 'A Plea for Pure Democracy', helped the early formation of a proportional representation group called the 'Effective Voting League of South Australia'. Miss Catherine Spence was the first female candidate at a public election in the then British Empire when she stood unsuccessfully at the 1897 election (under the unfair first-past-the-post multiple vote) for the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention.
A statue in Light Square in Adelaide, unveiled on 10 March 1986 by Her Majesty the Queen,commemorates Miss Spence. The PRSA later launched its reprint of her booklet there. She is remembered by her Autobiography, and was depicted on the Australian $5 banknote issued for the Centenary of Federation, in 2001. The PRSA's SA Branch (the Electoral Reform Society of South Australia) influenced the replacement of the first party list system used, briefly, for Australian parliamentary elections, introduced by the Dunstan Labor Government in 1973, by direct election using the present quota-preferential form of proportional representation that the SA Electoral Act 1985 prescribes for elections for SA's Legislative Council. The SA Constitution Act 1934 requires a referendum before either House can be abolished, but it does not specify or entrench the electoral system, and that oversight should be remedied.
The Society advocates the use of Hare-Clark preferential voting, which is a form of the Single Transferable Vote method (STV) that is currently in use for many elections in Australia including the Australian Senate, mainland State Upper Houses of Parliament, the Australian Capital Territory and much of Local Government.
It has published a quarterly newsletter entitled "Quota Notes"
In addition the Society has also published a number of educational documents and aids such as
- Rules for Counting Single Transferable Votes
- The Gerrymander Wheel, a simple calculator to demonstrate the futility of drawing geographical boundaries in a single-member electorate system.
The Society has raised a number of issues in relation to the conduct of public elections in Australia, which include:
- Robson Rotation, the need to randomly order candidates listings in the printing of ballot papers so as to minimize the effect of donkey voting
- Calculation of the surplus transfer value and method of segmentation used in the distribution of preferences in the counting of proportional representation counts.
- Critiques of the above-the-line voting device unfortunately used in certain Australian proportional representation elections
- Electronic voting, the introduction and use of computer technology in the conduct of elections
Submissions to Government
The Proportional Representation Society through its numerous submissions to governments has played a significant role in the development and formation of Australia's electoral systems.
- Submission Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, 2006
- Electoral reform Green paper - Strengthening Australia's Democracy, Report by the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Reform,
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
- Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Inquiry into the 2007 NSW Election and Related
Public discussion and forums
The Society holds and participates in public meetings and forums on electoral reform in various parts of Australia. A recent example was a presentation by Malcolm Mackerras, one of Australia's leading electoral analysts and political journalists.
The Proportional Representation Society's Victoria-Tasmania Branch also provides accreditation and services in conducting elections for corporate and community organizations in Australia including computations of results by email. Its clientele includes:
- National Trust of Australia
- Victorian Local Governance Association
- Oxfam Australia
- Australian Conservation Foundation
- RMIT University, Melbourne
- Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
The Society maintains a connection with:
References and footnotes
- Why We Chose Proportional Representation, (The Australian Senate, John Ur)
- Computerized demonstration of the Society's gerrymander wheel
- "Submission into the conduct of the Victorian State Election, 2006". Proportional Representation Society. Victorian state Parliament. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
- "Why the Australian Senate’s above-the-line voting option should be abolished". Malcolm Mackerras. PRSA. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
- "Referendums to let New Zealand replace MMP with voters’ choice of Hare-Clark or MMM". Malcolm Mackerras. PRSA. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
- "PRSA Clients". Proportional Representation Society. PRSA. Retrieved 2009-11-07.