Court rejects shonky PSU electoral system


By Chris Slee
MELBOURNE — The Industrial Relations Court has overturned the results of the election for the Victorian branch executive of the Public Sector Union held in early 1994. A new election has been ordered, though the timing remains undecided. This legal victory overturns an oppressive rule which limited the ability of ordinary members to nominate for the branch executive.
Tony Longland, who initiated the court challenge, first stood for the branch executive at the end of 1993. There were four positions available. At the close of counting Longland was in fifth posi-ion, 60 votes behind the fourth placed candidate. However, it was soon discovered that nearly 1000 members had missed out on an opportunity to vote, and he approached the Industrial Relations Court to seek a fresh election.
The union officials, seeing the writing on the wall, quickly supported the call for a new election. Their subsequent elector-l material portrayed this as their own idea.
In the second election there was a higher turnout, and Longland ended up in fifth place by about 70 votes. However a close examination of the ballot papers showed an interesting fact. Although he was the second-most-preferred candidate, the PSU system of counting votes rated him fifth overall. This was one of the issues in the second court challenge.
It was shown in court that Longland could have received 79% of the first-preference votes and still not have been elected. This was because anyone who wanted to vote for him had to give three votes of equal value to his opponents.
When combined with the PSU's eligibility rules which allowed only branch conference delegates to nominate, making it virtually impossible for him to put a ticket together at that time, he had no hope of winning despite a high level of support.
The question of the voting system remains unresolved. The judge suggested that the two parties meet to try to come to a resolution. State secretary Sue Mountford initially refused to meet Longland, but was forced to agree to a meeting when branch conference directed her to do so.

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