Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Did Senate voting reform fail?

Simon Cowan

12 August 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

lego senateThe Senate voting reform package earlier this year that abolished group voting tickets was designed to ensure that the election of senators more closely reflected what ‘each and every voter intends’ and was thought to make the election of minor party senators ‘near impossible’.

Of course we now know the Senate cross-bench, formerly consisting of eight Senators (1 NXT, 1 LDP, 1 FF, 1 DLP, 1 AMEP, and 3 former PUPs), has expanded to 11 (4 ON, 3 NXT, 1 LDP, 1 FF, Jacqui Lambie and Derryn Hinch).

While some have suggested this means the reforms have failed, there are two important provisos.

First, the results suggest the senate does better conforms to voting patterns. Only two senators (Day and Leyonhjelm) were elected with less than half a quota, compared to five in 2013 (though the Sports Party subsequently lost the seat in the WA Senate rerun), while no one with more than half a quota (including those multiple quotas plus a half) missed out, compared to six in 2013.

Largely this is due to preference flows being less structured. Votes no longer flow smoothly from one minor party to the next, some are siphoned off to the major parties at each step, while others exhaust (around 7.5% of votes exhausted nationally).

Second, the double dissolution halved the quota and massively reduced the barrier for minor parties. This is a once off occurrence: a crude model based on voting patterns at the last election suggests the cross-bench will shrink dramatically after two half senate elections.

Xenophon would get at least one Senator each time, probably ending up with 3 or 4 depending on whether his party could maintain their votes when he was not on the ticket. Leyonhjelm and Day wouldn’t survive, though Hinch remains a chance. Hanson and Lambie would be in a better position, though given their personal appeal its improbable their colleagues would be elected. There remains a slight potential for a popular minor party to pick up a seat with the donkey vote.

However the cross-bench would be expected to be between 2 and 7, most likely 4 or 5. The Greens, currently with 9 Senators, would have between 8 and 10 (they would need substantial help from preferences in NSW and QLD). The remaining seats would most likely go to the major parties.

While the merit of getting rid of the cross-bench remains in question, it would be wrong to assume the attempt has failed.

The Coup, The Dictator, and Democracy?

12 August 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

turkey coupErdogan refusing this week to release the body of a ‘traitor’ teacher for burial highlights just how brutal the divorce between democracy and Turkey has become.

After years of undemocratic violations, Erdogan’s post-coup purge of perceived enemies has finally tipped the scale to an authoritarian state. As images of civilian assaults on Turkish soldiers emerged, questions arose about how Erdogan was able to mobilise such a large group of citizens. The answer lies in his use of divisive rhetoric to rally the yobaz (intolerant and ignorant Muslims) constituency.

As he steered Turkey toward being an authoritarian-based theocracy, his dialogue has been seeded with radical anti-western ideology, paranoia and Ottomanism. An early predictor of the current purge came in 2013, when the Gezi Park Protests escalated the campaign against any opposition.

Erdogan demonised protestors, labelling them capulcus (looters) who were allegedly working with foreign parties to undermine his authority and aimed to overthrow him — leading to counter protests in his support. Surviving a nationwide protest that called for his resignation, Erdogan was given a ‘gift from God’ to quash any opposition in the form of the recent coup.

Broadcast on CNN Turk, Erdogan summoned supporters to take to the streets and defend Turkey against Gulenists. Meanwhile, his government sent texts and sounded the call to prayer from mosques as a way to mobilise people, resulting in mobs of civilian men beating, arresting, and — in some cases — killing soldiers.

By declaring a three-month state of emergency, Erdogan now rules by decree and can bypass parliament with no opposition. His cleansing of Turkey has resulted in the imprisonment and suspension of close to 70,000 individuals, many of whom have no links to the Gulen Movement. Further, he has suspended the EU Convention on Human Rights with evidence emerging that detainees are being abused, tortured and in some cases raped.

Violence, authoritarianism and paranoia would not be plaguing Turkey if democracy existed. Opposition would be tolerated, freedom of speech, expression and press would exist; and human rights would not be violated. To those who claim that some form of democracy still exists in Turkey, even the most cursory glance at the facts should reveal that Erdogan and his supporters have not just divorced democracy. They have crucified it.

Yonca Yilmaz is the Executive Assistant at the Centre for Independent Studies, and is completing her PhD thesis The Gulen Movement: A Civic Society Movement without Borders.

Up tax creek without a cross-bench

12 August 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

tax reformThe corporate tax reform proposal in the May Budget was a bold pitch in an otherwise underwhelming document. The staggered introduction scheme of cuts was quick to receive criticism.

Despite Scott Morrison and the Coalition promising investment, jobs, growth and a bright future for real wage rates, the package was unlikely to succeed in a Senate that had so often delivered parliamentary gridlock.

Three months on from the Budget announcement, a new Senate has been delivered with three additional cross-benchers and three fewer Coalition senators.

While reforms to small business taxation are supported by key cross-benchers, the Nick Xenophon Team, as well as Labor, the proposal is far from wholly embraced.

The major point of contention for Opposition and cross-bench members is the perceived benefit to be reaped by corporate Australia. Conveniently ignored is the fact that big corporates would still be subject to a tax rate of 30% until 2023-24.

While the Opposition continue to argue no clear electoral mandate was acquired in the narrow Coalition victory, their resistance to change is a continuation of a narrative railing against the success of large corporates in Australia.

This message has proliferated in the absence of strong rebuttal from the Coalition.  The reform package is essential if Australia wants to continue to compete in the global capital market. Despite this, Xenophon maintains that the government have not adequately presented the case for universal cuts.

For Morrison and Turnbull to succeed in passing the reforms package they must present a decisive argument and target the micro-party voting blocs.

Without support from Xenophon and Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Turnbull may just find himself up tax creek without a cross-bench to rely on.

Miguel Forjaz is an intern at the Centre for Independent Studies