I’ve always been one of the 4% of voters (Antony Green) who voted “below the line” in the Senate*. Every person who admits to sharing this obscure habit always comes back to one reason, “I wanted to vote [XXX] last”.
So this year, with the release of the Senate ballot paper (NSW here), I thought I’d help my fellow below the line readers (yes all two of you) by researching the minor parties to find out which one deserved my absolute last place vote. It’s always a minor party – most major parties at least do me the service of preselecting relatively normal people who would understand the idea of democracy if they tripped over it (Tony Abbott aside). On the NSW ballot paper, the possibilities are fairly enormous:
- Citizens Electoral Council – included on their platform is the establishment of a national bank which will give loans at less than 2% to “agriculture (family farms), industry and infrastructure development)
- Family First – the only thing I found really objectionable in their platform was opposition to abortion
- Pauline – no kidding, that is the name of the party – she’s got a pretty good brand. Interestingly, her immigration policy is now all about how we let too many muslims into the country. When she was first elected, it was all about too many asians, which just shows you how quickly the bogeyman can change if you’re not paying attention.
- Climate Change Coalition – a very slow website (a bad sign if this party hasn’t got a few geeks on board) with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki second on the ticket
- Socialist Alliance – after reading John Curtin’s biography, I have a soft spot for a party with this name, and they stand for a lot of good things. But reading their platform, it seems a grab bag of fashionable issues, rather than a well thought out social justice agenda (every single environmental issue is a trendy one, for example).
- What Women Want – from the name, I thought it was going to be a right wing party supporting women’s right to stay at home and look after children. But its actually a party founded by a woman who started out as an advocate for better midwife care for women giving birth, and most of its policies are feminist positions I agree with.
- Hear Our Voice – couldn’t find a website for this one, which doesn’t bode well for its ability to follow through on its slogan. I found this launch speech though, which suggests that the founder is one of hte labor party branch hacks who lost out on preselection from the big name candidates who were parachuted in by the party machine. Can’t say I’m that sympathetic.
- Senator on Line – Australia’s only “internet based democratic party”. They will vote in all votes according to what their website tells them the people want. In one sense, it’s good to see people believing in democracy. On the other hand, sometimes politics is about a bit of leadership – these people completely abdicate any responsibility.
- Conservatives for Climate and Environment – this party name suspiciously ticks many boxes in an attempt to maximise the hating the major party vote, but on looking at the website, it seems to be genuinely a freemarketeers response to the reality of climate change. The main platform is a carbon tax, which I wholeheartedly support, and will never get mainstream support from any party.
- DLP (which has two candidates who share a surname, never a good sign) – I can’t really support a party which is mired in 50s sectarian struggle. And an idle read through its policies revealed that the major points on the family involve being anti homosexual marriage and anti the family court. Things like preschool, childcare, stopping child abuse, – anything that actually involves looking after children barely get a mention.
- The Fishing Party – confusingly different from the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle party below (looks like a Queensland vs NSW split from the websites). Both are mainly in existency to support recreational fishers’ rights to fish as much as they like free from interference from the government.
- Christian Democratic Coalition (Fred Nile party) – no kidding, the brackets are on the ballot paper, to maximise brand recognition, even though Fred himself isn’t up for re-election – on first glance this appears moderate by comparison with some of the others, but looking at the detail of the policies, you will find policies like effectively banning immigration from anyone islamic, blaming child abuse on “non traditional families” and the funding of chaplains in all schools
- One Nation (which has two “retired” candidates and one “pensioner” candidate) – a pale shadow of its former self now that Pauline has gone
- Non Custodial Parents Party (equal parenting) – both candidates male, as you would expect from the name, most of the policies are about non custodial fathers needing to have a better chance to maintain contact with their children
- The Australian Shooters Party – as you would expect, their main policy is to make it easier for people to own and use firearms.
- Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party – confusingly different from the Fishing Party above (looks like a Queensland vs NSW split from the websites). Both are mainly in existency to support recreational fishers’ rights to fish as much as they like free from interference from the government.
- Socialist Equality Party – the Australian arm of the world party of socialist revolution (ICFI) which believes that “this [current] eruption of militarism is the expression of a systemic crisis in world politics and economy “
- Carers Alliance – a party supporting carers for people with disabilities, with some fairly bland policies about getting extra support where the major parties have failed.
I found that bit of research fairly depressing, but after actually spending the time looking at the policies, I think my original instinct is confirmed – the Christian Democratic Coalition (Fred Nile) party will be getting last place from me. They’ve got a superficially nice looking front page, with some moderately innocuous (clearly coded, but not extremist) bulleted statements:
The Christian Democratic Party is committed to:
- security for our borders, streets, transport and houses;
- improved quality of family life;
- the protection of children from abuse;
- the promotion of Christian values and ethics;
- the promotion of a just, honest and accountable government;
- support for Christian schools;
- opposition to pornography, gambling and illegal drugs;
- legislation to guard life from all destructive forces.”
But the detail includes some very extraordinarily offensive racist, sexist and homophobic statements that I’m not going to repeat here.
I know full well that this decision will make zero difference to the election result. But it makes me feel better to think that if I accidentally elect a minor party, I will have made some effort to ensure that I’ll be able to hold my head up afterwards.
* For the non Australians, a brief explanation. The Senate is our upper house. Each state elects a certain number of Senators by proportional representation, using preferential voting – i.e. you don’t just vote for your preferred candidate, you keep numbering down the ticket, and the counting keeps counting your vote until eventually it is used to elect someone (the article I linked to above has a complete description). These days, you can choose a party, and they make the preferencing choices for you, but I prefer to decide for myself.