Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One Biased Guide to the Victorian Senate Election

When Australians vote at their federal polls in a few weeks time they will face a bewildering amount of choice. Particularly in the Senate, many minor parties and independents that no-one will have heard of before will be listed. In Victoria, my home state and senate electorate, there are ninety seven candidates vying for six senate seats.

Voters can register a legal vote by numbering in order of their preference every individual box below the line on the senate ballot paper. Voters can also choose to register a legal vote by putting a one in a single box above the line next to a grouping’s name, usually a political party. If they do it’s as if their ballot below the line is filled out automatically according to the grouping’s preference ticket.  These preference tickets are made available online by the Australian Electoral Commission. Not every candidate has a box above the line. Some have missed the deadline to submit their preference ticket to the commission.

With ninety seven boxes to number this year I began to worry that I will stuff up my usual voting below the line by listing two people with the same number. That wouldn't actually render my vote invalid as I first thought;
“The act and the ballot paper instructions state that a below the line vote must have preferences for all candidates, but there are a couple of savings provisions. You only have to fill in 90% of squares, which in NSW means 99 preferences, and your vote will be able to survive up to three preference breaks, that is duplicated or missed numbers.” – From Anthony Green’s election blog.

Voting below the line also got easier with this great online tool.You can basically construct your own how-to-vote card before the day.

I still might vote above the line this year though. There’s the benefit (or curse) of letting a party research where my preferences go. I can also check what any above the line grouping will do by checking their preference ticket online. Groups with more than one preference ticket will be splitting their above the line votes between each ticket sending equal portions one way or the other.

For the benefit of people still trying to decide their votes and because it’s interesting to see who is really aligned with who despite the rhetoric I've tried to give a break down of each of the Senate groupings and their preference tickets. To do that I've reduced each preference ticket to five parties that I think could reasonably be the destinations for all the preferences from all the other minor parties.

Of course it’s impossible to absolutely say who will win an election before it’s held. However it’s reasonably possible to predict a party’s chance of gaining one or more seats based on recent history. It’s hugely unlikely that a senate seat will go to anyone other than a member of the Liberal/National Party coalition, the Labor Party, the Greens, Family First, or the Australian Democrats. In fact it’s unlikely to be any more than one Victorian senate seat that doesn't go to Labor or Liberal and probable that none will. That means we can estimate that votes for any party will end up here.

This is a particularly dangerous year to make this kind of estimation because there are some brand new parties contesting. Wikileaks, Katter’s Australia Party and Clive Palmer’s vanity project are brand new contenders. I’m taking an educated punt that they won’t be winning a single seat in Victoria at least. (Katter and even Clive Palmer have bigger followings in Queensland). If I could have one wish it would be that we don’t wake up to a surprise win on preferences for some pure racist party like One Nation. Fortunately no-one is predicting this.

So without further ado here are the groups and the flow of their preferences in the order (pretty much) that they appear on the ballot. 

Rise Up Australia
Why are anti-multicultural groups also consistently climate change denying? That’s just one question raised by a party that in its “manifesto” states that our country is founded on both the Ten Commandments and freedom of religion. Do they not know that the first of the Ten Commandments is to worship no other gods but Yahweh?

By freedom of religion Rise Up Australia does not mean freedom to wear the Burka. That is number one of the religious freedoms they do not mean as it is actually their first policy to ban it. Interestingly they describe climate change as a quasi-religious claim but this is insufficient to base government policy on. I presume only fully religious claims will do.

This party has the good fortune of being first on the ballot paper. That alone might net them some accidental votes. Their party song failed to move me.

Votes above the line here will flow;
1. Family First 2. Liberal 3. Democrats 4. Labor 5. Greens

Senator Online (Internet Voting Bills/Issues)
Here is a party with pretty much no policies. To be fair they can’t really have any. This is because they propose that any of their successful candidates will follow the majority vote of the general public via online voting.

Is that a good thing? Indicate yes or no in the comments below.

How on earth did they decide how to allocate preferences?;
1. Family First 2. Australian Democrats 3. Greens 4. Labor 5. Liberal

Liberal/ Nationals
If you squint they look a lot like Labor. That’s what Thatcher looked like before she was elected too. Or Joe Hockey the last time. Or that German Charlie Chaplin who wasn’t funny. You only think you can estimate the range they can possibly destroy. Imagine something totally evil like Native Title overridden in a northern economic tax-free zone for mining interests or Little Ted, homeless and forced to perform tricks for bucks and these people have imagined it too with a chardonnay in hand and laughing.

Oh God, they are going to win aren’t they?

For some reason the Liberal National Coalition have two preference tickets. Both follow the same path;
1. Liberal/National 2. Family First 3. Australian Democrats 4. Labor 5. Greens

HEMP (Help End Marihuana Prohibition Party)
From their website “Our sole purpose is to agitate for the re-legalisation of Cannabis for personal, medical and industrial use.” and that it seems to be.

The prospect of a Liberal victory sure makes this party much more attractive. I even find their unwillingness to be distracted by any other legislative concern admirable. It’s like when you can’t find any papers at the party and someone tries to talk to you about the music that’s playing.

What is annoying is that they have three preference tickets. Two of them have:
1. Australian Democrats 2. Labor 3. Greens 4. Family First 5. Liberal

One of them has the Greens before Labor:
1. Australian Democrats 2. Greens 3. Labor 4. Family First 5. Liberal

Family First
One of the few parties that put house-affordability and work-life balance on the agenda. I want to go to church with them for that. Then they drop the ball with climate change denial and support of a voucher system that will undermine public education. That house you can afford will be on a sinking island of your separatist subculture.

This may be a party particularly attractive to young earth creationists who will appreciate not having to teach their kids about the devils science but don’t underestimate their support. Family First is arguably the fourth or fifth (or sixth if you count National and Liberal separately) choice in Australian politics. As we will see that’s out of a squillion.

Voting above the line here will probably result in a vote for the Liberals;
1. Family First 2. Australian Democrats 3. Liberal 4. Labor 5. Greens

Country Alliance / Shooters and Fishers / Australian Fishing Lifestyle
Country and Alliance; only the Country Fresh Alliance could possibly be more attractive at first glance. But don’t be fooled, this is not the voice of all rural people but a movement who have drawn a sharp line of division in their communities.

Along with the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Australian Fishing Lifestyle Party the Country Alliance aim to defend the right to fish, hunt and drive motorized vehicles through the bush. The AFLP call them “Lifestyle rights”. These rights are supposedly under threat by the Greens and Greened Labor (rather than actual overuse) who it’s claimed are locking up the environment through native land and marine parks based on bad science.

These Lifestyle rights parties are not insignificant when it comes to mobilizing and that’s a real problem for the Greens in the country. I’ve never handed out how to vote cards without one of these parties being represented alongside me as well. Even when they don’t win votes they shape hearts and minds to be suspicious of “urban” greenies.

I can’t help but feel that this is a conflict that will only get worse as our regional populations grow. I find that a shame as a greenie voter who appreciates the hunter and fisher’s sense of independence and history to their craft. That said I worry these parties are potentially manipulated by big industry and developers. And what kind of a sport is four -wheel driving seriously?

Each of these parties differs on their other policies, a little. But their publicity all sounds very similar and they all hate the Greens.

Country Alliance send their preferences;
1. Liberal 2. Labor  3. Family First  4. Australian Democrats 5. Greens

The Shooters and Fishers Party and The Australian Fishing Lifestyle Party both send their preferences along the following route;
1. Family First  2. Australian Democrats 3. Liberal 4. Labor 5. Greens

Australian Voice Party / Building Australian Party.

Why was the question I couldn’t stop asking when reading about these parties.

The Australia Voice Party’s largest policy area is its own party’s structure. The Building Australia Party “has grown out of discontent from within the building industry and the building design profession” according to their website. Really? Do we all need our own parties by profession now?

You can read either party’s policies for a handy sopoforic effect. These groups may be a way of doing politics differently – outside the usual paradigms of left and right – as both suggest but they will need some copywriters if they are going to be successful. Unfortunately those people have all joined the Copywriters party.

One positive; don’t let the Australia in their name fool you. There’s no evident racism or cultural conservatism in these groups.

If you are into Building Australia your preferences will flow as follows;
1. Australian Democrats 2. Family First  3. Liberal 4. Labor 5. Greens

If you want to raise an Australian Voice;
1. Family First  2. Australian Democrats 3. Liberal 4. Labor 5. Greens

The Secular Party of Australia
Does what it says on the tin I guess. This might gain some votes from people annoyed at the chaplaincy program in state schools where convoluted hiring processes enable anti-discrimination laws to be evaded. With their support for the removal of religious exemptions to the tax act they are also probably the party whose policies will most balance the budget. Sure it’s not enough policies to govern as a major party but then this is always going to be a protest vote.

What such a protest vote does next is;
1. Australian Democrats 2. Greens  3. Labor 4. Liberal 5. Family First.

The No Carbon Tax Climate Change Skeptics Party
Backed up by no less that six peer reviewed scientific papers (according to their website) here is the worlds’ first party for truth in science. Beyond that issue they just want government to get off our backs and let us make some mon-hay while the sun shines on with no significant increase in intensity.

Strange that they preference Labor before Liberal;
1. Family First  2. Australian Democrats 3. Labor 4. Liberal 5. Greens

The Stable Population Party

The Stable Population Party has three separate group voting tickets and I’m just not going through them all. Here’s a conversation starter for your next social mixer though; Should child benefits only be paid for the first two children of each mother?

Smokers Rights Party
 Of their policies only one actually might benefit smokers (lower prices) while the rest simply helped new smokers get recruited (relaxed advertising restrictions). I call bullshit, Smokers Rights, and if you don’t like it I will run up a hill away from you. 

They don’t even have a ticket so I didn’t actually have to review them. Crap. Bed time, I'm done.

The Australian Independents
This might be the only party to actually say upfront that they will ban the sale of puppies from pet stores. (Justice for Animals, I will get to you in my next post.) Braving the under five backlash, this is one of a raft of bold but sensible policies.

Sure singling out specifically Christian welfare agencies as deserving of increased funding is odd and I’m no fan of their off-shore processing policy but they do want a significant increase to our refugee intake. Furthermore they prioritize homelessness and mental health. We could do a lot worse.

Just when you think we’ve done every possible combination;
1. Family First 2. Australian Democrats 3. Greens  4. Labor 5. Liberal.

Bank Reform
Not only Banks but the supermarket and legal oligarchies are in this parties sights. Competition is their goal and they aim to pursue it from the government. Irony aside they have some good arguments that we can regulate against market concentration whereas at the moment we regulate for it in some sectors.

In my own opinion if peer to peer borrowing and crowd sourcing took off we wouldn’t need to care about reforming the big banks. Given that’s years off making a difference maybe the Bank Reform party has a purpose. On the other hand the Bank Reform party is many more years off making a difference so you do the math.

Not sure what they have against the Greens;
1. Family First 2. Australian Democrats 3. Labor 4. Liberal. 5. Greens

The Greens
The Greens are equal parts evil and incompetence if you believe many other parties. There’s even one called Stop the Greens whose policy is self-evident. As a participant in their pagan canabilistic orgies however I’ve found them to be generally integritous and thoughtful.

The Greens are really the champions of a certain economic philosophy. This is the philosophy that supports subjecting economic activity to social and environmental assessment. It was ultimately a deal to govern struck with the Greens that forced Gillard’s Labor to introduce a carbon tax.

The Greens don’t view all economic activity as equal. Instead they do what makes traditional economists squirm. They “pick winners and losers” in the marketplace like fresh food over potato chips, clean energy over coal and fair trade over free trade. They then reflect that with taxation and subsidies from government.

That’s not all the Greens are about. With the demise of the Australian Democrats they have taken over the role of the progressive and humanitarian party. If you draw a spectrum of views on issues like marriage reform, access to abortion, foreign Aid levels and our response to refugees the Greens are on one side, Liberals on the other and Labor is in the middle. This makes life hard for those conservative Christians who despite opposing marriage law reform and reproductive freedoms want to see a Green party response to Foreign Aid and Refugees.

The Greens have had my first preference for years. This year I’m tempted to give it to a smaller party so long as I know it will flow to the Greens before any other possibly successful candidates. The reason for my change is that the Greens are sounding too much like a proper political party lately even putting spin on negative polls. It was always their straight talk through the bullshit that I admired most of all.

Here’s where the Greens send their polyamourous love;
1. Greens 2. Australian Democrats 3. Labor 4. Family First 5. Liberal

This is the first page of the preference tickets. There’s another page and twelve more groups to discuss. That will be the next installment of  One Biased Guide to the Victorian Senate Election.

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