The Queensland government denies it has broken an election promise to be consultative by rushing through the reintroduction of compulsory preferential voting.
The government on Thursday evening responded to a Liberal National Party (LNP) bill to increase the number of seats in Queensland’s parliament, set to pass with crossbench support, by adding an amendment that further overhauled the state’s voting system.
Left with just 18 minutes notice, the opposition was out-foxed and forced to vote against its own bill, which subsequently passed.
It undid a two decades old reform that was recommended in the wake of the Fitzgerald inquiry.
Parties have been able to run “just vote one” strategies under the optional preferential voting system, which has since 1992 let voters mark one or all of the boxes on the ballot paper.
Some predictions suggest Labor would have won up to nine more seats under the compulsory system.
Leader of the House Stirling Hinchliffe said the change would deliver consistency between state and federal elections.
He said the LNP allowed electoral matters to be discussed when it pushed for a debate on having more seats in parliament.
“Compulsory preferential voting … has been a matter that has been broadly discussed in Queensland for a number of years,” he said.
“We’ve been able to deal with it because the door was open.”
Asked whether he thought Labor had broken its promise to be a consultative government, he replied: “No I don’t.”
Mr Hinchliffe added: “We are a government that is out there and engaged with the community on a whole range of topics and issues – far more consultative, in every way, than the former government.”
LNP leader Lawrence Springborg vowed to repeal the change.
He accused the government of “tearing up” the principles set in place by the Fitzgerald inquiry, which recommended optional preferential voting.
“If this was such a good idea, why wasn’t it taken to the people of Queensland and referenced to them by the normal parliamentary committee process,” he said.
Mr Hinchliffe argued “just vote one” strategies alienated and disenfranchised some voters.