Family First senator Bob Day has cleared the first hurdle in his challenge to Senate voting reforms after the chief justice of the high court referred the case to the full bench, for hearing during the budget week. Speaking outside the court on Friday, Day said the orders were issued by chief justice Robert French for the full bench to hear the case on 2 and 3 May – as Malcolm Turnbull brings down his first budget and his last before the next election. Day immediately claimed the development as a win for voters’ rights although constitutional lawyers have been sceptical about the merits of the case. “I have always believed there’s merit but clearly the chief justice believes those also otherwise we wouldn’t be on this trajectory,” Day said. “I think today was a really important win in the battle for voters’ rights and let’s be clear what happened last month in the parliament, that voters’ rights were taken away.”
Last month, the Coalition and the Greens passed a bill which requires voters to number the Senate ballot paper from one to six above the line, or number one to 12 preferences below the line. However, if a voter simply votes one above the line, the vote will still be valid. The vote will be exhausted if candidates in that column are eliminated from the count.
Day is challenging the legislation on the grounds it takes away the voters’ rights to delegate their distribution of preferences. The high court is expected to hand down its decision fairly quickly after the May hearing, given the government is expected to call an election in the week after the budget.