Senate Passes Voting Reform After Marathon Sitting

18/03/2016 7:20 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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After a marathon sitting, the Senate finally passed the voting reform bill on Friday afternoon, which kept sleepless Senators on the go for more than 28 hours.

But the red carpet was far from glamorous, with pyjamas, irons and a bum vs bottom debate making appearances as the Australian Senate remained in session overnight, as Labor and independent senators tried to delay a vote on the reform bill which effectively reduces the chances of members from microparties being elected.

In what was the third longest sitting to pass a bill in Australia's political history, the voting reform bill was passed at about 1:30pm on Friday.

The coalition, the Greens and independent Senator Nick Xenophon all voted in favour of Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill, winning 36 votes to 23 votes.

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill allows voters to number six boxes above the line on a senate ballot paper in order to allocate their own preferences, effectively replacing the complex preference swaps that go on among the small parties.

Labor and most crossbench senators argued the reform will stymie minor parties and independents from being elected in the future.

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the voting reform, told reporters on Friday afternoon voters shouldn't be discouraged to vote for minor parties and independents.

"We have a very good chance of winning seats again. We are very sorry that brand-new minor parties are going to struggle to get started. That is our chief complaint, as a matter of fact," Leyonhjelm said.

"There's a very good chance that Bob and I will survive, either in a double dissolution or even a half-Senate."

The number of micro parties has been trending upwards since the 1980s and the bill will arrest the three-decade shift.

And the #SenateSleepover was far from dry. As these elected representatives tried to keep themselves awake, there were some zingers from the floor. Even if Labor did appear to run out of fresh material and circle back to mocking Greens' leader Richard Di Natale's choice of fashion for a recent magazine cover.

Perhaps not GQ-worthy, but South Australia's Nick Xenophon dressed the part.

Speaking after the voting reform bill was passed, the Independent Senator told the ABC he change into bedtime attire for more than comfort in the early hours of Friday morning.

"I was told polite but gently that I should perhaps get out of the chamber and change back into my suit. But I wanted to make a point. I just wonder whether the marathon session was necessary," Xenophon said.

"When Senator Glenn Searle, the Labor Senator from WA, who is a terrific bloke, when he starts talking about his colonoscopy in the context of this legislation you know the debate's literally hit rock bottom.

"There's never been a more exciting time to be a crossbench senator."

While Education Minister Simon Birmingham tried to keep himself pretty throughout the marathon sitting.

At one point in the overnight talk-fest, Labor's Glenn Sterle linked the debate with his experience having a colonoscopy...

"I am seeing in my mind something similar to a colonoscopy. I've sat here patiently since 2:30 this morning. Haven't opened my mouth or said a word."

On the same posterior theme, Labor's Doug Cameron tuned Monty Python with the line, "I fart in your general direction".

This was after the great "bum vs bottom" debate of Thursday.

Labor's Deborah O'Neill went into some detail on the origin of the word 'filibuster', from the Spanish, derived from the Dutch 'vrijbuite' -- which means pirate or privateer.

Meanwhile, Labor's Sam Dastyari kept an eagle eye on attendance in the galleries throughout.

But the win has to go to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who kept his chill throughout the sitting.

For more on what it all means read our handy explainer to the voting reform changes.

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