Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters chair James McGrath has floated another reform bubble, this time proposing that parliamentarians should be prevented from resigning from their parties under pain of either facing a by-election or being replaced by the nominee of the party for which they were elected. The Australian helpfully summarises recent situations where this would have applied: “Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus from the Palmer United Party, Cory Bernardi and Julia Banks from the Liberal Party, Fraser Anning and Rod Culleton from One Nation and Steve Martin from the Jacqui Lambie Network”. University of New South Wales constitutional law expert George Williams is quoted noting potential constitutional issues, particularly in relation to the lower house.
The proposal brings to mind the passage in New Zealand last year of what is colloquially known as the “waka jumping bill”, insisted upon by Winston Peters of New Zealand First as part of his coalition agreement with Labour after the 2017 election. This requires a constituency MP who quits their party to face a by-election, while party list MPs must vacate their seats and have them filled by the next candidate along from the list at the election. The move was poorly received by academics and the country’s Human Rights Commissioner, as it effectively gives party leaders the ability to dispense with troublemakers. It was also noted that Peters himself broke away from the National Party to form New Zealand First in 1990, but changed his tune after a split in his own party in 1998. However, the McGrath proposal would seem to be quite a lot less pernicious in that it would only apply to those who leave their parties of their own volition.
Of course, transparency alone will not be sufficient for the industry to recover the strong reputation it held until quite recently. That will require runs on the board in the form of more-or-less accurate pre-election polls, for which no opportunity will emerge until the Queensland state election still over a year away. It’s far from certain that YouGov will prove able to get better results by dropping the telephone component of its polling, notwithstanding that phone polling is less conducive to the kind of detailed demographic parsing that it apparently has in mind. Nonetheless, the movements the pollster records over time within demographic and geographic sub-samples will almost certainly offer insights into the shifting sands of public opinion, even if skepticism will remain as to how it sees the numbers combining in aggregate.
I’m not sure when exactly we will see the fruits of YouGov’s approach, but we’re due some sort of Newspoll result on Sunday or Monday, and the fortnightly Essential Research falls due on Tuesday – we’re still waiting for the latter to resume voting intention, but I was told a little while ago it would happen soon.