Calls have broadened for reform of the preferential voting system, which has been accused of abuse through the creation of micro parties diverting votes to parties holding minimal public support.
John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father and the WikiLeaks Party’s Chief Executive Officer, warned that the voting system was being misused.
“The system is being exploited by the creation of proxy parties, which call upon people’s convictions and divert those flows to other parties, which people may not support,” said Mr Shipton.
“Glenn Druery put together an association of micro parties with a rule that you preference all the micro parties and small parties before the majors. There’s a quota in the micro party area and concentrating those preferences will elect one micro party to the Senate.”
Mr Druery, a political strategist, registered 24 micro parties in 1999 and came close to securing a seat in the upper house himself. Mr Druery organised the preference swapping arrangements of minor parties and used the strategy to help elect the Outdoor Recreation Party to the upper house.
Cate Faehrmann, the Greens’ lead Senate candidate for NSW, said the party had pushed for reform of the voting system for years and cautioned the system was outdated.
“The system is broken,” she said. “The Greens have long campaigned to change the system and have repeatedly moved bills in parliament to make it easier for voters to allocate their own preferences.
“It is very hard for voters to know where their preferences are going, not to mention that one party’s ‘administrative error’ could mean a party with 1 per cent of the vote is elected to the balance of power over a party that polls 10 per cent, like the Greens.”
Australia’s electoral system guarantees that every vote cast is eventually attributed to a specific elected candidate. The method ensures that a vote for a candidate who is eliminated will be transferred to the next preferred candidate.
The system has been critcised for its unpredictability, particularly at the 1999 NSW election when the Outdoor Recreation Party obtained a seat in the upper house with 0.2 per cent of the primary vote.
This year Mr Druery is understood to be advising Pauline Hanson, the founder of One Nation, in her efforts to be elected to the Senate by preferencing Bob Katter’s Australian Party and Clive Palmer’s United Party before the Coalition or Labor.
The Wikileaks Party came under fire last week for preferencing the right wing Shooters and Fishers Party and Australia First in NSW, and the National Party in WA ahead of the Greens.
WikiLeaks’ votes in NSW were attributed to an ‘administrative error’, but the move could jeopardise the chances of the Greens’ Senate representation.
“I feel this is a betrayal of all the work the Greens have done in the federal parliament and beyond, particularly our WA Senator Scott Ludlam, in support of Julian Assange,” said Ms Faehrmann.
“To see Scott’s re-election chances put at risk – because WikiLeaks have preferenced the Coalition before the Greens – is distressing.”
Mr Shipton was adamant Mr Ludlam would be re-elected and that voting for the National Party in WA was designed to raise the profile of its candidate, Indigenous activist David Wirrpanda.
“David Wirrpanda is a very notable WA Indigenous person, so we were happy to give him some publicity,” said Mr Shipton. “He won’t get elected – there’s not a chance. Scott Ludlam will get re-elected.”
In Victoria, Julian Assange is running for the Senate despite being confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after he was granted asylum while fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
If Mr Assange secures a seat in the Senate and does not assume his position by October 2013, he may have to forfeit and allow the party’s number two candidate, Binoy Kampmark, to replace him.
“In this case, Binoy Kampmark would take up the seat and act for the Victorian people towards the objectives of the WikiLeaks Party of transparency, accountability and justice,” said Mr Shipton.
WikiLeaks’ global movement of transparency, accountability and justice will continue should Sweden be successful in its attempts to extradite Mr Assange, said Mr Shipton.
“If Julian goes to Sweden, I can say without hesitation they’ll be a WikiLeaks political party in Sweden the week after,” he said.
“The transparency movement is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s exemplified by WikiLeaks and many other courageous people like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon, so it will continue to grow and continue to manifest itself politically.”