Malcolm Turnbull is moving quickly to overhaul the Senate voting system before this year’s election, declaring the end of secretive preference deals that have allowed backroom operators to “game” the system. The prime minister said the legislation – introduced to the parliament on Monday with the backing of the Greens and the independent senator Nick Xenophon – would empower voters to decide how their preferences flowed in upper house elections. The bill has been referred to the joint standing committee on electoral matters with a reporting deadline of 2 March, paving the way for a debate and decision in the Senate before parliament rises for the pre-budget break.
The moves – seen as an attempt to curb the influence of micro-parties – immediately triggered ire from numerous Senate crossbenchers who have been crucial to the fate of contentious legislation.
Ricky Muir, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast party senator who was elected with just 0.51% of Victorian primary votes at the 2013 election, accused the prime minister of a “power grab” and said he would “return the favour in the chamber”.