Thursday, 23 September 2010

John Lenders, Honour Awarded

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.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

AEC pays out over 52 Million in public funding to political parties and candidates

2010 federal election payment to political parties and candidates

Updated: 21 September 2010
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has authorised the first payment to political parties and candidates for votes received at the 2010 federal election.
The total of the first payment is $52,411,291. Payments have been made to 10 parties and 17 independent candidates.
This first round of payments is based on the progressive vote count as at 10 September 2010. The AEC has paid up to 99% of the funding entitlements calculated at that date.
A second and final round of payments of all outstanding funding entitlements is to be made once vote counting is finalised.
Funding Entitlements are calculated using an indexed sum per first preference vote. At the 2010 federal election, each first preference vote was worth 231.191 cents.
In order to be entitled to election funding a candidate must obtain at least 4% of the formal first preference vote.
The following table shows a breakdown of the first payment of election funding for the 2010 federal election.
PartiesAmount ($)
Australian Labor Party20,935,323.18
Liberal Party of Australia20,819,820.08
Australian Greens7,086,053.13
National Party of Australia2,441,843.88
Family First Party403,122.45
Country Liberals (Northern Territory)177,617.04
Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)17,407.51
Australian Sex Party11,197.72
Liberal Democratic Party11,116.80
Shooters and Fishers Party10,527.26
Independent candidatesAmount ($)
Tony Windsor (New England, NSW)129,099.25
Robert Oakeshott (Lyne, NSW)91,691.26
Bob Katter (Kennedy, Qld)87,383.75
Andrew Wilkie (Denison, Tas.)31,557.85
Louise Burge (Farrer, NSW)21,400.20
John Clements (Parkes, NSW)20,933.28
John Arkan (Cowper, NSW)19,326.39
Michael Johnson (Ryan, Qld)17,284.98
Matthew Hogg (Riverina, NSW)11,710.96
Alan Lappin (Indi, Vic.)11,239.33
James Purcell (Wannon, Vic.)10,564.25
Charles Nason (Maranoa, Qld)10,427.85
Paul Blanch (Calare, NSW)9,364.37
Katrina Rainsford (Wannon, NSW)9,200.23
Brad King (Blair, Qld)7,353.01
Deidre Finter (Lingiari, NT)4,511.67
Kenny Lechleitner (Lingiari, NT)4,213.44
Editor’s note: Final payments to political parties and candidates following the 2007 federal election are available at:

Media contacts

Phil Diak
Director, Media and Communication Strategy
02 6271 4415
0413 452 539

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Andrew Bartlett still in denial

There are those that deny climate change and then there are those that deny flaws exist in the Australian senate counting rules.

Andrew Bartlet, failed Green's Candidate for the seat of Brisbane (Ex Democrat Leader and Queensland Senator) continues to deny the FACTS that the system used in the counting of the Australian Senate elections is seriously flawed.

Mr Bartlett, who served on Parliamentary Joint Select Committee for Electoral Matters failed to identify the flaws in the counting system.

Has he tried recounting the 2007 Queensland Senate vote?  (Excluding all candidates except the least seven standing - 3ALP, 3LNP and 1 Grn) Obviously not. Unless Mr Bartlet does recount the vote he is not in a position to make an informed decision, but that does not stop him from denying the facts.

FACTS that Mr Bartlett fails to comprehend.

  • FACT The method of calculating the Surplus Transfer Value is seriously flawed.  it increases the value of the Major Party Ticket vote in a situation where there is a delayed election.  In 2010 The Liberal National Party (LNP) NSW ticket vote increased in value byover  14,000 votes as a result of the flaw in the calculation of the Surplus Transfer Value.  14,000 votes is a huge bonus and potential winning margin in a close election.
  • FACT In 2007 David Feeney came close to losing the Victorian Senate election as a result of a "Bonus 7,000 votes" added to the Liberal Party Ticket vote. (Even Antony Green. ABC Electoral Analysis has acknowledged this flaw)
  • FACT Larissa Waters, Green's Senate Candidate in 2007, failed to win a Senate seat due to the flaw related to the method of segmentation and distribution of excluded candidates preferences.
  • FACT Western Australia recognised the flaw in the way the Senate vote is counted and legislated to change the method used in calculating the Surplus Transfer Value. WA did not correct the flaw in the distribution of excluded candidate's preferences.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Writs Returned - Mission accomplished

All Senate positions have been declared and the Writs returned

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) announced today that it had returned the writs for the 2010 House of Representatives elections, and for the Senate elections in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory to Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Writs for Senate elections in all states have been returned to the State Governors.

Close of Business, Friday September 17, Writs returned and the AEC still has not published the Below-the-Line (BTL) preference data for the Victorian Senate.

All other states have been published.


Update: (Sept 20)  Files are back up and can be accessed via the main menu page.  Victoria's BTL data still missing

 Loctation of data-files available 

The AEC’s refusal to provide scrutineers access to copies of the progressive BTL preference data files, reconciliation data files and the AEC Chief Legal Officer's, Paul Pirani, response to scrutineers request that copies of the BTL data would require payment of $30 and a FOI application has marred what has otherwise been an exemplary counting process.

The double entry-data verification, on-site and off-site backup twice daily, retention of the primary and secondary preference data and manual checking of reported forced entry and inconsistent data-entry records go a long way towards addressing concerns that were highlighted in the 2006 Victorian State election.

Unlike in Victoria votes did not go missing between count A and count B and crucial data files were not deleted, as was the case in 2006 Western Metro count.

Of course this begs the question "Why has Victoria spent Millions of dollars duplicating software development and process when they could have just utilised the professional services provided by the AEC?"

Millions of dollars wasted by the State government that could have been better spent on health, education, roads or other services.

Seams no one is monitoring the expenditure and waste in supporting multiple electoral authorities. Double counting, Numerous junkets undertaken by the administration and the pollys with no accountability. "You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours, MUMS the word"

It is time for a re-think and the establishment of a single independent electoral authority and time to put an end to the waste and duplication.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Queensland - AEC misleading declaration

The Australian Electoral Commission has come under fire for publishing false and misleading information  on its media release announcing the results of the Queensland Senate election

The Australian Electoral Officer for Queensland, Ms Anne Bright said that the Senate count had involved the keying-in of votes into a computerised system, and today an automated process was used to distribute preferences and determine the six elected candidates.

"As with all aspects of the count, the automated distribution of preferences undertaken today was open to scrutineers appointed by the candidates," Ms Bright said.

"Approximately 97% of voters cast their ballot Above-The-Line on the Senate ballot paper while 3% voted Below-The-Line," she said.

The AEC refused to provide scrutineers access to copies of the below-the-line preference data-files during the preference data-entry process.  Without access to this information scrutineers can not verify the accuracy or validation of the below the line preference vote count.

In what has otherwise been an exemplary count the AEC's refusal to maintain an open and transparent counting system has undermined confidence in electronic computerised counting of the ballot.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Slipping back to the past. - Optional Voting under review

If we adopt optional preferential voting we will by default be reintroducing a First-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system.  A backward step in my view.

First-past-the-post is an outdated and undemocratic voting system. It needs to be relegated to the history books and kept in a museum along with a stone tablet, a type writer and a PDP11.

Australia's preferential voting system is one of the best in the world.,

Both the UK and Canada have been debating scraping FPTP voting and adopting a preferential voting system. The UK is expected to do so sooner rather then later.

Under a FPTP or Optional Preferential voting system a candidate can be elected in a single member electorate with less then 50% support, They can be elected with as little as 34% of the vote.

Preferential voting is by far preferable to the other alternatives.

First-past-the-post voting is used in many European counties such as France and Ukraine to elect their head of state, however to prevent the head of state being elected by the minority they have adopted a two-round voting system. The two round voting system simulates what we have here in Australia but costs twice as much as two rounds of voting is required. 

If they adopted our preferential voting system they could save 100s of Millions of Dollars by only holding one round and they would achieve the same result.

Australia is the envy of the democratic world.  We should be proud of our preferential voting system and resist calls to water it down or make it ineffective.Yes it has problems but Optional preferential is not the solution. Education and maintaining an open and transparent and accurate voting system is the way forward

Scrutiny denied

The AEC has responded to scrutineers request for copies of the below the line preference data files to be made available for proper scrutiny.


scrutiny pronunciation[skroot-new] Show IPA
–noun, plural -nis.

  1. a searching examination or investigation; minute inquiry.
  2. surveillance; close and continuous watching or guarding
  3. a close and searching look.
Mr Paul Pirani, AEC legal Officer's, response (extract below) is a clear indication that the AEC is unwilling and incapable of self management in order to maintain an open and transparent electoral process.  Without access to the preference data-files it is impossible to properly scrutinise the conduct and counting of the election results.

Mr Pirani in his telephone conversation on Friday  falsely stated that to do so would nessiate the delay and stopping of the data-entry process.  This is not the case.  According to information provided by AEC staff, Ballot paper preferences are data-entered on stand alone computer terminals located in the counting room and the information and data is then copied on to a numbered USB drive and transferred to a central database terminal which is networked and connected to the Internet.   Networked computer terminals are set up that provide limited "Read Only" access to each ballot paper data record. The information that is available is limited by the method of access one record at a time. Copies of the data files can readily be produced and the integrity of the count is not compromised, nor is the secrecy of the ballot, as there is no means of identifying the voter.

Without copies of the data-files being progressively made available there is no means of monitoring the quality and integrity of the data stored or any means of ensuring that the information has not been tampered with over night. In expressing these concerns we are not implying that the AEC staff have in any way acted illegally, to the contrary, in all other aspects the conduct of the count of the election is exemplary, but it has been marred by the AEC's refusal to not subject the full details of the count to proper scrutiny.

There is no legal limitation that prevents access to the data files requested, in spite Mr Pirani's assertions that there is an "implied limitation".  This information was freely provided after the 2007 Federal Election (be it some three months after the declaration of the the poll). Mr Pirani stated that the information would only be made available on application under the provisions of the freedom from information Act and payment of $30 fee. (Something we consider to be an abuse of process given that this information should be readily and freely available)

It would have taken the AEC less then 3 minutes to make a copy of the requested data files, much less then it would have taken for Mr Pirani to espouse and pen the reply below.


I refer to your letter that was faxed to me after the close of business on 10 September 2010 and your email below.

I am instructed by the Australian Electoral Officer for Victoria (AEO) that AEC staff are still engaged in entering details from the Senate ballot papers into the AEC computer system and are yet to finalise the verification of that data. It is only after the conclusion of this process that the AEO will proceed with the running of the computer program to undertake the Senate count in accordance with the requirements of subsection 273A(5) of the Electoral Act.

The legal rights of a scrutineer to access information during the conduct of central Senate scrutiny (which is the process that is taking place now at the premises in Melbourne) are set out in subsection 273A(6) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act). This subsection provides that:

(6) For proceedings under subsections (4) and (5) of this section, the requirements of paragraph 265(1)(c) are met if the scrutineers have access to:
(a) a record of the preferences on the ballot papers that have been received by the Australian Electoral Officer and whose details have been stored in the computer (including informal ballot papers, and formal ballot papers that are not sequentially numbered); and
(b) a record of the ballot papers that are notionally transferred, or exhausted, at each count; and
(c) a record of the progress of the count of the votes, at each count.

Implicit in the above is that the Parliament has determined that the duties of a scrutineer can be properly performed at this stage of the scrutiny process by a person only having access to the above information. Accordingly, there is no right for a scrutineer to demand access to all or any information that may be in the possession of the AEC as you appear to imply in your email and letter.

The rights contained in subsection 273A(6) of the Electoral Act are exhaustive as to what information a scrutineer is legally able to access and the timing of that access. When this is combined with the present fact that not all of the Senate ballot paper “details have been stored in the computer” at this time, this raises doubts as to a scrutineer’s legal right to access any of the data sets specified in your email and letter at this time. In relation to the timing of access, I am instructed that the AEO has not agreed to provide you with access to any data stored in the AEC computer until after the count has taken place.

Further, I note that there is no legal right or obligation placed on the AEC to provide any scrutineer with access to the information you are seeking in an electronic format. The AEC is only required to provide a scrutineer with access to “a record” of the three data sets specified in subsection 273A(6) of the Electoral Act.

Accordingly, I seek your specific response to exactly how each of the data sets to which you are claiming to require access to as a scrutineer falls within the scope of subsection 273A(6) of the Electoral Act.

While I am aware that following the 2007 general election, the AEC agreed to provide you with access to a CD Rom that included an electronic version of the verified “record of the preferences” stored in the computer and the details of each count, this was done as a private citizen with interest in electoral matters. I am currently instructed that the AEC is prepared to repeat this action following the return of the writs for the 2010 general election.

Yours sincerely

Paul Pirani
Chief Legal Officer
Legal and Compliance Branch
Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4474 F: (02) 6271 4457


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Politics is the art of compromise - all things are possible

The next Federal Election will be a double dissolution. Neither the ALP or the LNP will want half senate election to take place.

The longevity of this parliament will very much depend on the ability of the Greens to compromise and gain balance in its policies. Past indications are that they will not. (The CTS for example). Should the Greens not be in a position to accept compromise or moderation of its demands Australia will go back to the polls within 18 months.

Come July 1 Tony Abbott will up the pressure on the government, warranted or not he is in a strong position and within a heart beat of bringing down the current minority government. As long as the LNP with the support of Steve Fielding (Family First) holds the balance of power Abbott will bide his time chipping away at the governments claim to be a legitimate government (Even though it rightly so).

Gillard is without any doubt the most capable member of the ALP caucus to lead a minority government. Her style of leadership and ability to negotiate is the ALPs greatest strength. Gillard is a very competent and skilled player in that respect.

Having the constitutional right to call a double dissolution would be in the interest of both the ALP and the LNP.

Whoever calls the next election will be in the best position to win it. If the election is forced by Tony Abbott he will be the most likely to win. The same could be the case for Gillard.

The slogan “This time I will vote Green” will soon become “Last time I voted Green, I will not make the same mistake next time”

The main concern about the outcome of a double dissolution is that analysis of the Victorian and South Australian countsindicates that Family First will be re-elected assuming preference fold ups remain the same. In Victoria Family First at a double dissolution would be elected in place of the DLP.

In discussion with LNP scrutineers on Friday it as clear that they were having second thoughts about preferencing the Greens ahead of the ALP. I am sure they will think twice before making that mistake a second time. The outcome of the Federal election has also raised questions and doubt whether then LNP will preference the Greens in the Victorian State elections scheduled for November 27.

At the next Federal Election we can anticipate that the Green vote will drop significantly back to below 10%

As long as minor parties continue to cross preference each other and the Christian parties (Family First, DLP and Fred Nile) support each other they will remain ahead of the pack with a strong chance of securing representation in the various upper house elections that will follow. Above the line voting giving strength and cohesion to their vote.

Senate counting system delivers a bonus 14,000 votes to the LNP in NSW

Preliminary analysis of the 2010 NSW Senate results using information published by ABC electoral Analyst, Antony Green, has indicated that the method of counting the vote used by the Australian Electoral Commission has inflated the value of the Liberal/National Party Ticket vote by over 14,000 votes disproportionately to their support.

The method used in calculation of a candidates Surplus Transfer Value is derived by dividing the surplus of votes by the total number of ballot papers and not the value of the vote.   This has the effect of increasing the LNP ticket vote and devaluing full valued primary votes of minor party candidates.

The Australian parliament and the AEC are aware of the flaw in the way the Senate vote is counted but to date has failed to act to correct the mistakes.

The problem with the Senate system is that it was designed to facilitate a manual counting process. The method used to calculate the surplus transfer value is seriously flawed as a result.
In analysis of the 2007 Victorian Senate Election Labor Party Senate candidate David Feeney could have been not elected as a result of a 7,000 bonus votes that would have been generated by the system currently in use.  The analysis is based on a realistic hypothetical of One Nation preferencing the Liberal Party ahead of the ALP and ahead of the Greens.  

In fact if you apply the 2010 Party Ticket preferences to the 2007 results David Feeney would not have been elected.The Greens candidate Di Natali would have been elected on the back of One Nation, Family First and DLP preferences, even though they opposed the greens election. Their vote was reduced in value inflating the value of the LNP ticket vote. The same situation has occurred in NSW where the system has delivered a 14,000 "unfair" vote bonus to the LNP ticket.
The potential for the system to elect the wrong person was confirmed independently by Antony Green in his submission to the Australian parliament's Joint Select Committee on Electoral Matters in 2008.

Western Australia was aware of the flaw in the Senate counting rules and has legislated to correct it, Victoria's parliament has yet to address this situation which could effect the outcome of the Victorian State election to be held in November this year.

If we are to restore confidence in the way the Senate vote is counted then we MUST ensure that the system is an accurate reflection of the voters expressed intention and is fully proportional not semi proportional.

If we can not make the necessary changes and fix the system then we should abandon preferential proportional representation and adopt a party list system.

Below is the calculations that demonstrate how the Senate system works

Data presented below is based on output published by Antony Green's Senate Calculator for the State of NSW 2010 Election


[Count 1: Initial allocation]
There are 1,584,909 Primary vote ballot papers each having a value of 1 allocated to the LNP #1 Candidate: Total vote 1,584,909

[Count 2: Concetta FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (Liberal/National) elected #1]

LNP #1 has a surplus of 1,584,909 - Quota (579,828)
= 1,005,081

Surplus Transfer value = (1,005,081 divided by 1,584,909 ballot papers) = 0.634156914

1,584,909 ballot papers are transferred to LNP #2 each ballot paper valued at 0.634156914, the total value = 1,005,081 (Above quota)

[Count 4: William HEFFERNAN (Liberal/National) elected #3]

LNP #2 now has a surplus of 1,005,081 - Quota (579,828)
= 425,253

Surplus Transfer value = (425,253 divided by 1,584,909 ballot papers) = 0.268313827

1,584,909 ballot papers are transferred to LNP #3 each ballot paper valued now at 0.268313827, the total value = 425,253 (Below Quota)

[Exclusion of candidate process]

OK. At this stage the data is the same (But Antony Greens calculator has not published the break down or the formula used in calculating the value of the transfer value and the number of ballot papers held by the candidate. This information is sadly hidden from view - Why is that?)

[The LNP #3 candidate picks up votes from the following exclusions]

[Count 7: Meg SAMPSON (Group K Independents) excluded]

313 Primary vote ballot papers are transferred at full value on the exclusion of Group K Ticket 1 of 3 Total number of ballot papers 1,584,909 @ 0.268313827 plus 313 ballot papers at full value of 1.00000: Total value of votes 425,566

[Count 18: Nick BEAMS (Socialist Equality Party) excluded]

1,199 Primary vote ballot papers are transferred at full value on the exclusion of Socialist Equality Party Ticket 2 of 3. Total number of ballot papers 1,586,421 @ 0.268313827 plus 1,512 ballot papers at full value of 1.00000: Total value of votes 426,765
[Count 28: Greg SWANE (Family First) excluded]

38,371 Primary vote ballot papers are transferred at full value on the exclusion of Family First. Total number of ballot papers 1,586,421 @ 0.268313827 plus 39,883 ballot papers at full value of 1.00000: Total value of votes 465,136

[Count 29: Fiona CLANCY (Australian Democrats) excluded]

5,609 Primary vote ballot papers are transferred at full value on the exclusion of Austrralian Democrats. Total number of ballot papers 1,586,421 @ 0.268313827 plus 45,492 ballot papers at full value of 1.00000: Total value of votes 470,745

[Count 31: Paul GREEN (Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)) excluded]

79,157 Primary vote ballot papers are transferred at full value on the exclusion of Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group). Total number of ballot papers 1,586,421 @ 0.268313827 plus 124,649 ballot papers at full value of 1.00000: Total value of votes 549,902.
[Count 32: Jim Gerard MUIRHEAD (Shooters and Fishers) excluded]

95,292 Primary vote ballot papers are transferred at full value on the exclusion of Shooters and Fishers. Total number of ballot papers 1,586,421 @ 0.268313827 plus 219,941 ballot papers at full value of 1.00000: Total value of votes 645,194.  (LNP Candidate #3 elected)


The LNP#3 Now has
1,804,850 ballot papers (1584,909 valued at 0.268313827 (total value 425,253) plus 

219,941 ballot papers at full value) 

Candidates Total 645,194
1,584,909 ballot papers at 0.268313827 = 425,253 (65.91% of 645,194)
219,941 ballot papers at 1.0000000 = 219,941 (34.09% of 645,194)

Surplus = 645,194 - Quota (579,828) = 65,366

Under the AEC rules the Surplus Transfer value is calculated by dividing the Surplus by the total number of ballot papers

65,366 divided by (
1,584,909 + 219,941) = 0.036217

The LNP ticket vote is worth the value of 57,400 votes (87.81% of 65,366)
The Primary Full value votes are now worth 79,66 votes (12.19% 65,366)

[The LNP ticket vote has increased its percentage of the Total value from 65.91% to 87.81%) and the Primary Full value votes have been devalued from 34.09% to 12.19%]

This represents a Bonus value of:

The LNP Ticket vote

65366 at 65.91% = 43,083
65366 at 87.81% = 57,400

A increase in value of 14,317

The Primary minor party full value vote

65366 at 34.09% = 43,083
65366 at 12.19% = 7,965

[Devalued by 14,317 votes]

14, 317 votes can be the difference in a close election.

This came about as a result of a FLAW in the way the vote is counted. A flaw that Mr Bartlett thinks does not exist. A flaw that inflated the Major Party Ticket vote at the expense of the minor party vote.

  • A flaw in the way the vote is counted that should not exist.
  • A flaw that needs to be corrected not hidden from view
  • A flaw that some seek to hide and some who are ex members of parliament, ex Democrats, now Green Candidates think does not exist.

Australia's Electoral Secret - No longer open and transparent

Elections in Australia are no longer open and transparent with the Australian Electoral Commission refusing to subject information pertaining to the conduct of the electronic counting of the ballot to proper scrutiny.

Scrutineers have been denied access to copies of the Senate count reconciliation and below the line preference data files

Mr Paul Pirani, Chief Legal Officer for the Australian Electoral Commission in response to a request for access to this information claimed that copies of the data files could only be obtained through the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and the payment of a 30 dollar fee. It was unclear on what or whose authority or direction Mr Pirani was withholding access to this vital information.

Without access to copies of the preference vote data-files and reconciliation reports it is impossible for scrutineers to conduct a proper and comprehensive scrutiny of the ballot. A formal request for copies of the data has been made in writing, but this is of not much value to the scrutiny of the ballot after the count or the horse has bolted.

Access to copies of the preference data files as the count progresses was made available during the 2008 Victorian Municipal Elections and copies also made available for the 2007 Federal election, although three months after the declaration of the poll.

There is no suggestion that the conduct of the election has been fraudulent. We have not seen a repeat of the disastrous mistakes made in the counting of the 2006 Victorian State Election where data entry errors and a lack of due diligence by the Victorian Electoral Commission had necessitated a full review of counting the upper house votes in Northern and Western Metropolitan Regions.

The processes put in place by the Australian Electoral Commission, apart from the Commission’s inability or unwillingness to provide access to the data requested has been exemplary. It's double data-entry validation system is significantly better system then the one used by the Victorian Electoral Commission in 2006.

The problem never the less remains in that the Commission has denied access to vital information pertinent to the proper and open transparency of the conduct of the election.

Elections today are counted in cyberspace, and the outcome of the election can only be determined if the quality and integrity of the data is maintained. by refusing to make this data available during the counting process the Electoral Commission has compromised the openness and transparency of the count. The independent scrutiny and validation of the election results can be ascertained.

The centralised electronic data collection process and the reconciliation of this data is the weakest link.

The suggestion by Mr Pirani that Scrutineers can only gain access to this data though an application under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and the payment of $30 is an abuse of process.

It prevents Scrutineers from independently verifying or scrutinising the quality of the data collected. There is no legal grounds that this information should be withheld, in fact if we are to maintain an open and transparent electoral process access to this data must be readily available.

Mr Pirani in claiming that to provide access to a copy of the data files would necessitate delays in the count is false. A well designed and secure data collection process should allow access to this information at any time.

The centralised data collection accesess this data as part of the normal processes. To make a copy of the data would take no more than 5 mins and would not prevent or delay the counting of the ballot.  The Victiorian Electoral Commission provided copies of the information during the 2008 municipal elections.

So the question is why is the Australian Electoral Commission refusing to provide access to the crucial and important information?

This issue will now be a subject of a further parliamentary inquiry.