A Liberal Party move to fill a vacancy in the Legislative Council caused by the resignation of Labor MLC Jim Brown has been branded as absurd.
Parliamentary and Electoral Reform Minister Geoff Gallop said today that the Liberal ploy was a senseless waste of time because a re-count in this case was plainly not necessary.
"At the close of nominations at noon today the Electoral Commissioner had received two nominations to fill the Agricultural Region vacancy caused by Mr Brown's resignation," Dr Gallop said.
"One nomination was Mr Kim Chance, who was the second candidate in the Australian Labor Party group in the 1989 State election.
"The other totally unexpected nomination was Mr Murray Nixon, who was the third candidate in the Liberal Party group.
"A nomination by any person other than an ALP candidate in the agricultural region is incongruous because Mr Nixon clearly cannot claim the vacancy on a recount."
Dr Gallop said the procedure to fill a casual vacancy stated that:
· a preference on a ballot paper for a previously elected Member whose seat has become vacant shall be disregarded and the ballot paper shall be treated as if the numeral indicating any subsequent preference had been altered accordingly.
At the first count in 1989, Mr Brown received 17,871 first preference ticket votes.
At the first step of a recount, every one of these votes would be allocated to Mr Chance because he was the second preference on the ALP ticket.
The Agricultural Region quota was 12,460 votes. Therefore, without even considering any non-ticket votes, Mr Chance was certain to receive at least 5,411 votes in excess of the number required to be elected.
"Mr Nixon and the Liberal Party appear to have again demonstrated that they believe in magic," Dr Gallop said.
"They seem to believe that, while in storage since 1989, the marks on the ballot papers have somehow been transformed in their favour. Another explanation could be that they have no understanding of the way votes are counted in the Legislative Council."
Dr Gallop said the surprise Liberal nomination signalled contempt for the convention that a casual vacancy in the proportionally elected Legislative Council should be filled by a person from the same political party as the vacating Member.
The Australian people had endorsed this principle as far as the similarly elected Senate was concerned.
"Local Liberals have said they agree with the same party replacement rule, but at the first available test they have revealed the emptiness of their words," Dr Gallop said.
"This particular nomination is absurd, but it warns us that the same party replacement rule is not a convention but merely a superficiality to the Liberal Party."