Senators

Senators

The incoming crossbench senators who will decide the fate of the Abbott government's budget have warned of a revolt if changes to the Senate voting system disadvantage minor parties.

A record number of senators from minor and micro parties were elected at the last federal poll, including three from the Palmer United Party, and one each from the Motoring Enthusiast Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and Family First.

They join independent Nick Xenophon and the Democratic Labor Party's John Madigan and, combined, the eight will hold the power to block or support many of the government's key measures as they go through the upper house.

DLP Senator John Madigan and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Potential crossbench revolt: DLP Senator John Madigan and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

But several have warned the government that, if it tries to abolish group voting tickets in Senate elections - a recommendation of a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters - it will poison the relationship with the crossbench.

The JSCEM recommended key amendments, including that only voters, not parties, could allocate Senate preferences.

That would mean people such as Motoring Enthusiast's Ricky Muir, Family First's Bob Day, and the LDP's David Leyonhjelm would be extremely unlikely to be elected in the future.

Mr Leyonhjelm, who is sympathetic to the Coalition's smaller government agenda, warns the suggested reforms would be adopted ''over my dead body''.

And Mr Day said the government would be ''stupid'' to make any changes to the current system. ''The only beneficiaries will be the Greens. Labor and the Liberals would be stupid to do it, they will lock the Greens into the balance of power,'' he said.

And Glenn Druery, speaking forMr Muir, said that, ''if these recommendations are adopted in full, ordinary Australians will never get a guernsey … if there is one thing that will unite the crossbench, it's adopting these changes. It will unleash a storm.''

Group voting tickets allow micro parties to horse trade preferences among each other, boosting their chances of electoral success, despite a tiny first preference vote.

In recent years, aided by experts such as ''preference whisperer'' Mr Druery, the micro parties have become more adept at using the system.

ABC election analyst Antony Green argued that adopting the changes would be a necessary precondition before the Prime Minister Tony Abbott would seek a double dissolution to resolve Senate blockages.

This is because the quota of votes needed to secure a Senate seat is halved in a double dissolution election, meaning micro parties do even better unlesspreference swapping is killed off.

When responding to the report in May, Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson said it provided ''guidance to Government in regards to possible changes to the Senate voting system''.