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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Eric Vadarlis. An independent with a track record of going to bat for refugees. What’s not to like?
- 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.
- 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.