Stoush brewing over Senate preference system

Clive Palmer on the campaign trail.
Clive Palmer on the campaign trail.

THE Abbott Government is set to get dragged into a political stoush over Senate preference flows and calls for reform.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon revealed today he will put forward a private members bill to reform preference flows in the Senate.

His call for wide reforms could threaten the deals that saw Clive Palmer's voting bloc and other micro-parties get the balance of power in the Senate from July next year.

The election saw a raft of new Senators elected on fractions of the national vote, including Motoring Enthusiasts Senator-elect Ricky Muir.

But Senator Xenophon, backed by Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan, will introduce the bill in an effort to prevent similar election outcomes in the future.

While he may garner support from the major parties - who see the preference deals as a threat to the two-party system - the stoush is only set to grow.

Both Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane, and recently retired Labor figure Bob Carr have hit out at the preference deals and called for reform.

Mr Loughnane called for a review of the system during a National Press Club address on Wednesday, saying it did not "reflect the will of the people".

And Mr Carr hit out at the current system, saying it gave power to "pocket handkerchief political effusions".

"There has to be something better than that," he said.

But despite the growing chorus of calls for reform, Liberal Democratic Senator-elect David Leyonheljm said on Friday he would not co-operate with any such reforms.

Mr Palmer, who will also control the balance of power in the Senate, has long been critical of the two-party majority system, and would likely rebuke any changes.

A committee inquiry will be held into the 2013 federal election, and will likely include reform proposals, once the 44th Parliament gets under way.

Topics:  elections politcs senate

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