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EYE-BALL Opinion on – Democracy v Party Politics … The reason why it fails us all …

Democracy v Party Politics
… The reason why it fails us all  …
5th July 2012.
The recent Immigration/Asylum Seeker debate proved yet again that regardless of what our MP’s feel or believe in – the tug of Party Politics fails our Democratic system in many ways.

In previous posts on the Asylum and Immigration debate during last week – click here to read Part 1 of 5 with links to all five– I advocated that ALP Member Kevin Rudd should have crossed the floor on the Oppositions Amendment Bill put forward by Scott Morrison to break the deadlock on this matter,  and see if Gillard would have voted against the Bill in the Senate with the Opposition Attachment.

If she failed to support the Bill with attachments n in the Senate it would have sent another clear picture just how her Government is intent of denying Abbott any victory.   It would have proved she had not real intent to try and help the Asylum seeker problem.

Had the ALP Senate supported the Bill with the Amendment – it would have been game on between her and RUDD yet again.

Why RUDD never crossed the floor is unknown and pure conjecture right now.  Whether he wants the Leadership again is also unknown – but if he does, and had he crossed the floor Gillard would now be on a ‘slow-roast spit’ to hell.

This prompted some research on how many ‘floor-crossings’ have taken place in the Federal Government, and particularly the House of Representatives.   I thought it would have been miniscule – but the following document published on-line from the Parliamentary Library and – linked here – gives a statistical summary of MP’s in State and Federal politics who have crossed the floor since 1950 and up to 2004.    The Document is reproduced below and makes for some interesting reading:

Crossing the floor in the Federal Parliament 1950 – August 2004

| Date: 10th Oct 2005 | Link to On-Line Story. | Source – Parliamentary Library, Dept Parliamentary Services. |


For the purposes of the study crossing the floor is defined as an action unique to Westminster style parliaments where a Government or Opposition member of parliament refuses to vote with his or her own party in a particular division and crosses the floor of the parliamentary chamber.

Floor crossings

In the period of the study there were 14 243 divisions. Of these 439 (3%) were identified as divisions in which members of parliament (MPs) crossed the floor. The floor crossing divisions in each chamber were:

  • Senate: 297 (67.7%)
  • House of Representatives: 141 (32.1%)
  • Joint Sitting: 1 (0.2%)

Floor crossing divisions in the Senate as a proportion of all Senate divisions was 5%. This compares with 2% for the House of Representatives.

Number of floor crossers

Between 1950 and 2004, 245 MPs, (87 senators, 154 members and four who served in both houses) crossed the floor. This represents 24% of all MPs who sat in Parliament during this period. The proportion of floor crossers from the House of Representatives (63%) compared to the Senate (36%) reflects the relative size of these Chambers, although senators were more active dissenters (see table 2). A slightly higher percentage of all senators (26%) crossed the floor compared to members (23%).

In 48% of all floor crossing divisions there was only a single MP who crossed the floor, and in 26% two or three MPs were involved. Only 6% of the divisions had 10 or more floor crossers.

Floor crossers by party

In the period of the study, 63% of floor crossers came from the Liberal Party, 26% from the National Party and 11% from the Labor Party. The small percentage from the Labor Party reflects the party’s particular emphasis on discipline where a formal pledge binds all Labor MPs to support the collective decisions of the Caucus. The last two Labor MPs to cross the floor—Senator George Georges in 1986 and Graeme Campbell MP in 1988—were both suspended from the party for their actions.

Table 3: Current MPs who crossed the floor to August 2004

Name…Floor crossings…Subject

  • Senator Eric Abetz (LP, Tas)…1…human rights (1)
  • Senator Ron Boswell (Nats, Qld)…6…primary industry (2), human rights (1), parliament (1), referendum bills (2)
    Alan Cadman (LP, NSW)…1…referendum bills (1)
  • – Senator Paul Calvert (LP, Tas)…1…human rights (1)
  • – Senator Robert Hill (LP, SA)…10…tax (3), environment, human rights, referendum bills (3), committee referral (2)
  • David Jull (LP, Qld)…2…civil aviation (2)
  • Bob Katter (Nats, Qld, now IND)…9…native title (2), tariffs (1), chamber procedure (5), human rights (1)
  • De-Anne Kelly (Nats, Qld)…3…native title (2), chamber procedure (1)
  • Senator Sandy Macdonald (Nats, NSW)…2…native title (2)
  • Senator Julian McGauran (Nats, Vic)…8…primary industry (4), human rights (1), chamber procedure (1), native title (2)
  • Peter McGauran (Nats, Vic)…1…parliament (1)
  • Paul Neville (Nats, Qld)…1…human rights (1)
  • Phillip Ruddock (LP, NSW)…1…immigration (1)
  • Warren Truss (Nats, Qld)…1…human rights (1)
  • Wilson Tuckey (LP, WA)…4…civil aviation (2), tax (2)
  • Senator Amanda Vanstone (LP, SA)…1…tax (1)
  • Senator John Watson (LP, Tas)…4…environment (1), referendum bills (1), chamber procedure (1), human rights (1)

Subjects on which MPs crossed the floor

MPs crossed the floor over a range of subjects. Taxation was the major issue being the subject of 43 floor crossing divisions. This was followed by legislation on referendums (26), the environment (23), issues relating to the parliament (21), parliamentary entitlements (21), primary industry (19), committee establishment and referral (17), civil aviation (14), electoral law (13) and human rights (12). Table 3 lists the subjects on which current MPs have crossed the floor.

Fate of floor crossers

The act of crossing the floor does not appear to have adversely affected many floor crossers’ careers. The number of floor crossers who went on to become ministers, parliamentary secretaries or presiding officers is substantial (43%) compared to the number of all MPs who attained such office (30%). Among the current MPs who have crossed the floor 12 became ministers or parliamentary secretaries (Abetz, Boswell, Cadman, Hill, Jull, Kelly, Macdonald, P. McGauran, Ruddock, Truss, Tuckey and Vanstone) and one became a presiding officer (Calvert).

Many MPs, such as Reg Wright and Graeme Campbell, have survived floor crossing because of the support of their state or local branches. Fred Chaney observed that he ‘very seldom saw anyone cross the floor against the wishes of their endorsing body’.10 David Hamer, senator in the Fraser Government, wrote that:

“… none of the cross voters was penalised by loss of selection as the Liberal candidate in the next election. … in some cases their position was strengthened, for they were representing the views of the party organisations in their states, which were opposed to what the federal government was proposing.”

Northern Territory Senator Grant Tambling encountered the power of the Country Liberal Party when he defied the Party’s instruction to cross the floor on the question of internet gambling. Tambling voted with the government to impose restrictions on online gambling. In September 2001 Tambling failed to regain preselection after the ‘party’s executive [had] disendorsed the government frontbencher in July’.

Some high profile floor crossers have suffered as a result of their actions. Unlike Senator Reg Wright who became a minister in the Gorton and McMahon governments, Senator Ian Wood never achieved his long-standing ambition to become President of the Senate.13 Senator Alan Missen was never included on the Liberal frontbench. Some of his colleagues apparently believed that, apart from his independence which was characterised by numerous floor crossings, he would not have been able to make the compromises required of ministers and shadow ministers.

Crossing the floor and party discipline

Crossing the floor is one indicator of party discipline. As stated above the study shows that discipline is stronger in the Labor Party than the Coalition parties. Whether Labor was in government or not, its MPs crossed the floor on only 18 occasions. This is many fewer than Coalition MPs who crossed the floor on 427 occasions.15 Coalition MPs were much more likely to cross the floor when they were in Government (4%) than when in Opposition (1%), whereas there was no difference for Labor.

The Liberal Prime Minister subjected to the most floor crossings was Harold Holt (11% of all divisions had floor crossers) followed by PMs John Gorton (7%), Malcolm Fraser (6%) and Robert Menzies (5%). John Howard has had MPs cross the floor in 9 divisions (0.3%). These involved Queensland Nationals members De-Anne Kelly, Bob Katter (now IND) and Paul Marek and Queensland Liberal member Tony Smith.

In Opposition, Liberal leaders Andrew Peacock (two periods as leader: 3.1% and 2.3%) and Alexander Downer (1.3%) experienced the most floor crossings. The figures for Billy Snedden, Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson were 0.8%, 0.4% and 0.4% respectively. John Howard, on the two occasions he was Opposition Leader, experienced floor crossings in only 7 divisions (0.6%) on the first occasion and none at all on the second occasion.

The attitude of Coalition MPs towards dissent has not appeared to change markedly since Robert Menzies established the modern Liberal Party in 1944. Current Coalition MPs still argue that, in certain circumstances, they are entitled to cross the floor.16 However, the figures above confirm that ‘the modern Liberal Party just as much as Labor, comes down very hard on dissent’.

Effect of floor crossing

Floor crossing affected the result of floor crossing divisions in only 53 (12%) of cases. The vast majority of these occurred in the Senate 48 (91%) compared to five (9%) in the House of Representatives. The successful floor crossing divisions in the House of Representatives all occurred between 1952 and 1955. The last successful division in the Senate involved Nationals senators crossing the floor to vote with the Labor Government on the Representation Bill 1983. This bill sought to increase the number of MPs in Parliament.

The study considered the effect of crossing the floor on the final outcome of bills, amendments to bills, regulations and substantive motions. The study does not include the final effect on procedural matters. These findings show that the practical effect of crossing the floor is much less important than the symbolic impact. At the final stage of the legislative process the influence of floor crossers has been seen only in the Senate.

As a direct result of their actions:

  • two Bills became Acts: Representation Bill 1983 and ACT Evidence (Temporary Provisions) Bill 1971
  • 14 amendments supported or moved by floor crossers were included in Bills that became Acts
  • two amendments supported or moved by floor crossers were partially successful
  • four disallowance motions on regulations or ordinances supported or moved by floor crossers were successful
  • four motions relating to the establishment of Senate committees were successful.

No current MPs were involved in these divisions.


This study shows that since 1950 there have been periods of frequent dissent in the federal parliament contradicting the belief that ‘actual defection is rarely, if ever, observed’.18 The study also shows that, despite the frequency of floor crossing, the effect of this action still remains largely symbolic.

The study found that when a Coalition government controls the Senate instances of crossing the floor increase. In the 41st Parliament it will, therefore, be interesting to see whether this trend continues or whether party discipline is maintained and Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson’s view reflects the events of the next two years:

… [I] have always been a passionate believer in the sanctity of the party room … I am just so passionately and vehemently opposed to the option of crossing the floor. I actually think it’s gutless … you [are] there as part of a team.

… Note: Some table data has been excluded from the information above – to view the full paper please use this link.

This data is up to 2004 and it has been advised that the Parliamentary Library has kept the data feed up to date.   Aa updated version will be made available at some point in the future. A source has been helpful in advising were recent data can be found – in particular since the 2010 minority Government came to power.

It is worth noting that the current Minority Government is where any crossing of the floor would have had a serious impact on the Government – all previous crossings in the Federal Senate and the House of Representatives had no impact or outcome to any Government Legislation – please note the quote from the research paper above:

…The successful floor crossing divisions in the House of Representatives all occurred between 1952 and 1955. The last successful division in the Senate involved Nationals senators crossing the floor to vote with the Labor Government on the Representation Bill 1983. This bill sought to increase the number of MPs in Parliament.

Therefore it is a fair question to ask:  when MP’s in the House ‘cross the floor’ when there is no risk to Government or of a Party sanction – does that mean that MP’s are truly voting their conscience and own beliefs?

The flip question is: when there are risk’s involved – i.e. the current minority Government where crossing the floor by any Member of the Government could have significant and dire consequences for the Government and its Leader – why do Members not follow their conscience and cross the floor to vote against or for a Bill they believe in or their conscience tells them to?

The example of this of course in in the debate that took place last week on the Oakeshott Bill concerning Immigration and Asylum Seekers when Opposition Immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison proposed his Amendment Bill that was finally defeated 73-72 with the GREENS Member Adam Bandt abstaining.

Please look at the data reflection all the ‘floor crossings since this 2010 minority Government was formed below:

  1. 22 Feb 2011 – ALP – HR – Natasha Griggs (CLP, NT) – No 68-6 – She voted with Independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt (AG) and Tony Crook (Nats) against the second reading stage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010. The Bill passed the second reading stage.There was no division at the third reading stage.During the second reading debate the shadow minister for Energy and Resources, Ian Macfarlane , stated that ‘the coalition will support this bill. This is one of the few good pieces of legislation we have seen come into this House in recent times’. The Opposition abstained from the vote at the second reading stage except for Tony Smith (Lib, Vic) who voted with the Government and Natasha Griggs. AAP News reported that Mr Macfarlane’s ‘spokeswoman said the opposition abstained in the vote because “it was up to the government to get the numbers”’.On 21 February 2011 – Adam Bandt (Vic, AG) moved an amendment at the second reading stage. The amendment which was supported by Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie and Tony Windsor was defeated 57-5. The Opposition (including Natasha Griggs) abstained from this vote except for Patrick Secker (opposition whip, Lib, SA) and Sussan Ley (Lib, NSW) who voted with the Government.
  2. 28 Jun 2012 ALP HR – Judi Moylan (LP, WA) – No Minority votes only recorded– She voted with Independent Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt (AG) in support of two amendments moved by Bandt to the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012. The amendments were defeated. [The Opposition voted with the Government on the Bill]Note: As there were fewer than five members voting aye the Deputy Speaker declared the question resolved in the negative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of members who were in the minority were recorded in Votes and Proceedings.
  3. 28 Jun 2012 ALP – HR – Judi Moylan (LP, WA) – No Minority votes only recorded –  She voted with Independent Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt (AG) against the motion that the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012 be agreed to. The question was resolved in the affirmative. [The Opposition voted with the Government on the Bill]Note: the Bill passed the second and third reading stages without division.
    Note: As there were fewer than five members voting aye the Deputy Speaker declared the question resolved in the negative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of members who were in the minority were recorded in Votes and Proceedings.

There is clear evidence in the research paper that the ALP do not allow crossings – they are viewed dimly and dis-endorsement would be the sanction if it did happen. See research comments from above:

…Crossing the floor is one indicator of party discipline. As stated above the study shows that discipline is stronger in the Labor Party than the Coalition parties. Whether Labor was in government or not, its MPs crossed the floor on only 18 occasions. This is many fewer than Coalition MPs who crossed the floor on 427 occasions.15 Coalition MPs were much more likely to cross the floor when they were in Government (4%) than when in Opposition (1%), whereas there was no difference for Labor.

In the research data to 2004 – and of Members who were still sitting at the time – no Labour Member had crossed the floor.

For RUDD to have crossed the floor last week and voted for the Morrison bill – it would have been monumental in Labour land.

Perhaps that is what is necessary to extract from this Government some recogniseable accountability in how the Labour Party hold their MP’s in tow and follow the Party Line.

There were plenty of Labour MP’s who did not support the Government Bill put up through Oakeshott – yet no Labour MP’s or Independent broke ranks. These recent boat tragedies, the many before and the many still to come demanded action.  To data more than 800 lives have been lost.   For this House to break without a resolution to this urgent problem is unforgiveable and demonstrates where the Governments priorities lie.

It is easy to blame Gillard – but she is only the bun part of the hamburger – the Greens got their Carbon Tax price for getting into bed with Gillard to form this minority Government – and now it seems that it plans to grow its strength by opposing the Government on this issue as support for Gillard flounders.

If RUDD had of wanted he could have made the difference in the House – there was still the question as to whether the ALP Senators would have supported the Bill with the Morrison Amendment attached.   But by then RUDD would have sent the message – and if the Government voted against the Bill in the Senate – then all sorts of things would and might have happened.

The media would have been on it like flys on dung – Gillard’s support would have evaporated in the caucus and galvanised behind RUDD for showing Leadership in a time of crisis – it would have been Churchill like.

Instead – the public are in open outcry – the Government and Opposition have retreated to their Hitler Bunkers – Gillard has thrown a bone in the form of a Labour stacked Committee chasing paid for recommendations that Gillard can bring back to the House.  She is an absolute twit if she thinks she is fooling anybody – she did the same on the Garnaut Climate Change Report and the Flannery report on that report … all which netted her the Carbon Tax she had to get through to keep the GREENS on side.

If one was to talk about the moral integrity of this Government – there is none – and as for the presumption of Democracy – if every vote by any MP is not a conscience vote then they have no right to be in Parliament.  The Party side of Politics is ruining our Democracy and every other Democracy around the World. It has come down to the money raised by the Party machine and the allocation of those funds to MP’s who tow the Party line during the course of their tenure.   Break ranks and you’re dis-endorsed.

Here is an interesting point – and raised in the ‘None of the Above Campaign’ submitted to the Joint Standing Committee of Electoral Matters” (JSCEM) after the 2010 election. Click here to download PDF file – please go to page 17 and 18 to see confirmation data presented below.

After the 2010 election, each of the major parties received the following reimbursements from  Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on a vote reimbursement of $2.32291 per vote.

  • The ALP received $20,935,323 payment
  • The Liberal Party received $20,819,820 on the same vote reimbursement – as did
  • The GREENS $7,086,063 –
  • The National Party – $2,461,843,
  • Tony Windsor – $129,099 –
  • Rob Oakeshott – $91,691,
  • Bob Katter – $87,382, and
  • Andrew Wilkie – $31,557.

Yes that’s right – elections are a business income for Political Party’s and Independent candidates who poll above a certain percentage of the vote.   So when early elections are called – Party coffers are replenshied sooner then they should be – all paid for by the taxpayer.

This is why the Government has had compulsory voting – every vote cast to the major parties and Independents earns them $2.32291 and it does mount up as can be seen.

The theory is that it is supposed to cover campaign costs – but in effect the Political Party’s use these funds to plan strategy advertising and attack campaigns against teh other candidates.  It gets them the Members they want elected and there is plenty left over to fund the Party until the next election.   It’s a great business model and all voted in by the very same Members who use these funds to get elected.

In effect the Parties run their media campaigns and spend based on what they expect to receive back from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC)  based on their expected vote count.  The more informal votes the less it costs the AEC.   Addition monies come from Party memberships and political donations – these political donations will be the subject of another story some time soon.

Can you believe it – this is our Democracy at work!

It’s a business first, and then when or who ever wins Government – the gravy ride really starts with all sorts of perks, addition pay for Committee Positions and House titles, overseas ‘fact finding’ trips, electoral office funding and expense accounts, the free Parliament House and Lobbyist lunches, the travel perks as Mr Slipper has been expose and proned to abuse, the retirement packages, and then there is of course the under the table payments that come for Business’ seeking an audience with a Minister and the like.

The Party Fundraisers are also in the mix as well … it really is a house of cards scenario and they all get sucked in and don’t dare blow the whistle on others when the corruption is glaringly exposed – they all now their turn will come as long as they stay Party loyal and don’t cross the floor.

It really is the cesspool of all corruption arrangements and all done in the name of Democracy.


Have your say where it counts: – contact your Local Federal Representative via the links below and let them know how you feel about this, or any other topic that you feel strongly about – or you can just post a comment below and let off some steam.

Link to Previous EYE-BALL Posts.


The EYE-BALL Opinion …

  1. the parable
    July 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Sychophancy in all of its forms is a blight on human morality. There are times of crisis, when yours is not to question why, yours is but to do or die.

    For those of you reaching for a dictionary sychophancy means to brown nose, in the vernacular to arse lick.

    It has many causes, ignorance, apathy, needing to be part of a unit, wanting to be liked and so on.

    Command structures are part of our modern society. The DSM IV profile of the modern organisation is that of a sociopath. Again one without regard to social consequence, in layman’s parlance, a pyschopath.

    Specifically about Kevin Rudd not crossing the floor there are personal observations, which are not worth making. He is paid by the Australian Treasury, but part of the ALP government.

    You can question whether being part of the ALP, is a conflict of interest to being a parliamentary representative. At least 80% of voters believe it is OK. They fleetingly vote for the 2 major parties. You can question whether that is apathy or ignorance?

    Truly lifting the level of debate in parliament is a worthwhile objective. Voting on party lines, does not help. Forcing people to accept party lines is not OK. Consistently Grand standing too is not OK.

    All parliamentarians will tell you they entered politics for altruistic reasons. It is interesting occassionally to read memoirs of how they live with their conscience.

    All you can possibly deduce is that all MHR’s and Senators should take a good long lokk at themselves. How can they accept these evil lack of ethics?

  2. Rookie Bookie
    July 6, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I wonder how many are aware of the betting on the 2013 Federal election. Poignantly LNP is at $1.18 to win the lower house. That means the ALP is less than 20% probability.

    Similarly Oakschott’s chance of retaining Lyne, or Wilkie’s chance of retaining Denison are considered similar. The same does not hold for Windsor in New England, or Katter in Kennedy. They have their own support base, which is hard to measure. Adam Brandt and other Green considerations are not really mainstream. It is generally accepted that in the tidal wave, this entire government will be washed away.

    Considering what happened in NSW state, and Qld state elections seats that have never ever been held by the conservatives, like Kingsford Smith or Grayndler could swing. Something has simply got to give.

  3. Gerry Hatrick
    July 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Simply try sending your concerns to a parliamentarian. They simply don’t listen. They are so disconnected that they want to thank you for your support and tell you what they think. Real complaints are simply ignored.

    As Herman wrote earlier this week we have an ALP Prime Minister who wants to cajole big business and cut corporate tax, while Rome is burning. Totally detached from the little aussie battler.

    The wierdest part is that the solution lies in supporting a return to the conservative opposition. Australia is simply screaming out for an alternative. Opinion polls do not support Tony Abbott either.

  4. pissed off swinger
    July 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Thank you gentleman, thank you one and all.

  5. britanay-chapman
    July 6, 2012 at 11:16 am

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  6. July 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    There is so much more – it is possible to stop the taxpayer funded AEC payments to teh major parties if everybody voted informal. Each informal vote reduces the AEC liability by $2.32 – and that is less for the Politicla Parties to spend to get themselves elected.

    A flip side – let us say that the major parties spend there normal expected AEC refund before the election as they usually do – and then the Australian Electorate abstained and voted informal – it is possible for the major parties to them be in a bankrupt situation … it’s a theory and worth further investigation.

    It is outrageous that this AEC refund policy and its legislation is in the hands of the major parties – has been since Federation. The ‘conflict of interest’ scenario this measures up against is larger than ‘insider trading’ type criminal activity.

    Eye-Ball’s – None of the Above Campaign.

  7. July 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    The “None of the Above” campaign has been officially launched and aimed at the 2013 Australian Federal Election. See its ‘Front Page’ for information and updates using this link:


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