Acting Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers and state manager and Australian electoral officer for Western Australia Paul Kramer at a Senate hearing into the last election. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The Senate results in the 2013 federal election were not a true reflection of the intent of Australian voters, polling expert Antony Green has told an inquiry.
While the High Court is yet to make a decision on whether a new Senate election will be held in Western Australia after more than 1300 votes were lost, new senators expected to take their place on July 1 include Motoring Enthusiasts Party's Ricky Muir, a Liberal Democrat, two senators from Clive Palmer's Palmer United Party and potentially a representative from the Australian Sports Party.
"I don't think that the voters expressed a will to elect the Motoring Enthusiasts Party and the Sports Party," Mr Green told the joint standing committee on electoral matters, which is investigating the Australian Electoral Commission's handling of the September election.
The new senators, which include the inexperienced Mr Muir – who is best known for an online video in which he engages in a backyard kangaroo poo fight – were not appropriately "trained" for the job, Mr Green added.
An election campaign should ideally be a "training ground" that would produce senators who had the skills to negotiate legislation and represent the public.
That was plainly not occurring, said Mr Green, who appeared to take a swipe at so-called "preference whisperer" Glenn Druery – a consultant who engineered a complex series of preference swaps between micro parties that resulted in the election of candidates who secured only a small percentage of the vote before preferences were distributed.
The current system allowed putative senators to "engage in cabals" and cut "strange deals" rather than talk directly to the Australian public, Mr Green added.
But despite widespread calls to replace paper voting with an online ballot, the polling expert said he did not believe the Australian electoral system was ready for electronic voting.
Mr Green said this remained his view despite the recent debacle in Western Australia which saw more than 1300 votes being lost in the WA Senate election, leading for calls for a fresh election.
The High Court is set to make a decision within weeks on whether a fresh WA Senate election should be held because of the lost votes.
"If we can lose a couple of hundred ballot papers, what would you do if somebody lost a thumbdrive?" Mr Green told the inquiry on Friday morning.
Mr Green's contribution follows heated criticisms of the AEC in Thursday's session of the inquiry.
On Thursday, the inquiry heard the missing votes for the WA Senate may not have been lost if the AEC had heeded warnings about problems with its systems.
Liberal Senator Helen Kroger likened the AEC to a football team that wins the wooden spoon every year but never sacks its coach - a charge AEC officials denied.
Auditor-General Ian McPhee told the Senate inquiry his office had conducted a comprehensive audit of the AEC's processes at the 2007 election which raised concerns about staff recruitment, the transportation of ballot boxes and the breaking of ballot box seals without witnesses.
''There were signs here that, on the face of it, don't seem to have been addressed and that does not reflect well on the governance and management within the AEC,'' Mr McPhee said on Thursday.
While the AEC accepted all the Australian National Audit Office's recommendations, Mr McPhee said he was concerned they may not all have been implemented.
Mr McPhee said cultural change at the AEC was ''absolutely essential'' for the organisation to improve.
Australian National Audit Office officer Brian Boyd agreed with committee chairman Tony Smith that the AEC had missed crucial warning signs – including the mishandling of ballot papers at the 2010 election that saw 4283 votes excluded in the seats of Boothby and Flynn.
Mr Boyd said the AEC has a strong corporate memory but would benefit from being more open to new ideas.
The committee also heard that 60 per cent of election officials in WA at the last election were doing the job for the first time.
Acting electoral commissioner Tom Rogers agreed with Mr Smith that the case of the lost WA ballots was the greatest failure in the AEC's history, but he said he was surprised by the auditor-general's criticisms. The audit office had not raised any concerns with the AEC over recent years, Mr Rogers said.
Mr Rogers told the inquiry the AEC has a strong record and reputation, but that he could not guarantee errors will not occur."We've taken significant steps ... (but) it doesn't mean the steps we take will prevent a recurrence of that issue," he said.
An inquiry last year by former federal police chief Mick Keelty found that ballot papers had been discovered in rubbish piles and ballot boxes had been unsealed without proper authority. Mr Keelty concluded the reason the ballot papers were lost will probably never be known.