The New Legislative Council – some preliminary thoughts

So, the new Victorian Legislative Council is looking reasonably established.  It’s… quite something.  Though I’m not sure what, precisely.  A shambles?  A nightmare? A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a multicoloured cloth of sheerest what-were-they-thinking?  A gift to comedians?

Here it is, in all its awe-inspiring, terrible glory

Liberal Party – 14 seats
Labor Party – 13 seats
Greens – 4 seats
The Nationals – 2 seats
Shooters and Fishers Party – 2 seats
Sex Party – 2 seats
Country Alliance – 1 seat
Democratic Labour Party – 1 seat
Vote 1 Local Jobs – 1 seat

Let us take a moment of silence to contemplate this truly diverse and weird array.  And to bow our heads in compassion for the Andrews government, who are going to have to try to get legislation through it.

I mean, seriously, what do you even do with that?

A few disjointed thoughts, because this has been a very long few weeks for me.

  • Hey, all those commentaries of mine weren’t a waste of time after all!  Five micro-parties!  Woohoo!  Except – oh dear, did we really, truly need five of them?  And did quite so many of them have to be on the right?  (Though I am counting my blessings that we didn’t get People Power, at least.  Or Rise Up Australia.  Or the LDP.  Actually, there really were a number of worse options in the mix.)
  • Good grief, people, why must you vote above the line?  Why?
  • And as for you, ALP and the Coalition, what the hell were you thinking with your preference deals?  Is dealing with one or two more Greens in the Upper House really worse than this mess?  Truly?
  • Wow, the rural electorates are really pissed off with the Nationals, aren’t they?  Only two seats for the Nats, with one picked up by the Country Alliance and two by the Shooters and Fishers.  Assuming that this is what the electorate actually meant to do – and in Northern Victoria, at least, I think it was – that’s a pretty loud message that the electorate does not trust city folk, and also doesn’t trust the Nationals to protect their interests.  (The whole Hazelwood debacle and Napthine’s response to it quite clearly didn’t help in Eastern Victoria – Morwell went from being super-safe Nationals to marginal, with an 11% swing towards Labor).  The Nationals might want to have a think about that.
  • Despite a swing of 2.5% statewide towards Labor in the Lower House, they actually lost seats in the Upper House, going from 16 to 13 out of 40 – but they didn’t lose them to the Liberals, who went from 18 to 14, or the Nationals, who went from three to two.  The seats were lost to the Greens, who picked up one, the DLP, and the four new senate parties.
  • Seriously, Labor, you need to start to work with the Greens.  You’re winning seats off Green preferences, you’re losing the left of the political spectrum, and, quite frankly, half the electorate already thinks you are in an alliance with the Greens anyway.  If you’re going to suffer for this association (and you are clearly doing so in some areas), you might as well get some benefit out of it, too.

I think if the Victorian Electorate sent any message this election, it was a resounding “No” to both major parties.  True, we wanted the Liberal Party out, but it seems we couldn’t quite stomach voting the Labor Party in.  Add to this some ill-advised preference deals, and the rural electorate being well and truly (and justifiably) pissed off with the government and you get this mess.  Does it actually represent Victorians?  Well, maybe.  It’s very difficult to tell.

My mother texted me a couple of weeks before the election to tell me that she thought she had made up her mind, but then she had heard Daniel Andrews speaking, and she wasn’t sure if she could bring herself to do it…  (I suggested she make absolutely sure she didn’t hear any Greens speaking, or else she might find herself stuck voting for the Sex Party.  She didn’t thank me.)

There’s an Isaac Asimov story about a future election in which they poll one person, carefully selected for his embodiment of the zeitgeist of the electorate.  He doesn’t vote, he just answers a number of questions, and the computer discerns what the political outcome should be.

I suspect that this time around, Asimov’s futuristic government might have chosen my mother.  Because while I can’t imagine her consciously selecting either four Greens or two Shooters and Fishers, there really was absolutely nobody who she truly liked the look of.

And, sadly, I think she speaks for the whole electorate in this.

(Coming soon, if I have the energy – a fun little tour through the ALP’s proposed policies, and what’s likely to happen to them with this Legislative Council in the mix… because just in case you weren’t paying attention, nobody has a majority here.  Not even close…)

[Edited to add – while about 93% of the vote is counted, there is, of course, still room for change.  Nonetheless, these parties do all look to be highly likely to gain seats, and I think we can be quietly confident that the Council is still going to be a complete debacle.  Certainly, the chances of either Labor or the Coalition achieving a majority in their own right are vanishingly small.]

Election Eve

We have come to the end of our journey through the small parties and independents who aspire to the Legislative Council, and this means that there is only one thing left for us to do.

Tomorrow, we vote.

Tomorrow, you vote.

And this is important.

I know it doesn’t always feel particularly worthwhile to go to the trouble of casting your vote, especially if, like me, you live in a safe seat, but trust me, your vote matters.  It does count.  And, as we saw in Indi in 2013, or in Bennelong in 2007, even a safe seat can be lost if enough people decide that they’ve had enough, and change their voting habits.

In the Legislative Council, your vote matters even more, because there is no such thing as a safe seat there.  Certainly, we know that most of the seats are going to be held by Liberal and Labor, but there’s a very good chance that those precious final seats in each region could go to… well, just about anyone, really.  Over on the ABC website, they have a Legislative Council Calculator, where you can enter percentages of the vote for each party, press go, and it shows you what would happen if everyone voted above the line.  Some of the possibilities are alarming.

So here is my plea to you.  If you have been reading these posts, please, make your vote count.  Vote intelligently.  Vote compassionately.  And above all, vote below the line.  Don’t let someone else decide where your preferences go – decide for yourself.  Yes, it takes longer, but it’s much more rewarding.

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Victorian State Election (Pascoe Vale): Meet Sean Brocklehurst of the Socialist Alliance!

And now it’s time for the last candidate who I will be reviewing for this election!  Sean Brocklehurst is one of two Socialist Alliance candidates contesting this election (the other is in Geelong), but since he is the one in my electorate – boy, is he in my electorate, there are flyers everywhere! – he’s the one who gets reviewed this time around.

His tagline is “Community Need, not Corporate Greed”, and he uses it every chance he gets.  It’s a good tagline, but it’s reaching drinking-game status in my slightly-obsessed little world…

Since Mr Brocklehurst has his own election site, and since the Socialist Alliance have a *lot* of policies at the federal level, I shall stick to reviewing what Mr Brocklehurst has to say about himself – which, since he has his own website and also appears to be a journalist for Green Left Weekly, is plenty!  For a more detailed look at Socialist Alliance policies, I refer you to my review of them earlier this year.

Mr Brocklehurst’s How to Vote Card is much as one might expect – Greens, Labor, Independent Francesco Timpano, Liberal, and Family First.   Straight left to right, in other words, in best socialist style.

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Victorian State Election (Pascoe Vale): Meet Francesco Timpano!

Francesco Timpano is running as an independent in the seat of Pascoe Vale.  He is a local architect, who ran for council in the rather bizarre Moreland Council Election a couple of years back, when everyone and their dog ran for council and several candidates engaged in such dodgy and underhanded – and occasionally illegal – shenanigans that we even started getting written up in The Age for our general dubiousness.  So nice when the Northern suburbs get some attention.

Mr Timpano, however, was one of the better-behaved candidates in this election, so I am disposed to view him mildly favourably.  (But I did just re-scan the Lower House Ticket for Pascoe Vale, just to make sure the really shonky candidates hadn’t joined any political parties and come back to haunt us.  It seems not.)

Mr Timpano has a FaceBook page for his campaign, and it is fairly shouty.  He likes to tell us things IN BLOCK CAPITALS.  WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS!

Here’s his manifesto:

Now running for the seat of Pascoe Vale at the upcoming state elections.

Because its the only way to get OUR FAIR SHARE & stop getting ignored and short changed by the major parties.



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Meet the Independents: Clive JACKSON, Richard GRUMMET (Group F, Southern Metropolitan)

The end of this insane project is finally in sight, as I reach the last of the Independents on the Legislative Council ballot in Victoria!  (After that, all that remains is for me to address my local Lower House parties and independents in Pascoe Vale – oh, and also figure out who I’m voting for before Saturday.  It would be a little embarrassing if I forgot to do that bit…)

Clive Jackson and Richard Grummet are running as Grouped Independents in the Southern Metropolitan Region, but actually, they are representing the Australian Democrats.  And this makes me sad like a very sad person, because it is always difficult to observe the last days of an endangered species, and the Democrats seem to be about at that point.  From the balance of power in Federal Parliament, to not being able to get their party registered in the Victorian State Election is a long and painful fall indeed.

The Democrats would like us to know that they are A New Vision for Victoria.  On their front page, they have a rotating banner next to their How to Vote Card, which includes “Aboriginal equality – now”, “Getting ready for peak oil”, “Towards a Sustainable Population”, “Compassion for Asylum Seekers” and “Sustainable Energy”.  Other headlines inform us that “Victoria needs a manufacturing renaissance, or face failure” and “Link and network public transport first, say the Australian Democrats.

Mr Jackson and Mr Grummet have their own page, with brief bios for each candidate.  So we learn that Mr Jackson cares about heritage buildings and the environment, public transport, education and jobs, that he is a statutory planner, a pianist, and barracks for Geelong.  And likes steam trains.  Mr Grummet, on the other hand, is passionate about wind, water and solar energy, is a teacher and sports coach, has worked with the disabled, and helped Save the Fitzroy Pool.

That’s all very well, I hear you cry, but who are they preferencing?  A good question, which I will now answer.

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Meet the Independents: Luzio GROSSI, Crystal JAMES (Group R, Southern Metropolitan)

Lucio Grossi and Crystal James are running as grouped independents in the Southern Metropolitan Region, so my opinion of them doesn’t matter terribly much, if it ever did, which is a pity, because I’m inclined to like them.  Also, they want us to Get Real.

According to his Twitter page, Luzio Grossi is a “Photographer, Journalist, Actor, Artist, Independent Upper House candidate Victorian State Election Nov 29th 2014”.  He is running in the Southern Metropolitan Region,

As a professional photographer, Mr Grossi has done candidate shots for a number of politicians contesting election before deciding to join their ranks himself.  Personally, I’m just enjoying the Star Wars Storm Troopers playing the trumpet and the violin on his business website.  If a candidate isn’t going to serenade my ears with a song and a YouTube clip, the least he can do is provide me with storm troopers playing the violin, and I’m glad to see that Mr Grossi has passed this vitally important minimum bar…

Lucio Grossi’s main political site is his FaceBook page, which means one does have to dig a bit to find all the policies.  He was also interviewed on 774 FM a few days ago, so I will use this interview to further inform his policies.

The other half of Group R is Crystal James, also on Facebook, who is a Board Director of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children, a community organisation run by and for single mums, which provides telephone support, referrals, advice and emergency relief to single mothers and their children throughout Victoria, as well as acting to lobby government and media.  She is definitely going for the mum vote:

My message is simple – I want to be the voice for MUMS in the Victorian Parliament. I have no party affiliations or political agenda other than a passion and commitment to achieve socially progressive policies that support and empower MUMS.

I’ll look at each of these candidates separately, but since they are voting as a group, I’ll start by seeing just where their group votes are going…

This is another very left-to-right sort of Group Ticket, with a bit of an emphasis on personal freedoms.  Number one on their preference list is the Group F Independents, also known as the Stealth Democrats (which is to say, they are members of the Australian Democrats, running as Democrats, but the Australian Democrats didn’t manage to achieve party status in this election.  A sad day.), followed by the Animal Justice Party, the Cyclists, the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, People Power, the Sex Party, and – at least  – the ALP, Greens and the Liberals.  At the bottom of the ballot we have the four parties from the Christian right, with our friend the Ungrouped Independent, George Neophytou at the very end of the list.

It’s quite a good ballot paper, actually.  Though why, why, why is everyone giving such high preferences to People Power?

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Meet the Independents: Peter ALLAN, Nicola THOMSON, Nicole BATCH (Group N, Northern Metropolitan)

Peter Allan, the lead candidate of the Group N Independents in the Northern Metropolitan Region asks if I am “Tired of Melbourne’s North being ignored in State politics”.  Oh, I am, Peter, I am! Apparently, I should therefore vote above the line for Peter Allan.  Which is a losing argument, because as you all know by now, I never, ever, vote above the line for anyone…

Mr Allan calls himself a ‘Community Independent’, and a brief look at his online presence suggests that he is pretty media-savvy – and particularly strong on social media.  Not only does he have a Facebook page and Twitter account, you can even get Peter Allan Twibbons to show your support on Twitter (I find this mildly hilarious).  He took part in the recent Candidates’ Forum in Brunswick and has been interviewed on 774 FM. I’ll be using this interview and his main website to write this article.

According to his biography, Mr Allan has lived all his life in Melbourne’s North, and has ‘a strong record of community action across social justice, educational and environmental issues’.  Sounds like my kind of candidate.  He is apparently one of Australia’s foremost authorities on recycling and sustainable resource management (and we’ll be hearing more about that later), and was recently recognised as Moreland’s Citizen of the Year.  His track record is an impressive one if you live on the left-side of politics.  Projects he has been involved in have included getting cigarette advertising banned, phasing out leaded petrol, expanding solar installations (and payments), and introducing household recycling.  There’s a lot of good stuff here.

His motivation to become a state parliamentarian is based on his energetic commitment to social justice and environmental protection, his concern about the current state of corruption in Victorian politics, and a desire to be a strong voice for services in the often neglected North.

An excellent start, I think.

A brief note before we get on with the preferences.  While there are three un-grouped Independents on this ticket, it is very much the Peter Allan ticket.  I can’t find information about his running mates anywhere, so I’m guessing that they are largely here so that he can have an above-the-line presence on the ballot.  I’m not sure why he needs two people for this (the minimum for an above-the-line group is 2, and he has three), nor am I aware of the significance of them both being named Nicole/Nicola.  But I am positive there is some!

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Meet the Small Parties: Voluntary Euthanasia Party

The Voluntary Euthanasia Party is a relatively recent party on the political scene – I first spotted it in the Western Australian Senate Election earlier this year, and this is their first time running in Victoria.

The VEP’s slogan is “Dignity and Choice for All Australians”, and on their webpage they tell us:

The Voluntary Euthanasia Party was created to provide the choice and dignity that current legislation is denying terminally and incurably ill Australians. The party hopes to provide a clear political outlet for the overwhelming public support for voluntary euthanasia. Over four in five Australians are in favour of new legislation and we wish to allow that sentiment to be clearly demonstrated at the ballot box. The Voluntary Euthanasia Party aims to ensure dignity in the final years of life, by raising the profile of this issue in order to engender the necessary political will for change.

Their website is pretty minimalist.  There is a form to fill in to join the party, the aforementioned preamble, and below, their party policy.  And there really is only one party policy, which is this:

We support the provision of medical procedures for the painless, assisted death of patients of a terminal or incurable illness, who are enduring unbearable suffering and who have expressed a desire for the procedures within appropriate legal safeguards. We believe that these patients deserve the right to make informed choices about the time and manner of their death through appropriate and humane medical assistance.

Apparently, more than 82% of Australians are in favour of allowing voluntary euthanasia, and the VEP basically exists to show the government that, in fact, there really are enough people who will vote on this issue that perhaps they ought to consider legislating about it.

Before we go into this further, let’s have a quick peek at the VEP’s Group Voting Ticket.

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Meet the Small Parties: Voice for the West

Voice for the West wants you to know that “it’s time for the people in the West to create our own voice and elect our own representatives to Parliament.”

The West has been without a political voice for a long time. In the western suburbs, Labor takes the region for granted, and the Liberals are focused on the other side of town. Elections come and go, and usually nothing changes.

Enough is enough. It’s time for people in the West to create our own Voice, and elect our own representatives to parliament.

Already I like this group, because they are saying what I’ve been saying for years.  The ALP ignores us because we’re hardly going to vote Liberal, and the Liberal party also ignores us, because… we’re hardly going to vote Liberal.  And so we don’t get the infrastructure and other presents.  It’s very sad.  (Also, it makes voting completely boring, because in the Lower House we all know who will win – hence my fascination with the Upper House.)

Also, I just want to highlight the use of “It’s time” in the slogan and the preamble on this site.  This is a phrase which has quite a bit of resonance for traditional Labor voters, and I’d be curious to know whether this was a deliberate echo of Whitlam’s slogan or whether it’s just seeped so far into the collective consciousness of the Labor-voting, Western and Northern suburbs public that it just comes out whenever any of us think of politics.

(And yes, you’ll notice that they already have me on-side here with the whole Western and Northern suburbs solidarity thing.  We’ll see how long this lasts…)

(Also, I shouldn’t have linked to that song, because now it’s going to be in my head all week.)

Voice for the West is doing its best to place itself as a community movement.  There is the usual call to action, encouragement to become a member, and solicitation for donations (phrased “Donate: Support the community of Melbourne’s West”).  Their vision is “An Australia which is inclusive of all its people, in society, the economy, and politics.”

And their goals?

1. To develop a team of candidates for the Victorian state election in November 2014.
2. To develop a team of candidates for the NSW state election in March 2015.
3. To develop a team of candidates for the Victorian and NSW local government elections in 2016.
4. To develop a team of candidates for the next Federal election in 2016.

Um.  Yes, we know that you would like to survive as a party and grow.  But… as a set of political goals, this does rather lack something.

Like the Vote 1 Local Jobs candidates, the Voice for the West are not trying to get a majority.  They are just after the balance of power, and they think that with good preferences and primary vote of 10-15% in the west, they might be able to do it.

They are placing themselves very much as a grass-roots, middle ground party:

We want a team of team of outstanding community leaders from the West to put themselves forward for election to state parliamentary seats in the lower and upper house. We want a team of thousands of ordinary people to support them.

The leaders we want will be:

1. Grounded in their communities.
2. Good listeners and facilitators.
3. Independent thinkers and ethical in their behavior.
4. Committed to grassroots initiatives and local solutions.
6. Not Left or Right but positioned in the broad centre of politics.

We want ordinary citizens and community leaders from the West to come together and create a political movement capable of winning seats in state and federal parliaments.

So far, so good.  I’m a little disappointed by those goals, but maybe their policies will impress me.  Meanwhile, let’s have a look at their Group Voting Tickets.

Voice for the West is running in the Western Victoria, Western Metropolitan and Northern Metropolitan Regions, and they are preferencing differently in every seat.

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Meet the Small Parties: Vote 1 Local Jobs

Since the election is now only a few days away, and since I am being a bit hampered by a cyst on my wrist, I am skipping ahead for the next couple of posts to look at two brand new parties that I’ve never written about before. That way, the early voters among you are covered, and if my wrist really does go on strike between now and Saturday, there will at least be posts from previous years for you to look at.

Vote 1 Local Jobs is new both to me and to politics generally, and since I haven’t so much as glanced at their website yet, I can approach them with a refreshing lack of prejudice.

I think we all know how long that is likely to last…

Vote 1 Local Jobs is indeed quite local, and they are in fact on the ticket in only two electorates – Western Victoria and my home electorate of Northern Metropolitan. (Did I mention that we northerners get more candidates and parties than any other region? We are so lucky! It almost makes up for living in such a safe Labor seat that the Liberals barely bother to letterbox us.)

The slogan on their website is ‘Working for Western Victoria’.  This is something of a relief to me, because I was half expecting it to be ‘Local jobs for local people‘.

On the front page of their website, they enquire whether I will vote for local employment on 29 November.  Then they explain their cunning plan:

Vote 1 Local Jobs is an exciting new political party created expressly for the benefit of Victoria’s Western District region.

Vote 1 Local Jobs does not plan to change the government or defeat your sitting member; but Vote 1 Local Jobs does intend to be elected in the Upper House at the 2014 State Election.

Vote 1 Local Jobs has been created by Moyne Shire Mayor Cr James Purcell, who stood at the last state election as an independent and attracted more than 11% of the vote – the most successful outcome by an independent in Western Victoria’s history.

Due to our voting system, quota allocations and preferences, the fifth Upper House is up for grabs in the Western District region.

This is the spot Vote 1 Local Jobs is targeting.

With your support, Vote 1 Local Jobs will be elected, will vote on all legislation relevant to Victoria and the region where you choose to live and work, will fight for better outcomes for Western Victoria and will be a direct line of communication between you and Parliament.

Their plan is sheer elegance in its simplicity.  And no, I don’t know what’s with all the pop culture references, either.  Maybe I’m channelling my husband?

Quite seriously, this is not at all a foolish ambition for a small party, and I think it’s one that a lot of the other tiny parties I’ve looked at so far tend to share, though they are less up-front about it.  This isn’t about forming government – this is about having the balance of power, and using it for one’s electorate, just like the Independents did in the Gillard Government.  Of course, this means that you also get one particular electorate’s priorities potentially choosing the direction of the entire Government, which is dodgy for democracy, but probably quite refreshing if you live in the West, where everyone knows it’s safe Labor and doesn’t bother courting you with infrastructure…

(Of course, this strategy, taken to its logical conclusion, could lead to some pretty weird governments.  I mean, if people start noticing that electorates represented by Independents or microparties get more goodies, they might vote for more Independents and microparties, which would, of course, dilute the individual power of said microparties and Independents, but would also dilute the power of the major parties.  This could get us some very interesting combinations and coalitions while it lasted.  I wonder if this could eventually be the downfall of the two-party system?  Or would the big parties get wise?  Or would we just get two new big parties?)

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