Protecting constitutional process and public confidence

A briefing prepared by David d’Lima, SA State Director, FamilyVoice Australia – 10 May 2019

The Australian Labor Party’s republican ambition is being largely ignored by commentators ahead of the 2019 federal election. While FamilyVoice Australia acknowledges the right of a political party to have a view on a major constitutional change, it must occur in accord with the Commonwealth Constitution and in a manner that maintains public confidence in the Parliament and the process.

Further a proposal of this magnitude should be well publicized, the public should be well informed and it should be conducted in a fair and even-handed manner. This cannot be about political point-scoring.

The republican policy of the ALP was most recently enunciated in its 2018 National Platform:

67. Modernising our Constitution also entails a transition to an Australian Republic, with an Australian Head of State, who can fully represent our traditions, values and aspirations as a nation. Labor will hold a national vote to give every Australian voter a voice in the process of becoming a republic with an Australian Head of State. If the result is yes, Labor will consult with the Australian people, other political parties and the States and Territories as to the form the Republic should take. A member of the Labor ministry will promote community debate about the advantages and disadvantages of the various republican models. When detailed constitutional changes are prepared Labor will initiate an appropriate secondary referendum under section 128 of the Constitution.

https://www.alp.org.au/media/1539/2018_alp_national_platform_constitution.pdf

According to a report by 9news on the 2015 ALP Conference:The party also agreed to a road map to a republic, including appointing a minister for the republic and holding a constitutional convention followed by a plebiscite to determine the best model before holding a referendum.

https://www.9news.com.au/national/key-points-from-alp-conference-on-friday/1b7a1493-c117-4e5f-bdec-1f96dcd2d7b7

Public confidence

The ALP goes into the election promising a government-sponsored national vote without providing detail on the nature of the change. Whilst the party is entitled to seek constitutional reform, it must be done with due respect for the Constitution.  

It would be improper for any government to attempt such reform without respecting the constitutional mechanism (s128) by which voters must receive a proposed law, not an in-principle idea, so they can vote intelligently in a manner which binds the Parliament.

It is therefore not appropriate to hold a national vote upon a question such as ‘Should Australia become a republic with an Australian Head of State? Yes/No’. This fails the constitutional requirement for a specific executable alternative to the current arrangement. The ALP strategy as it stands appears to be an attempt to soften voters up, by firstly asking a generic question about an Australian head of state. The seriousness of the issue requires a mature, even-handed approach that is truly democratic and not driven by spin doctors.

There is also a real risk that Parliament may receive a positive indication of republican sentiment from the voters, but might fail to produce a model for a subsequent referendum, leading to a loss of public confidence.

A Minister for the Republic

A second concern is the proposed Minister for the Republic, following the appointment (in 2017) by the ALP of MP Matt Thistlethwaite as “Shadow Assistant Minister for an Australian Head of State”. Since the Constitution (s64) provides for the Queen’s Ministers of State it would be inappropriate (and arguably illegal) for executive councillors to advise the Crown to appoint a minister for its own demise, without a directive for change obtained in a referendum that gained assent from most of the voters in most of the States (s128). No Minister for the Republic should be appointed under the existing Constitution.

The High Court would inevitably be drawn into such matters. It may be asked to rule whether the Crown may lawfully appoint a minister for its own demise. It could be asked to adjudicate whether all the six states must agree before we may radically rework the “one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown” (as enunciated in the Preamble to the Constitution - which is part of the legislation that enabled Federation).

Protecting the people and the Constitution

While FamilyVoice Australia is not expressing a view on the republican question in this statement, we are respectfully advising the public and the parliamentary candidates about the ALP’s ambition and its ensuing risks.

Therefore ahead of the 2019 federal election we are urging candidates for Parliament to consider if the ALP's republican strategy is promoting this cause in a manner not entirely in keeping with the Constitution.

Further, it would be prudent for Parliament to find a mechanism to prevent governments attempting to secure constitutional changes through publically-funded plebiscites, postal surveys, or a misuse of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Such a mechanism would help to prevent the apparent manipulation of due process which may result in a loss of public confidence in the Parliament.

We therefore are asking candidates the following question of ahead of polling day:

If elected, would you vote to prevent executive government spending public money to ask the people questions about modifying the Commonwealth Constitution, except via referendum?

pastor

Many issues are demanding the attention of voters in the upcoming election, but the protection of defenceless human life is paramount.

The long-term impact on our nation of state sponsored abortion is very dark.

FamilyVoice Australia has been working hard to identify pro-life Senate candidates who greatly need our prayers.

We are appalled that the ALP has adopted a party policy nationally to require public hospitals to conduct abortions. The plan is for abortion to be available into the last three months of pregnancy at all public hospitals. There is no intention to support or counsel women under duress who may be considering abortion primarily as a form of birth control or sex selection.

We recognise challenges arise from an unplanned pregnancy, but the unborn child must always be treasured and protected. This is a great challenge to people of Christian conscience in our nation and a high priority prayer issue.

We are encouraging prayer for candidates we understand to be pro-life so they would vote against widening the availability of abortion, or against euthanasia in the territories, if elected. We encourage you to pray for these pro-life candidates, and any others yet to be identified.

Completing the Senate ballot paper to maximise your vote

Regardless of which party wins government in the House of Representatives, it is imperative to vote wisely in the Senate.

On your large white Senate ballot paper, it is valid to vote 1-6 (or more) above the line, or to vote 1-12 (or more) below the line.

However, when voters take the quick and easy option of numbering 1-6 above the line, their vote is allocated to candidates who are listed by the parties in the order shown below the line on the ballot paper. But you may not like that order.

We recommend you make your own allocation of preferences by numbering 1-12 or more below the line, thereby preferencing candidates of your choice, regardless of the ordering specified by political parties.

No matter which party wins government (in the House of Representatives) the Senate’s composition will be crucial to shaping the future - so please vote wisely.

You can view a more detailed explanation of the Senate Voting procedure on our website.

In closing, if you find this email helpful, please forward it to friends you think would appreciate receiving it. Your active participation as a good citizen is greatly needed.

voting melb

Each State and Territory elects multiple Senators using a preferential voting system. Each State has twelve Senate positions with six year terms and each territory has two Senate positions with three year terms. 

At a Half-Senate Federal election only six of the twelve Senate positions for each state become vacant, but all Territory Senate positions become vacant. At a Full-Senate election, following a double dissolution as in 2016, all Senate positions become vacant.

1. The best way to get good government is to elect the right people in the Senate, regardless of which party wins government in the House of Representatives.

There are two ways to complete your Senate ballot paper validly:

a. Above The Line Voting

You must number at least 6 boxes, but we strongly recommend numbering at least 80% of the boxes, above the line in order of your preference; starting with '1' for your first preference and then in order of preference until all boxes are marked. This means you choose the order of the Parties and accept the preference order in which each Party has listed its Candidates.

OR

b. Below The Line Voting

You must number at least 12 boxes, but we strongly recommend numbering at least 80% of the boxes, below the line in order of your preference, starting with '1' for your first preference and then in order of preference until all boxes are marked. This means you choose the order of the Candidates to give you maximum control of your preferences.

Important Notes

  • Whether you vote Above or Below The Line, we strongly recommend numbering at least 80% of those boxes because, if we don’t, there are high risks that:
    • Our votes will fragment. Our votes fragment when different good people vote for different good Parties or Candidates; but that can result in few or no good candidates being elected. But if we number at least 80% of boxes, it is far more likely to result in more good candidates being elected. It also makes it harder for Parties and Candidates with bad policies to win.
    • Your vote will exhaust. A vote exhausts when all the Parties or Candidates you have marked drop out of the race, so your vote has nowhere else to go and so has no say whatsoever in the election of the last Senator. That means part of your vote has been wasted.
  • It is safer to number every box. Why? If you leave blank boxes, your vote can easily be made informal, i.e. made useless, by an unscrupulous person marking one or more extra 1’s on you ballot paper.

2. Most voters take the quick and easy option of numbering 1-6 parties above the line when completing their Senate ballot paper. This has high risk of fragmentation and exhaustion as explained above.

3. It is far better to number at least 80% of the boxes above the line, even better to number all.

4. Best of all is to number every box below the line, but that is difficult and risks making mistakes.

There is a very important condition… Whether you vote above or below the line, make sure you get the numbers of your preferences right. While the AEC has ways of minimising the impact of an incorrectly numbered ballot, there is an impact that reduces the preference you intended.

No matter which party wins government (in the House of Representatives) the Senate’s composition will be crucial to shaping the future - so please vote wisely.

voting melb

By David d'Lima, FamilyVoice Australia

After dodging the enthusiastic partisans who wave a multitude of how-to-vote cards, the voters in polling booths across our nation must complete their House of Representatives ballot paper and their Senate voting form. But then what happens?

In this short article, FamilyVoice Australia National Secretary David d'Lima describes the journey of your green House of Representatives form, once it disappears into the dark recesses of the ballot box.

After Australian citizens have dutifully considered their verdict, and once we have reached the close of voting on election night, the completed ballot papers are sorted by officials of the Australian Electoral Commission according to the first preference (the number 1) listed on each.

If the pile of ballot papers for one candidate is more than 50% of the total, that candidate is clearly the person preferred by the voters and wins the seat.

Generally that doesn’t happen, in which case the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated from the count, and the pile of ballot papers with a number 1 given to that person are allocated to other candidates’ piles of ballot papers, one paper at a time, according to the number 2 preference on each.

If at that point one candidate has reached a majority of the total ballot papers, that candidate wins.

The above process of eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes continues until one candidate emerges as the one most preferred by the voters. Hence the concept of "preferential voting". We always elect the candidate preferred by the majority in the electorate.

But what about voting 1 for an obscure minor party or little-known independent candidate? That certainly is a way of supporting someone who holds a brave and admirable ambition to make a difference, even if it is clearly not a winnable attempt.

By giving a second or further preference to a major party, the ballot paper may be distributed as described above. Hence, in a seat where no candidate wins on first preferences, the ballot papers for the most obscure or minor party candidate will be the first to help determine which candidate is preferred by the voters.

But since any party gaining more than 4% of the primary vote will receive $2.76 in public funding for each primary vote, every voter who does not vote 1 for a major party effectively deprives that party of that sum of money. Hence each vote for a minor party has funding implications for the major players.

Voters who are less than pleased with their favourite major party, in a seat that will "go to preferences" could subtly punish it by giving it the number 2 preference ahead of some obscure candidate, while effectively voting for the major party.

That possibility is a fascinating undesigned feature of the voting system.

Nevertheless, as we exercise the secret ballot here in Australia, your motives, intentions and preferences are between you and your conscience - but always under the gaze of Almighty God who is the one true law-giver, and on whose behalf we hopefully provide good stewardship as citizens both of heaven and on earth.

Happy voting!

call to action 800

We recommend that concerned Western Australians respond to the Discussion Paper by the Government’s Euthanasia Panel (you can read a copy here.)

The best way to respond would be by attending one of the open public consultation sessions.

The WA Labor Government has announced that additional public forums will be held in Mandurah, Carnarvon, Karratha and Northam due to high public demand. Targeted sessions to assist with providing written feedback have also been scheduled in Albany.

https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2019/04/More-public-consultation-announced-on-voluntary-assisted-dying.aspx

Otherwise, please send an email to the panel outlining some or all of the concerns below:
To: VADconsultations@health.wa.gov.au


I don’t like the process

The discussion paper states that the panel are not willing to review arguments for or against voluntary euthanasia.
This restrictive call for feedback, includes three metropolitan public consultation sessions, being held on weekday morning’s further restricting opportunity for those in full-time employment.


Show me the data

I agree with the guiding principle on page 15 of your discussion paper that ‘People who may be vulnerable should be protected from coercion and abuse in relation to end of life choices’.

I would like this guiding principle elevated in the mind of our Government and our Members of Parliament as they contemplate creating an assisted suicide system in our State. So that they can fulfil this duty fully informed I request that your final report:

1. Advise on how many people have not been protected from coercion and abuse in each of the fifteen jurisdictions that have tried assisted suicide legislation and whether any have survived;

2. Advise on what the safeguards were in each of those jurisdictions that failed to protect those victims;

3. What have been the findings and subsequent recommendations of investigations into wrongful deaths in the other fifteen jurisdictions? (Wrongful deaths can include deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia following a mistaken diagnosis, missing signs of treatable depression or overlooking subtle coercion by family members.)

4. Advise what redress was available to the families of the victims in each of the instances where the victim did not survive; 5. Recommend what an acceptable number of Western Australian casualties would be

If you have any questions, please contact our national office: 1300 365 965