Who do you prefer
Yes, it's that time again. The 2007 Australian Federal election campaign is in full swing, and for the vast majority of Australians it will come down to a choice between the boxer in red shorts in the right corner, John Winston Howard, and the boxer in the blue shorts in the ... other right corner, Kevin (I speak Mandarin) Rudd. Now I'm under no illusions here, although I am an active member of The Australian Greens, I realise that the next prime minister of Australia will be either Rampaging Rudd or Horrible Howard, however, there is the balance of power in the senate that is up for grabs, which is where I think the Greens can make a real difference, beyond the democrats failed attempts at "Keeping the bastards honest", I think The Greens can not only keep them honest, but also keep them on track on important issues such as climate change, social justice, transparency, and workplace relations. The subtle thing that a lot of people don't realise is that the only reason The Greens don't already have more influence in the senate is because of the above the line preferential voting system and the preference deals that go on behind the scenes that ordinary voters are completely oblivious to.
I have blogged about this before when the Family First Senator Steven Fielding was elected to the senate in 2004 purely on Labor preferences even though he received little more than one fifth of the primary votes that the Greens Lead senate Candidate David Risstrom received. All the Labor voters I know were appalled when they realised that they were responsible for this miscarriage of democracy, some have even vowed never to vote 1 for Labor again, others have decided to vote below the line and distribute their own preferences.
Now I know that The Greens are no strangers to preference deals, and there are some in the party like me who are frustrated when deals are done. I personally think that the whole preferential voting system needs overhauling, and have said this in the past at branch meetings. This issue is an entire blog post on its own, and in this post I want to concentrate on what can be done this election to get who we really prefer into the senate.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't resent Family First coming on to the political scenes, I think that one of the major problems with the Australian political climate is that their is a lack of representation, and Family First do represent a valid cross-section of Australian society who are entitled to their say. In fact my parents and my sister all support and campaign for Family First, it's just that Family First don't have the numbers and support to legitimately hold any seat in the senate in their own right. So what can we do?
I personally think that people need to stop voting above the line in the senate, and to analyze your how to vote cards for the lower house as well to determine if you really want your preferences to go the way your party of choice is suggesting. I concede that the preferential voting system is very difficult to understand, and it is sooooo much easier to put a single digit in the section above the line, but you need to realise that this gives the party you voted for the power to redistribute your preferences as they see fit. I don't trust any party, not even The Greens to redistribute my preferences. To aid with the understanding of the Preferential voting system, the Australian Electoral Commission has educational material, and if you are still thinking about voting above the line, then be sure to to check out the AEC's 2007 Election website closer to the election when they will post the Group Voting Tickets for the senate that will show how your preferences will be redistributed if you choose to vote above the line. It is instructional to see the AEC's 2004 election webiste, and in particular look at the Victorian Group Voting Ticket, and see how the Labor party preferenced Family First above The Greens.
I would like use this blog post to start a campaign to get as many people as possible to vote below the line in the forth coming election so that the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing over preferences is rendered meaningless. Please link to this post, or write your own blog post urging people to vote below the line, and let your preferences be known.