John Lenders, Leader of the Government in the Victorian Legislative Council, was last night awarded Honorary Life Membership of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia, a non partisan organisation concerned with the promotion of democratic electoral reform in Australia .
In putting forward John Lender's citation for Honorary Life Membership the Executive gave recognition to John's commitment and contribution to electoral reform in Victoria and in particular the role he played in bringing about reform of the Victorian Legislative Council which was introduced following the State Government's re-election to office in 2002 in which it had won control of both houses.
John was actively engaged in the formation and implementation of the Labor Party's policy, from its conception to birth. As assistant and later State Secretary of the ALP going far back as 1985 when the ALP first adopted a policy of reform in preference to policy seeking abolition of the State upper-house. The Government's preferred model when it was first introduced was for the State to be divided into five regions (two rural and three urban) with seven or nine members each.
Whilst the ALP had the opportunity to introduce electoral reform back in 1985 in the period between the State election and the Nunawading by-election it did not do so as it fell short of a constitutional majority to introduce other reforms such as restricting the rights of the upper-house to block supply.
In 2002 the Labor Government headed by Steve Bracks won control of both houses of the State Parliament and in doing so was in a position for the first time to implement Labor’s policy for reform to Victoria's State Constitution. As part of its commitment to the three independents who supported Steve Bracks election as Premier in 1999 the government set up a Constitutional Commission to consider in detail recommendations that were to be implemented. In the process of securing support and acceptance for the reforms the model was changed to eight regions each with five members elected. The reforms included removal of the power to block supply and entrenched into the constitution the method of election which can only be changed by referendum or with the support of 60% of both houses. John Lenders was pivitol in oveseeing this process. Without John Lender's imput and committement to reform it is unlikely Victoria would have a democraticly representative upper-house.
A motion to support Johns lenders being granted Honorary Life Membership was supported unanimously by the Society.
In discussion that followed concern was raised about the adoption of the Australian Senate rules in the counting of the vote in particular the method of calculating the Surplus transfer value and the segmentation and distribution of preference votes form candidates excluded in the count. John lenders recognised and supported the need for further reform. At the time of adopting the constitutional changes that were put in place in the lead-up to the 2006 State election it was felt important that the election be consistent with the Senate rules for its introduction.
John Lenders indicated his support for further voting reform that included a weighted surplus transfer value, which was adopted by the Western Australia State Parliament, and the idea of a iterative counting system which would be necessary with the adoption of optional preferential voting.
Whilst these changes will not be in place in time for the November State Election they will be considered by the Electoral Matters Commitee in the new Parliament.