Lawyers for the Commonwealth have labelled arguments for a High Court challenge to new Senate voting laws as “hopeless”. Family First senator Bob Day is fighting the reforms, which do away with group voting in the Upper House and make it more difficult for micro-parties to be elected. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued the legislation — under which voters will be encouraged to vote for at least six potential senators above the line — was “good for democracy”. But Senator Day said the Government was wrong to say the laws put power back into the hands of voters.
Voters who only vote for a few candidates at the polling booth will not have their preferences passed on if their preferred candidates are unsuccessful, and Senator Day argued this amounted to the potential disenfranchisement of voters. “Make no mistake about what happened last week,” he said. “Voters’ rights were taken away and today is one step towards restoring those voter rights.”
A directions hearing for the case was held by High Court Chief Justice Robert French, via teleconference in Sydney and Perth.
Commonwealth Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson SC told the court hearing that some aspects of the case were “hopeless”, while other arguments had “considerable weakness”.