The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) says it could implement new Senate voting rules within 100 days, clearing the way for the system to be implemented in time for a July double-dissolution election. On Tuesday the AEC commissioner, Tom Rodgers, told a truncated inquiry into the voting overhaul the “three-month clock” would begin as soon as legislation was passed but “the AEC stands ready to deliver an election whenever the government call it with the legislation that’s in force at the time”. “If I get less time or resources, internally that’s not going to be a pretty look but we will deliver a successful election,” Rodgers told the joint select committee on electoral matters.
The government, backed by the Greens and Nick Xenophon, is proposing to abolish group voting tickets and enshrine optional preferential voting “above the line”, where voters number their preferred parties. They will be “advised” by the AEC to number at least six boxes.
Confirmation by Rodgers of the AEC’s three-month timeline means the new system could be implemented in time for a July double-dissolution election, should the changes pass before parliament rises on 17 March for the pre-budget break.
Among the available triggers to dissolve both houses is a bill to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, rejected by the Senate in August last year but reintroduced to parliament this month.