One vote, one value

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In Australia, one vote, one value is a democratic principle widely valued in Australia and applied in electoral laws governing redistributions of electoral divisions of the House of Representatives. The principle calls for all electoral divisions to have the same number of enrolled voters (not residents or population), within a specified percentage of variance. The electoral laws of the Commonwealth for the House of Representatives and all states follow the principle with some exceptions. The principle does not apply to the Senate, as each state is entitled under the constitution to the same number of senators irrespective of the population of the state.


Degree of malapportionment

Currently, for the House of Representatives, the number of enrolled voters in each division in a state or territory can vary by up to 10% from the average quota for the state or territory, and the number of voters can vary by up to 3.5% from the average projected enrolment three-and-a-half years into the future. [1] The allowable quota variation of the number of electors in each division was reduced from 20% to 10% by the Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973, passed at the joint sitting of Parliament in 1974. [2] The change was instigated by the Whitlam Labor government.

However, due to various reasons, such as the minimum number of members for Tasmania, larger seats like Cowper (New South Wales) contain almost double the electors of smaller seats like Solomon (Northern Territory).

While all states (other than Tasmania) historically have had some form of malapportionment, electoral reform in recent decades resulted in an electoral legislation and policy framework based on the "one vote one value" principle. However, in the Western Australian and Queensland Legislative Assemblies, seats covering areas greater than 100,000 square kilometres (38,600 sq mi) may be drawn with fewer electors than the general tolerance would allow. [3] [4]

Proposed constitutional amendment

In 1988, the Hawke Labor government submitted a referendum proposal to enshrine the principle in the Australian Constitution. [5] The referendum question came about due to the widespread malapportionment and gerrymandering which was endemic during Joh Bjelke-Petersen's term as the Queensland Premier. The proposal was opposed by both the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia. The referendum proposal was not passed.

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  1. "Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 - s.73 - Redistribution of State or Australian Capital Territory".
  2. "Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973, s.4 - Re-distribution".
  3. "Electoral Act 1907 (WA) - s.16G - Districts, how State to be divided into".
  4. "Electoral Act 1992 (Qld) - s.45 - Proposed electoral redistribution must be within numerical limits".
  5. Singleton, Gwynneth; Don Aitkin; Brian Jinks; John Warhurst (2012). Australian Political Institutions. Pearson Higher Education AU. p. 271. ISBN   978-1442559493 . Retrieved 5 August 2015.