“They are addicts, and they are guilty and they do lie and cheat and steal-like all junkies. And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it.” – Hunter S. Thompson on the addiction of politics, from Better Than Sex: Confessions of a political junkie
There was probably a time long ago when politicians could be trusted, but then again anyone thinking this never existed in those times. It is perhaps more apt to take Dr Thompson’s musings on the addictive nature of politics into deep consideration. Politics has never been clean or positive as some might like hope. There is no gentle manner to which partisans practise their sport. Which makes one wonder if those that ‘donkey vote’, to cast an informal or blank vote, are wiser than most.
This Federal election is pretty lacklustre, but then it seems as though we’re becoming all too acquainted with that feeling. You’ve got the Liberals who don’t seem to care about substance, the incumbent Labor party who are all about superficiality, and the Greens admirably sticking firmly to the moral high ground yet potentially being one of the biggest losers of this election. It is to no surprise to anyone that political apathy is at an all-time high. Politicians have always tried to engage with the ‘youth vote’ but to no avail, usually citing political apathy or carelessness as the reason the ‘youth vote’ has never come through. This election brings about an even more challenging ordeal for politicians than just trying to rouse the two million youths of the nation; the daunting task of trying to engage a vast majority of the electorate that either doesn’t care anymore or have already made up their minds.
The political climate is such that an in-depth analysis of the parties and this election could serve to only diminish myself to the pitiful level of pandering and narrow-mindedness that plagues the political discourse built by Rudd and Abbott. That is not to say that the topics of discussion are not important issues, but that there are issues the political class have not brought up as election issues. One must remember that both Liberal and Labor have, since the early 1980s, lost much ground to which they differentiate on. Topics like electoral reform, housing affordability and the future spectre of a Government that as time goes on must eventually raise the level of tax have not been addressed. And these are only a few of many. Real solutions are not actually being proposed in this election.
So then what is to be done? In the short term we can play the business-as-usual game where we the voters decide between the white milky bar and the nutty snickers bar. As late comedian George Carlin once said, “You have 16 different types of bagels, but two political parties.” The problem with the current political discourse is that most see it as a dichotomy; it’s a choice between red, blue and, for a small segment of the populous, green. So let’s look at what we can do in a dire situation. One could cast an informal ballot, meaning you’ve essentially casted your vote for no one.
This strategy is attractive to any disenchanted voter, but utterly useless and will have no benefit unless the voter doesn’t want their vote to matter. Some call informal voting ‘protest voting’, but that’s a fallacy simply because the point of a protest is to make someone aware of their discontent with a certain issue. The only thing that could happen is the Australian Bureau of Statistics would release a statement saying that a high amount of informal votes occurred, to which they cannot attribute a cause.
Another strategy that I prefer is to forget about the House of Representatives ballot, unless you live in a marginal seat, and give genuine thought to how you’d vote in the Senate. One reason that the two major parties are still around is that both can rely on a certain amount of electorates that will remain safe seats for the next parliament. So an example is Northern Sydney where I and Joe Hockey live (he doesn’t know me, but I’ve been forced to know him), Hockey won the seat in 2010 on 64 per cent of the vote after preferences. Suffice to say, I don’t think Hockey will be unseated any time soon, but then we still have a Senate ballot to consider.
The Senate ballot works by proportional voting; as there are 12 senate seats given to each state and two for each territory, smaller parties that are essentially locked out of the Lower House as a side effect of preferential voting have a bigger chance of gaining seats with a system that works on assigning seats by the percentage of votes won. The thing to keep in mind when casting your ballot for the upcoming election on September 7 is that why would you want to give any single political party both Houses of Parliament? There have only been a few times in Australia’s history where a single party has maintained a majority in both the Lower and Upper Houses, the last being in 2004 to which John Howard used this majority to pass Work Choices. That’s the reason the Senate was written into the Constitution in the first place, to act as a balance on the legislative power of the House of Representatives.
There is a swathe of different political parties to vote for; this election has broken the record for parties contesting the election with 56 (that’s a lot of pissed off people and one massive ballot paper). To name a few, there is the HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) party, the Senator Online party (you use an app to vote on each piece of legislation), the Animal Justice party, the Pirate party of Australia and the Republican Party of Australia. With 56 different options it would be ignorant of the voting masses to not explore if one of these parties fit with their views more than either of the major parties.
There is no problem with a diversity of senators being elected; if anything, it would prove to Australia’s political class that their ease-of-access to Parliament isn’t so safe after all.
Just remember that the Senate ballot still works by preferences that are automatically distributed, so it helps to know who each party has made a deal with (like the Wikileaks Party preferencing the Shooters Party). And if you’re a real nutter and have a spare afternoon, you should try under-the-line preference voting.
If you want real change this election and you’re a discontented Labor voter, then don’t vote Liberal, vote for one of the small parties and vice versa for the discontented Liberal voter. There are 56 different political parties running in this election, each with their own policies and quirks.
As Pericles, the Ancient Greek statesman once said, “You might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”
So don’t toss this election into the dustbin, give it a clean thought.