How To Vote – Preference Deals and Whisperers

There’s a Federal election coming soon and there’s a good deal of debate and confusion about preference distributions and the new Senate vote counting process.  This post, hopefully, will clear that up for some people and answer a few questions.  There’s more information in the FAQ section on the Australian Electoral Commission‘s website.

How Many Votes Are Needed To Be Elected?

In both the House of Representatives and the Senate the number required is calculated by the following formula:

q = 1 + f/(v+1)

Where “q” is the number of votes required (the quota), “f” is the number of formal votes cast and “v” is the number of vacancies to be filled.

In the Reps, there is only one vacancy to be filled (v=1) in a given seat so a candidate needs one vote more than half those cast – a simple majority.

In the Senate, we’ll be voting for 12 Senators from Victoria (v=12) so a candidate must get 1/13th of the formal votes plus one.  Once 12 candidates have that quota there will be 1/13th minus 12 votes available which means nobody else can beat those already elected.

How Are Votes Counted?

In order to achieve a quota all formal ballot papers are distributed to the candidate allocated the number 1 on the paper (the first preference) and then counted.  If no candidate has achieved the quota above, the candidate with fewest votes is eliminated and those papers are distributed to the remaining candidate with the next lowest preference.

In the Reps, the process continues thus until a single candidate has an absolute majority and there it stops.

In the Senate, it’s a little more complicated because we need to elect more than one Senator.  So, once a candidate attains a quota s/he is declared elected but any excess votes beyond the quota are redistributed at reduced value.  If this didn’t happen, there would not be enough votes in the pool to create 12 quotas.  (You can find the full explanation on the AEC website here:

So, let’s say the quota is 10 000 votes and Ms Bloggs achieves her quota but has 12 000 votes at that stage.  The 2000 “surplus” votes are redistributed to other, as yet unelected candidates.  But which 2000?  In fact, all 12 000 papers are now redistributed to the next preferred candidate but at a reduced value of s/q where “s” is the surplus; in this case, the transfer value would be 2000/10 000 or 0.2 – every one of Ms Bloggs’ papers would be redistributed at one fifth of its value to other candidates.

Counting continues eliminating unsuccessful candidates and redistributing their votes and the fractional surpluses of elected Senators until all 12 vacancies have been filled.

You Can’t Waste Your Vote!

It’s the redistribution process which ensures YOUR vote is not wasted if you choose an unsuccessful candidate.

Let’s say you have strong views on a specific issue and there’s an independent candidate standing on that particular issue.  “Single issue” candidates are rarely successful but if one represents your view you can indicate that to whoever is ultimately elected by giving your champion your first preference.  On the assumption that your champion is eliminated, your vote then goes to your next preference so you still influence which of the more likely contenders is elected but they receive the hint that there’s an important issue to which they should attend in the electorate.

It should be noted that in the Senate, if you select only the minimum number of preferences required (see below) and all those candidates are eliminated, your vote will be “exhausted” and won’t contribute to electing a senator.  You should consider the chances of your preferred candidates being successful when deciding how many votes to cast above or below the line since only YOU ultimately determine where your preferences go.

Party Preference Deals and Your Preference

Much has been made in recent days of preference deals being done between Labor and Liberal Parties to put each other ahead of The Greens.  Both of the major parties are worried they may not win government in their own right and may have to rely on preferences but neither likes the idea of a third party spoiling their duopoly.  You will see these deals reflected in their respective “How to Vote” cards.

“How to Vote” cards are parties’ suggestions to voters.  Apparently about 75% of voters follow HTV cards, there’s absolutely no obligation to do so – YOU number the boxes on YOUR ballot paper and YOU should do so according to YOUR preference for the various candidates and/or their parties.

In the Reps, you number ALL candidates according to your preference.

In the Senate you must number either AT LEAST six boxes above the line (there are 38 boxes plus a column of independents this year!) or AT LEAST 12 candidates below the line.  If you number only six boxes above the line and you don’t include one of the three major parties (ALP, LNP coalition or Greens) you’ll only nominate about 12 candidates and your vote will probably be exhausted before all senators are elected.  Similarly, if you choose only 12 candidates from the smaller parties below the line.  If you don’t want votes going to the major parties and you want to maximise your influence, mark more boxes.

Why, and How, Has Senate Voting Changed – The Preference Whisperer?

At the last Senate election a number of minor candidates and parties got together with a “preference whisperer”.  They agreed on a series of “group voting tickets” which were so constructed that a single “1” vote above the line (the old way of voting) channelled all their preferences to the same place.  As each of these less likely candidates were eliminated their votes flowed together to elect, most famously, Senator Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

Some people have argued that this meant he was elected on fewer first preferences than others who were eliminated and that’s true.  However, it’s also true that a full “quota” of voters indicated, whether they knew it (having researched their nominated party’s group voting ticket) or not, they would rather have him than anyone else.

Under the new Senate voting rules parties are no longer permitted to create group voting tickets and votes at the top of a column distribute preferences down the column then stop – a party or group on the ballot paper cannot cause preferences to flow to any other party or group.  This makes it somewhat harder for minor candidates to get elected but it also makes it clear to voters exactly where your vote is going.  Some candidates have formed voting blocs already to be listed in the same column – that’s legal and it’s transparent to voters.

It’s worth noting too that if you want to vote for the “ungrouped” independent candidates in the Senate, firstly they are at the far right of the ballot paper and, secondly, you must vote below the line as they don’t have a box above the line.

Who Are the Monash Candidates?

The City of Monash is in Victoria for the Senate.  You can find the list of all 38 groups and 16 independent Senate candidates on the AEC site here.

Four House of Representatives seats overlap the City of Monash boundaries: Bruce, Chisholm, Higgins and Hotham.


The declared candidates for each of the electorates are shown below in the order in which they will appear on the ballot paper.


Researching the Candidates

Later this week I hope to write an open letter to all candidates listed above and invite them to comment on issues of importance to readers of this blog.  Their answers will be published verbatim and without commentary.

Issues for their feedback will come from any comments received on this post and questions about Aged Care, Refugees and Immigration, and Environment policy.


6 thoughts on “How To Vote – Preference Deals and Whisperers”

  1. Reply from Stefanie Perri, ALP, Chisholm received 15:23, Friday, 1 July

    Dear Mr Nicholas
    Thank you for your email on behalf of Empowering Monash & You offering me the opportunity to outline how I will I address a range of important issues if given the honour and privilege of being elected the Federal Member for Chisholm.

    While I was not a Monash Councillor when Council made the regrettable decision to sell Monash and Elizabeth Gardens residential aged care facilities I was firmly against the proposal. This decision to sell these valuable community assets was made with little community consultation. If elected as the Federal Member for Chisholm I will always listen to the community and work with all levels of government to stand up for the views of this community.
    I will also be fighting to reverse the Turnbull Government’s recent Aged Care cuts in the 2016 Budget, which slashed $1.2 billion from residential aged care subsidies for residents. This cut will hit older Australians in residential aged care facilities the hardest, with a 50 per cent cut to the indexation of complex health care subsidies. The cuts were introduced within days of an election being called, with no opportunity for scrutiny or review. What makes it worse is that independent analyses undertaken by the aged care sector indicates those cuts are to be much greater than the Liberal Government has predicted.
    I will be making this an immediate priority.
    I will also be calling for an immediate review of the aged care reforms as required in the legislation. This review needs to be independent, transparent, consultative and thorough. The review also needs to include the funding of aged care, in particular the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI).
    There have been many changes as a result of the aged care reform process, introduced by the previous Labor Government, and more recent changes introduced earlier this year. It is essential the legislated review begins immediately so we can determine the impact of the changes on the sector and consumers to date, as well as gaining an appreciation of the preparedness of the sector and consumers for the upcoming changes.
    I am committed to a quality aged care system and a strong safety net for the most vulnerable. Our ageing policy focus is on making sure we get the benefits of positive ageing and that we have a workforce that can support the increasing aged care needs.
    Concerning development in Chisholm, I was in firm agreement with the community opposing Deakin University’s plans to erect a bridge into Gardiners Creek Reserve and I said as much to the Vice Chancellor when I spoke with her over the phone a couple of weeks ago. The former Federal Member for Chisholm, Anna Burke, and the community have done a tremendous job fighting Deakin’s encroachment into the Gardiners Creek parkland and the final intervention by the Minister for Planning at the request of Deakin University was both unjust and unnecessary. If I am elected I will certainly be standing and fighting with the community against any further encroachment into our public space.
    I have also been actively engaged with residents in the Box Hill South area who, fortunately, won their battle against a huge overdevelopment of the old St Leo’s College site on Hay Street. I have asked the Education Minister to consider purchasing that site to turn it back into a school to meet the growing demand for more high school places and protect our open space.
    If I am the Member for Chisholm after July 2, I will be vigorously pursuing these issues on behalf of our community with the State Government and I will be fighting to protect the liveability of all our suburbs and parklands in Chisholm.
    Although the state government oversees many of the factors that contribute to Melbourne’s liveability, Federal Members have a vital role to play advancing for the rights of their communities and fighting for the funds we need to maintain and improve our vital local infrastructure. If elected I will always stand up for our community and fight to protect the liveability of our wonderful suburbs.
    Yours sincerely
    Stefanie Perri
    Labor Candidate for Chisholm

    P: 9544 2192
    M: 0421 038 768
    PO Box 8101, Burwood Heights 3151


  2. Reply from Josh Fergeus, The Greens, Chisholm, received 16:36, Wednesday, 29 June

    Hi Murray

    Thanks for your email and the chance to speak to EM&U members and supporters. I will address the issues you raise one by one.

    First of all, the Greens do not accept donations from developers or corporations. We don’t believe that developer donations should be the driving force behind local planning decisions, and will continue to strive to keep planning in line with community expectations. Equally, we don’t believe that foreign entities should be able to invest in our political system. Developers from overseas donating to candidates and political parties clearly expect something for their money, and it’s an influence which should be removed. Donations should come from individuals who are entitled to vote, with strict transparency rules.

    Now a little about me.

    I grew up in Mount Waverley and I’m passionate about social justice. I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne and a CEO in the non-profit sector.
    I have a broad range of experience in various sectors and I am passionate about liveability for my community. I am a former president of the Fosters Carer Association of Victoria and a foster carer myself. I have led local and international not-for-profit organisations, worked in community development in Nepal and spoken for the human rights of children at the United Nations.
    I’m passionate about equal opportunity and the empowerment of all people. I’m a PhD candidate with the University of Melbourne and hold a Masters Degree in Social Work as well as Bachelor’s Degrees in Arts and Teaching.
    I’m passionate about integrity in politics, and I will continue to advocate putting people before profit. I will fight for a jobs rich future with real investment in solar and wind energy which will help safeguard our climate for future generations.
    I’m standing with The Greens because of their vision for a peaceful and prosperous economy that values the people at it’s core. I believe that for our community to flourish, we need better investment in health, education and public transport.
    Precious places and the environment
    The Greens’ commitment to our precious places has never been more important. Around our nation our environment is being impacted by global warming, unsustainable development and mining and pollution – with the full support of the Liberal, National and Labor parties.
    90% of the Great Barrier Reef is already experiencing bleaching caused by global warming, and the Tasmanian world heritage area has been permanently decimated by previously unheralded bushfires.
    The Liberal, National and Labor parties refuse to admit that coal is a huge part of our global climate change problem. In doing so, they are signing the death warrants for some of our most precious natural places. They’re approving massive new mines, offshore drilling and new coal seam gas wells, and enjoy huge corporate donations from fossil fuel interests.
    Our precious natural places are national icons. They’re internationally known, provide jobs and investment in our tourism sector and are the lifeblood of our communities. The Greens will not let them be lost to vested interests, a lack of political courage and an obsession with the industries of the past.
    We are taking strong action to address global warming; to transitioning Australia to a new, clean energy economy and protecting our precious places form harmful mining, development and pollution.
    The Australian Greens will proudly stand for the environment now and into the future.

    Public and social housing
    The Greens do not believe the failures in our system or the excruciating time on the waiting lists are acceptable in a modern and prosperous economy.
    The Greens will:
    • End homelessness and provide a home for every Australian family currently languishing on the waiting list within a decade
    • Fund the construction of 200,000 new public and community housing dwellings
    • Introduce an Affordable Housing Supply Bonds package to finance one third of the homes
    • Include a target of up to 50% high quality and locally manufactured fast build modular or innovative housing
    • Reverse cuts to the National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing of $95 million.
    The Greens will introduce two new funding streams to ensure long-term growth in our social housing system and the delivery of 200,000 homes within ten years.
    The PBO has estimated this will be achieved through:
    • Direct finance for 13,000 homes each year, through a competitive grants stream that awards projects on merit and also assumes matched funding from the states or housing organisations. We will commit $4.875 billion over the forward estimates, with an ongoing commitment of $1.625 billion per year over the next 10 years, commencing in 2017.
    • Affordable Housing Supply Bonds to finance 7200 homes each year. We will establish an Affordable Housing Finance Corporation and have committed, via the Greens Infrastructure bank, $188 million to generate $8.05 billion in bonds over forward estimates, with an ongoing commitment of $47 million per year to raise $2.04 billion in housing bonds each year for 10 years.

    Local trees and environment
    The Greens’ National Urban Forests Plan creates a healthy and protected Urban National Park in every Australian major city, comprised of a series of significant protected bushland areas, connected together by metropolitan scale Greenways, urban forests, green streets and household backyards.
    The Greens propose $25 million per year over ten years for:
    • $15m Urban Forest Acquisition Fund to enable the states to purchase areas of high conservation value natural habitat in urban areas
    • $5 million Community Grants to enable local communities to contribute to the Greenways through precinct-scale or neighbourhood scale plantings or infrastructure
    • $1m Household grants to subsidise local area biodiversity plantings in front verges and backyards, to enable households to directly link in to the local greenway
    • $1m to assist states and local councils develop local Urban Forest Plans
    • $2m to establish an Aboriginal Stewardship Committee in each state to steer planning and mapping of the greenways networks, and to engage Aboriginal businesses to develop cultural trails and deliver cultural, education and eco-tourism programs
    • $1m for ongoing maintenance including tree audits every 3 years to measure tree canopy cover and health
    • Introduce a federal moratorium on clearing of urban bushland until each city has completed Strategic Environmental Assessment and an assessment of by the Threatened Species Commissioner
    • Establish an Urban Biodiversity Taskforce within the re-established Major Cities Unit
    • Create a new category of National Park called ‘Urban National Parks’ by 2020 – consisting of a series of interlinked urban forests and greenways.

    Finally, please see below the response from Senator Rachel Siewert on the Greens’ positions on aged care.
    “Like you, I am deeply concerned about aged care funding. That’s why the Greens have announced that we will oppose the Coalition’s cuts of more than $1.6 billion to aged care. We have listened to concerns from community members and aged care providers and we cannot support these cuts.
    During budget estimates I spoke out against the Government’s unfair cuts to aged care and their targeting of vulnerable people. In December last year I expressed concerns about the cuts in the MYEFO statement to the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) particularly without a cost of care study. The sector has been asking for a cost of care study to be undertaken for a long time and it is deeply concerning that these changes are being made without one. You can read what I said here.
    If aged care funding needs reform it needs to be evidence based, and not through a grab for savings. I agree that it is cruel and unacceptable for older Australians in aged care to be denied appropriate care for highly complex medical conditions.
    The Australian Greens have comprehensive aged and palliative care policies that outline our ongoing commitment to support older Australians.”

    Best regards,


    0423 194 963 | @JoshFergeus | |
    Level 1, 362 Little Collins Street, Melbourne 3000
    Office hours: Monday-Thursday 9am-5pm


  3. Reply from Nyree Walshe, Animal Justice Party, Chisholm received 12:11, Sunday, June 26

    Dear Murray
    I refer you to the answers given by Dr.Eleonora Gullone in Higgins as they represent Animal Justice party policies throughout the three electorates of Chisholm, Higgins and Hotham encompassed by the City of Monash.
    Thank you for your enquiry
    Nyree Walshe

    Nyree Walshe
    Candidate for Chisholm- Animal Justice Party
    “I’m giving my vote to the animals”

    Mobile: 0408583811


  4. Reply from Eleonora Gullone, Animal Justice Party, Higgins received at 11:16, Sunday, June 26

    Dear Murray,
    reading your list of issues, I have to say I agree with you completely and strongly support your position. On issues not specifically related to animals, our decisions will be based on our values of Kindness, Non-violence, Equality and Rationality.

    Whilst as the Animal Justice Party, we don’t have policies on all of the issues you raise, our policies do address a number of the issues – see:

    and on why you should consider giving the AJP your first preference and then give 2 to the party of your choice see:


    kind regards,

    Eleonora Gullone, PhD
    Candidate for Higgins
    Animal Justice Party, Greyhound Racing Campaign Coordinator


  5. Reply from Julian Hill, ALP, Bruce received 10:08, Sunday June 26

    Dear Murray,

    Thanks for your email. You’ve raised a lot of issues, so I’ve provided some brief comments in response below to the key issues, and invite anyone who would like to discuss these or any other issues to contact me directly via email or telephone.

    Kind regards

    Julian Hill

    Our local community
    I am the only Candidate for Bruce who lives in the Bruce electorate. I live in the City of Monash and have had a lifelong connection to the South-East.

    I grew up in Burwood, went to High School in Glen Waverley, attended Monash University, worked in Mulgrave and have maintained my personal and professional connections over the years. I am a bit old fashioned about local representation and believe that a local MP should live in the area and be part of the community.

    If elected I will ensure that my office is available to help local residents, and that I remain active and engaged across the area including through mobile offices, gatherings and participating in community events.

    Local planning changes and cities
    As a local resident, I share concerns regarding the loss of trees and our green character. Many of the specific issues you raise with regard to local development and planning rules are the responsibility of local government.

    I firmly believe, however, that there is a role for the Commonwealth Government in creating more sustainable cities. I have had a long background in advocating for residents and for more sustainable cities, including serving as a Mayor in my 20s and later working in my professional career to promote urban policy in support of more liveable cities, working for Labor and Liberal Government’s as a senior public servant.

    Labor’s cities policy is summarised at:
    Of particular importance is the need to fund major transport projects including urban rail. Labor’s commitment to the Monash Freeway widening and Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel is clear.

    I encourage interested residents to visit Labor’s policy website at:
    It’s easy to search – e.g. if you search for cities there are a range of relevant policies. If elected I would seek to work with national, state and local authorities and residents in support of a more sustainable and liveable city.

    Aged care
    This is an issue of serious concern in our community which requires national leadership.

    In terms of the Government’s record, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut over $3 billion from aged care in their three years of office. That includes a massive $1.2 billion from Complex Health Care in residential aged care.

    he cuts were introduced within days of an election being called, with no opportunity for scrutiny or review in the Parliament. What makes it worse is that independent analyses undertaken by the aged care sector indicates those cuts are to be much greater than the Liberal Government has predicted.

    If elected to office then a Labor Government will release the Government’s modeling and financial assumptions so the sector has a clearer idea of what these cuts really mean. The Liberals have refused to do this.

    A Labor Government will undertake an immediate review of the aged care reforms as required in the legislation. This review will be independent, transparent, consultative and thorough. Labor will expand the review to include the funding of aged care, in particular the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI).

    There have been many changes as a result of the aged care reform process, introduced by the previous Labor Government and more recent changes introduced earlier this year. It is essential the legislated review begins immediately so we can determine the impact of the changes on the sector and consumers to date, as well as gaining an appreciation of the preparedness of the sector and consumers for the upcoming changes Labor also has a strong record in fighting for a strong Aged Care workforce.

    This Abbott-Turnbull Government overturned Labor’s reforms to improve pay and conditions for aged care workers who are some of the nation’s lowest paid workers. They broke their promise to develop an Aged Care Workforce Strategy, choosing instead to decimate the funding for aged care workforce training and development.

    A Labor Government will begin work on developing the Aged Care Workforce Strategy within the first 100 days of office. This will be undertaken in consultation with the aged care sector, consumers, workers, unions and other experts.

    In summary, Labor is committed to a quality aged care system and a strong safety net for the most vulnerable. If elected as our local MP I would ensure our community is engaged and can contribute to the above reviews of the aged care reforms, funding instruments and the workforce strategy.


  6. Late on the evening of Saturday, June 25, I wrote the following email to all candidates seeking election to the Federal House of Representatives in a seat including parts of the City of Monash. For reasons noted in the top of the email, not all candidates were addressed directly but a genuine attempt was made to do so – including pasting a copy of the email onto the feedback pages of two parties with no apparent direct email address.
    I received notification from the ALP to advise I had incorrectly guessed the email address for Clare O’Neill and similarly from the Liberal Party regarding Kelly O’Dwyer – presumably the apostrophe should have been included somehow. I have NOT followed up these two candidates.

    Candidate replies (excluding mailbot “thank you for your email” messages) will be posted, unedited, as received.


    Dear Candidates
    (I apologise for not addressing all candidates individually but many party sites did not make this information publicly available. Liberal, ALP, Greens and Drug Law Reform candidates addresses have been deduced based on the known structure of at least one candidate email address; Animal Justice Party listed individual contacts; Family First offered Peter Bain’s contact details only; Rise Up Australia offered only Melanie Vassiliou for both candidates; Marriage Equality, Hinch Justice, Liberal Democrats – party HQ address only; Renewable Energy, Nick Xenophon Team – no email published but a “contact us” feedback form has been completed)

    Empowering Monash & You is a non-partisan, community group centred on issues of Aged Care, Sustainability, Inclusivity and Local Government in the City of Monash. You are standing for election in a Federal Electoral Division which covers part of the City of Monash. You are invited to comment, for publication on the EM&U website, on how you, if elected on July 2, will address the following issues. Please note, we’re interested in what you, personally, as a local member, regardless of who wins government, will do if elected.

    Aged Care is becoming increasingly expensive, service and care standards are falling, and provider profits are soaring. The security of residents and their property is, anecdotally, far from satisfactory with theft from residents occurring far too often with apparent impunity to offenders. Access charges are exceeding anything affordable by most elderly people – nursing home “deposits” now approach $1M for a couple to stay together in their failing years.

    Our city is undergoing a rapid change. Residents have repeatedly stated that we value, above much else, the garden character of the city yet that is being destroyed by unfettered development allegedly driven, in large part, by foreign investment. The result is that long-term residents are being priced out of their “own” suburb especially as they age and become dependent on a pension yet live in an area where land values and, consequently, municipal rates soar. Downsizing becomes impossible as desirable, accessible locations, suitable for older people seeking to remain independent, are unaffordable. This leads to isolation of older residents in homes too large for their needs and too large for them to manage.

    Liveability and sustainability of parts of Monash is being degraded by excess traffic and congestion. Suburban streets are reduced to one-way rat runs with cars parked on both sides of the road. Footpaths are untrafficable much of the time and frequently blocked by rampant development creating hazards for young and old. Building sites are impermeable and increasingly tree-less resulting in flooding and run-off damaging both the local infrastructure and downstream/downhill natural environment. The loss of vegetation in Monash has been estimated to be about 50% of the tree cover in recent times resulting in more polluted air and urban heating as well as the loss of habitat for native fauna.
    There’s only a week to go before the election now. We’d be interested to know how YOU (not your party or your leader’s government – you may be in opposition or on the cross benches when you represent us) will improve life for residents of Monash.
    Your response will be published unedited in response to the EM&U article at
    Murray Nicholas


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