Full house? (part three)

With another Victorian upper house thread having extended beyond 200 comments, a further update would appear in order. At the time of the last post, Labor’s hopes for an upper house majority appeared to hinge entirely on Southern Metropolitan. Since then, the chances of a DLP win at Labor’s expense in Western Victoria – always possible, but somehow too bizarre to contemplate – have increased considerably. The DLP scored 2.6 per cent of the primary vote in this region, which is subsequently engorged by preferences from the Country Alliance and People Power, putting their candidate Peter Kavanagh fractionally ahead of Family First. Family First preferences in turn get Kavanagh ahead of the Nationals, unlocking enough Coalition preferences to get him ahead of both the Greens and Labor. At this point of the count, the Greens hold the narrowest of leads over Labor (130 votes, according to Antony Green); if they stay ahead, Labor will go out and their preferences will push Kavanagh over a quota. Otherwise, the Greens will go out instead and their preferences will deliver the seat to Labor incumbent Elaine Carbines. Another alternative scenario that might thwart the DLP is if what Antony describes as "a big whack of postals from a seat contested by the Nationals" put them ahead of the DLP at the earlier point of the count.

Southern Metropolitan remains on a knife edge, except that the Greens’ position has firmed in late counting – so it now looks like a contest between Labor (Evan Thornley) and Liberal (David Southwick) for the final place, rather than the three-way contest for the last two places that was in play earlier. According to Antony Green, the ticket votes alone leave Thornley 3844 short of a quota after the addition of preferences from Democrats, People Power and independent Rita Bentley, which the distribution of the Greens surplus should cut to around 2500; while David Southwick is 2934 votes short after receiving preferences from Family First and the DLP. However, there are more below-the-line primary votes for Liberal than Labor (5602 versus 4961), and in particular, there are more for Southwick than Thornley (1683 versus 633). Then there are the 5,275 below-the-line votes for parties other than Labor, Liberal and the Greens. The destination of these preferences look set to decide the issue, bearing in mind that many will exhaust given that voters are required only to number five boxes.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

171 comments on “Full house? (part three)”

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  1. The quota would not be re-calculated. Candidates from the bottom would be excluded until three candidates remained. The top two candidates remaining would be elected.

    I understand that under Meek used in local government in NZ there is a floating quota, but this is mathematical madness. This counting method requires a sophisticated computer program, and to do an audit by hand would take months if not years. There has to be a compromise between practicality and mathematical perfection. Meek may be mathematically perfect and pure (I do not believe it is) but I don’t believe it is a practical system. How NZ ever fell for it I do not know.

  2. Floating quota (progressively recalculated downwards as votes exhausted) has also been used by the National Union of Students; I scrutineered several Tasmania University Union elections in which this system was employed for the NUS counts. Indeed the NUS not only used floating quota but also retained votes to very small fractions (I forget how many decimal places it was, but several) and threw the whole of a candidate’s votes rather than just the last parcel to determine their surplus.

    The system as applied to student elections was absurd, since a single ticket order meant that donkey voting and other ballot order effects (most notably partial donkey voting and also what I call “proximity voting”) introduced massive impurities in the measurement of genuine voter intention that made retaining several decimal places and recalculating quotas totally pointless. Prior to ATV the whole process would be extremely longwinded, and even with ATV it was slow.

    (As for this “proximity voting” (if anyone knows a technical term for it please let me know) – I have noticed that where a voter is directing preferences between “independent” candidates presented in a single long vertical list, they are significantly more likely to direct their next preference after a given candidate to another candidate near that candidate on the list than to one further away. This effect is stronger in a downwards direction than an upwards one, but also works upwards as well. I have analysed a lot of data on this from the 1994 and 1996 Tasmanian council election reports.)

  3. A floating quota makes plenty of sense to me.

    (Going forward that is. I wouldn’t advocate a retrospective adjustment to the quota applied to the candidates already elected.)

    At all times the quota would be equal to the number of remaining votes divided by the number of seats to be filled plus one (rounded up).

    So in Chris’s example, the quota could be lowered to 50,000 after the election of the first candidate. (Since 249,999 votes would remain to elect 4 candidates.) That’s assuming no exhaustion. Where a variable quota really would come into play is when there is a fair bit of exhaustion.

    I don’t see much madness about that.

  4. The best way to handle OPV is to have a reiterative count every time you exclude a candidate you start counting again miunus teh candidates that have been excluded/ |Any exasutiove votes are accounted fvopr an do not form part of the revised quota. Any revised system MUST be based on the value of teh vote and not the number of ballot papers. You could also have a single tranbsaction per candidate. KISS Keeping it Safe and Simple.

    See my updated spreedsheets/ Question is will the VEC pub liosh the below the line preference data or do we have to FOI it. Relioying on FOPI would be an abuse of the system. One way or the other it will be published along with polling booth data. Sadly we are being kept in the dark durionmg this count whioch is an indictement againts the VEC who continue to undermine public confidence in the system/ Already evidence is exisits that they have double counted votes in Western Metro and acessed the e-voting system prior tpo teh close of the polls on Staturday Nov 25.

  5. Chris

    You mentioned Kevin Harrold yesterday as the last DLP MP in NSW who held the posh North Shore seat of Gordon from 1973 until 1976.

    Harrold’s win was, believe it or not, caused by the failure of the sitting member, Askin government Health Minister Arnold Jago, to renominate for his seat. Jago thought that nominations closed on a Friday when in fact they closed on a Thursday. The only candidates were from the ALP and the DLP, and the Liberal Party then advocated a vote for the DLP candidate.

    I think a later DLP MLC in Victoria Paul Jones was elected to the seat of Indi in Victoria in the federal parliament in 1928 for the same reason. There were two candidates, and the Country Party sitting member Robert Cook failed to nominate on time. This had consequences for the ALP in 1929 when the Bruce Page government was defeated on a no confidence motion by one vote. The ALP in 1929 won the subsequent general election, but faced a hostile Senate and the world economic depression.

    These errors, of failure to nominate by individual candidates, can no longer be made by registered political party candidates, as the nominations are now made by their parties and not by the individual candidate.

    Candidates can still, however, do stupid things. Robert Dean in Victoria in 2002 is such a case. Dean had been removed from the electoral roll because he was enrolled at an address in his electorate he owned but did not live at, and letters to him from the electoral commission were returned not known at this address. MPs and prospective candidates should always check that their names are on the roll, but not only did Dean not do this. A federal Liberal MPs office told Dean’s office on at least two occasions he was not on the roll and he should rectify this quick smart. Either the message was not passed on to Dean (in other words he employed less than capable staff) or he ignored the message, to the peril of the Liberal Party in Victoria. Dean’s office refused to employ a friend of mine, a good Liberal, in preference to a younger model who was also an applicant. It was the greatest mistake he ever made, for the same thing (not being on the roll) had happened to the unsuccessful applicant’s daughter, and she knew all about the consequences of not being on the electoral roll.

    If Peter Kavanagh wins in Western Victoria region in the upper house he can thank Robert Dean. The Liberal Party campaign in 2002 collapsed after the Dean error, and Labor won a majority in both houses, and reformed the upper house to provide for proportional representation. Unfortunately the major beneficiary of the reform were the faction bosses, who ensured their candidates were imposed on the party rank and file in the various regions by the ALP national executive.

  6. I think the floating quota is madness and unnecesarry. To cite the NUS as a paragon of good electoral practice is also flawed. Anything that leads to long counts (and I mean dozens of hours in the student context) is unnecessary, is unlikely to change the result, and only leads to advocates wanting a change to a first past the post system, which is a very much inferior way of electing multiple candidates.

    In a student context it could lead to, say, the ultra left who normally do best at student elections, winning all positions. In the Senate under majority voting one party occasionally held almost all the seats, under both first past the post before 1919 and majority preferential until 1949.

  7. Lyle,

    You are certainly right about Kevin Harrold, and I think you are right about Paul Jones as I remember Tim Hayes, the grandson of Tom Hayes, referring to him as the “accidental member for Indi”.

    The voters of Victoria can vote below the line if they want to override the faction chiefs, just as the rank and file members of the ALP can vote for non-faction delegates if they wish. That neither groups does so is simply a fact of life.

    Melb City,

    You state, “Any exasutiove votes are accounted fvopr an do not form part of the revised quota…the…tranbsaction…pub liosh…Relioying on FOPI… durionmg…whioch is an indictement againts…Already evidence is exisits…acessed… tpo teh close of the polls on Staturday”

    Anyone can make a typing eror – see – but I would appreciate it if you would do some proof-reading so I don’t have to scratch my head when I read your posts. You obviously know a lot about electoral systems, but I would like to understand what you are writing.

  8. ALP internal rules use what is virtually the PR Society Model Rules with a couple of modifications. One is that votes are counted in thousandths. This is a good idea, and makes the count more exact. Remember that the quota for the POSC is about four (perhaps a bit more now with the increase in the size of Conference) and the other is the treatment of exhausted votes. Under the PR Society model rules the surplus was calculated by dividing the suplus votes by the number of transferable ballot papers. This was changed to be dividing the surplus votes by the number of ballot papers from the candidate whose votes achieved the surplus. This makes litlle difference in practice.

    A claim was made by John Lenders that the change was made because in a Young Labor ballot a surplus was achieved by seven ballot papers, only one of which was transferable, and this one ballot paper went out at a value of seven votes. This is in my view wrong. I don’t believe any ballot paper should have a value more than unity. To get over the Young Labor madness the rules were changed to provide that the transfer fraction would be affected by the exhausted votes.

    Don’t worry if this is confusing. In the end it would almost never affect the result, although it might have in one mad Young Labor election. Probably the same people who brought about NUS madness with the floating quota, which also probably doesn’t affect the result 99 times out of 100 or 499 times out of 500.

  9. Chris Curtis, I have a historical question for you: Can you confirm whether the N. Randazzo who was the DLP candidate for Fitzroy at the 1964 election is the same Nino Randazzo who was recently elected to the Italian Senate as a representative of Australian Italians, who is a supporter of the Italian left-wing government? He would have been 27 in 1964.

  10. Kevin Bonham Says: – I have noticed that where a voter is directing preferences between “independent” candidates presented in a single long vertical list, they are significantly more likely to direct their next preference after a given candidate to another candidate near that candidate on the list than to one further away. This effect is stronger in a downwards direction, but also works upwards as well.

    And sideways too, as I think Antony Green pointed out.

    Lyle Allan Said: I understand that under Meek used in local government in NZ there is a floating quota, but this is mathematical madness. This counting method requires a sophisticated computer program.

    The guts of this program have been published…. I found it only yesterday while scrounging for background info. on this debate.

    My understanding is that they press a button for WVIC on Tuesday. My informant wasn’t sure whther this was the real McCoy or some kind of dry run to test the system. I wouldn’t have thought all the data would have been entered by then. Until a quota is struck, a dry run would be merely a test of the system. It must be pretty hard to resist “giving it a whirl to see what happens”, though.

    In the Assembly seat of Melbourne, several booths have returned 100% TPPs for The Greens. These were from the Vision Centres. I guess you would say such a one-way vote came from one-eyed supporters.

    In general, the TPP for Greens wasn’t very much higher in the non booth vote in Melb, Rich, Brunsw and N’cote than it was in the booth vote. I think they expected better, especially from the “Early”s a.k.a “the bushwalker vote.”

  11. Adam,

    Senator Nino Randazzo is the same man who stood as a DLP candidate for, I believe, Fitzroy. DLP types are everywhere. I, of course, see nothing unusual about someone with a DLP background supporting a left-wing government, though it should be noted that the Italian Government, being a coalition of diverse parties, is only left-wing in comparison with its right-wing alternative.

  12. Thanks. Of course that is so, but it is nevertheless interesting. To have been in the DLP Randazzo must have been a firm opponent of the PCI, yet he is now providing a crucial vote in the Italian Senate for a government in which the PCI (now called the DS) is the largest component. It is of course a much reformed party, and the government is led by Prodi, an ex-Christian Democrat. I will note this in Randazzo’s Wikipedia entry. You might like to look at the DLP entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Labor_Party) and advise me of its deficiencies.

  13. Adam,

    Thank you for the invitation on the Wikipeida article on the DLP. I amended its articles on the DLP and Frank McManus early this year. From memory, I fixed up the closing down date and included the promise by Billy Snedden that there would be a joint ticket with the DLP for the 1974 Senate election. I have some other changes in mind, but I have left them until I have some more time.

  14. I think it would be great to have the DLP in the LC, hopefully sharing the BoP with the Greens. It will effectively bring out from the Labor caucus and into the parliament for debate the idealogical differences between the Labor factions. The Greens effectively the Labor left, and the DLP the Labor right.

    Ironically, the party that could prevent this from happening would be Family First who are probably most closely aligned to the DLP, representing the Protestant and Catholic Christian vote respectively. Probably the tightest exclusion point is with Family First in WVIC. FFP will be hoping there vote edges to the 4% to get funding for their campaign, but this would probably cause the exclusion of the DLP, and open the possibility for the election of the Greens.

    I wonder how they are praying.. the cash or their soul?

  15. Did you here about the Victorian DLP MLC (ex. Catholic priest) and the FFP Senator (ex. AOG Pastor) who unexpectedly died and went to heaven.

    Now Peter was so surprised to see them, as he had worked so hard on the Victorians in their respective campaigns to get them miraculously elected. He said:

    “I’m sorry guys, because I wasn’t expecting this, I haven’t had time to prepare the rooms that are becoming of your status. I do know that Lucifer had prepared rooms as he normally does for all corrupted politicians. But it would appear that you have not been there long enough to be so tainted.”

    “But this is what I’ll do. If you don’t mind I’ll send you both down there as a temporary measure, until I have prepared your room.”

    Begrudgingly, they both accepted. They were politically astute enough to realise that compromise is sometimes necessary.

    Now they had not been there two weeks when Lucifer sent an urgent SOS direct to God. He said:

    “It’s unfair for you to send me these two politicians, they are really men of the cloth in disguise. This DLP guy is forgiving everyone here of their sins. And as for this FFP guy!! God, did you train him well. He’s already raised enough money to air condition hell.”

  16. SMET is has its own ironical twists. As the scutineers have been reporting, there are a significant number of Green votes exhausting, as will many of the votes for minor parties. If sufficient exhaust, this may work against the commensuate election of the Labor candidate on the Green surplus. I wonder how many of those Green voters would have extended their preference beyond the minimum five that were required for a formal vote if they had understood that failure to do so could elect a Liberal candidate over a Labor one. OPV only truly reflects the electorate desire if people are educated to understand that they need to extend all their preferences beyond the minimum requirement for formality. I wonder what Green-by- name and Green-by-nature has to say about that scenario.

    To put an ironical twist on an ironical twist, if the ALP miss out in WVIC also, then the ALP would be resticted to 19 seats and the Greens would hold the BoP. If the ALP win in SMET but not WVIC, the Greens will most likely share the BoP with the DLP. If ALP win both they control the parliament.

  17. Ho ho ho. I must say that if I were either a Catholic or a Protestant, I would be most offended at the suggestion that the DLP or Family First represented my views. Both parties, let us recall, got less than 5%. The great majority of Victorian Catholics vote Labor, while I imagine (I’m less certain about this) that a majority of practising Protestants vote for the Coalition.

  18. Chris: Yes Snedden double-crossed you shamelessly, didn’t he. I imagine he’s in the far corner of hell now, right next to the toasting fork. We in Melbourne Ports had great fun seeing off his charming daughter in 1998.

    What the DLP article really needs is some details about the modern DLP – their organisation and policies, and why so many of them are called Mulholland.

  19. Ray, any Green voter would be glad to know that their exhausted votes have assisted to elect a Liberal, even Southwick, over Thornley, and have given the Greens the BoP. If Green voters had chrystal balls I am sure a lot more would have done so.

  20. I think the meeks system is an overkill but a re-iterative counting system which is rest and reposcessed at each exclusion is not out of the question particlulary if and when you adopt a value based counting system and a single transaction (suplus opr exclusion) per candidate.

    The PR society rules are not wrth looking at. They were designed at a time when manual counting was the obly viable option. I would not advocate them as a guide to proportional representation counts anymore.

    The sooner the PR society revises its rules the better

    Life Member Proportional Representation Society of Australia.

  21. The VEC is its never ending quest to prove it is the interior of the two public electoral commissions still reports that not all booths have been counted in the upper house yet the Lower house all polling places have been accounted.


    Certainly one of the worst managed counts in recent history.

    Lack of information, openness and transparency undermine public confidence and brings the State Electoral Commission into disrepute.

  22. Perhaps MelbCity can start a new thread called “Talking Turkey about the VEC.”

    Incidentally, in Turkish elections parties have to poll 10% of the national vote before they can get into Parliament at all, regardless of how high their vote is in a particular province. This is of course designed to keep the Kurds out.

  23. Similarly the use of a threshold by Greece prevents the election of Greek Moslems (that is, ethnic Turks) to the Greek parliament. A couple of Greek Moslems were elected, I think, before the law was changed.

    Senator Helen Coonan has advocated a threshold for the Australian Senate. She has not been successful. The Howard government would not have a backstop in Senator Fielding if a threshold were in place, and for that reason Senator Coonan’s proposals are unlikely to be implemented.

    Some members of the ALP advocated such a threshold to prevent the election of DLP Senators. Arthur Calwell advocated first past the post because of DLP preferences. Now preferential voting favours the ALP. In Western Australia it was a conservative government led by Charles Court that reintroduced first past the post voting in local government in that state in I think 1996. The conservative local government association in that state are running a scare campaign now that Labor is thinking of introducing PR in local government elections. Amazing how the same poliltical parties can advocate different voting systems at different times.

  24. I was actually going to say that the purpose of the 10% threshold in Turkey was to keep the curds a-whey, but then I thought ‘no-one will approve such a childish comment at a serious website.’

  25. All of this makes we wonder what’s SO bad about the UK electoral system….you put all the votes in a big pile, and the person with the most wins…seems reassuringly quick and simple, non?

  26. The use of electronic counting systems, reliant on accurate data entry, that cannot be properly scrutinised, seems to have entered into existence without proper debate. I believe that all will agree that the integrity of the ballot is the most important consideration in electoral matters. The manual system has proved itself to be foolproof in delivering transparent integrity for a century. Whilst electronic counting would seem to be a natural progression, I doubt it has significant cost savings (a system that cost lots to develop and do the data-entry). I therefore question its introduction. The extra step of entering data will have errors (the rate can be minimised, but not eliminated). I therefore ask the question, what advantage is there? It provides less transparency and more potential of errors. This needs to be more seriously debated.

  27. Most of the time the UK system works reasonably well – but you can say that about any electoral system. It does produce strange results sometimes. There was a Scottish constituency (I forget which one and when) contested by Tory, Labor, Liberal and SNP, and they all polled almost exactly 25% of the vote. In theory you could have ten candidates polling 10% each, or 20 candidates polling 5% each, which means it’s just a lottery. This actually happens in PNG, where you get results like this:

    Candidate Party Votes %
    Joe Kuatowa 4,974 05.0
    Peter Kuman 7,280 07.3
    Mathew Numabo SIUNE PDM 8,118 08.2
    Peter G Waieng * 5,747 05.8
    51 others 73,365 73.7
    Total 99,484

    Siune is elected with 8.2%, so 91.8% voted against him. This is one of the reasons PNG politicians are so corrupt, because they are elected by accident and have almost no chance of re-election.

  28. Londoner – it certainly is quick and simple. To me, it’s all about what the purpose of the electoral system is. If your goal is to have quick and simple results, and you like single member electorates, then great, first post the past is a good system. The drawbacks are that people can be elected although most people don’t support them, and majorities in parliament can be elected without majority support. If this isn’t a problem, well that’s ok.

    If you want a parliamentary majority to reflect a “majority of voter’s opinions” across the entire country, well you need to do something different. Certainly preferential voting in single member electorates more often than not in the Australian context leads to majorities in parliament reflecting majorities of the 2PP vote. Preferential voting in single member electorates is pretty simple too. It’s PR systems that are complicated to count.

  29. Lyle Allan says: In Western Australia it was a conservative government led by Charles Court that reintroduced first past the post voting in local government in that state in I think 1996.

    Actually, it was Sir Charles Court’s son, Richard Court, and as far as I am aware the changes to the LG electoral system were contained in the Local Government Act 1995. The Local Government Advisory Board in WA (with a majority of sitting Councillors on it) recently decided to continue support for this system. A poor decision, with faulty reasoning IMO. The full report is available at:

  30. Single member electorates are only democraticly elect governments most of the time by chance and often lead to distorted majorities.

    Single member preferential voting if introduced in the UK (there is some talk of this happening) could lead to a Liberal Democrat majority government espetialy if they had how to vote cards.

  31. Actually one of the strengths of the UK system is that the party with a plurality of votes usually wins a healthy majority of seats. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. One of the problems with PR is its fetish with “abstract representationism” – the belief that if a party polls 2.67% of the vote it must get 2.67% of the seats. This leads to the situation in the Netherlands or Israel which have chronic weak and unstable government, and gives much too much power to minorities. There are in fact two criteria to judge any electoral system by: that it produces a reasonable reflection of the opinions of the people, AND that it produces a stable government. Some compromise of the first is often necessary to achieve the second. Electoral systems should discourage the proliferation of minor parties and reward the formation of broad-based national parties or coalitions.

  32. I am arguing that we should introduce Hare-Clarke which has multi-meber electorates so that elections are proportional to the vote to a large degree but not letting in micro parties. Look at Tasmania.

    In the election for the Legislaive Assembly in Victoria this year the Nats got 5-6% of the vote getting them just over 10% of the seats while the Greens got 9-10% of the vote getting them no seats.

    At the election in the UK last year Labour got 35-36% of the vote and a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. Democratic? Not really.

  33. Well there’s two different questions there. I agree that the current system discriminates against minor parties which do not have a geographical base, like the Greens, and in favour of ones that do, like the Nats. On the other hand I think the result in the UK was perfectly democratic. The party with the most votes won, and minor parties (some very minor) got a voice, thus meeting the two criteria I mentioned above. I am opposed to any form of PR for lower houses, but I think the best compromise is the German MMP system, with a 5% threshhold. The Germans learned a very bitter lesson about pure PR in 1918-33 and I’m amazed that anyone still advocates it.

  34. My preferred model is:
    Lower House – Single member electorates elected using CPV.
    Upper House – PR

    It’s a good balance between Stability (LH) and Democracy (UH).

    Good governance requires the occasional tough, unpopular decision.

    These decisions should be blocked/vetoed at the upper house level, rather than the lower house where the entire government is destabilised as a coalition partner pulls out or passes a no-confidence motion in order to block legislation.

    The problem with PR in Victoria is the quota is too high. 16.6% is unreasonable. The parties should be represented in the upperhouse according to their percentage of the vote.

    There’s no reason for upper house regions in Victoria – they should ditch them, and maybe ditch Hare-Clark as well since Group Ticketing receives so many complaints. Just give a party a seat for each 2.5% it gets (rounded to the nearest whole number) – there’s your 40 seats. No harvesting, and a representative result.

  35. I agree. I argued all along for the NSW / SA system – statewide party-list PR with a 5% threshold. That would have produced the following upper house result

    ALP 19
    Lib 15
    Green 4
    Nat 2

    (I have allowed the Nats to sneak up from 4.8 to 5.0, as I think they would in a statewide vote).

  36. Thanks Stewart Jackson for pointing out my two errors. I must have had a mental block when I typed Charles rather than Richard Court, and also I was one year out.

    I think WA local government wants fpp because the larger number of WA lg elections are unopposed. It wouldn’t matter whether it was fpp or alternative vote (preferential) the situation would still be the same. In Victoria until the Kennett government reforms making Councils bigger the majority of councillors were elected unopposed.

    A stated reason in WA is it is cheaper to count the votes. Nine cents rather than eleven cents per ballot paper. What a load of hot air.

    PR in lg would mean most lg elections would be contested. That would be better for local democracy. It would also mean a diversity of councillors. I understand the ALP doesn’t contest lg elections in WA and that is the case most places in Australia. Major parties don’t contest lg elections because councillors are rarely seen as people of great intellect, and when councillors play up the party gets a bad name.

    Some councils in Victoria elected by single member wards consist of all members of one or other political party. In Darebin there are 9 ALP members out of 9. In Mornington Peninsula the same position exists, but it is Liberal Party interests who just about “own” that Council. On the Gold Coast the election there was won by property interests, who elected almost all the Councillors. There is a need for pr to try to keep lg honest.

  37. Glen Eira Council in Melbourne has three multi-member wards and it has improved the standard of the council – the last one under the old system was sacked by the Minister after two Liberal councillors came to blows in the chamber over some murky property dispute.

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