Australian senator stumps for STV
Bob Brown likes system that has been used in his country since 1949

By Laura Walz
Published April 13th 2005 in The Peak

Any kind of proportional representation is far superior to the single member electorate system, according to Australian Senator Bob Brown.

"Every system has its faults, but no system is as faulty as single member electorate," said Brown during a speech in Powell River on April 5. "Any change toward proportional representation is better. But from my point of view, STV (single transferable vote) is a wonderful system."

Brown, famous for booing United States President George W. Bush when he addressed the Australian Parliament in 2003, was on a three-city tour in BC in support of Green Party leader and candidate in the Powell River-Sunshine Coasting riding Adriane Carr. About 140 attended his speech in the Evergreen Theatre at the Powell River Recreation Complex.

Brown was a family doctor in Australia when he became involved in a campaign to stop the construction of a dam on the Franklin River. That work led to his arrest, along with other protestors, and a decision to run as a Green Party candidate in Tasmania.

He was elected as the first, and only, Green Party MLA in Australia. He has been elected twice to the Tasmanian state House of Assembly and twice to the national Senate.

BC voters have an opportunity to vote on STV in the May 17 provincial election. It is the system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Australia has had STV since 1949 and Tasmania since 1909. "The people love it," said Brown. "They love it because of its complexity, because it is extraordinarily fair and exquisitely complex."

With STV, if a party wins 10 per cent of the vote, it is likely to win 10 per cent of the seats in the parliament, Brown said. Or if a party wins 42 per cent of the vote, it likely will have 41, 42 or 43 per cent of the seats. "The parliament mirrors the vote of the people."

As well, the system allows people to reward strong representatives with re-election and get rid of poor performers.

Brown pointed out if STV had been in place for the 2001 election, Carr, who garnered 27 per cent of the vote in the Powell River-Sunshine Coast riding, would have been elected.

He also said if Carr were to be elected this year, it would be a global breakthrough and would make headlines worldwide. "Don't let anybody say to you that voting Green is a wasted vote," said Brown. "The reality of victory is sitting there in front of the voters of this riding. It's an extraordinarily exciting opportunity."

Carr admitted she was initially disappointed with the STV choice, because she had worked for so many years to garner support for a mixed-member proportional system. "But I'm beyond that," she said. "STV is on the ballot and STV is what we need to learn about and vote on May 17."

Carr also announced Colleen McCrory, Green Party candidate for Nelson-Creston in 2001 and former chairwoman of the party, will be working on Carr's campaign full-time.

McCrory, who won the Goldman Environmental Prize for outstanding grassroots environmental initiatives in 1992, will be working for most of the time in Powell River.

"This is going to be a treat," McCrory told The Peak. "It's absolutely gorgeous here. I'm looking forward to getting to know this community."