And so here we are again.  This time tomorrow, we will be eating our democracy sausages and considering the bounty at the local primary school fundraiser, and in a day or two, we will know our electoral fate for the next few years (always assuming we manage to keep whichever Prime Minister we get, which may be an overly optimistic assumption in the current climate).

Don’t forget to vote.

Really, don’t.  Especially if you are working in a polling booth or handing out how to vote cards (yes, I know this sounds silly, but apparently these are exactly the people who are most likely to forget to vote).

And when you vote, please, make sure you vote what you mean.  These days, politicians seem to be paying less and less attention to what the population says in between elections.  Voting is one of our few opportunities to show what they are thinking in a way that can’t be ignored.

Make the most of it.

Remember that the Senate voting rules have changed – you now need to number at least six boxes above the line or at least twelve below.

But don’t stop there.

Particularly don’t stop there if you are voting for independents or small parties that might not get up.  Make sure your vote counts.  You don’t have to number all 116 boxes – personally, I suspect I’m going to stop numbering boxes at around 100, when I am faced with a choice of racists, conspiracy theorists, and unpleasantly un-Christian Christian parties – but do number your way down as far as at least one of the three big parties.  Don’t let your vote be discarded before it gets to someone that might have a real crack at a seat.

Also, do remind people around you of the new voting rules.  Make sure your friends and family also know how to exercise their democratic rights!

Who should you vote for?  I’m not here to tell you that, and you probably have a pretty good idea what I think already, but just for fun, here are my top picks – not necessarily in the exact order I’ll put them.

  1. Ricky Muir.  I have no idea how we got this lucky with the Motoring Enthusiasts, but I’ve really appreciated Mr Muir’s honest and wholehearted approach to doing his job.  I gather he is not tipped to stay, and I, for one, will be very sorry if he goes.
  2. The Arts Party.  Making Arts more accessible and careers in the arts more feasible is a noble goal, and they want a space program.  Their approach is pragmatic and intelligent and their non-arts-related policies are socially progressive.  They’ve even made a stab at figuring out the economics.  I don’t expect them to get very far, but they deserve my vote.
  3. Marriage Equality Party.  It’s a single issue party, and a vote that is really mostly there to send a message to the government, but I don’t care.  It’s past time we stopped treating our GBLT brothers and sisters like second-class citizens.  Let them marry already.
  4. Eric Vadarlis. An independent with a track record of going to bat for refugees.  What’s not to like?
  5. The Nick Xenophon Team.  They are a little to the right of where I’d normally go, vote-wise, but I really was struck by their position on the pokies.  And they want to retain penalty rates for weekends, which is actually a really important issue for many people.
  6. The Greens.  Realistically, this is where my vote will end up, and it’s a good place for it.  These days, they are basically the centre left party anyway.

I also have a soft spot for Group B (former Democrats, currently imploding in fine style), the Renewable Energy party, and the Science Party, though I also have some reservations about each of these.

Do I expect any of these to get up?  Honestly, I have no idea.  The Greens will undoubtedly get seats, and I suspect the Xenophon Team will do OK too.  As for the others, anything is possible.

Remember – so long as you number all the boxes, you can’t waste your vote (unfortunately, the fact that one can now choose to number a relatively small proportion of the boxes, it is possible to waste one’s vote overall, which is why I advise against this).  Voting for that teeny tiny party that has no hope of getting a Senator will not stop your major party of choice from getting up, and if your tiny party gets 4% of the vote, they will get $2.59 per vote which they can use towards their next campaign.  This is how tiny parties grow into minor parties, and how minor parties become large ones.  Think of it as seed raising – you’re providing the greenhouse and the protective environment for now, and watering the soil, and with a bit of luck, it will sprout, not at this election, but maybe at the next one.

As for me, for all the complaints about single-issue microparties (which usually, I note, come from governments who are being thwarted in their efforts to do awful things), I firmly believe that small parties are what make our democracy stronger.  A duopoly, in the end, leads to a very narrow spectrum of views being represented in the House and in the Senate, and that makes it harder and harder for change to happen.  Frankly, I think it’s quite healthy for a government to have to work a bit to win the Senate over, and one of my biggest issues with Turnbull is that he didn’t ever really try.

Of course, you may disagree with me, and that is your absolute right.

But whether you agree or disagree with my policies, please do make sure you exercise that right tomorrow, at your polling booth.  Because however much we write about political parties and our opinions of them on the internet, it’s what we do once we walk into that little cardboard booth with our pencil and our gigantic white ballot forms that really counts.

It’s the next four years.  Let’s get it right.

Federal Election 2016 – some useful resources and links

OK, so it’s Friday, and I’ve written at least 60,000 words so far this election, so if you’ve only found me now, you probably don’t have time to read everything I’ve written about every party before you go and vote.

But don’t panic.  Many people in the world are more concise than I am.  So very many.

Here are some of them.

Briefer party reviews

Axvoter has reviewed all the parties in Victoria AND all of the independents in his Blatantly Partisan Party Reviews.  He is more concise than I am (his reviews lurk around the 500 word mark), but still usefully thorough -.  Generally shares my lefty biases, and the title speaks for itself!  He has also written about how to vote in both the Upper and Lower Houses, in case you weren’t sure.

A briefer, and quite entertaining summary of parties and candidates from Victoria comes from Anthony, who asks Who the hell are all these people on the Victorian Senate ballot paper?  I especially like the reviews for the ALA, One Nation, and Rise Up Australia.

Know Your Parties takes on the NSW ballot.  The author is quite brief, and enjoyably sarcastic. Independents are not included.

Tiara does the same for – I think – the QLD ballot.

DonkeyVotie has created brief profiles for all parties in all states, including likes, dislikes, and quotable quotes.  It’s a good collection of highlights and lowlights, but you will have to research your own independents.

Perth Cactus has party profiles with illustrations, videos and memes.  Highly entertaining, may not take much less time to read than my stuff.  (OK, it will take less time, and it’s definitely a fun read, so go for it).

Note that all the summaries I’ve found lean rather to the left – despite my vigorous Googling of right-wing parties, I suspect Google knows what I really think.  And my Facebook friends definitely do.  If you know of any other summaries, particularly ones with different biases, please share them and I will add them to this list.

Other handy bits and pieces

Here is a handy Senate Voting Card Creator.  This allows you to create a printable how to vote card for yourself, so that you don’t lose track of who is who in the ballot box.  The Independents are grouped together, but you can rearrange them on your ballot paper at step 3.

How to vote cards for each party that has registered one for Victoria, NSW, QLD, ACT, SA, NT, WA, TAS.  I was not able to incorporate this into my analysis this year, unfortunately, but it is useful information.

Find your nearest Democracy Sausage or cake stall here or here (also includes cake stalls, vegetarian and international options).

Meet the Small Parties: Science Party

It’s time for the very last party in this exciting Festival of Small Parties, which is, of course the Science Party!  In Victoria, they have joined forces with the Cyclists Party, in what strikes me as a natural alliance, given how many of the scientists I know ride their bicycles to work.

I think it is very important to take a truly scientific approach to analysing this party, so here goes.

Specific Aims: To find out what the Science Party is about and whether I want to vote for it.  To let you know whether you want to vote for it.

Hypotheses: 1. That the Australian Science Party will be rather towards the left end of the spectrum.  2. That they will want lots more funding for research. 3. That I’m going to like this party.

Materials and Methods: I’m going to read all the policies on their website and write summaries and occasionally sarcastic analysis.  In other words, business as usual.

Conflict of interest disclosure: I work in a Medical Research institute and spend half my life helping people write grants.  I am therefore very predisposed to like any party that wants to give more money to medical research.

Results: Continue reading

Meet the Small Parties: Renewable Energy Party

The Renewable Energy Party wants you to know that Renewable Energy is our Future, and then follows this up with an immediate plea to ‘Please help us expand our membership in the lead up to the 2016 Federal Election’.  Oh dear. They are basically a single-issue party, but it’s an important issue, and one our governments have not been much good at addressing, so I’m rather in favour.

The Renewable Energy party seems to have been founded by Peter Breen, who was our good friend Ricky Muir’s former advisor up until he was sacked in August 2014.  I’m not sure what to make of that, so I’ll just leave it there.

Here is what they have to say about themselves:

The Renewable Energy Party is a new political party registered under Australian law. Help us to assert our right and the right of our children to live in a clean and healthy environment. Our party is a community-based organisation that is working to build an environmentally friendly and non-polluting energy future right now. The technology exists and the need for change is urgent and evident.

The major parties in Australia, beholden to coal and gas companies, have made a complete mess of climate change policy.

As concerned citizens and voters, we are no longer willing to sit back and watch as the Liberal-
National Coalition and Labor continue to make disastrous energy decisions backed by a compliant mainstream media, at the expense of our children’s future.

Continue reading

Meet the Independents: Eric Vadarlis

Last, but certainly not least, of the Independents is Eric Vadarlis, who I am pretty sure I will be getting on well with, since he is best known for his work on the Ruddock vs Vadarlis (Tampa) case.  If you don’t have time to read that, suffice it to say that he is pro-refugee.

Mr Vadarlis has the slogan #supportpolicies not parties, and his website cycles through a bunch of images, which include the slogan ‘leave Medicare alone’.

Here’s his sales pitch:

I’m an Independent Candidate for the Senate 2016. Melbourne Lawyer. Dairy Farmer.
Would you prefer a voice in government for greater social justice and human compassion?
If yes, then vote policies not parties come election day on Saturday 2 July 2016.

Not a bad starting point.  His three key principles are also good:

  • Humane treatment of asylum seeker refugees
  • A fair go for the Australian Indigenous population
  • Properly fund and encourage education

Continue reading

Meet the Independents: Meredith Urie

Right, I’ve had a sleep and am now somewhat vaguely awake.  Let the jetlagged commentaries commence!

Meredith Urie looks like a bit of a sweetheart.  Her keywords are ‘inclusive, insightful, integrative’, and her vision is ‘thriving self – thriving relationships – thriving communities – thriving planet’.  Her mission is to raise the quality of political dialogue, which I think we can all agree could use some raising, and her principles and values are:

Deeply listen
Respond with an open heart
Continuously learn
Make decisions from the best place

She wants to take care of the whole person (and gets bonus points from me for not using the word ‘holistic’), she wants decision making to involve ‘multiple stakeholders and the most complete information’, and to benefit all individuals, the environment, the economy and future generations’.  She likes words like ‘curious’ and ‘connectedness’ and ‘collaboration’ and ‘respect’, she wants to build trust, and, oh drat, now she is using the word ‘wholistic’, so not only does she lose that bonus point, she loses an extra point for spelling it weirdly.  She calls her policy advisors her support group, which makes me giggle because I am a terrible person, and also jetlagged, which apparently makes me even more sarcastic than usual.

Continue reading

Meet the Independents: Dana Spasojevic

I’m actually flying over Australia now, and my laptop is running out of battery (as am I), so Dana Spasojevic may well be my last Independent before I get to take a really looong nap.

Dana Spasojevic knows all about long journeys though, as she is a long-haul truck driver who, according to her Facebook page, is spending the weeks leading up to the election driving trucks up and down  the Hume Highway.

Alas, this is about all we know about her, because while she does have the aforementioned Facebook page, she is too busy working to update it.

Her Facebook post is rather adorable, though:

To all that have supported me with the nominations for the Senate I would like to give a huge thank you for I am eternally grateful. I have received my first vote and all I need is about another 25000 to get into the senate, so please vote for me and could you tell everyone you know to vote for me too. I’m rather excited to see my name on the ballot paper.

My analysis? Ms Spasojevic seems to have nice friends on Facebook, but no discernable policies.  She does score above the other ghosts, because at least one can get a bit of a sense of her personality, and she seems to have a nice one.  Also, I rather empathise with being too busy to cope with this election.  I hear you, sister.  Why did it have to be July 2?  Why?

Meet the Independents: Immanuel Shmuel

I am still flying over the dark and mysterious seas, which seems as good a time as any to consider the mystery that is Immanuel Shmuel.

Mr Shmuel is a strange candidate indeed.  He ran as a candidate for Australian Voice a few years ago, which alas tells us little about his views on the world, since they seemed to be a bit all over the place politically, with individual party members creating individual policies.

Mr Shmuel has no political website, though he does have one for his financial planning website, which has a logo that is one big Star of David with lots of little stars of David, and also his initials, IS, in a very cursive, Arabic-looking script, which seems a little unfortunate given current associations with those initials.  Conversely, his Facebook page – and yes, it is the same man – is full of inspirational quotes, many of which seem to have quite a strong Christian bent, and there is also Arabic text.  And then he has this odd slogan:

‘I am’ Australian, collectively, ‘I am’ Australia. Feel, sense and own the same.

I can’t tell if the emphasis on ‘I am’ is a strange reference to YHWH (in which case, what does he mean by it?), or if I have been spending too much time around Old Testament theologians in the last week and am reading way to much into what is just a weird choice of punctuation.

Seriously, this is doing my head in.

(It is not my intention to harp on a candidate’s possible religious affiliations, but Mr Shmuel’s online presence seems to be remarkably full of very mixed religious symbology, and very little else, suggesting that religion that is pretty important to him.  I’m finding this very distracting, especially given the dearth of other material I have to work with.)

Continue reading

Meet the Independents: Chris Ryan

I’m still out over the open, empty ocean, but now it seems very apt, because it is time to write about another of our more spectral senate candidates. Chris Ryan is, according to the AEC website, a lawyer.  This is all we know about him. He has no internet presence whatsoever – or if he does, it is impossible to distinguish him from the other Chris Ryans out there. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if Chris Ryan is a him at all – Chris could be short for Christine.

(I do wonder what these internet-avoidant would-be Senators expect to achieve.  I realise that not everyone is online, but for a national or even state election, relying entirely on offline interactions for your vote strikes me as a losing prospect.)

It turns out that there are quite a few Chris Ryans out there who are lawyers, some of whom appear to be doing pleasing things and others rather less pleasing ones.  There are also Chris Ryans who are interested in policy, but these do not seem to be the same Chris Ryans, as they are not lawyers.

Chris Ryan – Man (or woman) of Mystery!

While it’s tempting to make a guess as to which Chris Ryan is our Chris Ryan, I’m a bit worried that if I do, I will slandering someone.

This is something I would prefer not to do, particularly if that someone is a lawyer.

I can’t recommend voting for someone about who one knows absolutely nothing.  I’d give Chris Ryan a miss this time around.

Edited to add: I have been sent Chris Ryan’s campaign leaflet!  He’s good (ie, socially progressive) on Education, Health, Refugees, Marriage Equality, and basically everything I care about.  But he has no suggestions on how to fund his proposals.  I’m not quite sure why he isn’t with the Greens. It’s too late for my vote, but if he’s your kind of candidate, you might move him up the ballot paper a bit.

Meet the Independents: Trevor Nye

I’m out over the ocean now, heading towards the southern tip of India, which seems like a slightly strange time to be reading about Trevor William Nye, a man whose slogan is ‘Buy back the farm’.

I feel like we are getting a lot of rural independents all of a sudden.  I wonder if this is a reflection on the National Party and how it is being perceived to represent (or not represent) rural voters.

My name is Trevor William Nye, and I’m committed to making your voice heard in the Senate.  Like you, I want to play an active role in making our community, state and country a safer, better place to raise our children, run our businesses, and forge a future filled with promise.

His values are:

  • that he cares
  • integrity matters
  • true representation – service above self
  • honesty is a given
  • working together for the common good

He is frustrated that politicians are not listening to what the public is saying, and feels that the Senate needs to be a house of review, including members of smaller parties and independents, so that the coalition, Labor and the Greens cannot just sell off the country willy-nilly.  We will be hearing more about this shortly.

Nye’s background is in education, and talks a bit about the values of hard work, persistence and honesty.  These are all good things in themselves, but I hope it’s not going to make him decide that people who are unemployed are all just bludgers.   Continue reading